Content marketing can yield extraordinary results, but unfortunately getting those results aren’t as simple as just writing great content. You need to be able to know what your audience wants to read, write it well, and ensure that your readers can actually find it.

With some planning, audience research, and some solid strategy, plenty of brands are able to get the first few things down before long. Many more struggle with actually ensuring that new readers can find their content. It can be difficult for many small- and medium-sized businesses to rank well in the search engines even for moderate-difficulty keywords, and that’s a crucial part of expanding your reach with your target audience.

There are certain tactics that you can use to increase the likelihood of your content appearing in relevant searches, and using a TF-IDF content approach is a strong one. Let’s take a look at what exactly this is and how to implement it for your own marketing efforts.

What The Heck is TF-IDF?

TF-IDF is one impressive anagram, and it stands for “term frequency-inverse document frequency.”

This sounds even more confusing than just the abbreviation, but it’s actually a straightforward concept: Simply put, it’s Google’s method of determining the relevance and quality of any given piece of content based on established examples of what in-depth content on the subject typically contains.

Remember that Hummingbird (which first rolled out in 2013) was designed to help Google created search results based on context. This is a key part of that.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Marketers can’t run their campaigns as if we’re all in our own little bubbles. Everything your competitors are doing online can shift the environment, and this is a great example.

Google isn’t just looking to make sure that your post contains your designed keyword enough times or in enough variations, and they’re not just looking for standard best practices like word count or proper optimization. They’re using other top-performing, thorough content to judge yours, looking at overall context on a subject instead of for just a single keyword.

Time for new Content printed on an old typewriter.

TF-IDF content, therefore, is content that’s created with the intention of being high-quality, thorough, and hitting all those core topics to increase the likelihood of improved search rankings.

What TF-IDF Looks Like In Action

Earlier this week, I wrote what was essentially an ultimate guide to wedding planning for one of my clients. Before I started, I took a look at other ultimate wedding planning guides to see what they did and didn’t include.

I found that almost all of the guides discussed the following topics:

  • Wedding budgets
  • Wedding dress timelines
  • Wedding venue selection tips
  • Wedding contracts
  • Catering options
  • Types of receptions

In addition to the core list of nearly-required topics, I found that a lot of the top-performing blogs also touched on these subjects:

  • Bridesmaid selection
  • Wedding color examples
  • Lists of wedding expenses
  • Cake tastings

Here’s how the TF-IDF algorithm works. Google will automatically calculate the frequency of each term listed above and see how often each one appears in top content that’s associated with the term “ultimate wedding guide.” When you try to rank for that same term, they’ll measure your content against this data, seeing if you have all the information you should in order to offer value to your audience.

When to Optimize Your Content for TF-IDF

If you’re missing a few core topics that Google’s algorithm has deemed essential for the keyword you’re targeting, you’ll have a harder time ranking well. Because of this, using TF-IDF optimization for in-depth resources is essential.

In addition to helping you for SEO purposes, it also gives you the benefit of ensuring that you’re delivering as much value and key information as your competitors. No one wants their guide to feel the least complete.

It’s particularly important to consider focusing on TF-IDF content in the following circumstances:

  • You’re stuck in a second, third, or fourth-ranking position for a specific blog post and can’t seem to edge out the top competitor even though you’re on level domain authorities.
  • You see your content falling in ranking over the past year.
  • Your content has high bounce rates, and it doesn’t seem like people are finding what they need.

How to Create TF-IDF Content

While you can absolutely do a manual compilation of what Google may be looking for in their TF-IDF calculations by searching a keyword and looking at the top-performing content, there are easier ways.

backlink profile

The fastest option is to use an auditing tool that will give you TF-IDF details. Link Assistant is a good one, but it requires a paid plan. Ryte has free plans available, with 10 TF-IDF analysis reports per month.

You can see what keywords are used most frequently by your competition related to a search around any given keyword of your choice, and see who is using it and how relevant it’s deemed to be.

Once you have a list of additional topics that Google will likely want to see, you can either expand an old post or add in additional sections to a new one that covers the extra topics as needed. Try to include the specific topics as secondary keywords, and feature them in sub-heads whenever possible.


There are so many different things to keep in mind when moving through the content creation process that it can be stressful and exhausting. In many cases, though, your content will reach more people and perform better if you’re at least keeping TF-IDF principles in mind for your biggest and most important resources. The right tools make this much easier, and it’s an effort that will definitely pay off in the long run.

Looking for new ways to help your content climb to the top of the SERPs? Get in touch and learn more about how we can help.

Ana Gotter