How do you come up with content ideas to fill your editorial calendar?
For most people it’s a brainstorming exercise. You sit down with your marketing team, writers, customer service, and maybe sales, with the goal of coming up with a list of content ideas that will both entice and engage your current and future customers.
But this approach is inherently limited. There’s no way you’re going to independently come up with every topic that you can or should cover as part of your content strategy.
You’re inevitably left with content gaps.
In order to fill all the gaps in your content base, you have to take the time to actively look for them. If you don’t look into your audience’s online discussions, which keywords they’re already searching for, and the strategies your competitors are using, there will always be missed opportunities to stand out in the crowded field of content marketing.
Below are three key areas where you should look to identify content gaps and improve your content strategy.
- Search engines
Your current customers are a valuable resource to help improve your content strategy. No matter if they’re happy with your product/service or not, their feedback offers unique insights you can use to improve your current and future content.
Ask your customers questions
You’ve probably already spent countless hours trying to get inside your customers’ heads with the help of your buyer personas. But the easiest way to do this is by simply asking them questions.
Ask them questions that are appropriate for the various stages of your sales funnel, so you can develop corresponding content for each. For example:
- For potential customers: What are your pain points? What niche topics are you interested in? What’s keeping you from trying out our product?
- For current customers: What was the underlying reason you purchased our product in the first place? Which features of our product do you use the least? Why?
- For former customers: Can you please tell us why you decided to unsubscribe from our service?
You can create surveys to pop up in various areas of your marketing, such as when someone makes a purchase or clicks “unsubscribe” to your emails, etc.
Look through customer reviews on comparison sites
Even if you don’t ask questions, it’s more than likely people are already talking about your brand and products online. Turn to review platforms like G2Crowd or Product Hunt and you can browse detailed reviews about your products to get insights. (Hint: This is also a great way to discover what people are saying about your competitors.)
Also dig deeper into conversations where your product isn’t mentioned, but should be. For example, say someone asks the following question on Product Hunt:
If your app has location-based discovery features but isn’t mentioned in the recommendations from others, that could mean you need to do more to promote this feature in your content.
Competitors are your next most powerful tool to identify content gaps in your strategy. You should never be on the lookout to copy their tactics, instead:
- Look for topic opportunities that they haven’t covered (but you can),
- Look for opportunities to create content that outperforms theirs on similar topics.
You can try to perform your competitor analysis by hand, but it will be very tedious and difficult to analyze results on your own. If it’s in your marketing budget, try and use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush for this. If it’s not in your marketing budget, sign up for a 14-day trial of Ahrefs and get some competitor analysis done anyway!
Ahrefs has a “content gap” feature you can use to figure out what keywords you should be targeting. It does this by taking all the keywords your competitors rank for and subtracts the keywords your site ranks for:
Now, just because a competitor’s’ content ranks for certain keywords doesn’t mean you should target them. You’ll want to do some secondary analysis to make sure the keyword has enough relevance and search volume to make it worth your while to target.
Another free tool you can use to analyze your competitors’ content is BuzzSumo. Simply type your competitors’ domain name into BuzzSumo’s search bar, and it’ll show you content that’s received the most social shares.
This makes it easier to focus on competitor content that actually gets engagement, instead of every single topic they cover.
Once you’ve identified which of your competitors’ content performs well on social media, you can compare it to your own current content. Are they covering topics that you aren’t? Or is it a certain content type that performs well (e.g. list posts, roundups, etc.).
Look for opportunities to create your own content on the topic that’s higher quality than theirs. If you’re already covering the topics you discover through BuzzSumo, try and identify why theirs performs better than yours.
Search engines can tell you a lot about the questions your target audience is already asking, even more so than online forums or review sites.
Here are a few ways to use search engines to fill your content gaps:
Conduct keyword research for your industry
Many marketers will tell you to have all your content topics in order before doing your keyword research. But in reality, keyword research can help you uncover new topic areas you hadn’t thought of before.
Google itself is the easiest keyword research tool out there that everyone should start with. For example, say you run a winter sporting goods eCommerce site and targeted the keyword “ski race types” on your blog. Punch that keyword into the search query box then scroll down to the bottom. Google will show you other related terms people search for:
These keywords can help you identify content gaps. You can also click on them and dig deeper into Google autosuggest keywords.
I also recommend trying out other long-tail keyword research tools such as Ubersuggest, LSI Graph, or KWFinder. Answer the Public is another option — it’s a visual keyword research and content brainstorming tool. Type in a niche keyword and it will return a visual representation of common related questions people ask:
Evaluate your current search terms
Another great strategy to help fill your content gaps is evaluating the search terms people already use to find your site. Your pages could be ranking for some secondary keywords that your content isn’t well suited to cover.
For example, say when people Google “programmatic advertising” they’re sent to a blog post recapping the latest marketing conference you went to, where programmatic advertising was discussed. That blog post doesn’t really address the person’s query. But you could create new content (e.g. A beginner’s guide to programmatic advertising) that does.
You can look into the queries your content currently ranks for using Search Console. From your dashboard, just click “Search Traffic,” then “Search Analytics.”
Then you’ll see the search terms people already use to find your site. Use the filters on the right to narrow down your content, search types, and more.
Analyze search ads
Search ads are another great resource to identify gaps in your content strategy. Your competitors are creating ads that target searcher intent, and analyzing their ads will give you extra insights into how they’re targeting audiences with their content.
Let’s look at the “programmatic advertising” keyword example I mentioned before. Type that into Google and here’s what you see:
Down in the “people also ask” section, you can see the common questions you might try to target with your content strategy: What is programmatic ad buying, how does it work, etc. But the ad that pops up above addresses a different search intent: comparing your programmatic ads with competitors.
This is a new facet of the topic you can target with your content as well.
Another way to analyze search ads is through keyword competition. Head to Keyword Planner from your Adwords account, and under “find new keywords and get search volume data,” enter one of your new keywords you found from competitor research or elsewhere:
Choose any search filters you need, then click “get ideas.”
Keyword planner will return competition, suggested bid and average monthly searches for your target keyword, and relevant related keywords:
Look for keywords with lower competition and a higher suggested bid. That means that most of your competition isn’t targeting it yet, but those who are, are paying good money. That’s a valuable keyword to target with your content.
Keyword Planner can also help you find other related, high search volume keywords to fill your content gaps.
Content marketing is a holistic approach with a lot of moving parts. If you want to outperform your competition, stand out in search and on social media, you need to cover a wide variety of content topics.
Once you’ve filled your content gaps, you’ll have a powerful strategy that addresses your audience’s most important pain points, offers the most value, and helps them get the most out of your products and services.
So make sure you always take some time away from the brainstorming process to actively look for and fill your content gaps.