How to Complete a Keyword Gap Analysis and Why Its Important

A keyword gap analysis is vital to having a healthy marketing strategy. The information is provides can greatly influence your marketing strategy, and offer valuable insights into what your competitors are doing and what they think is important from a business perspective.

A keyword gap analysis is vital to having a healthy marketing strategy. The information is provides can greatly influence your marketing strategy, and offer valuable insights into what your competitors are doing and what they think is important from a business perspective.

Keyword Gap is often regarded as an SEO strategy, or a paid search strategy, but I would debate that point thoroughly. It is an important business analysis tool that provides insights well beyond search, and well beyond marketing.

I would argue it’s as important as a SWOT Analysis, a MOST Analysis, or Business Process Modeling (BPM) report. It’s easily just as insightful, and provide a real “peek behind the curtain” at what your competitors are doing.

Let’s dig in and learn all about keyword gap.

What is a Keyword Gap Analysis?

A Keyword Gap Analysis is a way to assess the keyword overlap between you and your competitors. It does this by looking at a competitor’s website, analyzing their content for keywords and topics, and then comparing it against yours.

In this case, saying overlap can be a bit of a confusing term. A keyword gap analysis looks at the universe of keywords between you and your competitor and identifies the gap–the keywords they are targeting that you aren’t.

It could be keywords they rank for in Google that you don’t, or keywords they are using in paid search that you are not.

Why is a Keyword Gap Analysis Important?

This comparison reveals opportunities that don’t exist in your current digital marketing strategy. It shows you what keywords that can lead a searcher to your competitor instead of you.

But it goes well beyond that. Remember when I said this report could be more powerful than other business analysis tools? I meant that.

You could look at the list pragmatically, and just see a list of terms, then highlight terms that should be added to your paid search campaign, or SEO strategy. That is definitely a tactic that is important, but you are overlooking something bigger.

It’s like listening to a symphony and focusing only on the horn section. There is a whole song there full of detail, if you chose to hear it.

That report tells you what your competitor thinks is important. It shows you what they are spending their time on, where they think the audience is, and where they are putting their money. This is as close to spying on their internal marketing strategy meeting as you can get. So pay attention to the themes that are there.

For example, if they are a software company, are they just target the name of the software, or are they targeting the root problems in the marketplace that their software can alleviate?

What part of the funnel are they targeting? All of it? Or just select areas? This is all vital information to see what your competitor thinks is important.

The Keyword Shared Analysis. The Overlooked Cousin to Keyword Gap.

There is another report in the mix that rarely gets talked about, but is also important. It is the Keyword Share Analysis. It is a similar report, but is the other side of the coin and just as important.

What is a Keyword Share Analysis? How is it Different than Keyword Gap?

This report is the opposite of a keyword gap. It shows you the keywords you share with your competitor. So if someone performs a search, it is the terms where they have the opportunity to find both of you.

In the most pragmatic way, this report can be used to measure some success. If you look at the shared keywords, and determine who ranks higher for each term, then you can easily see who is beating out the other. This is great for simple measures and to see if you are making progress. But it shows you more than that.

If a competitor is ranking poorly for a set of keywords, it’s your indication that they are not putting effort toward them. This gives you the change to determine if you want to exploit that, or turn your attention elsewhere.

How to Perform a Keyword Gap Analysis

I wish I could tell you this can be done manually, on your own. But the reality is you need support from some sort of software tool. We prefer SEM Rush as our go-to tool for performing a complete Keyword Gap and Keyword Share analysis.

I am going to show you how to get the info you need using SEM Rush. After you login to SEMRush, look along the left side navigation. Under the SEO section, click on Keyword Gap.

SEMRush Keyword Gap


When here, SEMRush will ask you to add in your domain (or your client’s domain) along with the competitor in question. You can add up to a total of four competitors. But should you? No.

Only compare your site to one competitor at a time. That will provide you the most revealing, specific and helpful information. You want to see the gap for each competitor individually. If you add in more than one competitor, you will miss a lot of terms in the gap report. You would only see the keywords that are present for every competitor that you are also not ranking for. So a lot of important data will be missing. That is why you want to take the extra time to only run this analysis for one competitor at a time. to get the

After you type in your domain and a competitor domain, the results will show up.

In order to see the Keyword Gap, make sure you select missing from the sub-navigation bar in the middle of the page.

The list that will show up will be the keywords the competitor ranks for but you don’t. This is vital information, as we have discussed above. It can reveal a lot about a competitor’s marketing plan, they terms they are putting emphasis on and targeting. SEMRush will reveal how that competitor ranks in Google, as well as the search volume for that term.

To get the important keyword share analysis, follow all the steps described, but with one small change. In that sub-navigation bar, click on shared instead of missing.

Now you will see all of the terms that you and your competitor both rank for, along with what those rankings are, and the keyword volume. It will also color code whoever has the higher ranking, to help make the data scannable.

I have the Keyword Gap and Share Data. Now What?

We generally export the data and put it in a Google Sheet that is shared with the project team. That way the data can be seen by anyone at their convenience without having to rerun the reports in SEMRush every time.

As you look at the data, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What keywords are my competitors targeting? Look at the full list, no matter how long it is. This information can be valuable to informing your keyword research and determining if you should be including other terms in your target list.
  • Do they seem to be emphasizing a core set of terms? Look at their site based on the data you have now. Examine the content and how they are talking about their product or service. If they only rank well for Brand terms, then that reveals they are not paying attention to SEO.
  • Where are you winning? Defensive SEO is a real thing. If you are winning on an important set of keywords, it’s vital to see if competitors are getting closer. Keep your content fresh, complete and helpful to searchers.

How Often Should I Do a Keyword Gap Analysis?

Quarterly. The data won’t change fast enough for you to have to analyze the data each month, or week. Plus, the changes you make to your site and campaigns take time to decide and implement. Allow those changes to take place and be active for some time before you check results again. You do not want to change course or revert because the data hasn’t had time to update from your changes yet.

There is so much information waiting for you in these two, easy to get reports. Spend time with them each quarter.

Are There Any Downsides to Keyword Gap Analysis?

Surprisingly, yes! There are a few potential downsides to keyword gap analysis:

  • Time and resources: Conducting a keyword gap analysis can be time-consuming and may require resources such as tools or software to gather and analyze the data that not everyone has access to.
  • Limited scope: Keyword gap analysis only looks at the keywords that a website is ranking for and those that its competitors are ranking for. It does not take into account other keywords that you should rank for that you and your competitor may not. Those terms are uncovered with high quality keyword research.
  • Keyword stuffing: When looking at the keyword gap data, it can lead someone to start keyword stuffing, which is sticking (stuffing) an excessive number of keywords in an attempt to rank higher in search results. This can actually have a negative impact on a website’s search engine rankings and harm the user experience.

Overall, while keyword gap analysis can be a useful tool for identifying opportunities to improve a website’s search engine optimization, it should be used as part of a broader SEO strategy that takes into account other factors that can affect a website’s performance in search results.