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How to Conduct A Competitive Topic Analysis [With Example]

8 min read

Performing competitive topic analysis is part of my stock and trade as a Senior Content Strategist at MarketMuse. To my surprise, I discovered very little has been written about the subject.

Given this lack of information, I thought you might appreciate a real example. This way, you can get an overall sense of what competitive topic analysis is, how it works, and the insight it can provide.

The Purpose of a Competitive Topic Analysis

Competitive topic analysis is an examination of your content and your competitors, evaluating the quality and looking for gaps in coverage. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses can provide a distinct competitive advantage. To make this work, you need the ability to model a topic and create an objective measurement of content quality. For this reason, we rely on MarketMuse Content Score.

MarketMuse Content Score is a proprietary measure of content comprehensiveness. The technology aims to identify an ideal set of concepts and topics that a subject matter expert would include in a comprehensive content for a particular topic. Then we take that and build a standardized scoring methodology.

Competitive Topic Analysis Goal and Objectives

Having a written goal and objectives helps define the scope of the effort and set expectations upfront. In this case, the goal was to surface specific areas of opportunity to be more competitive in a particular topic. The three primary objectives were:

  1. Create a high-level overview of the competitive landscape for a specific topic from a content perspective.
  2. Uncover areas of coverage that are missing from the inventory.
  3. Provide recommendations to help drive more traffic for that topic’s related keywords.

The Impact of Topical Coverage on Content and Search Traffic

As Google moves away from keywords toward semantic search, topical coverage is becoming a critical factor. The recent introduction of a new SERP feature makes this even more evident. 

Topical coverage refers to how well a page and its domain cover a subject and all the “things” that are directly related to it. Modern search engines assess a page and domain for quality, and it plays a significant role in search rankings.

Proper topical coverage offers three main benefits:

  1. It generates more search traffic.
  2. It positions the domain as an authority and subject matter expert.
  3. It provides richer content and a better experience for visitors.

MarketMuse Competitive Topic Analysis Methodology

For this analysis, MarketMuse analyzed eight domains across 1,311 pages for 210 topic variations of iPhone 11. The domains we analyzed are well known in their niche, including MacWorld, The Verge, and techradar.

This assessment looked at:

  • Depth and breadth of topical coverage for each page and ranking topic 
  • AI-calculated ideal depth and breadth of content coverage for each topic
  • Topic rankings within search
  • Monthly search demand associated with each topic
  • Topical gaps in content coverage

We put this data together in a spreadsheet like this.

Spreadsheet showing list of topics with position, search demand, URL, content score, word count, target content score, target word count and quality score.
Competitive Analysis

Opportunities Discovered Through Competitive Topic Analysis

This content-based approach allowed us to group our analysis into the following findings:

  • Domain Overview: Outlines competitive topic coverage by domain, rankings, and content quality.
  • Quality Gap – Pages that are aligned with the topic, but are below MarketMuse’s recommended quality score.  
  • No Presence Gap – Topics that are not currently covered by a domain, but are covered by its competitors. 
  • Intent Gap – Topics where a domain ranks, but the ranking content is not aligned with the ranking topic. 
  • Threatened Gap – Topics where they are out-ranking the competition, but the content should be improved to help maintain a dominant position.

Domain Overview

MarketMuse analyzed each domain, and while our domain of interest has one of the highest average position on Google, it has almost the fewest number of ranking topics per page.  

Spreadsheet showing domain, number of pages, ranking topics, average position, average content quality, ranking topics per page.
Domain Overview

Quality Gaps

The analysis of our domain of interest revealed 46 pages that, although topically-aligned, fell below our recommended Content Score.

Screenshot showing partial list of topics.
List of topics whose pages require improvement.

These pages suffering from a quality gap were ranking in the Top 30 with an average position of 12. Total search demand for topics associated with these pages is 44,120 queries per month. To replace that organic traffic with PPC would cost $192,655.40 per month.

Recommendation: It’s definitely worthwhile to optimize the content using MarketMuse Optimize Briefs.

No-Presence Gaps

The domain also suffers in not ranking for 64 topics for which the competition does. They’re not ranking because they lack content that addresses these topics (competitor keywords).

Screenshot showing partial list of topics.
List of topics for which the site is not ranking.

Together these topics have a total search demand of 4,870 queries per month and a PPC replacement cost of $71,539.50 per month. 

Recommendation: Consider creating new content with the help of MarketMuse Content Briefs.

Intent Gaps

Our competitive analysis discovered 51 pages suffering from intent gaps. Although these pages rank, the content of the page doesn’t match the user intent.

Screenshot of partial topic list.
List of topics whose pages suffer from intent gaps.

Content Scores for this cohort were only 79% of the recommended value, with an average SERP position of 16. Again, lots of room for improvement, considering the total search demand for this group is 4,390 queries per month. The cost to replace that organic traffic with the same from PPC would run at $10,2000.70 per month.

Recommendation: Use MarketMuse Create Content Briefs to write new content for each topic. 

Threatened Gaps

You may be ranking well, but that doesn’t mean you can rest easy! Analyzing the content on this domain, we found several pages “punching above their weight.” These are pages that rank above the competition but are below the MarketMuse Content Score. 

The risk with these pages is their position in the SERP can drop as a result; they’re simply not covering the topic adequately. Although there were only a handful of pages in this category, total search demand is 9,750 queries monthly with a PPC cost of $43,283.50 per month. There’s a lot of value in plugging these gaps!

Recommendation: Use MarketMuse Optimize Briefs for each page, and use Create Content Briefs to write new content for each topic cluster.

Additional Observations

Many of the topics are oriented around questions and info about the product before it was announced. Having more of a presence in this arena can not only have a profound impact on visits and returning visits, it can help establish the domain as an authority in preparation for the product announcement and subsequent release. That presence should also include images as there’s a high demand for content around the design of the product.

Many of the “No Presence Gaps” are oriented toward operating system updates. Creating evergreen content on the update features and the impacts it will have on users could be very successful from a traffic and engagement perspective. That’s essential for building authority on all topics related to the product.

The product review page is very powerful and ranks for over 10,000 topics. There are instances where a topic is not being fully covered by the page but is ranking well. Creating a new article that is directly about the misaligned topic will likely result in a dramatic rise to a traffic-driving position. This will require cross-linking between the review page and the new supporting page.

Next Steps After A Competitive Topic Analysis

Now that the analysis is complete, the next step is to review the gaps in more detail and prioritize the opportunities based on business needs. Altogether, the content in this analysis represents well over $300k monthly – that would be the cost to replace organic traffic with PPC. 

After this, content briefs will need to be created for new content and the optimization of existing pages. Last comes the execution of those briefs (content creation) and publication of the resulting content.


Competitive topic analysis can provide actionable insight into what’s required to take over competitor keywords and dramatically increase your share of voice. Despite its value, few people take advantage of competitive content analysis because the cutting-edge tools necessary to execute this are not widely known. MarketMuse can help!

What you should do now

When you’re ready… here are 3 ways we can help you publish better content, faster:

  1. Book time with MarketMuse Schedule a live demo with one of our strategists to see how MarketMuse can help your team reach their content goals.
  2. If you’d like to learn how to create better content faster, visit our blog. It’s full of resources to help scale content.
  3. If you know another marketer who’d enjoy reading this page, share it with them via email, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

A Senior Content Strategist at MarketMuse, David has a passion for business and anything that lets me work with a team to find creative solutions to a problem. An entrepreneur at heart and a marketer by trade, his experience ranges from executing and managing complex content marketing strategies to designing go-to market strategies and product launches. Follow him on LinkedIn.