How To Do SEO Content Gap Analysis Like A Pro (Bonus Free Method Included!)

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Mind the gap!

Before we get into just what “content gap analysis” is, we should first dive into plain old “Gap analysis”. It’s not anything new. In simple terms, it’s just finding holes in a company’s systems, leadership, and offerings and then filling in that hole with an appropriate solution. Comparing the gap between where a company currently is and where you want it to be.

It really boils down to finding questions that your content does not answer and answering them.

Content gap analysis could be applied to many marketing fields. Most commonly you’ll see it talked about as an SEO tactic and that will be our sole focus for today.

In copywriting and landing page optimization it’s a useful technique as well. Marketers will go all out developing customer psychology profiles and getting a crisp understanding of the entire purchase process. Knowing those, they could then deconstruct their landing pages and figure out what questions are left unanswered.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • An SEO definition of content gap analysis
  • The general process of content gap analysis
  • The best tools to perform content gap analysis
  • How to get away doing content gap analysis for free

Stick around and I’ll make it worth your while! I’ll share with you our completely free content gap analysis spreadsheet template and how to use it.

What is content gap analysis in SEO?

Content gap analysis in SEO involves improving your content by finding out what important topics and questions it is missing.

This is all about doing good keyword and market research. There are a couple of different ways to go about this. We’ll cover both!

Your findings from this process will mostly lead to:

  • Updating your existing content
  • Creating new content based on discovered audience findings

Let’s get into the general process.

The General Process

There are two main strains of content gap analysis in SEO.

Competitor-Based Content Gap Analysis

The first version (and the most common one) is done through competitor analysis. It’s the easiest way to start with if you have the right tools.

It involves:

  • Finding out what keywords your page (or entire website if you want a more general overview) ranks for
  • Finding out what keywords your competitors’ page ranks for
  • Building a list of competitor keywords that you’re NOT ranking for
  • Coming up with hypotheses of why your page is not ranking for those terms and putting your theories into action

Once again, with the right tools, it’s plain as day. The first three steps in that sequence can involve a single button click.

Market-Based Content Gap Analysis

The second strain of content gap analysis more so involves raw keyword research. It’s all about finding not only the gaps of what you’re not doing…but also what your competitors are not doing.

This method is harder to automate, often involving creativity and out of the box thinking.

It often involves:

  • Getting a crystal clear idea of who your audience is as well as their needs and desires
  • Doing keyword research to find what topics and questions are not answered in your article, page, or resource
  • Coming up with hypotheses of why your page is not ranking for those terms and putting your theories into action

Let’s say you have a popular article out about whiteboard paint. You know, that stuff allows you to turn your ENTIRE office walls into a whiteboard.

But here’s the thing. You assume that the vast majority of your readers want to put this paint up in office buildings. So do your competitors.

You run a poll and it turns out 40% of your readers are educators, 30% are at-home DIYers, and the last 30% are those who want a whiteboard wall in their office.

Armed with this information, sneakily deleting the poll so your competitors don’t too discover this valuable information, you begin keyword research.

Through all sorts of keyword research tools, you’re able to find a slew of educator and DIYer focused topics and questions that both you and your competitors fail to discuss.

Updating your article to include these not-so-much discussed topics will provide a massive boost to that article’s traffic and conversions.

Never just assume in marketing.

Gearing Up: What are the best tools for content gap analysis?

The two main tools that provide content gap analysis features are Ahrefs and SEMRush.

I’ll show you how to use both! (I’ll even show you a free way to do a bit of content gap analysis later.)

In my opinion, Ahrefs’ content gap tools are far superior to SEMRush’s and you’ll see why quite soon.

These days I would recommend Ahrefs over SEMRush as a general SEO tool to most people anyway. They’re both at the same price point and Ahrefs simply has killer data and a powerful UI.

In addition to these two tools, there are plenty of others to help you out. A lot of them are free!

Answer The Public is a favourite of mine for getting an understanding of questions asked around a broad topic. As an example, here’s a graphic it generated for terms around lawncare. In addition to the graphic it generates, it also lets you download the terms as a CSV. (Sure beats breaking your neck over reading sideways!)

Another is KeywordShitter. (Well, the new version is KeywordSheeter. They both do just about the same thing.) You input a seed keyword (say “lawncare tips”) and it spits out all sorts of results. It’s then your job to gather metrics for each keyword and manually weed out the bad ones. Worth noting that the new Keyword Sheeter allows you to buy tokens to get Adwords search volume for each term.

Last but not least, when you’re trying to get a pulse on your audience, forums are still a brilliant resource. You can find decades and decades of questions from real people in just about any industry.

How to do content gap analysis with Ahrefs

Lucky for us, Ahrefs has made it real easy to do content gap analysis. In this situation we are going to compare My Swingle’s article on lawncare to its competitors’.

First, start out by specifying your article as well as the articles you are competing against. The more the merrier! In this example I just chose three.

Another tip to better your results is to set the Intersections setting to “1 target”. This will show unique keywords that one competing site ranks for but the others don’t. It’s how you can find real unique (and often enough easy) opportunities for you to improve your content.

And after all that, here are your results! Experiment with Ahrefs’ filters in order to find more interesting results.

How to do content gap analysis with SEMRush

Just like Ahrefs, SEMRush has various gap analysis tools for you to try out.

“Keyword Gap” and “Bulk Analysis” (as shown below) are most useful for our purposes. “Backlink Gap” is also a great tool. It does exactly what you’d imagine—allows you to see what types of backlinks your competitors are receiving that you’re not.

We’ll start with “Keyword Gap”. It’s not as useful as Ahrefs’ version of it. For one, you can only compare domains. With Ahrefs, you can compare individual pages.

All you have to do is plug in different domain names and you’ll be presented with a list of keywords that each site ranks for that you do not.

I mentioned SEMRush’s “Bulk Analysis” tool earlier. It is quite similar to the one Ahrefs offers.

This tool is a great help for diagnosing why your page doesn’t rank as well as your competitors. You plug in all of the URLs you are testing, including your own, and it gives you a birds-eye view of all of their metrics.

…How many backlinks each page has

…Its SEMRush Authority Score

…the amount of dofollow and nofollow links

and a few more metrics here and there.

How to do content gap analysis for free

If you’re a broke folk or simply can’t justify the sometimes seemingly crazy expenditure of SEO tools these days, I’ve got you covered. There’s not as slick of a solution as the paid tools, but there are still ways to get by and thrive.

First of all, SEMRush has a “hidden free tier”. If you start a free trial and let it expire, you’ll be put on their free account tier.

The free account lets you play around with their content gap analysis tools in a limited way.

So, I’d start there.

But there is still one pretty easy free method that I just have to share with you.

Free Content Gap Analysis for SEO

In this little demo, I’m going to be comparing several how-to YouTube videos that are competing for the term “how to jack up a car”. Why YouTube videos? This particular term returns the video rich snippet when searched for on Google. I thought it would be interesting to see the different terms that trigger these videos.

First, make a copy of our free basic-as-all-hell content gap analysis spreadsheet.

Step 1.) Export your (and your competitor’s) keywords to CSV files

We’ll be using the free Moz Keyword Explorer. All it requires is a free Moz account. You can sign-up here.

Start by plugging in your different pages. (pictured above) We’ll have to do this one at a time.

After that, make sure to click the “See all ranking keywords”.

Finally, click “Export CSV”.

Step 4.) Combine all of your keywords into the Basic-As-All-Hell Content Gap Analysis spreadsheet

Throw your keywords under the “Your Keywords” column. Throw your competitor’s keywords under the “Competitor Keywords” column.

Immediately you will see certain competitor keywords highlighted as green. Those are your content gaps!—Keywords your competitors are ranking for that you are not.

Step 3.) Improvise, adapt, overcome

As the name suggests, our template is super duper basic. There are a million and one ways for you to improve it, make it more powerful, and custom tailor it to your business.

Here’s a freebie. Add a “Ranking” column right next to the “Vol” column. Right now we know that a competitor is ranking for a keyword, but we have no idea what position they are in.

Final Notes

I hope you have enjoyed this article!

A good content gap analysis could be the only edge you need to stay fresh against your competition.

Ranking is getting harder and harder. The content people produce is getting higher in quality and companies are investing boatloads of cash into their content marketing strategies. If you have a website that is pulling in a lot of traffic from Google, it is your responsibility to protect that asset from newly created, competing content.

It’s recommended to do a content gap analysis at least once a quarter for best results.

Best of luck and happy content gapping!

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