Anyone in the SEO and content marketing world has faced the dreaded question:
“What should I write?”
The right answer to this question will improve your organic rankings, bring in more traffic, and improve sales for eCommerce sites. The wrong answer won’t improve your rankings (at least, not in a way that matters), will be largely ignored, and will lead to stagnating sales.
So, how do you decide which path to take for your content creation?
Content gap analysis, also called competitor gap analysis, can help you distinguish the right and wrong choices for your website content strategy. But you have to perform this analysis correctly. Do it wrong, and you’ll waste time, energy, and money. Your SEO strategy will languish while your competitors move ahead.
Don’t worry — this guide will make sure you do it right the first time.
In this article, we’ll walk you through every step, explaining:
- What a content gap analysis is (and why it’s important)
- Why understanding your audience is key
- How to conduct a competitor content gap analysis
- And how to find quick actions for easy wins with existing content
What Is a Content Gap Analysis?
A content gap analysis is a process of reviewing the content on your website and determining where significant information gaps exist.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll look at three types of gaps:
- What consumers want that you don’t have
- What competitors are succeeding with that you don’t have
- What is missing from current content that keeps it from ranking well
Content marketing includes all different types of media, so you could find these gaps anywhere — in category pages, product pages, landing pages, product pages, blogs, and more.
How Content Gap Analysis Helps Your SEO & Content Marketing
A content gap analysis reveals which important content your website is missing. It helps you identify any critical steps in your buyer’s journey where you lack the information to help them commit to your product or service.
More specifically, competitor gap analysis shows where your competition is succeeding (and your brand is losing). You can use this progress to figure out which of their content is working better than yours and identify which questions are driving people to your competitors’ site instead of yours.
We’re not just talking about content marketing, either. This analysis can also help you improve your product and/or service offerings overall.
But, most importantly, content gap analysis can reveal why some of your content is not working as well as hoped — including the key elements that might be missing, preventing it from climbing to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
How to Do a Content Gap Analysis
A content gap analysis is usually performed over three stages. In the first stage, you want to use your analysis of the buyer’s journey or customer journey to shape your digital marketing efforts. In the second stage, competitor gap analysis, you analyze the content on a competitor’s site and see where it is outperforming the content on your own. Finally, you design an action plan based on your analysis, which should include updating and upgrading current content for quick and easy SEO wins.
Stage 1: Help the Buyer on Their Journey
Every purchase is a journey. A buyer travels from awareness of a need or problem, through the discovery of potential solutions, to choosing a solution, and deciding whether they are happy with their choice.
Your brand should provide informational content for every step in this process.
Describing the Buyer’s Journey
Your website should act as a friendly and informative guide for buyers on their journey, answering their questions and steering them to the best solution to their problem (usually yours, of course). This is also called the sales funnel.
To do so, your website should include types of content related to all the major phases of the journey:
- Awareness: A customer is aware that they have a need, problem, or pain points, but haven’t yet put words to their needs.
- Consideration: A customer has defined their need or problem and is considering possible solutions. Social media is good marketing for this step, because it can help you reach more potential customers.
- Decision: A customer narrows down their list of possible solutions to the one or few that they will purchase.
- Validation: Once the buyer has paid for the product or service, do they have buyer’s remorse — or are they content with (and even excited about) the purchase?
Ideally, you’ve already mapped out this journey to build your content marketing strategy. If not, take the time to do it now. Create buyer personas that reflect the people that you know buy your product and those you hope to attract. This is your target audience.
Then imagine how each persona would travel through these stages. What questions do they have that need to be answered? What information do they need to ask the next question? What information is likely to turn visitors into conversions? What information will help them make a decision they’ll be happy with?
Need help creating your buyer personas? Download our Persona Topic Matrix now to organize your content topics by audience type.
A Website for All Phases
Next, make sure you have content for all stages of the buyer’s journey on your website.
Remember, Google is increasingly emphasizing search intent in the results it delivers. It’s not enough to target keywords to top the SERPs; you also have to understand what people mean when they use these phrases. Bonus: Understanding your customer’s journey will help you do this, which in turn will help your content perform better.
Learn more about matching search intent to content with our keyword research guide.
The bulk of your digital content should be related to the consideration and decision stages for your customers. Not only is this where most of the relevant information will be found, but that’s where the most valuable content will be — the content that can steer people into a decision to buy your product or service.
Stage 2: Conduct a Competitor Gap Analysis
Once you’ve identified all the initial cost gaps where you’re not meeting consumers’ needs, it’s time to refine your list by evaluating which content your customers are finding on your competitors’ websites that can’t be found on yours.
A true competitor gap analysis can get somewhat technical. At a minimum, use a content audit toolkit to help you track your results. However, it’s often best to hire an SEO specialist to perform this step for you.
Step 1: Identify Direct Competitors
Before you dive into detailed competitor analysis, make sure you’re comparing the right brands. Start by finding your competitors online with data, not just gut feelings. We recommend this step even if you think you already know who your competitors are.
Step 2: Use a Research Tool
Both content gap tools work basically the same way. You enter your site URL and competitors’ URLS, and the tool compares your rankings against your competitors for various keywords.
Step 3: Sort Keyword Results
Refine and sort the results using various parameters to help you get the most useful information. Select keywords that:
- Have a high search volume
- Fit in your buyer’s journey (ideally in the “consideration” or “decision” phases)
Make two lists of your competitors’ keywords. On one list, record the keywords where you show up in positions 11–100. These are content opportunities you want to consider for your “quick wins” efforts.
On the other list, record the keywords where your competitors rank — but you don’t show up at all. These new keywords will likely require new content, and that takes time and money, so you’ll have to make these long-term goals.
Stage 3: Finding Gaps in Blogs and Pages
Now that you’ve identified your gaps, it’s time to close them.
Start with your potential “quick wins.” For anything ranked 11–30, optimize the content’s meta information (title tags and meta descriptions) for a high-impact update. If you find obvious mismatches between the keyword you want to appear for and the meta information, make sure to fix that, too; it could push your content to the first page.
Next, select a piece of content that shows up in the 31–100 range for important keywords. Double-check the Google Analytics organic traffic data to confirm they’re underperforming on key metrics.
Then, do a Google search for the keyword you want to target with that content. Read through the results on the first page to understand what Google considers “quality content” for this keyword. Look for information that’s on these pages — but not on yours. If you find some obvious gaps here, fill them.
These simple changes can help your content perform significantly better, sometimes causing it to jump to the first page itself!
Of course, sometimes adding content alone isn’t enough to put your content on the top of the SERPs. You might also need to add backlinks, but that’s an entirely separate issue.
Repeat this process as often as needed to continually optimize your content and improve your site quality. Along the way, you’ll often find brand-new content ideas, too. It’s the perfect cure for writer’s block.
Conduct Your SEO Content Gap Analysis Today
In conclusion, a well-organized content gap analysis can help you dramatically improve your website’s rankings, traffic, and sales. Remember: It’s important to be methodical when documenting the information you find about your website and your competitors, so use our Content Audit Toolkit to get started.
However, if you find that the technical nature of this type of analysis is too much for you, we’re also here to provide professional help. Contact our SEO team for a free, personalized proposal, including a content audit for improving the organic search performance of your website.