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Keyword Gap Analysis

Keyword Gap Analysis



Keyword Gap Analysis / Competitor Analysis

This guide assumes that you are familiar with keywords, the concepts, terminology and metrics that describe them.

There are many techniques and types of keyword research that can each play a different or complimentary role in the ongoing endeavour to find new valuable keyword. We cover a range of common techniques for performing keyword research in this and other guides in this series. This guide looks at the competitor gap analysis process for identifying new keywords.

Why Is This Important?

Choosing the right keywords or the best keywords and having this rolled up into a keyword strategy is pivotal for any site. There is no point spending time, money and effort targeting keywords that no-one searches for or that you can’t rank for. In some cases, small tweaks to the target keyword can lead to dramatic changes in the volume or quality of traffic.

Cheap and nasty SEO agency agencies will often target keywords like “physiotherapist London physiotherapy massage”, they seem relevant and are easy to rank for because no-one searches for them. Low value keywords are easy to rank for! You need to know that the keywords you are targeting are both relevant and have the potential to deliver traffic to your site.

We cover the long-term strategy and how keyword research feeds into this in another guide on keyword strategy.

Techniques for Identifying Keywords

There are many avenues to finding and ultimately finding and targeting keywords... There are also many factors in determining what to target and when to target it, often this is a balance between cost and pay-off, how much effort do you need to put in to get more out?

In the following sections, we cover a goof range of these techniques, bear in mind that they can all provide unique value and are consequently not always relevant to your goals.

Understanding what you want out of a keyword research project is paramount to its success… A new site with no history will not have keyword ranking or traffic data to pick through… A small local business might not have a load of relevant like-for-like competitors with analysing… A large global business, might need to target their keyword research to different languages based on region.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions, and the options available to your will limit the processes that you must go through.

Competitor Keyword Research

There are two main areas we look at in this regard that could both be considered ‘competitor analysis’, each will have variations within but these two categories are hard to violate with exceptions. You could even use both of these methods sequentially or combine them with other techniques.

Keyword Gap Analysis

Performing a competitor analysis can highlight gaps between your keyword strategy and theirs as well as areas of opportunity. By analysing competitor sites, you can build a list of keywords that they are targeting, in additional to a whole slew of other stuff like how they are targeting it.

You can use this list as a seed keyword list, or perform a more granular analysis of the keywords to find out if you should target them. Often this opens up new avenues of thought that otherwise have never been explored; as such this is useful for deriving actionable insights as well as helping to inspire new strategies.

Keyword Gap Analysis - Process

You will to use a web crawler like Raptor to conduct this research, again there may be variations and tweaks that could change this, but the overarching process should stay broadly the same.

1. Identify Competitor

The first step to come up with either a single competitor or a range of them to analyse, in this process we have chosen to show how to analyse one, but adding to this is not difficult.

Choosing a competitor will likely depend on your current state of affairs, your business goals and resources… As we are looking for new keywords or opportunities in our competitor analysis, we typically want to look at a competitor that is performing a little better than us. Not, different league better, as we don’t want to be looking at keywords we have no chance of ranking for, at least not first.

If you already know who your competitors are, simply choose one and crack on! If you are unsure, consider looking at the sites that sit above yours in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) for your head terms.

Understanding who your competitors are is a major part of this and should not be seen as a trivial matter… Like most processes, if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. If you’re not an SEO, what you think is a competitor might not be… If you’re in a 3-person start-up comparing and brokering loans, in your first year with moderate investment; Compare the Market are not your competitor!

Likewise, just because you compete with a store nearby for footfall, doesn’t mean that they are your online competitor…

An online competitor is a site that you vi for traffic against, who ranks near you for the same or similar keywords.

2. Crawl Competitor Site

You can use Raptor for this, or any decent web crawler, just ensure that you are able to pull out all o the data you need (see next step for a list of components to check).

3. Identify Target Keywords

In this step, we are just trying to identify what keywords the site is targeting, we have listed below all of the locations where you might find keyword optimisation:

  • Page titles
  • Meta descriptions
  • H1 headers
  • Other Hx headers
  • Page content
  • Anchor text of internal links
  • Structured data property fields
  • Open graph & other social meta tags
  • Alt tag text
  • Images (filenames and meta data)
  • Videos (filenames and meta data)

This highlights another important aspect, if your competitor is not well optimised for its target keywords; you will not be able to easily determine them. If the site is well optimised, you should be able to extract keywords from the Page Title and H1 header pretty systematically…

Most Page titles are structured like this:

Primary Keyword | Secondary Keyword | Brand Name

They might use hyphens or commas instead of pipes, and there might be one or four keywords in there. In any case, you can use a text to columns function in Excel to split these out; from there it’s easy enough to delete the separators, spaces and brand names… What you are left with are the keywords.

You can also compare text strings between H1 headers and Page Titles to derive target keywords, typically the principle keyword will appear within both of these fields.

You will need to refine this list pages like ‘contact us’ or legal disclaimers are unlikely to be optimised for keywords, more often the page title reflects the page content. Filter out any junk from this list manually.

Alt tag text is also another good indicator of secondary keywords, so review this separately. If you use an SEO tool like Raptor, we can help determine target keywords for you.

4. Compare Competitor Keywords

Now you should have a nice list of keywords and the pages to which they are mapped for your competitor…

At this point you can compare this list to your own site’s target keywords; initially its fine to just match up and stop anything missing from your list that’s on theirs. However, this process requires a little more nuance than that; we’re not just grabbing keywords, we are aiming to compare the lists to spot fundamental differences.

A like for like (exact match) comparison would miss things like pluralisation’s for example, a formula won’t identify a pattern or structure and will not reveal their strategy. More than just a bunch of keywords, this process has a more strategic component. You need to ask questions like:

  • What are you targeting that they are not?
  • What do they target that you do not?
  • What do they target differently? (Plurals, small variations, order of words, etc)
  • How many keywords do they target per page?
  • What is their top keyword?
  • What are their top 10 keywords? (based on how much they are targeted throughout the site)

Start to build lists of keywords that fall into these categories or label them accordingly for filtering and analysis later.

5. Categorise & Label

Consider categorising these keywords as you would your own, and as is described in the above section on Categories and Labels. This will allow you to see:

  • How many keywords per category / label
  • What are you targeting that they are not?
  • What do they target that you do not?
  • No. of pages per category / label

Start to build lists of keywords that fall into these categories or label them accordingly for filtering and analysis later. At this point you should start be seeing a more comprehensive picture than just an unsorted list of keywords.

6. Pull in Data

This is optional, but you can also pull in data from a number of areas to help with this analysis. When combined with the categories and labels; you can segment this data by those labels to get a picture of how well you and your competitor rank.

Ranking Data

This is always useful to know, as you can easily filter keywords that you currently rank well for from the list. It can also provide an indication of the work required to advance your listing to a valuable position.

Search Volume

This can provide a good indication of the potential value of the keywords that you have identified, compare this to what the competitor’s top keywords are to see how they correlate.

Competition / Difficulty

This refers to how much competition there is for a keyword, Google’s Keyword Tool has an actual metric called ‘Competition’, which is an indexed score between 0-1. There are many ways to try and calculate or analyse the competition for a keyword and really this is more than just a metric, but a concept.

Some SEO Tools have created their own metrics that look at how competitive a keyword is in terms of how hard it is to rank for that keyword. Moz for example have the Keyword Difficulty score, which is much more useful than Google’s own ‘competition’ metric.

7. Categorise & Label Keywords

This process is fairly well known among SEOs, the idea is that you create categories and within them, labels… The example data below shows what we mean by this:

Categorise Keywords

In this example, we show some keywords relevant to us with two categories, the first ‘product’ has multiple labels (SEO, Backlink, Keyword, etc). The second category has only two labels, which are either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, these delineate whether the keyword refers to a tool (program, software, app, etc) …

You could structure either in any way you want, the important thing is that you are consistent in your application of the labels.

Add as many categories as you need to properly categorise your keyword data. We provide a tool for this, or you can use a spreadsheet (download one from here). This will allow you to very quickly and easily create categories and labels for your keywords; as it automatically applied the specified labels to keywords containing the specified text.

As you progress, filter on categories to look for keywords that have been assigned no category, these are usually marmite… Because these keywords are ones that you hadn’t anticipated, they are often the most interesting or the least relevant!

You need to spend a little time thinking about you will address the structure of the categories, a poor implementation initially can lead to redoing work or an illogical output. One advantage of this technique is the meta-analysis that it allows us to perform on this data by segmenting it by category or label… Read more about this is our guide to keyword data analysis.

8. Derive Keywords

Using all of the data and analysis that you’ve gathered up until this point, you should be able to identify keywords and groups of keywords, patterns and entirely new avenues of thought. There is no magic formula to this, you will need to review the data with your objectives in mind to determine what, if any keywords should be targeted and how.

9. Rinse & Repeat

Once you’ve been through this process, you can either perform it on another competitor or expand the analysis out to a wider set of competitors at the same time.


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