Chapter 3. Competitive Gap analysis

At a glance, the concept of a content gap analysis seems pretty straightforward: Find things your competitors are writing about that you aren’t. While this is true, it doesn’t embody the full extent of what those “things” are. Let’s break it down.

In short, it’s easiest to start your audit with a high-level, topic gap analysis. This will help you identify specific pages other similar sites have that yours does not.

Next, you’ll want to break those topics down into queries (keywords).

Finally, those keywords will help you identify even more specific opportunities to outdo your competitors and take up more real estate in SERPs via SERP features and other “content” mediums like video, images, podcasts, etc.

Topical Gaps

In simplest terms, the goal of a topic gap analysis is to find pages your competitors have that you don’t. For single or multi-location businesses, for example, this will probably include both blog topics and service pages.

  • Blog Pages – Generally speaking, blogs are a great opportunity to target long-tail keywords and question-based queries.
  • Service Pages – Service pages, on the other hand, are going to focus on the specific thing customers pay your business for (i.e. Legal representation or veterinary care).

Content analysis for an ecommerce site, on the other hand, might include product pages, shelf pages, etc. in addition to long-form resources such as blogs, how-tos, etc.

Example:

Let’s say you’re an SMB that offers both HVAC and plumbing services in Tampa, Florida. In this situation, you probably want to rank for terms like, “Tampa HVAC repair,” “plumber Tampa,” and so on, since that’s how people who need your services tend to search.

Check out competitor websites (3-5 competitors are usually enough) and review the specific subtopics and niche service pages their sites include. In this situation, you might end up with a comparison that looks like this:

Emily Brady

Sr. Manager, Local SEO Solutions at Milestone Inc

For the past seven years, she’s worked alongside SMBs, national brands, and Scorpion’s SEO team to create SEO strategies that bring about meaningful success in the businesses – and lives – of Scorpion partners. When she isn’t building SEO campaigns, she’s haunting independent bookstores or watching Netflix at home with her husband and their two cats. She doesn’t have a favourite sports team, but she does love discovering new ways to give brands and businesses the competitive edge they need in search results – because when they win, she wins.

Watch our Tea Time SEO session here:

Table of Contents

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CompetitorOne.com

Plumbing

Drain Cleaning

Kitchen Plumbing

Bathroom Plumbing

Shower Installation 

Faucet Repair

Slab Leaks

Water Pressure Regulators

Water Filtration Systems

Whole House

CompetitorTwo.com

HVAC

AC Repairs

AC Installation

Heating Repairs

Mini-Splits 

Plumbing

Drain Cleaning

Leak Detection

Water Heaters

Water Softeners

YourDomain.com

Plumbing

Kitchen Plumbing

Bathroom Plumbing

Drain Cleaning

HVAC

Air Conditioning

Heaters

Water Heaters

With this information, you can create a content plan to expand your current content using page ideas from both competing sites.

The result? A hub of plumbing & HVAC information that neither competitor has, which means your site now provides greater value to potential customers and may stand a better chance of ranking for a larger body of topics and keywords.

YourDomain.com (With added value!)

  • Plumbing
  •  Kitchen Plumbing
  • Bathroom Plumbing
  • Shower Installation 
  • Faucet Repair
  • Drain Cleaning
  • Slab Leaks
  • Water Pressure Regulators
  • Water Filtration Systems
  • Whole-House
  • Water Softeners
  • HVAC
  • Air Conditioning Repairs
  • AC Installation 
  • Heaters
  • Mini-Splits
  • Water Heaters

Query (Keyword) Gaps

While topical gaps focus on finding opportunities for new pages and sections of content, query – or keyword – gap analysis goes one step further.

In short, identifying keyword gaps is similar to topical analysis but focuses on specific keywords and their variations opposed to entire pages or sections of content.

Here’s an example:

You and a competitor are both targeting air conditioning-related search terms with the goal of obtaining business for AC repairs, installations maintenance, tune-ups, and more. Even if both pages include an “AC services” page, along with appropriate subpages, it’s likely that one site is getting more traction by successfully targeting a larger pool of search queries.

One way to identify keyword gaps is by manually reviewing the keywords target on your site and others like it. In the AC page example, you might find that your site tends to target “AC services” keywords while competitors have additional subsections targeting more, related searches within the same topic, like this:

CompetitorOne.com

Page: AC Services

Content Sections:

Overview of Services

Why Hire Us?

Benefits of AC Tune-Ups

How to Know When Your AC Needs Maintenance

CompetitorTwo.com

Page: AC Services

Content Sections:

An Overview of AC Services Provided

AC Tune-Up Specials

Why Hire This Business?

AC Installation Information

Mini-Splits vs. Traditional AC Units

YourDomain.com

Page: AC Services

Content Sections:

Why Hire Us?

Our AC Services

AC Repairs

Importance of AC Maintenance

By implementing specific sections of content competitors target that you don’t, you’ll increase the pool of keywords for which your air conditioning page is relevant. The result could look something like this and would create a hub of AC-related information that is more valuable than either competitor:

YourDomain.com (With added value!)

Page: AC Services

Content Sections:

  • Our AC Services
  • Why Hire Us?
  • AC Repairs
  • Importance of AC Tune-Ups
  • Installations
  • Mini-Splits vs. Traditional AC
  • Our AC Tune-Up Specials

Generally speaking, auditing competitors manually will only get you so far (and can be pretty time-consuming). On the keyword and topic level, you can use many different SEO software to find gaps and opportunities more quickly.

In Authoritas for example, you can see in the below, an overview chart showing the topic clusters of keywords where multiple competitors rank and you don’t.

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You can then go into further detail as in the table below and see the clusters of terms with the number of keywords and the potential visibility value.

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Tip: Use a Crawler to Audit Competitor Content 

The Authoritas SEO platform has an automated SaaS crawler that identifies SEO essentials and is integrated with other data sets, such as Google Analytics and rank-tracking software. In the below you can see how you can choose to focus on certain errors to highlight the tasks to work on with the tech team.

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Screaming Frog is another popular dedicated crawler SEOs can use to improve on-site and technical SEO elements. The best part? You can use it to crawl your competitors, too! While Screaming Frog is typically associated with the more technical site elements, you can also use it to gather content ideas from your competitors.

SERP Gaps (Featured Snippets, FAQs, Images, Videos, Etc.)

If you’re doing a manual content gap analysis (opposed to using a tool or software to help), keep an eye out for “non-text” content gaps as well. These might include:

  • Videos
  • Social
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Featured Snippets
  • Etc.

While it may not be plausible to match competitors in every content medium, understanding how their brand or business is offering value in other ways can provide clues to how you can improve your own search.

Additionally, video, image, and rich results are a great way to take up more real estate on page one. Let’s say you’ve identified a keyword and corresponding SERP that you’d like to improve. Take a look at the SERP as a whole. What are other sites doing well that yours isn’t?

If a competitor’s infographic is ranking in image results, create a better one. If their site utilizes FAQ schema, add markup to your own with internal links and additional value. If another site is optimizing for more featured snippets, target them too.

Always Focus on Value

Like any competitor analysis, a content analysis is aimed at creating additional value; specifically, value that your competitors don’t have. Because of this, it’s important to make sure you have eyes on more than one competing site at a time. (By focusing on more than one, you create more cumulative value than the individual sites you’re auditing have alone.)

Additionally, remember that your goal isn’t to mimic; it’s to improve. This means you’ll want to understand what competing sites are doing, but also think about ways to implement the same strategy – only better.

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