What Is Keyword Stemming? Keyword Variations & NLP

Aaron Haynes
Dec 24, 2023
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If you’re looking to wrap your head around keyword stemming and the broader concept at hand, natural language processing (NLP), you’ve landed in the right place.

By the end of this read, you’ll not only “get” keyword stemming but also know how to use it to give your content that extra edge.

So, what’s on the menu today? Here’s a quick taste:

  1. A plain English explanation of keyword stemming—no tech jargon, promise!
  2. Clear-cut examples of exactly what keyword stemming looks like in action.
  3. And the lowdown on why keyword stemming will make your content feel more human to your target audience while helping your content rank better.

What Is Keyword Stemming in SEO?

So, what is keyword stemming? Well, keyword stemming is all about getting to the root (pun intended) of a word and branching out (not sorry) to its various forms. Picture it as a method search engines use to understand and interpret different forms of a word.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

Real-World Keyword Stemming Example 👉

Take a word that we use a lot around here, “optimize.” The stem here is “optimiz.” Naturally, as we write, variations of the stem are used, like “optimizes,” “optimizing,” “optimization,” and “optimized.”

So, say we’re crafting a blog post about “SEO-optimized strategies.” In the early days of search engine optimization (SEO), when search engine algorithms lacked the prowess they possess today, to make sure the content ranked well for more than just the target keyword, you’d find yourself needing to include every variant of “SEO optimized strategies” in your guide.

Your post might be crammed with phrases like “SEO-optimized strategy,” “optimizing for SEO,” and “search engine optimization tips”—all in an effort to rank for as many related searches as possible. It often led to content that felt forced, more like a keyword salad than a hearty, reader-friendly meal.

But now, thanks to the advancements in natural language processing and keyword stemming, search engines have become much more adept at understanding the relationship between these variations. They recognize that different forms of a keyword often share the same underlying search intent.

So, when someone types “how to start optimizing for SEO” into a search engine, it knows to pull up your “SEO-optimized strategies” article, even if you didn’t use that exact phrase. This magic is all because search engines now understand that “SEO strategies,” “SEO tips,” and “how to optimize for SEO” are all interconnected.

What does this mean for you, the content creator? It’s like being handed a creative license. You’re free to write in a way that’s natural, engaging, and, most importantly, valuable to your reader—no more keyword stuffing, no more awkward phrasing. Just good, quality content that speaks to your audience and, as a happy bonus, gets the thumbs up from search engines.

Why Is Keyword Stemming Important?

Keyword stemming isn’t just a fancy term to throw around in your next marketing meeting to sound smart. It’s actually important. Important for a few reasons: for one, it increases search relevance, makes content creation more natural, and even helps search engines understand user intent.

Boosting Search Relevance

First off, keyword stemming is a search engine superpower. It helps them understand that when someone searches for “baking a cake,” they might also be interested in “how to bake cakes” or “cake baking tips.” An understanding that allows search engines to recommend a wider range of relevant search results for its users.

Natural Language in Content

For us content creators, keyword stemming is a breath of fresh air. Remember the old days of trying to cram every version of a keyword into your article? What a nightmare.

Thanks to keyword stemming, we can write in a more natural and conversational way. We can focus on crafting content that resonates with our readers rather than playing a game of “How many keywords can I fit into this paragraph.” Which, when obsessed over, could intentionally or unintentionally lead to keyword stuffing—a black hat SEO practice that’s not too popular with search algorithms.

Understanding User Intent

Now, here’s the real kicker with keyword stemming. It’s not just about playing mix and match with different word forms. It’s about getting into the heads of your audience.

Picture this: someone types in “best running shoes.”

What’s their aim? Are they on the hunt to buy, just scrolling through the latest sneaker trends, or maybe they’re after some solid running advice? This is where keyword stemming shines. It pieces together clues from keyword variations to hone in on what the searcher really wants. And when it nails it, boom—it delivers content that’s spot-on, answering questions in a way that’s as satisfying as finding that last piece of a puzzle.

How Does Stemming Affect Search Results?

Alright, let’s wade into the hot waters of an ongoing heated debate: Is keyword stemming a ranking factor?

To put it bluntly, no. Keyword stemming isn’t an actual ranking factor. But don’t let that statement mislead you. While it’s true that simply sprinkling variations of a keyword throughout your content won’t catapult you to the top of SERPs, there’s more to the story.

Google, with its ever-evolving algorithms, recognizes word “stems” and uses stemming to understand a page’s content. As we touched on above, writing naturally and organically and including keyword variations in your content will improve user experience and signal to Google that you’re creating content for humans, not search algorithms—a sentiment that came through loud and clear in the thoughts Google shared in its recent Helpful Content Update.

Keyword Stemming FAQ

Q1: How Should Keyword Stemming Be Balanced with Exact Match Keywords?

Answer: Our advice would be to not obsess over balancing exact match keywords and keyword stemming. Instead, aim for a natural writing style that reflects user intent rather than forcing exact matches. This approach enhances readability and aligns with search engines’ evolving preference for user-focused content.

Q2: What Role Does Keyword Stemming Play in Semantic Search?

Answer: Keyword stemming is integral to semantic search as it helps search engines understand the context and variations of words, leading to more accurate and relevant search results that align with the searcher’s intent.

Q3: How Does Stemming Affect Search Results?

Answer: Stemming affects search results by enabling search engines to recognize word variations, broadening the scope of relevant content displayed, and leading to more comprehensive and contextually appropriate results for user search queries.

Conclusion and Next Steps

And there you have it, folks! You’re now more clued-up on keyword stemming than most. But hey, don’t just sit on this newfound knowledge—it’s time to put it into action and give your SEO a serious boost.

That’s where Loganix steps in.

From comprehensive SEO audits that uncover hidden opportunities to bespoke content strategies that resonate with your audience, our suite of SEO services is designed to elevate your online presence. We’re talking about the whole shebang—link building, local SEO, PPC management, and more.

🚀 So, why not take the next step? Swing by our SEO services and see how we can help you realize those SEO goals. 🚀

Written by Aaron Haynes on December 24, 2023

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.