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Content Gap Analysis: The MarketMuse Guide

7 min read

If you’ve written about a topic, can a gap still exist? It’s not an existential question, but rather one with significant practical implications, which we’ll discuss in a minute.

But let me first say that content gaps are a fact of life. Until recently, the process of finding them has been tedious at best. Many content strategists rank content gap analysis right up there with the content audit.

It’s a necessary yet time-consuming and unenjoyable part of content marketing. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s see if we can change that perception and make it easier to get started with content gap analysis.

What Most People Miss When Conducting Content Gap Analysis

Part of content strategy involves determining what content needs to be created (or optimized) to meet the requirements of your target audience.

I’ve noticed a typical pattern in the way many content strategists approach content gap analysis, or at least the way they write about it. Here’s what they miss:

  • Most content gap analysis examples are simple.
  • They use small sites and easy-to-find keyword gaps.
  • Their approach is restricted to site analysis.

Just because you’ve written about a topic doesn’t mean you’ve closed the gap.

It’s easy to map the gap on a small website, especially when comparing to one that’s substantially larger. Small sites have so little content that it makes it simple to find those gaps using any tool. Finding content gaps becomes significantly harder as the size of your content inventory increases. There are more pages to analyze with each page potentially addressing multiple topics.

Restricting content gap analysis to the site level means you miss a bigger part of the picture. Namely that on-page content gaps also play an essential role in the authority and findability of content. Site-level gap analysis is based on an incorrect premise that writing about a topic means you’ve covered the gap.

It’s not enough to throw the “correct” keywords into some content so that you can check off all the right boxes. If you write about a topic and that blog post ranks poorly or fails to rank at all, would you consider that gap to be covered? From a search engine perspective, definitely not. Poor ranking combined with poor content score indicates that your content is lacking in depth.

Automating Content Gap Analysis

Analyzing content gaps at scale requires automation. Obviously, you’ll need an inventory that can be analyzed to determine which pages rank for what topics and which topics are lacking in coverage.

Frequently, large sites aren’t lacking in topical coverage. It’s just that those pages aren’t addressing their respective topics in an in-depth manner. So you need to know which pages need optimization.

With a big site, you’ll most likely have a correspondingly large number of opportunities. So prioritization becomes imperative.

Content Gap Analysis Examples

There’s nothing like a few examples to help bring clarity to a concept. So let’s take a look at some instances where content is missing on a particular page and on a specific site.

I’ve taken the liberty of grabbing some screenshots from MarketMuse Suite to use in our examples. It does all the hard work of creating an inventory, conducting an audit, analyzing and prioritizing the results for my review.

The number of gaps and how you address depends on the size of your site and the scope of your topic. This first example is from a website with a large content inventory that is ripe for optimization. Consequently, there are more opportunities for optimizing blog posts and filling content gaps, than there are for creating. But here’s one.

In this case, there’s only one page related to the topic of “gc log file,” and it’s doing quite well already, ranking 6th for a related topic. So it’s a good idea to fill this gap by creating a new page with this focus topic.

Content gaps are more subtle and harder to find in sites with larger inventories, but they do exist. In the following example, we see that the site has numerous pages mentioning the topic “open source software.” But none of them are ranking on the first page for this topic. So, for all practical purposes, a gap exists.

MarketMuse has determined that this specific page ranking 28 for this particular term is the best candidate for optimization. To close the gap, the owner of this site needs to optimize the current content for that specific focus topic.

When a content gap exists, because the content we’ve created is less than optimal, we need to improve its content score. Doing this creates an article that exhibits a greater depth of expertise and increases the site’s breadth of knowledge. We’re talking about building authority.

Take the case of the topic “buyer’s journey.” Whether you’re creating a blog post from scratch or updating an existing article, there are essential related topics that need to be covered.

This screenshot is just a small snippet of the model for this particular topic. Nevertheless, you can see that all those red squares represent content gaps.

Running along the X-axis at the top of the page are the top 20 URLs for this focus topic. Down the left side are all the related topics.

To have any hope of ranking your content, you’ll need to discuss the basics like “buyers,” “stage,” “content,” “marketing” and so on. But to maximize its ranking potential, you’ll need to go one step farther than the competition and cover related topics like “buyer personas” and the “decision-making process.” Those are the gaps that you see in the heat map that your content should fill.

Finding Content Gaps in The Buyer Journey

Another way of finding content gaps is to look at content as it relates to the customer journey. To do this, you’ll first need to identify your potential customers. Every type of buyer persona will have a unique journey. So the sales process and the content that supports it will be different.

This is not about creating content to match high traffic keywords. It’s about matching content to the users, regardless of traffic potential. In fact, some of the most valuable keywords (at the bottom of the funnel) receive very little traffic. But they convert well.

Once that audience is identified, you’ll need to undertake some content mapping to ensure you have content that matches all stages of the sales cycle. Depending on your circumstance, you may need to optimize existing content or create additional content.

Now that you’ve identified your audience and mapped out their buyer’s journey, it’s time to map the gap. This is where you look for content gaps both at the site level and page level.

Content gaps at the site level can impact site authority. It’s difficult to be considered an expert on the subject if your site (unlike your competitor) is missing substantial amounts of content.

Content gaps can exist at the page level as well. In this case, a page on a specific focus topic is failing to mention important related topics within the text.

How MarketMuse Helps Find Content Gaps

MarketMuse tracks the content inventory of your site and maps topics to their respective pages. You can look at your page inventory to understand the topics for which particular pages rank. You can examine topics to get a better sense of what pages rank for specific items and their relations.

Page details provide additional information to discover content gaps existing on the page. The gap map renders a visual competitor analysis. This provides you with an unfair advantage over your competitors. It immediately shows what needs to be done to create in-depth content that exceeds their standards.

Make content gap analysis part of your marketing strategy to ensure your content matches the goals of your business and the people who read your blog.

Stephen leads the content strategy blog for MarketMuse, an AI-powered Content Intelligence and Strategy Platform. You can connect with him on social or his personal blog.