Intermediate SEO Training Guide:
Learn Intermediate SEO with The Brains

So you’ve got your beginner’s white belt from the Brainy SEO dojo – kudos. Those are the raw skills and foundational know-how you’ll need on the path to conquering the industry with SERP domination. Now it’s time to take things up a notch. Improve your SEO performance with this intermediate SEO training guide from The Brains. Expert advice and practical wisdom from our senseis will help you scale the ranks and secure a top Google spot. This is one you’ll want to read cover-to-cover.

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains
2,200 Words Till Next Level

Introduction: Going beyond the SEO basics

Laying the SEO groundwork is just the first step on your journey. Any marketer with their crosshairs trained on the top spots of Google can’t afford to rest on their laurels.

Levelling up SEO is a process, a little like training up a prized Pokemon in your party; one level leads to the next, with each increment yielding small but significant gains. Implementing the tips and tricks you’ll find in this intermediate guide will have the same effect, and you’ll feel the benefit not only in the context of SEO – there’ll be a knock-on effect across the board, with your PPC and display ads receiving a little extra juice, and your SMM (social media marketing) undergoing an uptick in effectiveness, for example.

There’s no blue-sky thinking, best-case dreaming or general waffle in this intermediate guide. Everything you’re about to read comes signed, sealed and approved by top-tier, professional practitioners of SEO. In fact, we’ll let you in on a little secret: these are the strategies and techniques we use ourselves, to achieve our own awesome Google ranking, and craft winning SEO strategies for our clients.

In other words, the knowledge contained in this intermediate guide to SEO is tried, tested and trusted to yield results that boost ROI and continue to bring home awards for The Brains.

So if electrified lead generation, highly qualified prospects, undisputed industry authority and ownership of prime Google real estate sound like something your business could use, grab yourself a coffee and let’s get straight into it.

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Chapter 1:

What are keyword clusters?

You already know about keywords, how important they are to your SEO strategy, and the ways to go about researching various terms to discover which carry the highest potential for results. Now it’s time to ratchet things up, and get into the nitty gritty of keyword clusters.

What is a keyword cluster? Essentially, a keyword cluster is a group of related keywords that are connected by their search intent.


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Keyword targeting is essential if you want to see success through organic marketing. Nevertheless, when you are looking to build authority for high volume and high competition keywords, it is keyword clusters that will provide true value.

This strategy takes keywords that are semantically related to your head term. They usually have less volume and are less competitive to rank for. As you build content around these less competitive keywords and they begin to rank well for them they will build authority on their own.

When you build internal links from these pages to your main page associated with the highly competitive, high volume head term, it will pass authority from these cluster topic pages, signalling that your main page is a hub of authority for that topic and in turn, build relevance, authority and rank in quicker time. A keyword cluster strategy is a highly effective method of building authority for high-value keywords.

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains
JAMES McGarrie

SEO Strategist

Let’s take an example: let’s say you own a bakery – nay, a patisserie – and you’re in the business of selling anime-themed marshmallow cookies (wouldn’t that be awesome?).

As part of your marketing push, you want to rank on Google. So, clearly, ‘anime cookies’, ‘marshmallow anime cookies’, ‘anime cookies with marshmallow’ and the like will be your primary longtail keywords, and you can group them into a top-level cluster.

Then you could even get more granular with it, and figure out some sub-clusters: ‘Demon Slayer cookies’, ‘Kimetsu no Yaiba marshmallow snacks’ and ‘marshmallow cookies Demon Slayer’ might be keywords in your Demon Slayer-related cluster, for instance, or ‘choc chip anime cookies’, ‘blueberry cookies anime theme’ and ‘organic fun cookies’ might be part of your types-of-cookie cluster.

As you can see, it’s possible to really run with this, and it’s well worth noting that from the outset it’s going to take some time to get your clusters right.

Put in the work, though, and your site will become vastly more user-friendly and higher calibre, in the eyes of the Google crawlers. You’ll also see:

  • Really strong longtail rankings
  • An uptick in short-tail rankings
  • Accelerated SERP ranking gains
  • Added opportunities for internal link building
  • Increased organic traffic flow

To get started with keyword clustering, kick things off with a ton of keyword research. As you amass a collection of terms that match your target search intent, look for patterns, and start drawing circles around keywords that seem to share an affinity – the same word, semantic relevance, search volume, CPC (cost-per-click) and organic difficulty are the telltale signs to keep an eye out for.

Undeniably, keyword clusters are exerting a growing influence on ranking position. The reason is, the team behind Google’s algorithm are tending toward natural language processing (NLP) – the application of computerised processing to analyse and formulate ‘natural-sounding’ snippets of text.

And you can see why: from a paltry $5,075 million in 2018, the worldwide market valuation of NLP is forecast to exceed $43,000 million by 2025, and in tech terms it equates to a phenomenally-improved user experience.

Google is working hard at elevating the literacy – the human-like-ness, if you will – of its algorithm; and as you probably know from your own circle of friends, people don’t repeatedly use the same one or two words over and over when they’re talking about a favourite topic.

Rather, people tend to go around the houses a little bit, bringing in new words, tangential ideas and alternative approaches to a theme.

That’s what makes good conversations fun, and it’s the same principle that makes a well-executed keyword clustering strategy veritable gold dust for your SEO marketing.

Chapter 2:

The benefit of schema markup

Position one on Google SERPs, for the vast majority of marketers, is the end-game, the ultimate, truly hallowed ground of SEO.

It’s certainly not to be sniffed at; no questions there. But did you know there’s a position zero on Google? A spot that actually slots in above position one?

This is like playing through and defeating the Valley of Bowser in Super Mario World… only to find a hidden, bonus zone tucked away in the Valley Fortress, containing Bowser’s back door, which opens up a whole new world of interesting possibilities and potential.

But to open that door, you need a key – and that key is schema markup.

First, let’s backtrack for just a second. Position zero is the section above all the other rankings on Google; the very first thing below the search bar. It’s where you often see numbered lists, bullet points, recipes and reviews.

On the site page, that particular information will have been marked with microdata to create what’s known as a rich snippet – essentially, an enhanced description – which let’s Google know that this is the single highest-priority nugget of information.

This type of microdata goes by the name schema, which you can find at; partnered with and used by Google since 2011. Essentially, it provides added insight and context to on-page content, and can provide rapid ranking boosts when executed correctly.

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains

Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means—“Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.

How to implement schema markup

Adding schema markup to your page basically annotates it in a machine-readable way to improve its crawlability and ranking potential. This use of microdata represents significant and relatively easy wins for SEO, though it does require a little elbow grease to put in place.

Let’s say, for instance, that you own a business selling vintage sci-fi movie posters – Back to the Future, 2001, Planet of the Apes, all that good stuff.

Looking at the homepage’s source code, you’d see something like this:

<h1>SciFi Heaven < /h1>
<h2>Rare & high-quality sci-fi movie prints< /h2>
<p>Address:< /p>
<p>87 Shaftesbury Avenue< /p>
<p>Tottenham Court, London< /p>
<p>Tel: 02076790100< /p>
<p><a href=””>Click here for vintage science fiction goodness!< /a>< /p>
<p>We’re open: < /p>
<p>Mon-Fri 9am – 8pm< /p>
<p>Sat: 10.30pm – 10.30pm< /p>
<p>Sun: closed< /p>
< /div>

The information contained between the <div> tags shows exactly what your business has to offer.

To explicate it more clearly for the Google crawlers, you’d want to start tagging it up. So you might add the tag <div itemscope> at the top, which indicates that the HTML between the <div> tags shows a specific item.

Now we’ll identify what that item actually is. Item types come as URLs – or, for example.

In our case, our webpage is about creative work.

<div itemscope itemtype=””>

You can find a list of various item types here, but remember that’s list may not include your specific niche or type, so you may need to do your best in matching your business to an item type.

Next, we’ll look to tag the part of the webpage that indicates our business name. For this, we’ll use the <itemprop> tag, which shows the properties of an item.

<h1 itemprop=”name”>SciFi Heaven< /h1>

Now we’d go ahead and add tags to the rest of the page. Pro tip: when identifying item properties, you don’t need to tag the entire line; only the one section the item property references.

Ultimately, we’ll end up with something like this:

<div itemscope itemtype=””>
<h1 itemprop=”name”>SciFi Heaven< /h1>
<h2 itemprop=”description”>Rare & high-quality sci-fi movie prints< /h2>
<p>Address:< /p>
<span itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=””>
<p itemprop=”streetAddress”>87 Shaftesbury Avenue < /p>
<p itemprop=”addressLocality”>Tottenham Court, London< /p>< /span>
<p>Tel: <span itemprop=”telephone”>02076790100< /span>< /p>
<p><a itemprop=”menu” href=”http:// “>Click here for vintage science fiction goodness!< /a>< /p>
<p>We’re open:< /p>
<p itemprop=”openingHours”>Mon-Fri 9am – 8pm< /p>
<p itemprop=”openingHours”>Sat: 10.30pm – 10.30pm< /p>
<p itemprop=”openingHours”>Sun: closed< /p>
< /div>

Looks complicated, we know: but break it down, take on one piece at a time, and pretty soon you’ll find yourself whipping up vast strings of microdata, more richly-snippeted and optimised than you would ever have thought possible.

And don’t worry; Schema are pretty good at supplying through examples and walkthroughs, and Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper is an awesome tool that helps simplify the process.

Chapter 3:

Managing & monitoring performance with Google Search Console

Before you run for the hills on an SEO-fuelled mission to boost rankings, there’s one weapon you’ll want to make sure you’ve got in your back pocket – and that you’re comfortable using it.

Friend to all SEO marketers and undefeatable in terms of user-friendly performance monitoring, we give you the Google Search Console.

Search Console is, in effect, a smart and handy toolbox, enabling you to greatly elevate your search engine performance, via a full suite of functions and reporting. You’ll be able to monitor and quantify your traffic flow, get to grips with the whys and wherefores of your SERP performance, tackle any issues or errors, and carry out all kinds of other housekeeping tasks that will push your site to the top of the rankings.

Using Search Analytics, you’ll gain valuable insight into which specific search queries are bringing the highest volume of visitors to your site. From there, you can examine your impressions, clicks and position, and use that information to optimise your on-page content.

Search Console also allows you to submit sitemaps and individual URLs, to ease and accelerate crawling, and you can perform routine index reviews to ensure Google has the most up-to-date perspective on your site.

It’ll also send you security alerts and error notifications when necessary, gives you the ability to tell Google when they’re resolved, and the URL Inspection tool allows you to really get under the hood of the Google Index and acquire extremely detailed crawl, index and serving data.

And, on top of all that, it’s absolutely free!

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Search Console can provide you with some sensational data if you use it properly. It’s full of hidden opportunities for keywords you never even knew about. In Search Console, you can see a long list of phrases that Google displays you for, as well as associated clicks and impressions. While this data is rarely accurate, it is at least indicative. Dive deep into GSC and you’ll soon find keywords you aren’t trying to rank for are appearing in your data, keywords that can be gathering lots of interest. Take these keywords, optimise for them with new intent, and you’ll soon find you can open up your website to traffic you didn’t even know existed.

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains
JAMES Speyer

The Brains SEO Lead

The Google Search Console comes complete with a host of useful and well put-together training videos, so you’re never left up the creek when trying to use its various functions.

You can also monitor, test and track AMP (accelerated mobile pages), determine your site’s mobile usability, and facilitate rich results with structured data, proving that Google is making good on its word to go “mobile first”, and offering practically limitless possibilities to optimise and enhance your site.

Chapter 4:

Checking the optimisation of your website with Surfer SEO & other tools

Videos, music and infographics may well have muscled in and carved out a place in the content marketing pantheon; and with good reason. Firstly, they’re just awesome, and secondly, they’re highly-effective advertising strategies.

But let’s not forget about the good ol’ fashioned, bread and butter, day one and still here, original content marketing strategy that preceded them all.

We’re talking, of course, about the written word.

Written content for SEO can take many forms. To name just a few:

  • Blogs
  • Whitepapers
  • Ebooks
  • Social posts
  • Lead magnets
  • Articles & interviews

The one thing they all have in common, though, is that if you can get people reading them, you’re in a very strong position to gain a conversion.

Naturally, in order to get people reading your written content, it first needs to rank well. And that’s where Surfer SEO comes in.


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“Surfer SEO is a simple tool that can really help writers to guide their content direction. No matter the size of your piece, Surfer can provide a series of recommendations based on your target keywords and the current high-performing content that’s already online. It’s not the only tool out there, but it’s definitely one of the most valuable!”

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains

The Brains Content Marketing Lead

Surfer ( promises to “rank your content with the power of A.I.” It’s essentially a text analytics tool that allows you to determine and enhance the SEO effectiveness of your written content, and accurately predict its performance.

What makes Surfer special, aside from its proven results – heck, we even use it ourselves – is its feature-packed functionality.

It’s shareable throughout an organisation, so various members of your marketing team can utilise its services simultaneously, even when working on separate projects. Moreover, it boasts the ability to work in all languages, so you won’t run into any linguistic hiccups.

The Surfer team are especially proud of their algorithm, among the most advanced available online and based on the fledgling yet powerful principles of NLP (Natural Language Processing).

According to Surfer, the optimum user journey goes something like this:

  1. Plan your content
    Use Content Planner to draw up a strategy of content, optimised with audience, niche and domain in mind.
  2. Generate article outlines
    Optimised AI content, with unique paragraphs – including headers – rendered around your style and voice are suggested by Surfer, allowing huge time-saving possibilities.
  3. Write your content
    Surfer can serve you up guidelines based on the best-performing pages, giving you insight into the optimal word count, highest-traction keywords, ideal structure, image count and more.
  4. Conduct a full content audit
    The rapid Audit tool will quickly highlight content gaps for you to exploit, and throw up easy-fixes that will lead to eyebrow-raising ranking boosts in a matter of days.
  5. Enjoy & control your high ranking
    Having produced highly-performing content with optimisation baked into the mixture, build up some internal links (using the Audit tool), sit back and watch a major uptick in organic traffic start heading your way.

If for some reason Surfer isn’t your flavour – some marketers baulk at the not-insignificant price tag – there are a number of alternative on-page content optimisation tools available.

After all, you’ll still have to produce content that is refined for readers, yet optimised for robots; and that can be a tricky nut to crack.

  • Ahrefs. Ahrefs is one of the big SEO dogs in terms of keyword research, backlink audits and competitor analysis. There is a free version available, but to enjoy the full range of possibilities you’ll have to fork over some simoleons.
  • Grammarly. It might sound strange, but it’s true: Grammarly is a great little tool to improve optimisation, with real-time suggestions and a number of smart integrations to elevate your workflow. If you’re feeling flush you can splash out on the Pro version, but the free rendition is perfectly serviceable.
  • Clearscope. Focussing on max usability, Clearscope uses AI to mine for keyword clusters based on your primary target, improving your keyword diversity -and it plugs in to Google Docs nicely. The drawbacks are, a relatively brisk learning curve, and a fairly hefty pricing structure.
  • SEMrush content optimiser. If you’re already signed up to a SEMrush package, definitely have a look at their content optimisation tool. The SEO Writing Assistant in particular is really handy. The kicker is, the Content Marketing Platform is only available on the Guru and Business plans, which are a touch pricey.
Chapter 5:

Managing your crawl budget

Before we dip our toes in, note: your crawl budget has nothing to do with finances, as you might expect.

Crawl budget refers to the number of pages the Google bots will crawl on your site on the average day. It might undergo minor peaks and troughs, but in the main, your crawl budget hovers around a relatively stable figure.


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A crawl budget is the number of pages Google will crawl on your site per day. Whether you have a small site that’s 15 pages, or a large site with thousands of pages, Google will allot a crawl budget to each. It is important to understand your crawl budget to recognise whether a page is being crawled and indexed. If your website has too many pages, it could essentially exceed its crawl budget – meaning that when you add new content, Google will not crawl or index those valuable pages. A crawl budget is paramount for optimal success in the SERPs.

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains
JAMES McGarrie

SEO Strategist

We already know a bit about how and why the Google bots work – grabbing your robots.txt files every now and then, and crawling your individual URLs to determine their on-page quality.

If you’re operating a relatively small site, and/or your site has been allocated a decent number of daily crawls, crawl budget won’t be an issue. But if you have, say, 125,000 site pages, and Google crawls only 1,250 each day, this could translate into a problem. Naturally, some pages (like your homepage) will get crawled way more often than others – so it could take 100 days or more before the Google bots notice changes to other site pages.

Then again, if your site gets 25,000 daily crawls, that problem is eliminated – your site will enjoy a complete crawl every working week. In that case, you can kick back and go catch up with what’s happening in Stranger Things.

How to determine if you have a crawl budget issue

Figuring out if you have a problem with your crawl budget is actually not so difficult. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Identify the number of pages on site

First up, you’ll need to know how many pages your site contains. Checking the URLs in your XML sitemap is a good place to start.

  1. Discover your daily crawl volume

Go into Google Search Console, and open up your settings. Go to ‘Crawl stats’, and jot down the average number of crawls per day.

  1. Divide the total number of pages by average crawls per day

This is the all-important figure. If you end up with a number of pages that’s 10x or more higher than the number Google crawls in a day, it’s time to optimise crawl budget.

Increasing your crawl budget: best steps forward

If you’ve found that your site could use an increased crawl budget – congratulations! In many ways you’ve already completed the most important stage. Here are a few tips and tricks that will grow the number of daily crawls your site receives.

  • Reduce site errors

There are two codes that your pages should return after a crawl: 200, meaning ‘all good’, or 301, meaning ‘go to this page instead.’ Anything else is a red flag. Check out your server logs, dig up common errors, and set about fixing them. Never hurts to do some routine site maintenance and housekeeping, right?

  • Block off unnecessary areas of your site

If you’ve got some dusty corners and dark alleys on your site, places that people don’t visit all that often, you can use robots.txt to block them off. For instance, an eCommerce site might have a product search page with more filter combinations than there are stars in the Delphic Expanse – does Google really need to crawl every single one, when just a couple would suffice?

  • Cut down on redirects

301s, the code that automatically redirects a user from one page to another, actually adds both URLs to the Google bots to-do list. Sometimes, it can take a while to get around to crawling both pages; and the more redirects your site supports, the more ‘URLs-to-crawl’ you’re adding to the list.

  • Links, links, links!

Ah that old SEO maxim: ‘get more links.’ Easily said, but takes a bit of time to execute. We’d recommend getting serious on digital PR and social media marketing, as a start. Or you could really get your game face on, and employ the services of professional link builders.

Chapter 6:

Minimising JavaScript & unnecessary code

A site that’s filled with excess JavaScript and unnecessary code is the Mario Kart equivalent of packing it full of green shells and bombs: it’s going to hinder the crawler bots, slow down the overall website and adversely affect its performance.

And we don’t want that. Slow performance is SEO kryptonite.

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Every piece of code is information Google has to process. Processing information takes time. While that time might be measured in microseconds, it can quickly add up. Unnecessary code increases the data Google has to process for absolutely no reason, and, as a result, the amount of time it needs to spend on your page before it can deliver it to users.

Time is not something people have much of, and in our impatient digital age, slow load speeds make a big difference to how many people will visit your site. Google knows this fact, which means if it can’t process your site quickly enough, it will just ignore it. The hard line is, excess code can hurt your organic results.

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains
JAMES Speyer

The Brains SEO Lead

Surplus code and redundant JavaScript can be found in unneeded white spaces, line breaks, comments and block delimiters. There is, however, a nifty way of avoiding all the dead weight and decreased performance.

The process of ‘minification’ means to go at your code with a machete, hacking away at all the overgrowth and performance-decelerating foliage; not in a way that damages the site, but rather, to clear pathways and optimise the overall speed of the site.

Minifying JavaScript

To ‘minify’ your JavaScript and CSS code is to nurture SEO conditions for success.

To minify your site’s JavaScript, follow these steps:

  1. Get hold of some dedicated JavaScript minification tools. We’d recommend Google Closure Compiler, JS Compress, Uglify JS and Dojo ShrinkSafe as a few worthy contenders.
  2. Upload your source code file, or just copy and paste it into your chosen tool.
  3. Configure the parameters for output.
  4. Press the minify button.
  5. Copy your shiny new minified code back into the source file, or download it.

Ultimately you’ll end up with a significantly reduced JavScript code, that goes from looking like this:

let x = myFunction(4, 3);   // Function is called, return value will come back to x

function myFunction(a, b) {

     return a * b;               // Function will return the total of a and b


To this:

let x=myFunction(4,3);function myFunction(n,t){return n*t}

While the backend functionality won’t be affected, the minified code will run noticeably faster than the unminified version.

Plus, minification makes it that much harder to understand what task the code is performing; rather than a drawback, this actually elevates the overall security of your code.

Minifying CSS code

When you minify a CSS file, you eliminate unnecessary characters from the source code; this brings into play the double-edged benefit of a decreased file size, and increased site uploading time.

And that’s good news for your SEO rankings.

Site conversion rates drop by about 4.5% with every additional loading second between 0 and 5; after that, conversions continue falling off a cliff, representing a prickly 2.11% drop for every additional second, between 0 and 9 (Hubspot).

Similarly, Think with Google reports that bounce rates increase 32% as loading time creeps from 1 to 3 seconds. 

Don’t underestimate the business significance of those numbers.

To minify your CSS codes, aim to execute these steps:

  1. Get your hands on a CSS minification tool. SEOMagnifier, CSSO and Minify are all good shouts.
  2. Copy or upload the source code to your minification tool.
  3. If possible, and you need to, customise the code output for specific results.
  4. Hit the minify button.

Save the minified code file, or download the output.

Taking you from CSS code that might look something like this:

@site_width:  600px ;

@large_font :  40 px ;

#main {

     /* Clear the headers in the main page content */

h1 , h2 , h3 {

     clear:  both;


position: relative;

background-colour: white;

Width:   @site_width;

/* smooth curved corners */




/* extra big font */

h1 {

     font-size: @large_font;

font-weight:  bold;


To this:

#main{position:relative;background-colour:#fff;width:600px;border-radius:8px;-webkit-border-radius:8px;-moz-border-radius:8px}#main h1{clear:both}#main h2{clear:both}#main h3{clear:both}#main h1{font-size:40px;font-weight:700}

And behold! Your optimised CSS code.

This will enable markedly snappier loading times across devices, a more silky-smooth performance, and increased site security, since a well-optimised and bulletproof code is more daunting for any circling hackers.

Chapter 7:

Better keyword optimisation – synonyms & close variants

We tackled the fundamentals of keyword optimisation in our Beginner’s Guide to SEO, and now we’re about to dive a little deeper.

A lot of SEO ‘experts’ will tell you to diversify your keywords and throw as many synonyms at your content as you can, because… well, because that’s what Google says to do, and it just is a good idea.

But the truth is a little more textured than that.

Way back in 2010, Google published the post Helping Computers Understand Language, which declared that:

Intermediate SEO training - The Brains

The goal of a search engine is to return the best results for your search, and understanding language is crucial to returning the best results. A key part of this is our system for understanding synonyms.

As Google’s algorithm developed, in 2018 Danny Sullivan (Google Search Liaison) tweeted:

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How people search is often different from information that people write solutions about.

The first step to understanding natural language is that it’s not formulaic; it moves in weird and wonderful ways.

Look at it like this: let’s say you’re performing a search – something around ‘vintage games consoles’. 

You find a search result, which goes something like: “vintage games consoles and original video game machines like Nintendo NES, Sega Genesis, PlayStation 1, TurboGrafx-16 and Nintendo Super NES play classic video games and retro nostalgic games such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Kart and Super Mario Bros. 3. Retro consoles and vintage video games units are classic gaming machines which carry nostalgia for games cartridges, low-res graphics, CDs, video cables, graphics upscalers…’

You get the idea.

Whilst the above passage is crammed to the rafters with synonyms, close variants and semantically-related keywords, there’s no way on earth you’d describe it as anything approaching ‘natural.’    

And, luckily, content like this doesn’t fare well in the SERPs. It suffers from over-optimisation.

The most effective use of keywords and synonyms is tactful; considerate of word flow, and sensitive to the way humans process language. 

Sure, brainstorm synonyms and close variants of your keywords, and aim to pepper them thoughtfully throughout your content. But emphasis on the ‘thoughtful’ there. You’ve got to be judicious. If you produce content that sounds robotic and keyword-cramming, the Google bots are smart enough to know that real-life, human users won’t get much value from it. 

A word on LSI

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) is a system of natural language processing first developed back in the 80s. It analyses target words to throw up other words and phrases that are semantically related.

Some SEO practitioners lump LSI keywords and synonyms together as basically the same thing; actually, while Google leverages some of the principles of LSI, there are no such things as ‘LSI keywords’. They don’t exist.

Instead, Google uses neural matching – a type of machine learning, that draws on a range of signals to determine a page’s relevancy – in its rankings. Any content that leans solely on LSI won’t be optimised for the SERPs – just because a page contains a lot of related words, doesn’t mean it’s the best match for what the user is looking for.

Synonyms & semantic relation: the bottom line

The key takeaway here is that your use of keyword close variants must come across as natural.

Google monitors the behaviour of users more than page content itself to determine rankings; so if you have a keyword-crammed page that users find annoying and useless, with a high bounce rate, Google will take note of that trend and your page will plummet in the SERPs.

Sometimes, you may be targeting keywords that don’t really have close variants – ‘fire’, ‘sphygnomonometer’, or ‘YEEZY’, for instance.

In that case, it’s perfectly fine to re-use the keyword multiple times – after all, that’s the natural way of using the language.

Only use synonyms when they make sense, and don’t go bananas digging up thousands of semantically related keywords unless they’ll add something to your content. Focus on keeping your page real, valuable and authentic for your target audience.

Chapter 8:

SEO Glossary & next steps

And – breathe!

Nice work on making it through this Intermediate Guide to SEO. Hopefully, you’ve found enough learnings and wisdom in this Brainy walkthrough to propel you further along your journey of mastering the SEO force and becoming a Jedi-level optimiser.

If you came across a couple of words you’ve not seen before, or terms you want to check again, why not take a look at our super-thorough, Brain-powered SEO Glossary of Terms? This jargon buster is a massively helpful resource, and a true field guide for SEO in practice.

Now it’s time to step back, grab yourself a nice rosewater and lavender doughnut with boba tea, and relax while your brain soaks up all the knowledge you just fed it.

Then, when you’re comfortable with the strategies outlined here and feeling ready for the challenge, head on over to take on the final boss: our Advanced Guide to SEO . Not for the faint-hearted!

Again, big props for making it through this one. You’re well on your way!

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