All businesses that engage in content marketing face the problem of consistently generating content ideas that resonate with their audience.
After all, regularly creating high-quality content is time and resource-intensive work. The last thing you want is to waste time by building content that your potential customers don’t care about.
So how can you systematically identify untapped content ideas that you know your audience will find valuable?
The answer is to conduct a content gap analysis.
In this post, we’ll look at the various ways in which content gap analyses help SEO and show you how to carry out a gap analysis for your own business.
But first, what do we mean when we talk about a ‘content gap analysis’?
What is a Content Gap Analysis?
A content gap analysis is the process of identifying ‘gaps’ in your existing content that you can then fill with new content. These gaps occur whenever there’s demand for certain content in your niche that you haven’t catered to yet.
By revealing untapped opportunities for content creation, a content gap analysis helps to ensure that your content covers a range of topic areas that are of interest to your audience at every stage of the buyer’s journey.
For example, suppose your business sells team management software, and your site already includes several pieces of content that target product-related search queries like ‘collaboration apps’ and ‘essential team scheduling tools’. This content is especially well-suited to those who already know the market and the type of solutions available to them.
But through the course of conducting a content gap analysis, you notice that people also search for product-adjacent queries like ‘how to promote teamwork in the workplace’ and ‘how to boost morale for remote employees’. You realize that these topics would be of interest to people who could also benefit from the software solution you offer. So you get to work in creating new content that caters to these queries, driving more traffic to your site, and providing more value to potential customers.
As well as exposing missing content, a content gap analysis can also help you identify areas of potential improvement within your existing content offering. For example, you might already have a blog post that targets the keyword ‘top collaboration apps’ but it hasn’t been refreshed for five years.
Ultimately, the goal of a content gap analysis is to highlight where your existing content is lacking and to provide strategic direction about where to focus your content efforts next.
How Does Content Gap Analysis Help SEO?
Content gap analyses are instrumental in boosting your organic visibility.
The logic is simple: The more high-quality pieces of content you create that satisfy your target audience’s various search queries, the more brand-relevant keywords you’ll rank for and the more qualified traffic you’ll drive to your site.
Moreover, a content gap analysis can help you improve conversion rates by drawing your attention to holes in your existing user experience. One of the jobs of your content is to provide visitors with the information they need to progress further along the buyer’s journey. So the more content you have that caters to different stages of this journey, the more frictionless the path to conversion will be.
Finally, a content gap analysis provides focus and direction to all your SEO writing efforts. On the one hand, it tells you which keywords you’re already ranking for and whether you could improve your ranking performance by updating or improving your content. On the other hand, it tells you which keywords you aren’t ranking for and, therefore, what new content you need to create.
With these benefits in mind, let’s now see what the content gap analysis process looks like.
The Content Gap Analysis Process
While there is no standardized approach for carrying out a content gap analysis, the end goal is always the same: To find opportunities to create new pieces of content that rank well for keywords related to your brand.
Here’s how we go about doing that.
Start With Keyword Research
Since the whole point of a content gap analysis is to better meet the content needs of your target audience, it’s best to start by understanding what content they’re looking for.
Keyword research is the process of finding out what search terms people are entering into Google when looking for content within your niche. It’s the best way to build a full picture of the search landscape you’re competing in.
But how should you go about conducting keyword research?
A low-cost way to start building out a keyword list is to Google Search and begin typing a brand-relevant query into the search bar. Google will automatically generate related keyword suggestions – based on real-life searches – that you can then enter into a master spreadsheet.
Likewise, at the bottom of every one of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), you’ll find a collection of related search queries that you can also add to your spreadsheet.
Of course, repeating this process across multiple keywords can get pretty labor-intensive, so you can also use tools like Answer the Public to help bulk out your keyword list more quickly.
Evaluate Your Competitors
Another way to enrich your picture of the search landscape is to analyze competitor content.
No matter how comprehensive your keyword research is, chances are you’ll miss a few important topic areas here or there.
Reviewing your competitors helps correct this, drawing your attention to topic areas that they’ve covered, but you haven’t.
Pick between 3 and 5 of your fiercest search competitors and take a deep dive into their content archives (you might want to use a free website-crawling tool like Screaming Frog to speed up this process). Make a note of any topics they cover that you don’t, create a list of the associated keywords using the tactics described in the previous step, and then add them to your master spreadsheet.
Gather Search Volume And Keyword Difficulty Data
Now that you’ve amassed a keyword list that is representative of the search landscape in your niche, you need to find out the search volume and ranking difficulty for each keyword.
This information will make it easier to prioritize which topics you end up creating new content for.
Many paid-for tools can give you reliable search volume data for big keyword sets, including Semrush, KWFinder, and Long Tail Pro. But if you’re looking for a free alternative, we recommend the Ahrefs Keyword Generator tool.
This tool doesn’t give you search volume data for complete keyword sets, but it does provide a list of keyword variations based on your input phrase and their monthly search volumes.
Notice that this tool also includes a column for keyword difficulty (KD), which gives an indication of how hard it would be to rank for the associated keyword (the lower the number, the easier the keyword).
You can also use the free MozBar Chrome Extension to estimate the ranking potential of a given keyword. When you type a query into Google, this tool will reveal each result’s domain authority (DA). As a rule, the higher the average DA of the top results, the harder it will be to rank for that keyword.
Categorize Keywords According To The Buyer’s Journey
So you’ve created a comprehensive keyword list and gathered the associated search volumes and difficulty data.
The next step is to categorize each keyword based on where it fits into the buyer’s journey.
The buyer’s journey represents the various stages a user goes through on their way to becoming your customer, starting with awareness, then interest, then desire, and finally action or purchase.
For the sake of simplicity, we suggest categorizing each keyword according to whether it relates to the top, middle, or bottom of the funnel (ToFu, MoFu, or BoFu).
ToFu content is aimed at the ‘casual’ website visitor who is seeking more general information and is least likely to convert. An example of ToFu content might be a blog titled ‘11 Easy Tricks to Improve Team Spirit’.
MoFu content is aimed at visitors who are becoming a little more familiar with the market and are beginning to consider their purchase options. An example piece of MoFu content might be ‘Top 10 Team Management Apps of 2022’.
BoFu content is aimed at visitors on the cusp of making a purchasing decision. An example piece of BoFu content might be a case study or a success story from a previous customer.
It’s normal for most keywords to fall into the ToFu or Mofu categories. The point of this exercise is just to make it easier to know whether you need to create more content for the different stages of the buyer’s journey.
Conduct Your Content Audit
Now for the most important step in which all your research comes together.
The goal here is to determine which keywords you already rank for and which ones you don’t.
Once you have that information, you’ll be able to tell where your content gaps and weaknesses are and make a plan for which content to tackle first.
In order to see which of your existing pages rank for your keywords and how their ranking position changes over time, you’ll need to sign up to a keyword rank-tracking tool like Semrush, Ahrefs, or AccuRanker. Unfortunately, very few free-to-use tools offer this functionality for large keyword sets, but most of the paid-for tools on the market offer free trials and pricing based on keyword set size.
Once you’ve pulled your keyword ranking data into your master spreadsheet, you’ll be able to tell just how many keywords you don’t rank for. These are your content gaps.
Assuming you have multiple content gaps, how do you decide which ones to fill first?
We recommend applying a filter to your spreadsheet so that only the keywords you don’t currently rank for are visible. Then arrange them according to their monthly search volume in descending order and filter out any that have a volume below 50. Next, filter out any keywords with a ranking difficulty over 30. You’ll then be left with the highest-volume and lowest-difficulty keywords in your list – the perfect place to start building new content!
Another way to decide which content gaps to tend to first is to focus on any major gaps in the buyer’s journey. For example, if you notice that none of your pages rank for the keywords you labeled as MoFu, it’s probably worth creating some MoFu content as a matter of urgency.
Finally, don’t forget that your content gap analysis spreadsheet also tells you how your existing content is ranking. If you notice that a piece of content ranks for multiple keywords but does so poorly, chances are it could do with a refresh. Take a close look at how the top competing results approach the same topic and see what you can do to level up your own piece.
Create Your New Content Calendar
Now that you’ve built a comprehensive picture of the search landscape, understood where the gaps are in your existing content, and identified the highest-priority topic areas, it’s time to schedule some content production.
Be sure to update your content gap analysis sheet whenever you make a change to existing content or publish something new. Provided you focus on filling the gaps with high-quality content that serves the user’s search intent, you’ll soon reap the rewards of more traffic and higher rankings.
Close the Content Gap
A content gap analysis is one of the central pillars of any successful content marketing strategy. Without it, you’re left in the dark about where the opportunities are for creating new, traffic-driving content.
We’ve seen that the core stages of a content gap analysis include keyword research, competitor analysis, buyer journey mapping, and a content audit. So now that you’re up to speed on how to carry out a content gap analysis, it’s time to put your skills to the test.
Are there any other techniques you like to use when looking for gaps in your content? If so, please let us know in the comments!