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Content Gap Analysis: Find and Fix Your SEO Gaps in 5 Steps

When done properly, a content gap analysis is the unlock code to achieve incredible SEO results. 

But the reality is different. Most marketers have a slow and laborious gap analysis workflow that doesn’t even uncover all the ‘gaps’. 

With so many approaches to a content gap analysis, it can feel overwhelming.

In this post, we break down how to comprehensively find all important content gaps and provide a roadmap to get real results.

This is an advanced content gap analysis for 2023 marketers.

What is a content gap analysis?

A content gap analysis is the process of finding gaps or holes in your existing content. In the analysis, you identify keyword and content opportunities that map to different stages of the user journey. From there, you update existing content or create new content to fill the gaps.

Why you need to find SEO gaps in your content

Finding content gaps is one of the quickest and best ways to boost your SEO.

Here are 4 reasons why:

1. Get more from your existing content 

Your existing content is an asset. And like all assets, you want to maximize its value. For this reason, by finding and optimizing the gaps in your content, you can improve your content’s performance.

A content refresh is the quickest way to boost your SEO results. You’ve already taken the time and resources to create the content. Why not maximize your existing content’s value?

2. Achieve topical authority 

You build topical authority by finding and addressing gaps in your content. This simply means Google begins to see you more and more as an expert in your field. 

When you have topical authority, it also means a shorter time to rank (TTR). Google trusts your website and will reward you quickly because it wants to show the best results.

Covering the gaps in your content builds this authority.

3. Build your full content moat

By covering all the important content topics relevant to your audience, you’re in a more secure position. Even during tough economic times, people still search for, and need, content to make buying decisions.

In essence, a content moat provides you extra protection between your business and the unknown.

4. Dominate your niche and capture users at all stages of the buyer’s journey

By finding and filling in content gaps, you open your site to more potential buyers. The first and obvious one is the ‘buyers of today’. For example, if you have a content gap for people searching “[competitor] alternatives”, that’s a quick win (as the searcher is closer to the point of purchase).

However, a content gap analysis can find opportunities further up the funnel too. Or, in other words, the ‘buyers of tomorrow’. The right ‘top of the funnel’ (TOFU) content acts as a gateway to discovering your brand. So when they’re ready to buy, you’ve positioned yourself as the go-to option.

Most marketers suck at finding and fixing content gaps

Despite the obvious benefits of a content gap analysis, most marketers come up short in the process.

There are many reasons why, but here are the 5 most common we see:

1. Tools aren’t complete enough to make proper decisions 

This is a big one. While there are many amazing SEO tools on the market, there’s not 1 in isolation that gives you the complete picture for a content gap analysis.

The truth is… many tools need to be combined to get a full understanding.

A key part of the process, (that most tools don’t service), is keyword clustering.

It’s one thing to have a spreadsheet of keywords, but what does that mean? What type of page should you create, and what keywords go where?

It’s here that a keyword clustering tool can drastically improve and streamline the process. It essentially tells you what keywords go best on what page. But more on that later.

2. Not collecting or looking at enough data

When you only look at data from 1 source, you deprive yourself of hidden insights.

For example, you’re not going to see everything if you’re only looking at Search Console. It’s a great start, but not the full picture.

Likewise, with a content gap using a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush, it’s a helpful way to see competitors’ keywords you’re not ranking for. But alone, this doesn’t have enough context to make strategic decisions, as there are likely many important keywords your competitors might not be ranking for. 

Furthermore, relying on just 1 source puts you at a higher risk of decisions made on incorrect or missing data. For example, there’s often a discrepancy with search volume, as different tools use different keyword database sources.

If you think a keyword has zero volume, then naturally this affects your decisions and SEO strategy.

Below are classic examples of keyword search volume differences between Ahrefs and Semrush. 

Ahrefs vs Semrush: ‘Artificial Intelligence meme generator’

Ahrefs vs Semrush: ‘Charles iii coronation’

In sum, you need multiple data sources to do a content gap analysis effectively.

3. Inefficient workflow, tools and methods

For many marketers, the average gap analysis workflow goes like this: 

  1. Use 1 SEO tool
  2. Find a long list of keywords
  3. Dump it into a spreadsheet
  4. Sort by Volume
  5. Take an educated guess about which high-volume keywords to target
  6. Create new content based on the top keywords

The problems with this method are:

  1. Higher probability of keyword cannibalisation
  2. Overlooking existing content (and quick wins)
  3. Focusing only on tofu content and not content that brings quick business results
  4. Missing out on valuable keywords

The workflow needs to be more holistic and mindful of content clusters, user journeys and what brings results. 

4. Very manual and slow process

Aside from the SEO issues with the average content gap analysis, it’s a very slow and laborious task. With a long spreadsheet of keywords, many marketers spend time manually analyzing keywords, and their intent and attempting to bucket them into the right content hubs.

The problem with this?

We’re only human. 

This method invites mistakes and overlooks hidden gems.

To perform a content gap analysis, you need both the right tools and a human eye. When the process is too manual, you lose time and content opportunities. 

5. Publishing just new content. Fresh is not always better

This is more a reason why a content gap analysis does not happen at all (or at least very poorly). 

Often marketers focus just on creating new content.

This approach completely overlooks content updates. On top of this, it’s more likely you produce thin, low-value content (as quantity is valued more than quality). At the core of a content gap analysis, is the philosophy that you can maximize existing content (of course, a content gap analysis can also mean creating new. But it often means refreshing and updating). In sum, don’t forget old content, which can see huge wins by updating it.

How to do a Content Gap Analysis

Let’s recap. We’ve covered what a content gap analysis is, why it’s important, and, unfortunately, why most marketers struggle with it. Now, let’s find out how to do one. 

You can run a content gap analysis in the following 5 steps:

  1. Get competitor keywords
  2. Get niche-specific seed keywords (and combine them with the above)
  3. Audit your keywords to find content gaps
  4. Fill keyword gaps in your existing content
  5. Fill content gaps by creating new content

1. Getting competitor keywords

The first place to find gaps in your analysis is by looking at your competitors. 

A. Identify the right competitors

You don’t want to base your entire strategy on the wrong competitors. For this reason, you should find and select the competitors relevant to your business or clients.

There are 2 types to consider:

  • Actual competitors in ‘real-life’
  • Competitors in search results

Sometimes they’re the same. Sometimes not. 

For example, your top competitor may be non-existent in search. Your advantage. Although in this scenario, there’s not much you can learn from them.

Likewise, there could be a ‘non-real-life’ competitor ranking for a target keyword. How much of their content would be relevant to you?

For example, let’s say your site is Freshbooks; in the software accounting space. For the keyword ‘chargebacks accounting,’ how many of the results are ‘real-life competitors’? In the screenshot below, Zoho would be a direct ‘real-life’ competitor. Investopedia would not be, but we’re still interested in capturing their audience for this keyword (and likely many others).

In short, you need to study and get your keywords from websites with a search presence that are relevant to your business. These won’t always be direct competitors.

B. Export their keywords (position 0-20)

Once you’ve identified these competitors, it’s time to export what’s currently working for them. If they’re on the first 2 pages (position 0-20), you’ll want to know about these keywords.

You can use a tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to export each of your competitors’ keywords.

Repeat this process for each competitor and save the keywords to a spreadsheet.

A little bonus here is if you’re using Keywords Insights for the clustering (an important step later on); you don’t have to worry about removing duplicates or making sure the columns are the same between different exports.

You can upload multiple CSVs from different sources and we’ll sort all of this out for you. 

2. Getting niche-specific seed keywords

This is the next fundamental step in the content gap analysis. 

A. Plan your ‘seeds’

Here, you want to determine the main buckets of topics and keywords you’re targeting. The best way to do this is by reverse engineering your core products and services.

For example, if you’re a marketing agency, these might be your seed keywords:

  • SEO
  • PPC
  • Content writing
  • Digital strategy
  • Web design

For each ‘seed’, we want to find all the relevant keywords for our business.

B. Find all keywords from your seeds

Once the ‘seed keywords’ are identified, we now find all relevant keywords relating to that seed keyword. Let’s take ‘accounting software’ as an example seed keyword. 

Our keyword discovery tool is a quick way to generate related keywords from a seed in 3 simple steps.

1. Input the seed keyword, search engine origin and search engine. Then select ‘next step’.

2. Set the filters for your results (search volume, CPC, competition). You can choose how many keywords to export (more credits = more keywords)

3. In this example, let’s export 1000 keywords. Click summary and ‘generate report’.

You now have a list of keywords from that seed keyword.

There are of course other tools you can use to generate your seed keyword ideas, but if you’re going to be using Keyword Insights for your clustering (an important step we’ll discuss soon) you won’t need to export each report; you’ll be able to push them straight into clustering from the tool. 

C. Repeat for all seeds

Repeat this process for all your seed keyword ideas. If you’re only using our Keyword Discovery module, there’s no need to export each file as you can push the projects direct into the clustering module.

If you are using other tools, export each file as a CSV. As we’ve said earlier, you’ll easily be able to combine multiple CSVs from different sources without having to format each if you’re using Keyword Insights. 

3. Audit your keywords to find gaps

Let’s recap after the first 2 steps:

You should now have a long list of keywords (probably spread over multiple CSVs) generated by looking at competitor keywords and seed keywords

Yes? Ok great.

We now need to group the keywords and audit the keywords to find the gaps. We can then create a roadmap and action plan as part of the content gap analysis. 

This keyword auditing step has 2 main parts:

  1. Keyword clustering
  2. URL to keyword mapping

A. Keyword Clustering

This is the real difference between a mediocre and top-notch content gap analysis.

So what does it mean to cluster keywords?

In simple terms:

Keyword clustering involves grouping keywords that are similar to each other together. A “keyword cluster” is a group of keywords that mean the same topically and can be targeted together on a single page.

This takes the guesswork out of deciding what keywords go on what pages (and saves time).

While you can use our free SERP similarity tool, it only gives a maximum of 3 keywords. (ie. You can examine up to 3 keywords to understand how much of the SERP they share together).

However, in a given cluster, there are a lot more than 3 keywords that have a similar search intent and search results (which means you need just 1 page for that cluster). 

How to cluster keywords

Take all your keyword CSVs and upload them to a keyword clustering tool like Keyword Insights. If some of your keywords were generated using our Keyword Discovery module you can also just push these from inside the tool:

We will then group the keywords that can be targeted on the same page together based on actual search results.

Using Keywords Insights, this process is simple in 7 steps.

If you want to look at this process in video, check out below or keep reading:

1. Fill in the project details like location, language etc.

2. Choose the clustering method

We recommend agglomerative. It’s slightly slower but more in-depth.

3. Select the “context” and “rank” cluster preferences and input our target sites URL to check for rankings.

(Let’s take the example of using Freshbooks as our accounting software. By entering its URL into the tool, we can quickly identify the clusters of keywords where we have poor or no ranking. This makes it very easy to identify content gaps.)

4. Add our seed and competitor keyword CSV files

(remember, you can upload multiple files all at once from different sources)

5. Wait for the tool to do its magic

Depending on the volume, it may take a few minutes. When ready, you’ll get an email that will be available to view and/or export in the projects tab.

6. View cluster data in the projects tab (or export in excel or Google sheets)

7. Analyze the cluster data

There are 2 options to view the cluster data. 

  • Natively within the tool (in view report) or
  • Export to Excel or Google drive

We recommend staying within the tool, as you can push clustered keywords directly to briefs from there (more on this below).

Let’s cover these 2 approaches now.

7.1 Analyze the cluster data within the tool

Using the filter option, you can easily filter for the clusters of keywords we’re not ranking well for.

For example, let’s filter clusters to find everything from position 40 onwards; i.e. content that’s sporadically ranking and will need to be updated, or content we don’t rank for at all.

Furthermore, because we selected the “context” insight earlier on, we can (and should) only filter for the clusters of keywords that trigger informational results. It means we’re doing our content gap analysis without all the noise of looking at transactional pages. 

As below, we can now see clusters that are

  1. Informational and
  2. Have a greater rank than position 40

Generally speaking, clusters that have an average rank of 30-40 need updating/improving. 

On the other hand, clusters that have an average rank of 50+ are usually a sign we’re missing that content altogether. Of course, you’ll need to factor in your domain’s authority and how recently a piece of content was published for this rule to hold. 

Simple.

The best part about this is that, in 1 simple view, we have all the keywords that can be targeted on a single page, the ideal intent of that page (informational or transactional) and where we currently rank for those keywords. 

This means no more time-wasting in trying to understand if a keyword has a different intent or not, no more time-wasting wondering whether a certain keyword needs a different type of page or not and no more time wasting wondering whether you already have content on a given topic or not. The TLDR is: dump thousands of keywords into a tool, move a few filters around and view your content gaps easily. 

As a bonus, you’ll notice in the screenshots that every cluster has a keyword that is highlighted green. This is because our algorithm has identified that as the best keyword to create a content brief around.

Optimise for that keyword, and you’ll stand the best chance of ranking for all the other keywords in that cluster. With a simple click of the ‘+’ button, we can send these clusters straight to our brief generator (more on that later). 

7.2 Analyze the cluster data in a spreadsheet

This is an alternative way of analyzing your content gaps if you don’t like using the visualizations above. If you prefer rows and columns, we cater to that too; with an easy export to both excel and google sheets.

Once in excel or sheets, there are a lot of options to view the data. We recommend going straight to the ‘Pivot table by Keyword’. Here you’ll find the cluster and the list of keywords for that cluster. 

This now means you have a list of clusters with specific keywords for each cluster.

Like in the ‘card’ view, you can expand each cluster and view all the keywords that can be targeted on a single page. 

On top of this, you see how you’re ranking for each cluster and keyword. This tells you directly whether you should create a new page OR update an existing one.

If you want a greater understanding of how to read your clustering report, check out this video:

How to read your Clustering Report – Tutorial

Remember: 1 cluster (and its clustered keywords) = 1 page.

So now, we use this data to either: 

  1. Fill keyword content gaps in existing content (update the content)
  2. Fill keyword content gaps by creating new content

Let’s go through this process for updating content on existing pages:

4. Fill keyword gaps in your existing content

As previously discussed, if you come across clusters of keywords with a sporadic ranking between positions 30-50, these are typically the pages that require updating.

When filling keyword gaps in existing content, consider the following:

  • The overall intent of cluster and keyword
  • Your current ranking position for a specific keyword
  • Search volume

Ideally, you want to rank for all relevant keywords identified in the gap analysis. And while that’s the ultimate goal, you still need to start somewhere and prioritize

Which page to prioritize?

Considering the above factors, we recommend taking it page by page and working back from the pages with higher transactional (but still informational) intent.

Why?

By starting with higher-intent pages, you’re more likely to get quick business results.

Whether you’re reading this for your own business or for clients, moving the needle in the short term is a no-brainer.

Bottom of the funnel, informational keywords generally look like this:

  • Competitor alternatives
  • Competitor vs Competitor
  • Best ABC for XYZ
  • X for [use case]

So in the case of FreshBooks that could be:

  • “Best accounting software for Shopify”
  • “Freshbooks alternatives”
  • “Freshbooks vs Wave”
  • “Time tracking software for accountants”

Once you’ve updated all these higher-intent pages, work back up the funnel.

A middle-of-funnel keyword might be something like ‘How to [problem you solve]’. For example, ‘How to create an invoicing budget’.

How to update existing content with keywords from a gap analysis?

Integrating the new keywords into an existing page is an intricate process. You want to cover the keywords while maintaining the search intent and overall ‘flow’ of the page.

Using our content brief generator, you can create a brief to create (or in this case update) what the most comprehensive page would look like. 

This tool takes the core parts of the top 20 pages that rank and parses the page content for your target keyword (the main cluster keyword).

We extract all the important information from these pages and feed them to our sorting engine. And also scrape data from Reddit, Quora and People Also Asked boxes. 

In other words, we give you everything to match search intent and create the best content.

The result looks something like this:

You now have all the core ingredients of what’s ranking. With this, you can make your content more comprehensive and better than anything else in the SERP.

On top of this, we use AI to help write and rewrite text and headings. 

Check out to create a brief that’ll beat your competition in our guide here. Alternatively, watch this video:

How to use our AI-Assisted Content briefs

Post-publishing

After the brief is prepared, it can be handed over to your writers (or use it yourself as your content outline). Once they/you finish writing and the content is approved for publication, remember to submit it to Google Search Console and also link it internally to other relevant pages.

Also, it’s a good idea to review the current internal links pointing to the page.

With a tool like Screaming Frog, you can easily view all internal links and anchor text for each link. Consider updating this anchor text if it makes sense.

Next we’ll go through the process of filling content gaps by creating new content. 

5. Fill content gaps by creating new content

This final step is a similar methodology to the last. Except for this time, instead of updating existing content, we’re creating new content.

As per the clustering data, you should be able to see clusters and keywords you’re not ranking at all for. From here, you simply choose the best clusters to start with and create pages to match.

Which new pages to prioritize? 

Again, we recommend starting with the more “Bottom of the funnel” (BOFU) clusters and working up from there.

How to create content with keywords from a gap analysis?

Like in the last step, with the content brief generator, you can create new pages from scratch. For some marketers, this is an easier process as you’re working with a blank canvas, as opposed to trying to work around an already existing article.

Take the data from the content brief generator (H2’s, People asked questions etc) and create the most comprehensive page on the topic. As a reminder, check out our guide on how to create a brief that’ll beat your competition in our guide here. Or, alternatively, watch this video.

The brief generator will significantly speed up your process for creating great content. You can take advantage of our in-built AI to create and rewrite titles and headers. But we do recommend letting your writers know which parts have been AI-generated. This is so they can verify all info is correct.

Post-publishing

Once the new page is created, approved and published, don’t forget to submit it to Google Search Console. 

Key takeaways

And that’s it. You now have the full process behind an advanced content gap analysis. To recap, the main steps to save time, and headaches and find all gaps in an effective content gap analysis are:

  1. Use competitor keywords
  2. Use niche-specific seed keywords
  3. Audit your keywords to find content gaps
  4. Fill keyword gaps in your existing content
  5. Fill content gaps by creating new content

If you follow the steps above, from keyword research to clustering, you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.

The reality is most marketers don’t approach a content gap analysis with the clustering step in mind. And their workflow is slow, and tedious and misses out on valuable data to make better decisions.

You now know. Will you take advantage?

Andy Chadwick

Andy Chadwick

Andy Chadwick is a digital marketing consultant, specializing in SEO. He has been in the industry since 2013 and worked with start-up companies (he grew his own start-up to a turnover of £2.5 million in 3 years) as well as international organizations. He’s also worked in-house as well as agency side. Andy runs a successful SEO consulting business in the UK as well as Snippet Digital SEO consultancy with Suganthan.

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    Start your trial today for only $1

    Sign up today for a $1 trial and enjoy access to 6000 keyword clustering credits, 3 Keyword discovery searches, 1 Content Brief and Pro versions of SERP Similarity, SERP Explorer.

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