At almost every client meeting, someone in the room approaches me and whispers a question about competitive intelligence.

I can understand the need for secrecy. Analyzing a competitor’s keywords to improve your own content strategy might feel like a dishonest practice, after all.

It’s not. It’s a legitimate way to gain insights about your market, create a solid content strategy, uncover your target audience, and engage potential customers.

I’ll go even further. Competitive keyword research is, by far, the most effective way to increase organic visibility, in fact. It beats improving content or meta-tags, creating a better customer journey or building more links, in my book.

Unfortunately, the concept of competitive insights is too broad to cover in a single article. But keep on reading to discover an amazing method to improve competitive keyword research - by identifying content gaps.  

This article will cover everything you need to know about competitive insights, including: 

What is a Content Gap?

A content gap is a portion of the search landscape for which your competitors rank, but you don't. Don't worry! This opens the door to many opportunities and can inform your decision making. 

How to Identify Content Gaps

You can uncover content gaps with a content gaps analysis. In competitive keyword research, this refers to a process of evaluating the difference (or "the gap") between keywords for which you and the competitor rank for in the search results.

(Please note that you can also conduct an SEO content gaps analysis to evaluate specific content assets and uncover how to improve your pages. In this guide, however, we’re focusing on the keyword research aspect of such analysis.)

As you will see, with such analysis, you can increase the quality and quantity of your keyword lists, uncover new opportunities and improve your overall SEO strategy.

In fact, let’s go through all the benefits of identifying your content gaps …

The Benefits of a Content Gap Analysis for SEO

Every keyword a competitor ranks for and you don’t is a lost opportunity for your organization. It’s the competition who receives the traffic and conversions from it, after all!

Unfortunately, I see companies suffering from the content gap all the time. Most of them don’t even realize it. Others, fail to see the benefits of analyzing competitive strategies to uncover it.

Before we discuss all the benefits of closing the content gap, let me show you what happens if you don’t.

Look at the screenshot below. It shows the difference in keywords between the two domains I researched. CarMax misses out on over 500,000 potential keywords against its competitor!  

(A gap analysis between two domains.)

What’s more, as you can see from the report above, the content gap translates to 114,834,902 lost traffic potential.

However, CarMax misses more than the traffic by not using competitive insights to uncover that content gap. Here are the other benefits of analyzing competitive keywords:

  • Understanding their competitors’ keywords helps align your strategies with the buyer’s journey better. A competitor might have uncovered additional phrases or topics customers use when researching their products or services, after all. Granted, you, most likely, would discover those phrases too, eventually. Competitive research will speed up the process immensely, though.
  • By analyzing competitor’s keyword strategy you can increase the relevancy of your website. That is, if you act on your findings, of course.
  • Naturally, the competitive analysis will uncover new topics and keywords too.
  • Finally, by going through the process, you will understand how your competitors have gained the search visibility they have. Such an insight will provide you with a much stronger foundation to plan your next move.

How Researching Content Gaps Helps Improve Keyword Research

I’ve briefly referenced the positive effect of content gaps on keyword research. Let’s discuss that further.

One of the goals of keyword analysis - besides uncovering new search phrases to target, of course - is finding ways to position your brand along the buyer’s journey.

We already know that the majority of customers begin their research in the search engine. Many of them use it up until the moment of purchase, in fact. For that reason alone, it is critical for any brand to have its content aligned with that journey.

Unfortunately, there is a problem. Try as you might, you’ll, most likely, fail to uncover all phrases or even, topics, customers use throughout the journey.

Now, the same applies to your competitors, of course. However, they are likely to discover search queries you haven’t encountered in your research yet.

Analyzing their phrases is the quickest way to close that gap, discover new content ideas, and enrich your target keyword set with more relevant phrases.

The best news, doing so isn’t even difficult.

Let me walk you through the process.

How to Perform a Content Gap Analysis

For this demonstration, I’ll use the seoClarity platform to illustrate the process.

In the Content Gaps portion of the platform, you're able to specify your domain or URL, and any other domains whose keywords you’d like to compare against (you can use a maximum of 5 domains, including yours).


(You can analyze the content gap by device and location too, giving you access to highly targeted data.)

seoClarity's proprietary analysis methodology, Wisdom of the Crowds, will compare keywords all those domains rank for, looking for phrases you and your competitors have in common as well as those only a specific domain ranks for. You can also add your domain to see where you don't rank and where your competitors do to get a complete picture of your industry against your site.

For this example, we will take a look at the associated metrics for and

Between those two domains, there are over 700,000 lost keyword opportunities, and over 100M lost visits.

Incredible, right? Putting a value to a keyword, or taking your average conversion into consideration could quickly reveal what sort of revenue you might be missing by having a content gap.

(And yes, I realize that this is a very basic calculation that doesn’t take many factors like keyword intent or type into consideration; but it’s enough to illustrate the lost opportunity of not ranking for those keywords).

(There is countless opportunity found from this analysis!)

From then on, you can scroll down to review keywords per domain. Note that seoClarity reports on rankings per keyword too, giving you additional data points on which you could base your next actions.

Let’s face it: every keyword a competitor ranks for and you don’t is a lost opportunity for your organization. To put it in more business terms, every one of those keywords means lost sales and revenue. And yet, I bet you actually rarely think about the phrases companies you battle over search real estate to rank for, right?

So I thought that the best way to illustrate the importance of closing the content gap is by showing you the real cost of having it in the first place.

Take a look at the screenshot below. It shows the difference in keywords between two domains (and it’s huge, isn’t it?). With more of 200,000 keyword gap, there is a huge opportunity here for to understand the opportunity they have to increase their search visibility against one of their competitors.

(A visual representation of the overlap and gap of two domains.)

From then on, you can scroll down to review keywords per domain. Note that seoClarity reports on rankings per keyword too, giving you additional data points on which you could base your next actions.

In addition, the platform also reports on the traffic and keyword opportunities for you. I lets you know what gains you could expect when you start closing the content gap. You can also filter out any brand keyword terms, rank position, and many others. This helps to narrow down the opportunities to a manageable way and begin to track your progress.

Content Gap Analysis Workflow: Assess Priorities to Know Where to Start 

I agree, identifying the content gap is actually easy. But figuring out where to start closing it, particularly if you’re dealing with tens of thousands (or more) of potential keywords poses quite a challenge.

After all, you can’t just start at the top of the list and work your way down. Not with such keyword volume. So here are a couple of ideas on how to get started closing the content gap too quickly see positive ROI.

Strategy #1: Start With Keywords Relevant to Assets You Already Have

The biggest challenge when you’re trying to rank for all those additional keywords is producing quality content that could help you achieve that. But the chances are that you already have some assets that could help you rank for some phrases. And to utilize it in this strategy, you might just need to do update some existing pages to make them more relevant for additional keywords.

So, start by identifying keywords that relate to pages or other content assets you already have.

Secondary, look at opportunities to use other assets to quickly create content optimized for specific keywords.

For example, if your organization produced eBooks or white papers that relate to some of the phrases you’ve identified in the content gap analysis, then those might form a basis for many additional content types. For instance, you could re-purpose them into Slideshare presentations optimized for those specific phrases. Or create dedicated landing pages for them that could help you target additional keywords.

Similarly, you could use sections from those publications as blog posts or other content types, and optimize them for content gap phrases. The opportunities are endless.

Strategy #2: Target Commercial Keywords First

The premise behind this strategy is simple - by their nature, commercial keywords promise the highest opportunity for achieving ROI. And so, focusing on them first helps you quickly deliver results for your organization.

To begin, assess your content gap keywords to identify phrases that correspond with the buying intent. They will also relate to various content assets you already have — product pages, sales pages, etc. And so, to target many of them, you’ll just need to update content on those pages.

Additionally, you could begin building dedicated landing pages. Although it will take time, given the potential revenue they might generate, the project would be well worth it.

Strategy #3: Target Quick Gains

Let me begin by clarifying something:

In this case, I understand quick gains as keywords you are sure you could outrank the competition for fast. These could be keywords you already have existing high-quality content assets for (as per the strategy #1 above). But also, phrases where you can quickly exercise your domain authority to overtake the SERPs.

Another good example are phrases that relate to areas in which have a great expertise and could create more valuable content. The key to this particular strategy is to identify phrases you could rank for quickly to show the ROI of closing the content gap most quickly.

Strategy #4: Conduct a Content Audit

This can give a picture what existing content you already have on your site, what content might be redundant, and what opportunities you have to refresh the content to help drive visibility against your competitors. Conducting a content audit also is a great way ensure you have targeted the right keywords with the right user intent. 

Maybe most important, a content audit helps evaluate your content performance and points to opportunities of poor performing content that might need to be removed from your site.

Key Takeaways

Out of all the various ways to increase search visibility, nothing beats identifying keywords that your competitors rank for and you don't.

With that insight, you just need to create content that helps position your site for those phrases and you’re are on the way to boost traffic and organic conversions.

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Editor's Note: This post was originally published in June 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.