Content gap analysis is an important part of any content strategy. While there’s no shortage of theories and templates for performing an analysis, there's a scarcity of good examples from which to learn. In this post, I share a few cases that illustrate how to identify and exploit on-page content gaps quickly.
Although onsite content gaps, where you’re missing a page or more of content, get all the attention, on-page gaps are just as critical. After all, you’re not really filling a gap if the blog post you create is of poor quality.
So let’s look at some content gap examples and see what we can learn from this low-hanging fruit!
This Content Heat Map is Your Gap Map
A heat map (heatmap) is great for rapid identification of content gap opportunities. That’s important if you want to conduct competitor analysis at scale.
The style of content heat map I use for illustrating content gaps in this post remains consistent from one example to the next. It consists of related keywords or topics (in the leftmost column) plus the top 20 ranking highest in organic search results across the top. The colored squares indicate the number of mentions found within the content of a specific competitor URL:
- Red - no mention.
- Yellow - occasional mentions.
- Green - average usage.
- Blue - frequent mentions.
Here’s a close-up of part of a gap map. Some heat maps can have dozens of subtopics, depending on the chosen focus topic.
So, finding out how well a topic is covered becomes a simple process. Locate the keyword in the left-hand column and move across horizontally to determine how frequently each site has mentioned that subject. To establish how well a specific site addresses topics related to the main (focus) topic, locate the site along the very top of the map and then move vertically downward to determine the associated topics mentioned along with its occurrence.
You'll quickly notice blog posts that rank well tend to cover their topic in depth. That's the type of content that a search engine strives to offer in its results pages.
Content Gap Analysis
Since this blog post is about content gap analysis, let’s use “content gap analysis” as our first example. This screenshot shows just part of the overall heat map so we can focus on the distribution of various related topics and find some gaps in content.
Using a heat map like this simplifies the discovery of content gaps since every red square represents a weakness. Lot’s of red reveals excellent potential to create content that’s significantly better than the competition. So let’s look at this is in a little more detail.
Not surprisingly, articles about the topic of content gap analysis do use that term (or a variant) quite frequently. That makes sense, so let’s move on.
Equally unsurprising is that better-ranked content tends to offer more in-depth coverage of the topic. In other words, they’re frequently mentioning many related issues. For the first eight associated topics, the number one ranking URL covers six of them.
However, that doesn’t happen in every case. So that’s where your opportunity lies.
For example, “content audit” is a related topic or keyword that gets little coverage among the top ranking articles. Same with “buyer’s journey,” “target audience,” “content marketing” and others that I found within the complete heat map.
So, if you were to create a single post about content gap analysis, addressing those related topics would be a good idea. They’re relevant to user goals, yet overlooked by the majority of your competitors in the SERPs.
A content heat map can reveal exciting opportunities, even if it’s not all red. Take for example Content Marketing, a topic related to content gap analysis. What if you decided to create an entire post or topic cluster (many blog posts) about content marketing?
Judging by the predominance of yellow, green and blue squares, we can tell that the top 20 pages are doing an admirable job of covering the topic. So we definitely need to ensure we cover all the basics like “marketing strategy,” “audience,” “social media” and “customers.”
Truthfully, that won’t be enough. For in-depth, comprehensive coverage, we need to consider some closely related topics that others have missed. “High-quality content” and “user-generated content” are two instances of content gaps that you can use to your advantage. There are more gaps to be found in the complete gap analysis of this subject matter, but I think you get the idea.
Content governance is an essential topic among content strategists, as is evident in the following screenshot. Here I’ve included content quality scores so you can see the difference in high-quality content.
While this is only part of the heat map, for our purpose it’s enough to give us an idea of what related topics to cover and the content gaps from which competitors suffer. The heat map indicates there is some heavy competition from sites providing in-depth coverage of this subject.
Competing at this level means going a step beyond and covering important related topics that others tend to neglect. In this case, “content lifecycle” and “digital content governance” are two related topics which are barely addressed by any of the top-ranking pages.
Predictive Analytics for Content Marketing
Occasionally, content gaps run rampant among your competitors. When that occurs, it means good times for content creators. Take the example of “predictive analytics for content marketing.”
It’s a relatively new topic among the content marketing crowd. As a result, few articles comprehensively address the issue. Taking a look at just part of this topic’s heat map we can see that there are many opportunities for creating robust content. The prevalence of red squares shows us.
A pillar post (or what some refer to as 10x content) should discuss what predictive models are, how predictive modeling is used, the role of big data, the importance of historical data, marketing automation and the impact on account-based marketing.
That’s just to start. There’s no doubt that each one of these issues could be covered in depth within individual supporting posts.
If the competition isn’t dealing with those topics at a high-level, it’s doubtful they’re addressing them in detail in other posts.
Content Gap Exploitation Is Critical
Finding content gaps is the first step in establishing domain authority. But it’s not enough. You still need to create high-quality content that covers the on-page gaps within that focus topic.
As we’ve seen in these examples, content gaps exist everywhere in the buyer journey. Use that knowledge to confidently create content that fills those strategic gaps. In this way, you can dramatically increase its ranking potential.