We Do Web ContentWhy You Should Understand (and Care About) Latent Semantic Indexing

Why You Should Understand (and Care About) Latent Semantic Indexing

The Internet often can seem like a vast and unknowable entity, organized in ways unfamiliar to the casual user. One of the ways major search engines organize, sort, index and retrieve data is through the use of Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI).

Latent Semantic Indexing is based on a mathematical technique. The system helps search engines like Google and Bing to comprehensively evaluate masses of related documents and return the most relevant pages for a given search query. In short, it helps to decide which Web pages fall where in the search results.

You don’t have to be a mathematician or a data programmer to reap the benefits of Latent Semantic Indexing. Understanding how LSI works and what it does will help you to stay in the system’s good graces. Below is a beginner’s guide making Latent Semantic Indexing work for your legal marketing.

Latent Semantic Indexing – In Layman’s Terms

Latent Semantic Indexing uses a mathematical technique known as singular value decomposition. Essentially speaking, this system works to recognize patterns in any collection of documents, such as a group of Web pages. The task is to index and organize these pages. The end goal is to later display pages that are most relevant to a user’s search query – such as “injury lawyers in Columbus Ohio” – and rank those pages in a descending order of most to least relevant.

How Latent Semantic Indexing Evaluates Your Web Content

Search engines, like Google, use “spiders” to crawl the contents of your site’s pages. These algorithms evaluate the pages, looking for the words and phrases most representative of the content. It doesn’t consider just your primary chosen keyword or phrase, but also related words and phrases.

The page title sets the tone for the content and Latent Semantic Indexing will judge the page’s content against the title. For example, let’s say your page title is “How to Choose an Injury Lawyer After an Accident in Downtown Chicago.” The meta description, headline, subheads and content should match the established topic. Further, they should contain related words and phrases, or synonyms. In this case, synonyms might include “attorney,” “hiring a lawyer,” “Chicago area,” “Illinois,” “hospital bills,” “accident injuries” and “car crash.”

None of these synonyms exactly match the chosen keywords of “accident in downtown Chicago” or “injury lawyer,” but Latent Semantic Indexing recognizes that they are related to the topic. Interestingly enough, Latent Semantic Indexing doesn’t have to actually understand the meanings of the words or phrases it “scans” while sorting documents. It simply looks for patterns in similar content (such as on other attorney, car insurance or injury websites) and indexes your pages accordingly.

Why Latent Semantic Indexing Matters for Your Rankings

Latent Semantic Indexing is just one more demonstration of the need to develop a strategic Internet marketing strategy based on high-quality, reader-friendly Web content. LSI is part of the major search engines’ efforts to comprehensively evaluate Web pages and provide users with the most relevant search results. As such, LSI can positively or negatively impact your site’s search rankings for your selected keywords.

Making LSI Work for You – Best Practices for Your Own Content

Once you understand the basics of Latent Semantic Indexing, it becomes clear that simply relying on keyword-dense page titles (and other meta tags) isn’t enough to appease the system. Your content must follow through on the promise of your page titles. And, no – keyword stuffing, even with synonyms, won’t do.

Latent Semantic Indexing is, in fact, part of the search engines’ defense against so-called “black hat” SEO tactics like keyword stuffing. Google has made it clear through the development of its Panda and Penguin algorithms that good content trumps over-optimized filler text. Quality organic content can’t guarantee your law firm’s website will land on the first page of any given keyword search, but it certainly could boost your search quality score, which in turn impacts your rankings.

So how do you use Latent Semantic Indexing to your advantage, and hopefully improve your search rankings and quality score? Below are several LSI-friendly SEO best practices to implement in your content strategy, today:

  • Use keywords effectively – Get your most important keywords in the most important positions. This includes the page title and heading tags, as well as the meta description. Incorporate the keyword(s) into the main body of the text in a way that is natural and organic.
  • Don’t keyword stuff – Keyword stuffing won’t win you any favors in the LSI department, nor will it engage your readers. Immediately do away with forced, awkward passages like, “An Omaha, Nebraska, car accident attorney can talk to you about your options for compensation after a car accident in Omaha, Nebraska. Your car accident in Omaha, Nebraska, can mean many financial burdens on you and your family.” Above all: Use keywords in a manner that won’t be off-putting to your human readers.
  • Match your content to your page titles – If you really want to rank for the term “estate planning in Michigan” you may be tempted to use that phrase in every single page title – even when the content doesn’t match the phrase. Resist that urge. Use only those page titles that match the specific topic at hand. For instance, if an article outlines the recent changes to the state death tax, it shouldn’t have the page title “Foreclosure Attorney in New Orleans.”
  • Learn the art of the synonym – Synonyms occur naturally when you write informative content that is aimed at a human audience. At We Do Web Content, we take the extra step of researching keywords, phrases and related synonyms to help our writers produce pieces that will be properly sorted and indexed. For instance, if the target keyword is “birth injury claim,” a writer may also consider using phrases like “injured during birth,” “Cerebral palsy” and “medical malpractice.”


Writing high quality, informative and reader-friendly content is the best and easiest way to hit a home run in the Latent Semantic Indexing game. If you outsource your law firm’s Web content, be sure to ask your content provider about their approach to keywords, synonyms and current SEO strategies.