How to find and close your content gaps – Alex Valencia
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How do you know if you have a content gap on your website? How can you find and fix what isn’t actually there? In this week’s episode, Alex Valencia shares with us how you can do a competitive analysis to uncover what content is missing from your website and keeping you from generating more leads online.
Rich: My guest today is the successful entrepreneur, marketer, and president of We Do Web Content, an Inc. 5000 business. His firm devises content marketing strategies and produces online content for law firms, medical professionals, and small businesses nationwide. He counsels hundreds of clients with a broad knowledge gained from his direct experience in digital marketing, SEO, email marketing, marketing automation, content marketing, and social marketing.
He has deepened this knowledge over the years by becoming an authority in relationship building and retention, legal and medical marketing, law firm and medical professional SEO, and attorney and medical professional digital marketing. He is also an Infusionsoft expert, a keen negotiator, and fluent in English and Spanish.
He currently lives with his wife, Yvette, and they’re two extremely artistic sons in Plantation, Florida. Very excited to have on the show for the first time, Alex Valencia. Alex, welcome to the podcast.
Alex: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here. Appreciate it. That was one bio, for sure.
Rich: And I told you, I had to cut half of it.
Alex: I think that one-sheet you took right off LinkedIn. We have a much better one, so sorry about that.
Rich: That’s totally good. All right. So as you know, as we discussed, I discovered you through an article that you wrote for Search Engine Journal called, How to Do a Content Gap Analysis For SEO. And that’s the focus of today’s conversation. So let’s start with the basics. What is a content gap, and how do you know if you have one?
Alex: Well, great, great question. So thanks for SEJ for allowing me to contribute on their site as well. But so a content gap really didn’t always exist. It’s existing more now because we’re so saturated with content on the internet, where we have more of an awareness of what we want our buyers and users to do when we come to a website.
So basically what a content gap is, it’s to find any holes that you might have in your website or in your marketing strategy that will avoid anyone from moving further from A through Z. So if someone’s coming to your site and they fill out a form, you want to make sure there is a content strategy for how you’re going to deal with that.
If you want somebody to come to your site because they’ve asked a question or looking for a query, you want to make sure you’re delivering that content. If someone’s there and ready to buy, you want to make sure you’re delivering the content that’s going to be transactional and is going to be a success. Not only for you, but for them, and obviously the search engines. So any hole within the content marketing strategy would be a gap.
Rich: So Google has been screaming from the rooftops since 2008, that content is everything. So Alex, is there really any content gaps left? Hasn’t every content gap been filled at this point?
Alex: So the content gap in marketing is, there really isn’t a gap in overall marketing, there’s a gap in the strategy of a specific marketing strategy that you might be doing. So even though there’s so much information and so much has been taught from Google and other influencers, there’s a gap in people’s business strategy when it comes to content marketing or developing their website. There’s just so much to know and so much to think about, just starting from the buyer persona, who your user is.
But delivering content, I mean, you’re either doing video, you’re doing audio, we’re doing podcasts now, you’re doing email marketing, infographics. I mean, there really isn’t a gap in the type of content. We’re recreating content in so many different ways socially, now you have to TikTok, you have all these different verticals to create content. So there isn’t a gap of the type of content, but rather the strategy when using the content types to make your website or your business successful.
Rich: Okay. All right. Now we often think of content being on our website in the form of articles, blog posts, sales pages. What else should we be considering when it comes to content and content gaps?
Alex: So that’s what I’m thinking is a foundational content or your pillar content is the content on your website to your main pages, right?
If you have just a brochure website and you’re starting a business, your main content pages are going to be your homepage that talks about you, you’re going to have your services, your contact us, that’s just basic, right? I’m going to send somebody from my LinkedIn page or verbally and say, “Hey, go check out my website. This is who I am, this is what I do.”
But the idea of a website is to be an online store, an online informational system. It’s there for the user it’s, for the Google to crawl and be able to answer other people’s queries. So the types of content that should be on it all go from A to Z, it doesn’t just start with the foundational content. But using the analogy of a home, your website is a fabrication of a home. Then you start putting in your walls, you start putting in your floors, you start putting in kitchen cabinets, bathrooms, down to the knobs on the door cabinets and the paint colors that you choose. It can be very detailed on what your website has.
And different types of content would be starting with the foundational content, then your primary pages, which are your service pages that tell people what you do. But you also need to answer queries, so you’re going to need a frequently asked question or a blog section that’s answering anything that people might come into the website asking for. So something to help them make the decision. So if they’re aware that they’re looking for something, you want to make sure that you’re answering that query. So those frequently asked questions are important.
If you have an e-book on your website, you want to make sure that you’ve written content for the person specifically on what they’re searching for and they can download that. But moreover, you also want to make sure when they download that, what are they doing with that content? Are they just getting that and then there’s no decision? There’s got to be a whole email marketing campaign that’s created beyond that to follow up with that person, to take them to the next level from awareness, to consideration, to decision, to them either buying or hiring you for your service.
Rich: Okay. Now in the article you map out four steps to the content gap analysis process, starting with mapping out your buyer’s journey. How do you do that?
Alex: So, it takes research, right? Your kind of drawing out a plan and researching who your client is. When we interview our clients and consult with them, we figure out who’s coming to you. And for us, its typically people searching for an attorney, right? So who’s your client; you have either been in an accident, or been hurt, or searching for a family member or so forth. So we figure it out, through doing this for over a decade, we’ve realized who that audience is. So we know how to write to them. We know what age level they’re probably at a reading level, so we know to create content around that. And when you’re doing that for your business, you want to think of a small business that is coming in and somebody asking a question.
So for instance, for using the lawyer is, do I need to hire a lawyer when I’m in a car accident? So that would be a frequently asked question. That would be the awareness stage of a query. So getting to know that buyer is obviously part one. And building that journey for them, where are they? Well, they’re just in the searching phase, can I answer that question once? Once I answer that question within that same content, I want to make sure I’m including, “Well, once you do hire an attorney, this is what the next steps are”, or “These are certain things you might be looking for about insurances”, “What do I do with my insurance”, “Do I call my insurance company, do I not to call my insurance company”. Those are questions that you’re asking and it’s leading the user to where you want them to go. And basically for our law firm clients, I want them to pick up the phone and call.
Rich: So as we’re thinking through this, in this particular case and this example – which is a good one – there could be somebody who just got in a car accident and is really just at the beginning. They’re aware that they might need a lawyer. And there’s all these different stages of awareness and consideration. I don’t know them all, you probably do.
What I think I hear you saying is you’ve got to find out if you have content to answer people’s questions at each stage of that buyer’s journey. If all you’re doing is writing content for the person who knows they need a lawyer and is ready to make a decision, then you’ve missed out on a huge portion of your potential clients. Correct?
Alex: Right. And that’s one of the biggest queries we see on our client’s site is, “Should I hire a lawyer when I’m in an accident”. So it’s a little different than most businesses, transactionally, for a lawyer. A small business, if I’m in a clothing store or a different type of service, it’s not that immediate. For the lawyer, if I’m searching for, “Should I hire a lawyer?”, the next step piece of content is, “Hire a lawyer now because there is a timeframe, a statute of limitations for you to get your case in. So that’s content that I would have to deliver to that client immediately.
Whereas if I were shopping for something, I’m just researching, learning about the product, who else is using it, and then I would need more information. I’m like, all right, here’s different tips on using that bot. Just more informational before I get to the next stage.
Rich: And the sooner we get people into that funnel with our own branding and our own message, the more likely we are to be able to actually capture that lead or capture that business at the end. Correct?
Alex: Exactly. So then in the simplest of forms, you’re just creating a file, from the top to the bottom. How do I get them from here to there and make sure I’m answering and delivering the best service as possible throughout.
Rich: Yeah. Which is definitely a challenge if you’re the marketer and not the owner. Because the owner is often only interested in, “I just want you to create content that’s going to convert.” Where some of that early-stage content that you might be ignoring then is the kind of stuff that gets people to a position where they are likely to convert. And we miss out on that business if we’re only caring about that last stage of the funnel when we’re creating content.
Alex: Exactly. And that’s one of the biggest pieces that we find in gaps. Is that informational answering the first question just when I’m searching and researching content, is one of the biggest gaps.
Rich: It’s funny, back when I started my business in like 1997, one of the first articles I ever wrote was called, “10 Questions to Ask Your Website Designer”. And that became such a, I mean, people used to steal that right off my website and put it on their website. Before things like Copyscape and Google came along, and it was difficult to find that. But yeah, I mean, I didn’t know what I was doing back then. I just happened to get lucky, but yes, those early questions are a great way of attracting some of that decision-making traffic to your website.
So that’s kind of the first step, and you’ve touched on step two. But you talk about conducting market research. Can you walk us through what you recommend people do when it comes to doing that market research?
Alex: No one knows their client or user better than the person that you’re working with.
Right? So if I’m a doctor’s office or I’m a lawyer or a makeup artist, anything, no one knows what the person’s struggles, what they’re looking for, why they buy. Everyone has a reason to buy, it’s usually some type of emotional reasoning. So having a question and doing a survey with the client and knowing your clients on why they’re buying things, what questions do they have? What hurts them, what are their struggles, what have they tried in the past? Has this been a good service for you? Where do you usually typically find these kinds of searches, or how do you search for this when you’re looking? And what’s the deciding factor of what makes you decide I’m making this purchase?
So having a checklist, just like you did, what are the 10 things to look for. You would have a checklist for your clients to see, all right, what’s the market research, what should I be saying to them and capturing so I know that I can create a piece of content around it.
Rich: Okay. That seems fairly straightforward. So I want to move on to step three, which is analyzing the content on your website. And this definitely seems intimidating, I think, if you’ve never done this before. So if you’re an owner or marketer looking to do your own audit, not working with an outside agency like yours, what steps do you recommend or what tools should they be using? Or is this something that is best left to an outside provider?
Alex: Number one, I would say its best left to an outside provider. Because even those of us that know there’s just so many programs and aligning and putting all the information to one platform to make it easy to read is difficult. We’re actually creating a software program to help do that for ourselves.
But, you can do it on your own. I know tons of great marketing lawyers that actually dive in and try to do it. If I were to select the tool right now that would help with this, it would be SEMrush. That’s one of my favorite tools. Just their interface is easy. The data that provides is new, it’s current, and it’s easy to digest. And they actually do a pretty decent gap analysis on their site and analyze the content. Another one’s Ahrefs or Screaming Frog. But again, very technical software that you put on your computer and go through URL structure. So it can get very technical. Really what you want to do is, to the simplest forms, I would keep it to SEMrush, compare that to three competitors’ URLs, and just kind of see what am I missing? Why are they ranking more? What are they ranking for in full report? And then just start there that would build a good foundational baseline of what to do first.
And then once you do that, I give advice all the time. You can do it on your own, right? If it’s a small law firm and they can’t afford us or a company like yours, this is a good baseline for them to learn, to create their own content with purpose, because everything goes back to confidence or gratitude. If we go back to any of my SEJ articles, everything really ties into building a content strategy before you do anything else.
Rich: So I want to talk about this because this is interesting. It’s more technical, your approach is more technical than I would’ve guessed. So first let’s talk about what you just said, I want to make sure that I understand it. So if I do have access to these tools, or if my agency does, what they’re going to do is take a look at me and a few of my competitors. the software is going to take a look at what keywords we all rank for, and what it will show me is keywords that my competitors rank for that. And this may tell me some of them may be irrelevant to my business, but others may be a perfect fit. Like if I don’t do intellectual property law and my competitors do, and they have content on that, I don’t need to worry about that. But if we’re both into PI – the opposite of IP – PI law, then that’s certainly something I need to pay attention to if they’re ranking for personal injury terms that I’m not. That’s an evident content gap in this example, correct?
Alex: Exactly. And it’s just weeding through the things that you wouldn’t take on. And there’s just so much, right. Because the software system doesn’t know exactly what you want it to. Semantically there’s so many versions of the keyword and what you put in that’ll come up, like you said, might not be things that you’re going after. But it’s easy to weed all those out and just use what you need.
And again, when you’re an owner or your own marketing department, you’re not going to be able to create volume like we create volume, right. We built a system for that. So for you, it’s going to be doing one amazing poster, creating the email marketing techniques behind the scenes to attribute to this one page you created or one lead magnet. So it’s not going to be that difficult, but you know, you can really dig deep in it.
Rich: And I guess the other thing is, let’s say that you don’t have access to these tools, and you have no interest in doing it and yet you still can’t hire an outside agency. Could you still take a look at your competitor’s website with a notepad and pen in hand and just note down what they’re attempting to rank for? In other words, what they’re creating content around, and then see are there things that are missing from your own website based solely on the content they’re putting out there whether or not it ranks?
Alex: So if you had a pad and pencil, I would do two things. I would do a site colon search and see how many pages this URL has that your competitor. Go through the first page and see what their meta descriptions look like and how they’re written, and the pages that they have the side by side to their current website and what their navigation structure looks like. You know, what their areas of practice are, their location, their services, FAQ’s, their blog posts. And then you can start jotting down what your gaps are, whether you’re starting from scratch or you’ve been maybe doing it wrong. You can easily see and identify what the page titles, H1s, how they’re using the wording within the pages, so you can try to implement your own strategies.
Rich: Okay. So your four-step process ends by something maybe we’ve already touched on, but in case we haven’t, I want to talk about it. This four-step process ends by analyzing your competitor’s content. Is that what we just went through, or is that slightly different than anything we’ve talked about today?
Alex: I would say we definitely touched on it. When looking at content these days, 2021 especially, you want to look at everything from page title down from the user’s perspective. And this goes back to how we did things 10 years ago, 15 years ago, before the internet was saturated with so much content in such thin and unvaluable content just to rank, right? So we want to go back to a journalism mindset and do the inverted pyramid of get all the information up top at the top of the article, and then we start weaning it down. Because we only have a three second time span to capture the person, so we want to give a lot of the really good pertinent information at the top, and then a lot of the information that will guide them and help them with additional questions going further.
So if your competitor isn’t doing that and you start doing that differently, maybe adding different terms, maybe adding, different positioning on the article, bullet points, formatting differently, adding some articles back to your website, that might answer another question that you mentioned in there. Now we’re falling into internal linking, that all helps substantially. So you can side by side, look at a person’s content. Break it up, stay away from block text, no more than two paragraphs before you break them up with an image or bullet points, is just what the user looks at right now.
Rich: When we’re trying to identify our competition, and this is something that I just run into all the time, how do you tell a law firm or any of your clients who their competition is? Is it solely the people in their geographic area? Is it the people that are beating them on Google for their favorite search terms? Or is it something different? And is there an optimal number of competitors that we should look at to have a pretty good sense of where our content gaps might be?
Alex: Great question. So we look at several. So we ask the client to give us a list of five people that they think are competitors. And then I also do my internal competitor based on keywords that we want to rank for. And then I know who is ranking nationally for something. So add that as a competitor as well. It’s like, all right, if we had an open checkbook and a blank check and we want to go after this, this is the person we’d go after and do a lot of the strategies that they’re doing. Because there’s no reason to recreate the wheel. It’s, what are they doing correctly, and how do I get them?
So we look at some of their own competitors, which might not actually be organic online competitors at all, but there may be doing something different, maybe blogging, maybe doing TV, radio. So we’ll probably eliminate that because it’s not a true competition, we’re not comparing apples to apples.
And then we would look at the ones that are based on keywords and searches, and then that’s typically who we formalize the plan based on. Because when they come to us, they’re coming after ranking, right. They want to rank, they want to come up for increased traffic, and turn that traffic into potential leads and cases. So we’ll go after that.
And then as a big picture, we’re like, all right, this is the big guy. If we eventually get there and budget, this is what their strategy is, and it’s typically along the lines of what we’re already doing anyways. But, you know, we can turn a lot of local clients into national clients once we’ve built that authority on their site.
Rich: Nice. Any last advice you’d give to somebody who’s never done an analysis of their content gaps, but is interested in getting started?
Alex: Reach out to Rich or myself or someone to actually get a content analysis. Don’t do anything without building a plan, right? You wouldn’t go out and build a remote-control car without a plan. You wouldn’t build a house. You probably wouldn’t plan a vacation or anything without it. The same thing goes for your website. It’s transactional. It’s there for a reason. You want everything on there to be intentional, have a good architecture. So always go back to the idea, “let me build a strategy, let me build a plan.” Even a small one. Make a calendar, put it on your own calendar that you need to create content.
And it doesn’t have to be written. If all you can do is video, do video and pay somebody to transcribe it for you. You know, that’s really good content. You don’t imagine it but the wording, like the things that you speak, already have so many keywords in it that come out naturally that come out in a video that is actually really impressive.
So if you’re going to do anything, do that. Blog if you can, but again, with purpose. Don’t just blog about anything, it has to be specific. And more importantly, if you’re going to do anything, research the FAQ’s. Before you ever write a blog or a page, research FAQ’s and write the best one out there. Look at the top three ranking frequently asked questions or featured snippets and try to make it better.
Rich: Awesome. Alex, this has been very helpful. If people want to check out your agency or learn more about you, where can we send them?
Alex: You can visit us at, wedowebcontent.com, and my email if you have any questions is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m happy to help, I’m always giving away free information. There will be actually some new e-books and so forth on our new website coming soon, hopefully next month, that you guys could pick up.
Rich: Sounds great, Alex. Thanks so much for stopping by today. I really appreciate it.
Alex: Rich, thanks so much for having me. It was a pleasure. Great questions. Thank you so much.
Alex Valencia specializes in creating content marketing strategies and producing online content for businesses nationwide, specializing in both the law and medical spaces. His passion & deep understanding for creating the right content for the right audience has increased the web presence and translated to success for all of his clients.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.