“Know thy self, know thy enemies. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Though written 2,500 years ago to teach military strategy, this philosophy can still be applied to business today — especially when it comes to content marketing.
To create content that’s truly effective, you need to understand your audience’s wants and needs, what they’re already reading, and the gaps in the market.
In other words, when it comes to content marketing, your “enemy” is your competition. And the best way to beat them? Know what they’re doing well (so you can do it better) and where they’re stumbling (so you can swoop in and fill the void).
This is where a content gap analysis comes in handy — providing you valuable information on the areas where your content is falling short and what you need to do to improve it.
In this guide, we’ll cover some basic steps on running a content gap analysis for your website. Because Inflow’s experts regularly conduct these audits and analyses, we’ve gathered some of our most helpful tips to help you get started below.
What is a Content Gap Analysis?
A content gap analysis is a methodical comparison of your website’s content with that of your competitors to identify any gaps or opportunities, analyzing the topics they cover and the keywords they rank for.
This process can help improve your SEO performance by uncovering new keywords to target. In addition, it helps refine your overall content strategy by identifying topics you’re missing out on.
Perhaps you’ve been wondering how you can outrank your competitors on certain keywords or why your website traffic has stagnated. On the other hand, maybe you want to refresh your content after completing a content audit.
A content gap analysis can reveal all of the available opportunities for your brand.
3 Ways to Look at Content “Gaps”
You can identify gaps in your content marketing through three different viewpoints:
1. Audience Needs/Buying Stage
First off, we recommend reviewing your content by customer funnel stage — that is, top-of-funnel through bottom-of-funnel content. You can usually break these down into stages like “awareness,” “consideration,” “decision,” and “validation.”
Your content marketing strategy should detail what type of content you’re creating for each stage in the funnel (and your goals in doing so). It should also include buyer personas that help you better understand what each customer wants or needs at each individual stage.
When in doubt, conduct audience research to learn which questions your customers are asking as they move through their journey. Consider tools like SparkToro, Inflow’s Persona Topic Matrix, and more.
2. Your Current Content Marketing Strategy
Even with heavy investments in writing, video creation, and more, it’s not uncommon for brands to be disappointed with their content marketing efforts.
If your campaigns aren’t getting the results you expect, reevaluate your current strategy to identify areas for improvement. These “gaps” could include target keywords, topics, and overall content quality.
Let’s say the keyword phrase “how to install a car seat” frequently appears in your target audience’s searches. Even though your online store sells car seats, you don’t have any content addressing this topic.
Now, you’ve found a gap in your strategy and a golden opportunity to create a blog post on the topic.
3. Your Competitors’ Content
Finally, you can identify content gaps by analyzing your competitor’s strategy. If they’re ranking for certain keywords that you’re not, it could be because they have content on those topics that you don’t.
This is what we’ll focus on in the following step-by-step guide.
How to Perform a Competitor Gap Analysis By Reviewing Your Competitors
So, how do you actually complete a competitor content gap analysis?
Below, we’ll give you an overview of the process to help you zero in on your competitors’ content and SEO rankings.
For a more in-depth approach, check out Inflow’s comprehensive step-by-step guide, which includes free tools and templates for conducting your analysis.
Step 1: Identify Your Direct Competitors
Before you can start examining your competitors’ content, you have to actually know who they are.
There are several ways to find your online competitors:
- Ask your client (or boss): It’s always a good idea to start with these higher-up contacts first, as they may already have a couple of specific brands in mind.
- Use Spyfu: If you’re unsure who your direct competitors are, start with a competitor analysis tool like Spyfu. Just enter your website’s URL, and you’ll see competitors based on keyword rankings and other data.
- Search Google using your top keywords: For a free alternative, see who’s already ranking for your important keywords and topics. The websites that come up on the first page are likely your direct competitors, but always make sure to check their products and offerings before adding them to your list.
Step 2: Use a Research Tool
A competitor content gap analysis can be conducted manually by reviewing each competitor’s website and looking for topics you’ve not covered. However, this can be time-consuming.
Instead, we recommend using a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to help speed up the process. Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, for example, provides a handy Content Gap Report that shows keywords your competitors are ranking for that you’re currently not.
Step 3: Sort Keyword Results
When you have your list of keyword opportunities, focus on those that have a high search volume and fit best into your buyers’ journeys. Then, prioritize those according to the effort required and tackle the top ones first.
This strategy gives the most bang for your buck, ensuring you’re creating content your target audience will actually read.
We recommend using a tool like Google Sheets to sort your keyword results. First, create a spreadsheet and label three columns:
- Search Volume
- Buyer’s Journey Stage
Next, add the keywords you’ve uncovered in your research. Once you arrive at a good number, sort them by search volume (high to low) and then by buyer’s journey stage. Using this data (and your own customer knowledge), you’ll naturally see which content gaps you should target first.
If you’re still stuck, this keyword research guide will help you prioritize opportunities based on search and purchase intent.
Step 4: Optimize Existing Content (or Create New Content!)
Once you’ve identified the content gaps, it’s time to start filling them.
If you already have content that covers the topics you want to target, great! All you need to do is optimize them for the right keywords.
If you don’t have content for certain topics, you can always create it. As you’re writing, ensure that your work is high-quality, keyword-optimized, and will help your target audience.
Both options — optimizing existing content and creating new content — are effective ways to fill content gaps and improve your SEO rankings.
Here are some more tips to follow when optimizing or creating content:
- Optimize, but don’t keyword-stuff: Use the keywords you’ve uncovered in your research to help optimize your content for the search engines. But don’t go overboard, as too many keywords can actually hurt your SEO.
- Keep it high-quality: For your content to be effective, it needs to be well-written, informative, and engaging.
- Make it shareable: To entice people to read your content, add social media buttons to your blog posts and encourage them to share it with their networks.
- Include calls-to-action: Every piece you create should prompt readers to take some action. This could be signing up for your SMS marketing, downloading a white paper, or scheduling a consultation.
No matter which route you take, monitor your progress (we love Google Analytics) to track if your efforts are making an impact. Then, based on those results, adjust your content marketing strategy accordingly.
Start Your Content Gap Analysis Today
A content gap analysis can help identify ways to improve your content marketing strategy, and, consequently, your SEO rankings. But keep in mind that it’s just one part of a larger strategy.
To achieve the biggest impact, regularly monitor your progress, set goals, and create high-quality, keyword-optimized content. Do all these things, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful content marketing strategy — and higher SEO rankings.
If you have the time and energy to spend analyzing your data and extracting actionable insights, you can do it on your own. You can also hire a digital marketing agency to do it for you.
If you choose this route, we recommend working with a specialized eCommerce SEO agency that can deliver a personalized action plan for your business needs.