December 30, 2022 (Updated: July 26, 2023)
Ranking on the first page of Google is an uphill battle. Luckily, we have a few tricks up our sleeves to smooth out the process. Conducting keyword gap analysis gives us insight into high-value keywords that our content strategy should focus on. After all, if it’s generating organic traffic for our competitors, it’s worth trying to take a piece of the pie. Today, we’re exploring how to conduct a keyword gap analysis to improve your content plans:
A keyword gap analysis will reveal keywords that your competitors rank for that you are missing out on. While there may be an overlap between you and a competitor, there are likely hundreds of keywords that you haven’t created content for or maybe haven’t even thought of. Identifying keywords with a high search volume allows you to start targeting new sources of traffic.
By prioritizing high-volume keywords with low or medium competition, you can quickly move up the rankings. Identifying your keyword gaps also gives you a basis for forming new topic clusters in your content plans, which results in high-quality content for your audience. But uncovering all the keywords a competitor is ranking for can be overwhelming. Instead, you narrow these competitor keywords down to your brand’s gaps. This way, your team can target these missing topics to create high-quality, engaging content.
Related: What Is a Content Gap Analysis?
Keyword gap analysis is a vital tool for identifying how to outrank competitors and increase organic traffic to your business website. No keyword strategy is perfect. But conducting a gap analysis helps you pinpoint areas that you may have overlooked. For your readers, this means covering more content that they’d like to see, which further improves your SEO strategy and helps your content rank higher in SERPs. Check out several more advantages of running a keyword gap analysis for your business:
Whether you’re focusing on beating certain competitors or you simply want to improve your brand’s content rankings, a keyword gap analysis should be your starting point.
Manually searching through keywords and search results pages is inefficient for conducting keyword gap analysis. Instead, use an online keyword and content gap analysis tool, like Semrush or Ahrefs. Then, follow the guide below to conduct your keyword gap analysis:
There’s a reason keyword gap analysis is also called competitor keyword analysis. You’re going to need some competitors. Each competitor you select comes with a long list of keywords that they rank for. By comparing your own list against theirs, you’ll see keyword gaps start to emerge.
To get the process started, we suggest that you select between three and five competitors. If you can only think of one or two, that’s also fine. While more data provides a more detailed analysis, starting with a single competitor can still help orientate you within your content niche. When selecting competitors, there are a few things you should think about:
Two businesses can offer a similar service on two very different scales. With 100s of businesses starting every day in North America alone, new companies enter the digital space of the internet all of the time. Depending on when you founded your business, you may already have clients and a steady stream of traffic.
If that’s the case, you want to look for other websites which have experienced a similar level of success. When selecting competitors, always aim for those that are similarly sized or slightly more successful than you. If you pick a company that hardly has a digital footprint online, your keyword gap analysis won’t return many useful results. Equally, if you compare yourself to the biggest contender in your niche, you could overwhelm yourself with content gaps.
We suggest that you pick between one and three companies of a similar size and two companies that are larger than you. Pulling all of these competitors into the mix will give you a better overview of the industry as a whole. From there, you’ll have more information to use to chart a pathway that gets your brand content into the top spots for new keywords and increases traffic.
The industry that a business operates within dramatically changes its content and keyword targets. Think about it. A content marketing agency is going to rank for different keywords than an automotive company. So to source the best competitors for your business, you need to stick to your own industry.
Many businesses already have an idea of their direct competitors. But if you’re not sure where to begin, search for your own content and similar content to yours on Google. If you craft SEO strategies for small businesses, then type that in and see what comes up. SERP pages are going to be your best friend here, as they’ll show you what brands and businesses are ranking most for your related content topics.
Of course, many of the top results can and do often include content from long-established companies. And thanks to Google’s guidelines and ranking factors (such as content for financial services), it favors content that comes from consistent and authoritative sites and sources. This means the best fit for you might not be the very first result on Google. And if your company is just starting, don’t overlook audience size as an important factor.
While some companies work in the same industry and are of a similar size, they might have totally different audience demographics and psychographics. Clothing stores are a great example of this. Two brands might be similarly sized but could target completely different age ranges, genders, and geographic locations.
If a company works in your industry and is of a similar size to you, you’ve likely found the perfect candidate. The final hurdle is to check what demographics the brand markets to. Do some research into its publications, moving from the most recent to older published content. What kind of topics does the brand touch on, and what demographics can you gather about the audience?
Using your analysis tools, your team can gather these pieces of information to form a clearer picture of the target audience you’re competing for. Across size, industry, and audience match, you’ll be able to source top-quality competitors. That will give us a solid base from which we can begin our keyword gap analysis.
To cut down on time for keyword research, use your analysis tool. All of the leading SEO platforms have a keyword gap tool your team can use to begin the process. But if you’re not sure where to start, try one of the following keyword research platforms:
The vast majority of marketing teams actively use one or more of these types of tools for keyword gap analysis.
You’ve got a list of competitors and your chosen tool, now it’s time to start the analysis. Alongside your own domain, list the URLs of your competitors. You can search for organic keywords, paid keywords, or product listing ad (PLA) keywords. In our recent eBook, Director of Content Analysis, Jeremy Rivera, dives into these and demonstrates how you can use these variations to plan out content types, topics, and clusters and increase your rankings.
Once you decide on the type of keywords to search for, select a geographical region. Always select the region that you’re operating in, as locations have played a factor in search rankings since named Google updates, like Venice in 2012. You can use worldwide traffic, but it won’t be as accurate as your own territory. From here, your SEO tool generates a list of keywords that your brand ranks for, that your competitors rank for, and the keywords you have in common.
Comparing Moz and Ahrefs, you can see there’s a great deal of overlap. Across the two businesses, it seems like Moz is ranking for around 10,000 more keywords than Ahrefs. This gap provides Ahrefs with 10,000 unique opportunities to start focusing on new keywords. So, comparing your list of keywords with your competitors shows you where to focus your content plan and which topics are worth thinking about in the future.
If this is your first time analyzing keyword gap results, you might be a little overwhelmed. To give you a helping hand, we’ll quickly summarize what each category you could be seeing means:
You want to pinpoint keywords, or longtails, that you haven’t previously focused on. Remember, we want high-volume search terms. There’s little point in starting with a keyword that less than 10 people search for each month. Some keyword gap analysis tools will allow you to order the keywords by volume. We recommend you do this, taking into consideration the keyword difficulty before coming to a final decision.
Identify keywords that can provide a growth opportunity. And don’t overlook longtails—if they have the search volume, they’re worth focusing on. At the end of this process, you should have a list of new keywords to focus on. Pass them over to your content team and start to plan out the titles that you’ll use for future content. Alongside finding high-impact opportunities, keyword gap analysis can come in handy if you can’t think of what topics you should write about.
Putting your keyword gap analysis data to use will help you create an effective content marketing strategy going forward. According to HubSpot’s 2021 State of Marketing Report, keyword rankings are the number-one way to measure the success of your SEO strategies.
Gap analysis data points you in the right direction of the best keywords for your team to target. No matter how successful your business is, there’s always room to grow. So comparing with competitors and uncovering keyword gaps ultimately supercharges your content strategy. Here’s how your team can put the data from a keyword gap analysis to use:
Use the data to find ideal keywords to target. Look for missing keywords and topic areas that your brand has no published content on. Maybe your business is just getting started, or maybe you overlooked this area. No matter the reason, you should focus on filling in these keyword gaps, first.
High-value keywords are ones that are currently pulling in lots of traffic for your competitors. If you notice that several top competitor traffic pages are based on keywords that you’re not targeting, it’s time to make a change. Target these areas to lead traffic away from your competitors and over to your brand’s content. Weak keywords are ones that you cover, but not as well as you could. If both you and your competitor are ranking for a particular search term, but they’re at a much higher position than you, check out your content page. Open their article and put it next to yours. What do you notice about length, style, and content detail?
Especially after Google’s Helpful Content Update, SERPs prioritize longer and more insightful content. Alongside farming this information, you can also use “Related Search Terms” on Google. If you were writing about “Christmas cookies,” for example, here are some related ideas Google offers:
When you target these keywords in your content plans, your brand will have a strategy that increases traffic and boosts search rankings.
“I like using Google to explore SERP places for keyword choices – what else shows in results, and what makes them stand out? Are any navigational, informational, transactional, commercial? What appears to be missing, in terms of marketing gaps?” – Bill Slawski
During your keyword gap analysis, every keyword you find has a particular type of search intent connected to it. Sometimes, you’ll see two different “intents” attached to the keyword, indicating that the term is common between both. Look for the first letter of each intent as you research your keyword gaps:
Although search intent might seem unimportant at first glance, it gives you a very useful piece of the puzzle. When planning your content around new keywords, understand the search intent to identify formats and types that are best for your brand.
Think about it this way: if the search intent is informational, then readers are looking for guides and articles that educate or provide information on a topic. On the other hand, business reviews or product demonstrations would be better content to use to target commercial intent.
All keyword gap analysis data eventually leads to planning the content. While the search graphics may look pretty, they’re not doing you any favors unless you use them to further your strategy. Moving through the various keywords that you’ve identified gives you a broad base of new areas to explore.
You might find longtails that you never considered or maybe even entire content genres that you’ve previously overlooked. The important thing is that you approach your content planning methodically. Start with the keywords that are either going to be most useful to your brand or are most profitable for your competitors.
If competitor analysis metrics show that there is a specific company that you want to overtake, the former will work well. If you just want to holistically build your online presence, you should go for the latter. Especially if you’re scaling your content marketing strategy, then continuing to close keyword gaps is vital.
When used correctly, a keyword gap analysis is a phenomenal tool. Giving your business the power to identify new growth opportunities, increase traffic to your site, and outrank competitors, this strategy is a must-use. Wondering where to get started using the data? Get in touch with the team at CopyPress. Our SEO experts and strategists will apply the data from your gap analysis and craft a winning strategy to help your business or agency reach its goals.
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