TF-IDF is a term that’s became popularized in the last year or two, but it’s not your fault if you’re not quite clued up yet. After all, there’s a lot of SEO fads out there, they come and go – and some of the most interesting one’s don’t even work well or cost you penalties!
TF-IDF is different. It’s not a way of manipulating search engines, but a way of analyzing the topics in content, and stems from the same ideas that search engines come from themselves.
Are you interested yet?
Because of the principles involved, TF-IDF analysis has amazing potential for SEOs who require an objective way to measure and improve content.
In literal terms, TF-IDF means Terms Frequency times Inverse Document Frequency. It’s an equation that combines two measurements: the measurement of how frequently a term is used on a webpage (TF) and a measurement to see how often that same term appears in all pages of a collection (IDF). The latter allows words that occur frequently like ‘the’ or ‘a’ to be scaled down, and more important words that contribute relevance to be scaled up. The result is a score, or number of importance, to that term to the page.
TF-IDF has been around for at least half a century, as a tool used in academic research as a way to analyse massive amounts of documents in a short time. It’s also been used in information retrieval programs (including search engines) as a way to sort and rank the relevance of millions of results. When used for SEO-purposes, it helps you look beyond keywords and onto what content is relevant for your audience.
If this all sounds too mathematical to you – don’t worry! TF-IDF can be leveraged to get your rankings in search engines like Google higher. You can gain insight into what your competitors are up to (using tools like STAT) and what high-quality content you need to optimize for searchers. Learn how today!
Understanding TF-IDF Semantic Words
To get started, you’re going to need to discover the relevance of words. TF-IDF analysis is important because it helps you understand what content Google and other search engines value in sites that are doing well!
For instance, if you are in health and wellness blogging, and want to rank the keywords ‘goji berries’, you will be aware that keyword research will show words like ‘goji berries uses’, ‘benefits of goji berries’ and so on. But with TF-IDF, you will find out what other topics are being discussed around coconut oil and other high-ranking articles.
You simply take a keyword list, pop it into STAT (a search analytics site) and see the top ten pages that rank your keywords. Once you have those top ten sites, you move the data from STAT into any TF-IDF tool of choice (a quick Google search will reveal several that are free) and wait for the tool to calculate the TF-IDF value. You can then compare the content on your client’s page with their competitors pages, choose which keywords have a higher search volume and less competition.
Sounds great, right?
What’s crucial to understand about TF-IDF analysis is that these tools show the related keywords and themes to your keywords, that competitors are using in their pages. For example, someone discussing goji berries might be talking about them as a product for ‘weight-loss’ or ‘antioxidant rich food’. Anything that is semantically related to your keywords will be revealed!
Don’t be confused into thinking TF-IDF will reveal words similar to your keyword – it won’t start listing ‘blueberries’ if your keyword is ‘goji berries’. Instead, it reveals words associated with your keywords, like ‘health’, ‘weight loss’ or ‘superfoods’.
That’s what’s amazing about TF-IDF – it lets you see what Google deems important, and so you can understand how to create better, more relevant content, and rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Step by Step How to Use TF-IDF
Once you’ve chosen a tool, it’s a step-by-step process to gain more insight into each keyword choice.
- Write Your Content. Write to the best standards you know or take a piece of content you are optimizing for a client. Create a list of a few topics you want it to cover and take your content to the TF-IDF tool. You then target keywords and the URLs of the top domains that you target, to discover what topics you are missing or not going into in enough depth.
- Use your TF-IDF tool. There are many free tools out there, and each work in different ways, so do a little bit of research into which are most useful. Generally speaking, the best TF-IDF tools help you track and understand information, such as how your competitors are successfully using their keywords. Most will rank the top 10 or 20 URLs (webpages) and then produce a score that shows how often they use each term.
- Re-Optimize Your Content. Now you know what your competitors are doing, and how frequently they use words, you can refine your own content accordingly. Look for natural ways to introduce topics or phrases you haven’t included – as with keywords, don’t try to ‘stuff’ unnaturally, but to make your content genuinely more useful by including missing topics.
- Publish and further analyse your content. TF-IDF allows you to track performance before and after TF-IDF. Once your TF-IDF optimized content is published, with the insights you have gained and implemented, you can see any changes in the ranks. This is particularly useful to show clients who want to see changes you are making in their content!
So, that’s how to carry out TF-IDF analysis – with this knowledge, you can create better quality, relevant content and get better rankings on Google. This is because you’ll know exactly what kind of content your top ten competitors are creating, what keywords and words related to the keywords they are using, and ultimately can begin to utilize these words too. Good luck!