Chances are this is the first time you’re reading about TF-IDF. It’s been a key component of Google’s search algorithms for some time now and could be one of the crucial factors impacting your website’s rankings on SERPs. Let’s tell you more about how it’s calculated, what insight it can provide to content creators and content marketers, and the best way to go about using it.
Breaking Down TF-IDF Scores
TF-IF is an abbreviation (of sorts) for Term Frequency – Inverse Document Frequency. The TF-IDF formula is used to create a core, known as ‘term weight’ which can then be used by information retrieval systems.
TF = Number of keyword occurrences in the article/ No. of words in the article
IDF = Measurement of important terms in the entire corpus of the author = total number of documents in the collection/ total number of terms appearing in the documents
*Corpus = a collection of documents by the same author/within the same website/In Google’s top 10 to 15 search results for a keyword
It should be obvious; you’d need a lot more than a calculator bucket full of coffee to be able to do these calculations. A much simpler and quicker alternative is to use TF-IDF tools for your analysis.
Why Focus on TF-IDF?
TF-IDF compares your chosen keywords with the terms used in the rest of the document (ignoring frequently used propositions, pronouns, and articles). This generates a list of semantically related words for your chosen keyword. Simply put, this gives you a list of words likely to come up in topics around your main keyword. This can help you optimize your content to expand its relevance and appeal to a much wider audience base. Also, this list of semantically related keywords helps you plan on your next content pieces, to the extent that you won’t have to do topic research for the subsequent few months!
What Will A TF-IDF Tool Do For You?
Long story short, it will give you a list of highly relevant keywords that you can use to:
- Optimize your existing content to give it a better chance of ranking highly
- Plan on subsequent content
- Expand current articles with more subheadings to expand their reach
Now, there is way too much ambiguity about how Google’s bots calculate TF-IDF scores for keywords. So, at best, we can only outline a procedure for this calculation. Thankfully, you can use an advanced keywords analysis tool to perform multiple steps of this analysis on your own using site research tools, or a dedicated TF-IDF tool to have it all done for you.
- Identify the top 10 competitors for your primary keyword
- Analyze each domain’s content
- Compile a list of important terms and words used in the competitors’ content
- Calculate the TF-IDF score for each term’s use on each page and their average TF-IDF scores across 10 pages.
- Calculate TF — IDF for the same terms on your page
- Create a table of these keywords along with stats such as – # of competitors, minimum and maximum TF-IDF, keyword count, etc.
A tool can create this dashboard and give you straight ‘yes/no’ recommendations for each keyword.
How to Act on the Reports of a TF-IDF Tool?
Whereas it might be an oversimplification for anybody to suggest you include all these keywords in your content, here are some general suggestions you could follow.
- Find out any important keywords that you might have been missing out on till now, and add them to your content.
- If the TF-IDF Score for a keyword on your page is lower than that for a competitor’s lowest value, use more of it in the content.
- If the TF-IDF Score for a keyword on your page is more than that for a competitor’s highest value, use less of it in the content.
Tip: Look for a tool that helps you with the TF-IDF Score analysis, and allows editing of your content from the same interface. This will save you a lot of time in re-checking on improvements in the score and making subsequent changes if needed.
A Word of Caution
Remember – TF-IDF analysis is always supposed to be done with a firm focus on identifying opportunities to re-optimize your content, find great topics or subheadings for your next posts, or to expand existing content’s scope. Also, whichever keywords you ultimately choose to optimize your content for must be a good match for the theme of the content and not a means of tricking Google search into ranking your pages highly. SEO experts like to call TF-IDF a source of algorithm-driven inspiration and treat it as such.
Use TF-IDF scores to give that much-needed push to your great web content so that your web pages can appear on Google’s first search result page for your preferred keywords.