Mastering the keyword Gap Analysis: Insights from Dennis Akkerman

As an SEO specialist with over a decade of experience and currently serving as the CEO of Seeders, the keyword gap analysis has always been one of my favourite tools to find sweet spots for possible growth. It is something also we as Seeders have been using for years as a tool to grow to international markets. The idea of the gap analysis is simple. You compare the keywords your website ranks for with the keywords that your competitors’ websites rank for. Various tools will show you the keywords that your site is not ranking for but competitors do rank for. By creating better or fresher content on those keywords you will probably attain attention form Google and get part, or in the best case scenario all the content your competitors rank for. 

Below you see an example of keywords where Volvo, Toyota or are ranking but Tesla isn’t. This is the keyword Gap of Tesla. 

Which tools to use

Three of the most powerful tools for conducting keyword gap analysis are Ahrefs, SEMrush and MOZ. All platforms offer easy features where you can quickly set up a keyword gap analysis that can provide deep insights into your competitors keyword strategies.

Keyword gap analysis with Ahrefs 

With Ahrefs, you can use the Content Gap tool to input your competitors’ URLs and see which keywords they rank for, which you don’t. This tool is really easy to use and allows for a clear visualisation of the gap between your keyword strategy and that of your competitors. I’ve used Ahrefs to identify high-potential keywords that we were overlooking, enabling us to create targeted content to close those gaps. One of the difficulties is filtering out brand related keywords. Tesla for example is probably not interested in ranking for Toyota EV or other brand related keywords. What we are looking for is non-branded keywords. That is why i put a maximum of two competitors in the tool otherwise it will be too hard to filter out branded keywords. 

How to do a keyword gap analysis with Ahrefs

  1. Log in to Ahrefs: Start by logging into your Ahrefs account.
  2. Open the Site Explorer Tool: Enter your website’s URL into the Site Explorer search bar.
  3. Select the “Content Gap” Feature: Find this option in the sidebar under the “Organic search” section.
  4. Enter Competitor URLs: Input the URLs of up to four competitors in the fields provided.
  5. Analyze the Results: Click “Show keywords” to see which keywords your competitors rank for but your site does not.
  6. Filter: Use filters to sort by volume, keyword difficulty, or other metrics to prioritise opportunities. Also use filters to exclude brand related keywords. 
  7. Action Plan: Develop a content or optimization strategy to target the most valuable and relevant keywords you’ve identified.

Keyword gap analysis with Semrush

SEMrush offers a similar feature called the Keyword Gap tool. This feature allows you to compare your site against up to four competitors, giving you a detailed breakdown of common keywords and unique keywords for each site. This insight has been invaluable for adjusting our SEO strategy to outperform our competitors in search engine rankings. Difference with Ahrefs is that Semrush also shows the keywords you are ranking for that competition isn’t.

How to do a keyword gap analysis with Semrush  

  1. Log in to SEMrush: Access your SEMrush account to get started.
  2. Navigate to the Keyword gap tool: Find this tool under the “Competitive Research” section.
  3. Enter Your Domain: Type in your website’s URL into the first input field.
  4. Add Competitor Domains: Input up to four of your competitors’ URLs in the next fields provided.
  5. Select the Type of Keywords: You can choose from organic, paid, or PLA (Product Listing Ad) keywords. Choose organic. 
  6. Click on ‘Compare’: SEMrush will now process the data and display a comparison of the keywords.
  7. Analyse the results: Review the shared and unique keywords across the domains. Focus on the “Missing” tab to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for that your site is not.
  8. Filter and Sort:  use filters for keyword difficulty, volume, and competitive density to prioritize your keyword targets.

Keyword gap analysis with MOZ 

Moz doesn’t specifically offer a tool labeled as “keyword gap analysis” like Ahrefs and SEMrush do. However, if you look under ranking keywords you still have the possibility to fill in your domain and that of competitors. It will show you the keywords your competitors are ranking for that you are not. By entering a competitor’s domain in Moz’s Keyword Explorer, you can uncover the keywords they rank for, which provides insights into potential opportunities for your own SEO strategy. Additionally, by analyzing the SERP features and the keywords’ monthly search volumes, you can prioritize which gaps to fill first.

How to do a keyword gap analysis with MOZ 

  1. Log in to Moz: Access your Moz account and navigate to Keyword Explorer.
  2. Choose “ranking keywords”: Enter your domain and a competitor’s domain to start the analysis.
  3. Review Keyword Opportunities: Look at the keywords your competitor ranks for.
  4. Add other Competitors: Conduct the same analysis for additional competitors.
  5. Identify the Gaps: Compare the lists to find keywords your competitors rank for but you don’t.
  6. Filter on keyword difficulty and search volume to spot the biggest opportunities
  7. Assess keyword relevance, difficulty, and potential to decide which keywords to target.
  8. Implement Findings: Use your insights to start content creation, SEO optimizations, and your broader SEO / content strategy.

DIY Keyword Gap Analysis Without Paid Tools

However, not every business or individual has the budget for premium tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush. Over the years, I’ve also looked for methods to conduct effective keyword gap analyses without the need for paid subscriptions. Some agencies like offer free keyword gap analysis tools on their website for free. They are not always working properly. If you look for other ways to do a gap analysis. Look to some options below. 

Google search operators

Utilize Google search operators like “site:” to explore which keywords your competitors are ranking for. By typing “ keyword,” you can see if and how your competitors are ranking for specific keywords.

Google keyword planner

Though primarily a tool for Google Ads campaigns, Google Keyword Planner can offer insights into keywords’ search volumes and competition levels. By researching the keywords your competitors are bidding on, you can identify potential gaps in your own content.

Answer the Public

This free tool provides questions, prepositions, and comparisons people are searching for related to your keyword. It’s a great way to uncover long-tail keywords and questions that your competitors might not be targeting.

Competitor’s Site Structure

Simply visit your competitors website and analyse their site structure and the topics they cover can reveal a lot about their keyword strategy. Look for patterns in their blog topics, product pages, and FAQs to identify keywords they are targeting.

Start filling the content gap

Once you’ve discovered the keyword gaps, the next step is to strategize how to fill them with content. This might involve creating new landingpages or blogs or optimizing existing pages, or even revising your site structure. My experience has taught me that it’s not just about finding and targeting new keywords; it’s about understanding the intent behind those keywords and creating content that fits that intent better than your competitors.

Dennis Akkerman is CEO of Seeders Group. He has built up the company from one, small office in the Netherlands, to an international marketing agency with offices across the globe. Dennis specializes in link building, SEO, SEA, Digital PR & leadership.