TF-IDF SEO: What Is It & How To Use It?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is such a vital aspect of all online business ventures, but as time goes on, it gets harder to master.

A lot of SEO trends seem to fade out of the market as quickly as they came into it, so you would be forgiven for not yet knowing what TF-IDF is and how it works.

Unlike other SEO tricks and hacks you might have seen out there, TF-IDF is a little different because it does not manipulate search results to help your page rank higher.

Instead, this is a method that has been created based on the same methods that are used by search engines themselves to determine the quality and value of every page within their results. This is why TF IDF can be very useful for your business.

To be seen as relevant on search engines and to gain the traffic you deserve, it is no longer just about perfecting keyword research and making sure you have as many keywords on the page as possible. The market has shifted once again to put the focus back on quality content, and this is what search engines like Google are now assessing when it comes to rankings.

Using TF IDF can help with this, and it can be a lucrative strategy for all forms of business. It helps you get all of the keywords you need for a high ranking without compromising on the quality and value of the page.

Creating quality content is always the goal when it comes to online work, but what can be more valuable is learning what a search engine determines to be quality, and this is exactly what this is designed to help with.

What Is TF IDF?

TF IDF stands for term frequency-inverse document frequency, and it is a valuable SEO tool that every website author should be aware of. TF IDF is a way of determining the quality of a post or page based on the specific expectations of Google.

Every search engine has an expectation when it comes to quality, and this is what TF IDF is based on. Unlike other SEOs, such as standard keyword research, TF IDF is a way of optimizing page content through a balance of specific keywords and terms, which have been deemed as relevant or important by Google and the like.

It works by comparing your page with competitors and those in the top 10 ranking spots to help identify gaps in your work which can then be used for optimization.

TF IDF is an acronym for a formula that is used to work out how relevant a page is based on keywords as well as quality.

It can seem complicated, but with a little work, this can be a very useful SEO strategy for your business and can make content optimization more successful.

Term Frequency: the count of terms divided by the total word count of the document

The term frequency part of the formula works to show the keyword density, and TF IDF optimization works to make sure your content appears in a keyword search without being deemed spam or computer-generated.

Alone, this part of the TF IDF formula can be a good insight into keyword research used by your marketing team as it can show whether you are using a word too infrequently or too frequently, which can impact quality.

To get the full value of TF IDF, you then need to take the term frequency and divide it by Inverse Document Frequency.

Inverse Document Frequency: total number of documents divided by the number of documents containing the keyword

An Inverse Document frequency (IDF) score allows you to measure the importance of the keyword or phrase on the page.

This is a score that determines not the number of uses a keyword has but rather how relevant it is.

This formula is important and effective because it helps put the website author in the mind of the search results algorithm.

Search engines work on this kind of algorithm as it can be an effective way to determine how relevant a site is as well as the quality.

When Should I Use TF IDF?

TF IDF optimization is very useful in improving the relevance of your site when it comes to search engine ranking. However, there are certain situations that we are going to use as an example of where it can be particularly valuable.

The following examples in this article should help you get a good understanding of how to use TF IDF and when it can best improve your site.

Article authors can use TF IDF as a way to identify gaps within their work, and these results are based on the current ranking top 10 results of the same topic. It helps compare your work with everything else out there, weighing the importance and value of keywords so you can make the best use of the algorithm used by Google.

Most marketers are working with a limited deadline, and it can be hard to prioritize the tasks that need to be completed before work is published on the web. This is where using TF IDF in the right manner could make all of the difference.

High-potential content on your site that does not score well in results

You should get a website auditor or marketer to look at content that has been live for a while yet has never gotten to the first page of search engine results.

Content that is lost within the pages of search engine results will not get the traffic it needs or deserves, and TF IDF can be a way of changing that.

A good place to start is looking at what is lost within the pages of results yet has already been optimized for SEO through technical considerations or older tools that your company uses.

TF IDF analysis could be the additional optimization that this page needs and it is a good place for your website auditor to start.

Content that is losing traffic

TF IDF analysis can also be useful when it comes to content that has been slowly but steadily losing traffic over the past year or so since it has been published.

If your web page has slowly dropped from the top of the first page of results to the bottom of the first page or beyond, then this is usually due to increasing competition. It could also be a sign of the algorithm changing, which means your SEO tools need to be improved to see the same results as before.

Revisiting your website using TF IDF can be a good way to pull out those terms which are still relevant and improve the keyword density or term frequency within the pages of documents available.

Low-ranking product pages

For many businesses, it is their product pages that bring in the most money, and therefore these need to be the ones that rank highly to ensure steady traffic.

TF IDF analysis can be done on product pages too, and using this tool of term frequency can be a way to show your website auditor or marketers money terms and phrases that are missing.

Using TF IDF is a way of identifying critical terms that are missing and is a way of improving the keyword density, so Google sees your website as relevant.

Haven’t I Already Done This?

If you have been following the SEO trends of the past decade, then you might be thinking that the basis of the term frequency/ inverse document frequency formula is something you have already tried.

It is true that a few years ago, a key way to improve the ranking of your work on Google was through keyword density, but TF IDF is much more than that.

Keyword density was an earlier and somewhat limited SEO tool that leads the way to many bad habits being formed when it comes to content creation.

After all, if the main purpose of ranking high is to include as many key phrases as possible, a lot of websites let the quality of work go out of the window.

SEO is not so simple anymore, but that is not necessarily a negative. Quality content is better for the site and the reader, and it is the main focus of the TF IDF tool – no matter how similar it might seem to the old way of doing things.

Rather than just focusing on keyword density, as in the number of times a keyword appears in documents, TF IDF can help take keyword research to the next level by opening your site up to other related terms which can have the same effect.

Using a TF IDF tool is a way of seeing keywords that might never have appeared in a traditional keyword search or SEO tool. This is because, at its core, TF IDF is not necessarily an SEO tool but rather an information retrieval tool that is commonly used by Google and others like it to help rank their results.

This tool is mainly used for document search, and it can be a good way of identifying key terms and phrases. It is a way of finding other forms of keyword which can be used across your pages by searching for semantically related phrases on Google.

Using TF IDF analysis might show other relevant terms to your content that is not necessarily SEO-specific yet are still being used by the top-ranking pages on Google.

It essentially opens your site up to a thesaurus, to a whole family of related terms, which can then be used to optimize all content.

TF IDF works to provide a list of semantically related keywords or phrases, which can then be used to optimize your content, so Google sees it as both relevant and good quality to rank highly.

How To Implement A TF IDF Strategy

Considering TF IDF is a formula, it can seem complicated to complete on your own, which is why you will need to use a TF IDF tool. There are various tools for this exact purpose available, which we will address later, and many can perform basic analysis for free.

Getting started to use this strategy can be fairly easy, as it requires you to pull the top ten results for your target keyword on Google and then run it through a TF IDF tool to get an average word count. This is how the program works on tools such as Screaming Frog and the like, so it is good to get used to collecting the necessary data alone first.

Looking at your competitors is a key aspect of all forms of SEO, but it is particularly relevant if you want to optimize your content through TF IDF. Research tools like this can be useful in more than just SEO, and the formula is always the same.

However, when using TF IDF for SEO, you still need to perform some research into your competitors on Google and the like. Look into the top ten results on Google based on your main keyword for content and then input these into a TF IDF tool to get the average word count needed to get the same rank.

The TF IDF tool will show the number of times this keyword or similar terms have been used across a set of documents, giving you an average word count you should follow to rank high in Google. It works by analyzing how often a term appears on a page, which is what Google does to determine how relevant content is within its results.

How To Use TF IDF

There are tools out there that will work out the complicated TF IDF formula for your web article and provide you with the necessary figures for SEO success.

While the tools do the hard work in terms of SEO for you, there are some things you need to do yourself to get the most of out TF IDF.

If this is your first time working with this tool, we are going to provide a step-by-step guide to using TF IDF in this article so you can get to work immediately:

1) Write Your Article

The first step to getting anything published on the web is to make the content, so this is no different when working with TF IDF.

When writing an article to use for TF IDF, make sure to write it to the highest standard you know and utilize the tools you would normally do to optimize it. Alternatively, you can choose an optimized piece of content from clients that could require some more work.

For any form of SEO, the first step in creating an article is determining the main topic and what the main keyword is going to be. For your or the client’s work, create a small list of the top three word topics that you are going to cover in the article, as this is what needs to be inputted into your TF IDF app.

The main purpose of this part of the process is to find keywords and the top domains on Google which are writing about similar topics, as this can reveal what you are missing and how you can then optimize the content for better success in the future.

2) Input Into TF IDF

As we have mentioned, there are several TF IDF tools out there, such as Screaming Frog, Ryte, and Link Assistant – and several offer free accounts. Each tool works in a slightly different way, so it might take some research to figure out which runs best for your needs but either way, using an app for TF IDF is more accurate and easier than performing this formula yourself on every article you publish.

Like most tools for SEO, every app for TF IDF works to help you to understand your competitors on Google and see how they find success through their keywords, so you can follow the same keyword list and frequency. This is where you can pull the top ten results where your key term appears from Google or insert a keyword list to see how another collection of documents already published used it.

The way that you input data into the TF IDF app will differ based on the brand you use, as each has a slightly different formula for creating a relevant keyword list.

The tool should highlight the top words, phrases, and URLs which appear in Google based on your search result. It can provide you with information regarding how many words are in a document over how many pages and will give all pages a score based on their keyword content.

This is what you need to take advantage of when using TF IDF, as this is the key to optimizing your content. Learn from your competitors and see what it is they do when it comes to words across pages.

3) Optimize Your Content, Again

It is likely that when you created a document or article, you already optimized it through the SEO tools you have always been using. This is useful because it then allows TF IDF to show you what you are missing.

Running the selected set of documents through TF IDF tools should give you a complete list of words, keywords, or topics that are being used by your competitors and can help in the optimization of your content. This data should provide you with an understanding of the frequency of these words on pages published, which can then be used to inform your content.

Take this query, given by TF IDF, and take a second look at your content. You can compare it to the other content you have found on Google and follow their strategy, but start by finding a way to make these new keywords or phrases naturally appear in your work. The more naturally the words fit in with the content, the better it will compare to others out there on Google.

The whole purpose of the TF IDF strategy is to find a natural way for your main words or topics to appear in your content, as this will ensure it still reads well but is deemed relevant.

Using the top 10 results from a keyword search is a good way to see how any term can fit naturally into your content, ensuring that your intent is to still create high-quality content for your audience while still being able to gain the traffic you need and deserve.

To make sure you are keeping on top of this intent and that your content is being optimized the right way, you can run the pages through TF IDF multiple times. This might not be an option with free apps, but work it into your marketing budget to find a reliable TF IDF app that can provide ongoing query support for all of your content.

4) Compare Your Content – Before and After

You can compare your content based on before TF IDF was applied and after to see how much it has been optimized. This is a good way to assess whether a term has been used to its fullest advantage, and it can highlight other areas where you need to put more weight into your work, such as other words of the same relevance that could be used.

The final TF IDF value of your content should compare much better to that of competitors, and it can be a good indicator of how well your SEOs are working. Many of the apps for TF IDF can be used to track the performance of your content following this process, allowing you to log on and see how it is ranking and keep track of competitors and other SEOs so you can always continue to optimize work.

Comparing your content before and after TF IDF is a good way to see the relevance, according to search results, and the data can be useful for SEOs who want to continually improve their efforts. These specific metrics can also be useful in any client query regarding how you are helping to improve their content, as the TF IDF value of the finished piece should speak for itself.

Final Notes: Keep The User In Mind

SEOs can get carried away with optimizing their content that they forget to think about who it is all for. While TF IDF can provide a list of words, keywords specifically, which can improve the ranking of your content, it is important that this research is not wasted.

This is why it is vital for creators to only log in the relevant words when they can fit into the content naturally, as this will ensure their content stays at good quality and is readable. Taking a list of keywords from the TF IDF machine and inputting it into your content can be tricky because of the two goals at play.

You want to make sure that every page you create is seen by as wide of an audience as possible, and when faced with the corpus of other content out there, the pressure might feel intense. However, you need to remember that your audience is not a machine, and they are coming to your website to get the answer to their query or to spend money, so you need to keep it your intent to create content that is understandable, clear, and engaging for them.

Content can die under the weight of too many main words and terms, which is why TF IDF is such a useful thing to have in your arsenal. Not only does it help you improve the number of times a certain term appears in your corpus of documents, meaning it will rank higher in search results, but the fact that it is down to your creative or marketing team to input this data gives it the most value.

With pages of keywords and related words that can be included in your content, you still have control over the value and quality of your words as it is down to your team to input this additional data as they see fit. This is why it makes sense to narrow the list of words given to you by the TF IDF app and find ways to naturally input keywords so your content is still valuable yet optimized.

Like all tools, TF IDF can only be as useful as you allow it to be, so make sure that you are using it to your advantage.