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TF-IDF: The best content optimization tool SEOs aren’t using

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TF-IDF, short for term frequency–inverse document frequency, identifies the most important terms used in a given document. It is also one of the most ignored content optimization tools used by SEOs today.

TF-IDF fills in the gaps of standard keyword research. The saturation of target keywords on-page doesn’t determine relevance – anyone can practice keyword stuffing. Search marketers can use TF-IDF to uncover the specific words top-ranking pages use to give target keywords context, which is how search engines understand relevance.

Why should SEOs care about TF-IDF?

Conducting a TF-IDF analysis shows you the most important words used in the top 10 pages for a given keyword. You’ll see the exact terms that search engines consider highly relevant for your keyword and then compare your own content with competitors.

Now, I’m not suggesting you throw out your other keyword research tools—they are still very useful in the beginning stages when choosing your target keyword. However, they simply do not provide the semantic keywords necessary to fully represent a topic.

Let’s compare a keyword research tool’s semantic abilities with TF-IDF:

Keyword: ‘how to make coffee’

Say you’re writing a guide about how to make coffee. Here’s what Ahrefs would suggest including:

These tools provide excellent keyword variations but do not offer any keywords to improve topical relevance.

On the other hand, a TF-IDF tool would provide these insights:

In the top 10 pages about how to make coffee, the most weighted words include:

One glance at these words reveals the topic without a mention of the word coffee. That’s because TF-IDF provides a list of semantically related keywords, or “context” keywords, as one can think of them, that search engines are statistically expecting to see in relation to the topic of “how to make coffee.”

The exclusion of these words from an article about making coffee would absolutely indicate a lack of relevance to search engines… which means you can say goodbye to your chances of high rankings. Traditional keyword research just doesn’t provide this type of insight. 

But some may ask: what about E-A-T? Won’t a good reputation be enough to override the content?

The answer is: No, not really.

In his presentation on technical content optimization, Mike King of iPullRank offers an excellent “David and Goliath” example of the importance of content relevance:

Moz, arguably one of the most relevant sites for SEO-related keywords, ranks #20 for “what does seo stand for.”

Moz’s page (URL rating of 56 and 2.54k backlinks):

Alpine Web Design, the “David” in this situation, ranks #2 for the same keyword.

Alpine’s page: (URL rating of 15 and 75 backlinks)

From an authority and UX perspective, Moz is the clear winner. But TF-IDF analysis tells a different side of the story:

Moz:

Alpine:

As you can see, Moz’s page does not adequately represent many contextual keywords that Google finds relevant for the term “what does SEO stand for.” A significantly higher URL rating and backlink profile couldn’t save it.

How to implement TF-IDF with free tools

The advantages of adding TF-IDF to your content strategy are clear. Fortunately, several free tools exist to simplify this process:

1. Seobility’s TF-IDF tool

Personally, this is my favorite tool. It’s the only one I’ve found that’s completely free, no download or sign-up necessary. You get three TF-IDF checks per day to start, five with free sign-up or 50 with the premium plan.

You also gain access to their text editing tool so you can optimize your content with the tool’s suggestions.

2. Ryte’s content success tool

Ryte’s TF-IDF tool is another excellent choice. You can sign up for Ryte for free and get 10 TF-IDF analyses per month, which includes keyword recommendations and topic inspiration.

This tool also includes a text editor for easy content optimization.

3. Link Assistant’s website auditor

This tool is my honorable mention because it requires downloading to gain access. Once downloaded, you should get unlimited TF-IDF analyses.

If you do decide to download, this video explains how to navigate to the TF-IDF dashboard. 

Final word: TF-IDF is a tool, not the tool

It’s important to note: using TF-IDF is no substitution for having authoritative authors or reviewers, especially when it comes to YMYL topics.

This method of research should be used primarily to increase your understanding of the most weighted terms in a given document, and perhaps influence the variety of words used in your pages. It will never replace the expertise of a professional in the field.

Similarly, TF-IDF should not be taken at face value. You will be unsuccessful if you mimic the exact average of the weighted terms in your own content. Don’t force words in if they don’t make sense.

TF-IDF is just one method of content optimization, not the basket to put all your eggs in. If you get one thing out of this post, it would be to consider adding TF-IDF analysis to your toolbox when creating or updating content, not replacing your existing method of keyword research.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Abby Reimer is a digital strategist at Uproer, where she develops SEO and content strategies for e-commerce and technology companies. Her career dream is to use public speaking and content to make SEO more accessible for marketers at all levels of expertise. She believes wholeheartedly that better search results are better for everyone.

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New site Hotspot Law like ZocDoc for lawyers

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Local search is probably more visible than it has ever been since the advent of Google Maps. Yet, paradoxically, there’s almost no consumer-facing innovation taking place. There’s Google, Yelp, Facebook (somewhat) and a range of specialized vertical apps and sites, some of which have simply survived but aren’t thriving.

Little or no ‘horizontal’ innovation. Part of the lack of “horizontal” innovation in local is likely the result of venture capital not wanting to fund anything that goes up directly against Google. The company may appear to many investors now like an insurmountable juggernaut in local/mobile search.

Any new local-consumer startups, therefore, are likely to appear in specific industries or otherwise offer specialized use cases. Such is the case with Hotspot Law, a new legal search site that hopes to bring ZocDoc-style appointment scheduling to the legal profession. It also seeks to provide a more reliable and cost-effective flow of leads to consumer attorneys.

The legal vertical has a quite a few competitors, including Avvo (Internet Brands), LegalZoom, FindLaw and several others. Despite this, Hotspot Law founder Felix Shipkevich believes he’s solving two unsolved problems in the legal vertical.

“The legal market is in dire need of an upgrade,” argues Shipkevich.

Making direct connections with lawyers. “Once you’ve finished searching online, you have to start calling,” he said. “You don’t get to speak directly to attorneys, you typically talk to a gatekeeper.” He points out that this process of getting to a lawyer is time consuming for people who need legal help. “None of these [completing] platforms directly connect the consumer with an attorney.”

Shipkevich, who is an attorney and faculty member at Hofstra Law School, said he was inspired by ZocDoc and the way it enables direct connections between doctors and patients. Similarly, he wanted to remove the friction in lawyer-consumer matchmaking. Shipkevich explained that also sees Hotspot Law as a way to make “justice” more accessible to consumers.

Why you should care. Legal lead-gen is costly. Shipkevich believes that existing legal sites and ad solutions don’t serve lawyers particularly well either. “PPC advertising can be extremely expensive; in New York it can be $60 to $80 per click.” He adds that “Yelp is expensive. Sometimes it takes $2,000 to $4,000 to bring in a case.”

He wants to solve that problem with simplified reasonable pricing for lawyers who may be struggling to find clients. But he also sees Hotspot Law evolving into a platform to help attorneys manage existing clients. Currently the site only operates in New York, with plans to expand geographic coverage in the coming months.

For the time being Shipkevich will need to rely on SEO for discovery but over time he hopes to build a branded consumer destination. It will be very challenging given the current structure of local SERPs. One has to admire the ambition and chutzpah.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking

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About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.

A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.

A suicide.

A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.

I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.

I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.

We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem

Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.

But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.

We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.

So we started talking.

I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!

Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.

Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.

And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!

We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.

It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.

I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.

In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.

I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.

Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community

I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as whole making changes to support each other over the past year.

Here is what they had to say:

Alexandra Tachalova:

“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.

I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)

Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.

I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”

Melissa Fach:

“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what make them “real”; I love it!

I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.

I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.

And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”

Steve Wiideman:

“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.

It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.

What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.

Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”

Danny Goodwin:

“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.

While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.

We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.

Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”

Kim Krause Berg:

“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.

I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.

In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”

Dave Davies:

“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.

Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.

Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.

We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.

We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’

The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.

There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.

It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”

Jeremy Knauff:

“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.

I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”

Thank You!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.

Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.

Keep being a force for good in our community.

Together we will make a difference.

Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking  

 

This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler. For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us and left us with. We are eternally grateful.

 


***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued.
CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***



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20190718 SEL Brief

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