If I had a piece of content for every time I heard “Content is King” in the last five years, well, I’d have a lot of content. When our clients hire us to help grow their earned marketing channels, such as SEO, content marketing, social media, and referral traffic, deciding to build content is always a first step. However, after you get buy-in and budget, the next question is: what should you build? Content ideation is challenging because it can be very subjective—everyone involved in the process has an opinion about what you should create, and how, but these views don’t always align. That’s why it’s so important to provide proof or data to back up your content idea when presenting to your team and eventually to the client, ensuring that you build the best content possible.
Now, before you ask where to begin collecting this data—what if I told you there was a way to see exactly what pages on your competitors’ sites are getting traffic, a way to peek into their Google Analytics and steal their insights? That’s what our Content Gap Analysis (CGA) aims to do. And, as a bonus, the process of creating a CGA has some other great benefits that will further help your content and SEO efforts. With a CGA, you can get insights into:
1. What the competitive landscape is like in your vertical. Who’s the top dog and what up-and-comer do you need to worry about?
2. The estimated market opportunity for a new product. Is there a space that your competitors are, or are not, serving that you are thinking about creating a product or service for?
3. Content ideation. What topics are your competitors writing about and getting traffic for that you can be a part of, but aren’t getting as much traffic as you could?
4. What content is working well on a site. For SEO, you can also get a huge head-start on keyword research (win-win for your workload).
Red Door has created a data-driven approach to content research that you can use by downloading our template and following the instructions outlined below. This analysis has been our SEO Team’s secret weapon over the last few years, so we’ve decided to share our favorite analysis with the marketing community to pay back some of the great ideas that we have gotten from you.
Using a Content Gap Analysis to Win Your Clients’ Hearts (and Content Creation)
Typically at Red Door, we turn the Content Gap Analysis data sheet (we’ll walk you through how to create that later) into a PowerPoint presentation, highlighting just the insights to avoid melting our clients' eyes with the 1 million plus cells of data that goes into this beast. Here’s a slide from a client presentation that shows our client only getting 22% of the traffic that the best competitor is getting in the local non-brand “internet provider” keyword area.
By using these insights, we can put a traffic figure on the opportunity to improve those pages. Red Door is then able to make a business case by saying, “Competitor X is getting 4x the traffic you are in this space. If you take your current traffic for that section and multiply it by 4, that’s what kind of lift we can expect to see from implementing this project.”
Now that you understand the importance of this kind of research, it’s time to get into the Content Gap Analysis tutorial!
Content Gap Analysis Walk-Through
Follow these instructions for a step-by-step guide to creating a Content Gap Analysis for your own client or company.
What you will need:
1. This tutorial (hey look, you’re one step down already)
2. The Red Door Content Gap Analysis Template from GDrive (Click “download” when the URL opens, even if it says, “Whoops!”)
3. Microsoft Excel
4. Access to SEMrush (or BrightEdge DataCube) – we typically use BrightEdge, but will do it in SEMrush for the purposes of this article
5. Your domain
6. A list of three direct competitors (more on how to choose these later)
1. Enter your domain into SEMrush to find competitors
For the purposes of this tutorial I’m going to use Blue Apron as my example client (Disclosure: they are not a Red Door client). You’ll first need to find the competitors that have enough of a SEO footprint to uncover opportunity, and are similar enough to your business that you actually want their traffic. Sometimes you will already know who these competitors are, but sometimes you need to do some research to find them—and that’s when SEMrush’s competitor tool comes into play. Click on Organic Research > Competitors. Simply enter your domain, and SEMrush will suggest domains with similar keyword footprints.
For our Blue Apron example, let’s go with these domains to conduct our CGA:
· Blueapron.com – Client domain
2. Filter out all brand keywords and download all non-brand keywords for each domain
Click Organic Research > Positions. This will show you all keywords that SEMrush knows your domain is ranking for. Since you are not trying to measure how popular your brand is vs. competitors, you will want to filter out brand and owned terms, such as product names. You will need to use the filter function found above the data table.
Blue Apron is an easy domain to do this for since they don’t have a lot of branded product names. When we do this analysis for a Nike competitor client of Red Door’s, for example, we have to filter out “Michael Jordan,” “Air Max,” and other Nike-owned terms.
Once you have filtered out any brand-keywords, click the export button. If you have more than 30,000 keywords in your list, you will need to set a search volume minimum threshold, or order a custom report from SEMrush (you actually have to talk to someone to do this). I find that 10-20K keywords per domain is usually enough. For this example, I’ve set the minimum search volume at 2,000 searches per month (this number will vary by vertical). You will need to do this for your site and all the competitor domains, using the same search volume threshold across the board.
3. Add keywords for all four domains into the Red Door template within their respective tabs
To do this, simply copy and paste each export from SEMrush into the corresponding tab for each domain in the Excel template.
4. Compile keywords to one list and clean the list
Copy and paste the values in columns A-D from each competitor tab into the A-D columns of the "KW & Volume" tab, creating a super list of keywords. If two domains are ranking for the same keyword (“meal delivery,” for example) you will get duplicates in the list. You will need to run a remove duplicates function on column A (your keywords). Click Data > Remove Duplicates to do this, but make sure you only remove the keyword duplicates and not the search volume.
5. Filter brand and irrelevant keywords you missed in step #2
Some terms are hard to catch in SEMrush. In Excel you can filter the terms by “contains” then delete any rows that are unneeded. I like to do an alphabetical sort which helps group the terms to gather for easier removal.
6. Add your de-duped keyword list and search volumes to the "Gap Analysis" tab
From the “KW & Volume” tab you will need to copy column A + B and drop it in to the A + B columns of the “Gap Analysis” tab. Do not edit any columns on the gap analysis tab—the formulas should do all the work for you now.
7. Analyze for opportunity
The key here is using filters and sorting to highlight the gaps in the data you have now collected. I like to sort by the Coverage Column (column C) which shows you what terms more than one site ranks for, then use the Brank columns to find areas where your site is in the red, which means it ranks over 30 for the selected term. Theoretically, if all competitors rank for a single term, then you probably could too if you tried. You can also use columns C-F on the Content Gap Analysis to find new keyword opportunities based on some automated flags we setup. Use the cell comments on the headings for column D, E, and F for background on what you are looking at.
Does this sound like too much work? If you’d rather us perform the analysis and provide you with a nice PowerPoint like we mentioned above, drop us a line on our contact form and we’d be happy to give you an estimate. To make this analysis even easier on our team (and our clients), we’re also working on an automated version using APIs that allows you to see monthly updates with zero additional effort. If you have any questions about this analysis, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter at @digagardner.