That piece you just added to your content calendar — how do you really know it’s the topic you need to write about next? Are you sure it’s the best use of your limited content marketing budget? If your manager were to ask you right now to justify it, what would you say?

If you can’t answer confidently, don’t assign another topic. It’s time you did a content gap analysis.

In fact, if it’s been a year or more since you went through your content to spot gaps, you should be planning an analysis, too. Given the ultra-competitive environment in content marketing now, it’s highly likely you’re wasting money if you’re not periodically looking at your content gaps.

What Is a Content Gap Analysis?

A content gap analysis determines how well your content marketing library answers your customers’ questions and identifies opportunities to better reach people you might be missing. The “gap,” then, can be filled with new or revised content. Some people call it a website gap analysis or a competitor gap analysis.

There are three primary gaps to look for in your content:

  1. Keyword gap: A set of keywords for which you don’t currently rank in search results, but your competitors do.
  2. Buying stage gap: A stage of the funnel for which you haven’t created enough content to answer common questions.
  3. Channel gap: A distribution channel that you’re not currently using to get your content into the world.

It’s important to consider each of these potential gaps in your content marketing because these deficits may spell an opportunity for increased effectiveness that would outweigh any additional expense. Once you know where your gaps are, you can assign your resources to cover them appropriately.

Types of content gap analysis

The type of content gap analysis perhaps best known to content marketers looks for keyword gaps.

1. Content Gap Analysis by Keywords

One of the most powerful ways to use a content gap analysis is to identify new keywords to target with the content you create. A keyword gap analysis lets you see gaps where your competitors rank for keywords, but you don’t. Then, you can decide whether it makes sense for you to also target those keywords. The gap may exist for a practical reason, like different service offerings. But if the keywords apply just as much to your business and you don’t address them, too, you risk falling behind your competitors in search results. Over time, this can impact your brand and the perceptions of customers, potentially losing you market segment share and, ultimately, profits.

A thorough keyword gap analysis will look not only at keywords your competitors rank for but also at ones that none of you rank for. This can be useful to find content for which you may be able to secure faster rankings because they are less competitive.

How to do a content gap analysis by keyword

To find keyword gaps, you will need to use a tool that can pull out keyword data for your site and your competitors’ sites. Alexa’s Competitor Keyword Matrix offers powerful yet easy-to-use capabilities for keyword research. Here are the basic steps.

  1. Enter up to 10 websites into the Competitor Keyword Matrix tool.
  2. Sort the Matrix according to attributes of the keywords.
  3. Use the Traffic Scores to view gaps that may be worth targeting.
    This short video walks you through how to use the tool.

Once you’ve identified keywords for which you have gaps, you can enter them into the Keyword Difficulty tool to get a sense of how difficult it might be to rank for a target keyword. You can also see similar keywords. (See more details about how to do a competitor keyword analysis using Alexa.)

If you’re looking for a free content gap analysis tool, you can get started with our free Site Overview tool. This will show the top four keyword gaps for a site relative to its competitors.

Now you can start planning new content or deciding how you’ll refresh or merge existing content to rank for those keywords. If you have content targeting a keyword already, but it’s not making headway in the search results, consider updating it. If you have multiple pages addressing the same topic, consider merging them.

In addition to performing a keyword gap analysis, it’s also useful to look for gaps in your content according to the buying stage of the reader.

2. Content Gap Analysis by Buying Stage

Content plays an important role throughout the buying process. Look for gaps in content at the various stages in your marketing funnel, from top to bottom. An important part of a content audit, this analysis will show opportunities to help move the customer to conversion and improve ROI.

How to do a content gap analysis by buying stage

First, you need to map out the content you have and which stage of the marketing funnel it’s for. Generally, content falls into one of three stages:

  • Top of funnel (TOFU) content is broad-based, appealing to people who are researching a topic but have not yet decided to take action. This can include blog posts like roundups, lists, how-to content, content that answers “what is” and “why” questions, and so on. The primary purpose of this content is to drive traffic.
  • Middle of the funnel (MOFU) content leans a little more toward product information. It gives the reader a high-level understanding of what your product does. Case studies, ebooks, checklists, email drip campaigns, “how-to” blog posts, and webinars are typical formats used at this stage.
  • Bottom of the funnel (BOFU) content helps close the sale. Video or written product demos, product spec sheets, FAQs, comparisons of your product to those of competitors, and testimonials are examples of BOFU content.

Once you have mapped out what content you have to address at each stage of the funnel, look for gaps where you don’t have content or the content you have is not performing. Answer these questions:

  • How much content do you have for each stage?
  • Does this mix suit the needs of your business?
  • Is the content you have performing as it should?

Consider the needs of your business. For example, if your business is new or not well-known in your industry, you might want to focus more on generating awareness. If so, are you producing TOFU content optimized to bring traffic to your site? You will also want to have content in place to convert that traffic as they move through the buying cycle. Do you have BOFU content that answers all the most common questions of your customers?

Take this content gap analysis a step further and see how your content is performing. If you’ve set objectives in your content strategy, then you can check in on your metrics. It may be that you don’t need to change the type of content you are producing but rather divert some effort into improving what you have already produced.

Once you have determined the mix of content you’re producing for the stages of the buying process, take a look at the channels you use to distribute your content.

3. Content Gap Analysis by Channel

It’s not enough to simply produce content — you have to promote your content, too. Analyzing your content for gaps by distribution channel or platform can help you see opportunities to improve the return on your investment in those channels. It can help you see where you could benefit from optimizing the way you are using your current channels or whether you should abandon underperforming channels for ones with more potential.

Some typical content distribution channels include the following:

  • Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram
  • Forums like Quora and Reddit
  • Specialized industry forums
  • Email
  • Paid search
  • Organic search
  • Referral channels like guest posts or mentions on other websites

How to do a content gap analysis by channel

First, gather the following information:

  1. The content channels you use
  2. A high-level view of the content you are currently producing for each
  3. Goals for each channel and your results
  4. Your content that performs best on each channel

Second, after you have laid out the content you are producing for different channels and how it’s performing, look for gaps. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • Which are the most important channels for your business?
  • Is your content achieving its goals for each channel?
  • Does your content production for each channel match that level of importance?
    • Why or why not? Are you using generic content across multiple channels rather than creating it specifically for each, for example?
    • Or are you missing the mark on what resonates with customers in a channel?
  • Do you have the resources to commit to each of the channels you are using? Or do you need to adjust your goals?

Alexa’s Content Exploration tool shows you your popular content on social media. You can also use the tool to view popular content for a topic related to your business to help pinpoint what people engage with.

Social engagement analysis

Next, consider content distribution channels that you don’t yet target to see if there are any opportunities that are worth pursuing.

To find channels you are not yet targeting but may want to, you can look at what channels your competitors are using. Alexa’s tools help with this. For a big-picture view of channel gaps, view Traffic Sources in the Competitive Overview section of your Alexa dashboard.

Traffic sources analysis

Looking at your competitors’ traffic channels can tell you if there are channels that are working for others in your industry, or channels that haven’t yet been explored by your competitors, offering potential white space. Once you find your content gaps by channel, you will need to determine the investment required to get from where you are to where you want to be. It’s important to note that not all gaps need to be filled.

Next, Prioritize Which Gaps to Fill

Analyzing content gaps is an important part of any competitive website analysis. But just because you find content gaps does not mean you should schedule content to cover them all. You will need to prioritize which gaps need filling first, so you can assign resources in a way that will bring the greatest return for your business over the long-term.

And not every gap needs filling. If creating content to fill the gap will take more resources than the reward warrants, you may decide to live with the deficit.

When it comes to prioritizing, Alexa’s tools can help keep you organized. Alexa’s Advanced Plan includes a workspace to keep track of your keyword priorities and content opportunities. Sign up for a free 14-day trial to get access to a powerful suite of tools for your content marketing.

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