- Improve your personal brand online by paying attention to what Google reveals about similar people.
- Online content gaps are missed opportunities at generating awareness and interest in your personal brand.
- A successful content strategy addresses customer’s needs at all stages of the buyer’s journey.
- A quick and efficient way to spot and correct content gaps is a best-practices analysis of your competitors.
Like all other financial assets, a personal brand is an investment—success demands research, planning, strategy, and a diverse portfolio of communications and content.
Most personal brand advice starts with something about being unique, finding your voice, etc. But once you’ve determined what your unique personal brand should say, what’s next? What “content” portfolio do you invest in to build your brand’s value and positive reputation?
What will the canvas of search results reveal about your personal brand, and how do you get Google to show the world what you want it to see?
Well, you could start by just throwing content at the internet. At Reputation X we call this "spray and pray". From an investment perspective, this is like throwing darts at a list of stocks.
Before you start launching content into the ether, consider this: right now, at the time this sentence is being written, over 3 million blog posts have gone up today—and lunch is still an hour away. The number will soar past 5 million before bedtime. Things need to be a bit more focused than just cannonballing into that ocean.
Branding professionals start by looking carefully and systematically at the content marketplace. They look for a brand’s “content gaps", like these:
- Audience-attracting topics
- Search term keywords
- Social listings, formats, platforms
- Any other opportunities that a brand is ignoring
There’s an old maxim in sales: it’s not about knocking at the right door, it’s about knocking at every door. There are, in fact, thousands of doors lurking in the unfathomable expanses of online content. The pros zero in on those opportunities using Content Gap Analysis.
What is content gap analysis?
Content Gap Analysis is the process of finding missed opportunities to build online awareness of a brand, attract an interested audience, and convert that interest into sales.
Content Gap Analysis is customer analysis. Finding the gaps in your content strategy starts with this basic question: who are my customers and what do they want? What information do they need? What benefits are they looking for? What platforms do they use? What keywords do they search on?
Content Gap Analysis is competitor analysis. In the current content marketplace, which competitors (which of your colleagues) are blowing everyone else out of the water? Who is hitting the top search engine slots? What content are they posting? What platforms are they using? What keywords are they using?
Content Gap Analysis is an internal analysis. Content Gap Analysis involves a thorough audit of where you are at right now. If you’re already posting content, how well is it performing? How successful is your search engine placement? Are you meeting measurable goals? Above all, is your content strategy making money in the form of leads, closings, sales, or revenues?
In the context of personal branding, when examining competitors in your industry who have the most successful personal brands, what content are they doing that you’re not?
Do you have the content your customers want?
The crucial first step in content analysis is understanding the customer. Here we’re particularly referring to the buyer’s journey, the entire process people go through on their way to becoming a loyal customer.
The buyer's journey
You want people to buy your personal brand. These "buyers" will Google you. What Google shows can be controlled. To understand how people interact with your brand consider the buyers journey.
Customers always begin with a budding awareness of a need or problem. They may not know what the problem is exactly, but they suspect something needs to be made right (the awareness stage).
As they get a better handle on the situation, they then ferret out possible solutions (the consideration stage), gradually tunneling their way to a few best options to eventually pull the trigger on what seems the best choice (the decision stage).
The tale does not finish there. There is still some distance between a “customer” and a “loyal customer.” Online content plays a crucial role in this final and most profitable stage—the loyalty or advocacy stage—of a customer’s journey.
In each stage of the customer’s journey, people turn to online content for guidance and direction:
However, don’t confuse format for content. At certain stages of the buyer’s journey, people tend to gravitate to certain formats. What they’re looking for, however, is understanding. Understanding lives within the content.
At the earliest stages of the buyer’s journey, people are looking for general answers and information. They are asking “what is,” “how is,” and “why is” type of questions. They aren’t looking for product demonstrations, price comparisons, or a hard sell. If that’s what they find, they’re out the door.
At later stages, they’re looking for specifics that can help them make a decision, not for the general information they needed earlier. If they can’t find what they’re looking for—like prices or reviews—they go looking elsewhere.
Where to start building personal brand content
Unfortunately, most people developing a personal brand don’t have the time or luxury to master the deepest secrets of Content Gap Analysis. That’s okay. In this—as in most aspects of building a business—there is a generally bullet-proof way to get started: best practices.
A best practices analysis involves systematically examining the leading online personal brands of your most successful competitors - people like you, or people like whom you want to be perceived as.
They have already done the hard work at optimizing content across the entire customer journey. You are there to identify the gaps between your content and theirs. Imitation, as the saying goes, is the sincerest form of learning.
The content you need for a personal brand
Suppose you are a cosmetic surgeon in the San Francisco area. You could start your content gap analysis with Usha Rajagopal, M.D. or Dino Elyassnia, M.D., two of the leading personal brands in the Bay Area’s cosmetic surgery marketplace. A search on either turns up an online presence that includes:
- A core website
- A Google Knowledge Panel
- Independent editorial content
- Multiple review sites (Yelp, HealthGrades, Google, RealSelf, DemandForce)
- Active social media accounts (Instagram, Facebook)
- Multiple online professional profiles
- Multiple organization affiliations
- Online videos
- Paid advertising
Start with this broad swathe of content and platforms. Go through the entire web profile piece by piece. Write down what it is, what it says, what part of the customer journey it addresses, and what search terms land you there. Everything you find is a potential opportunity.
A deep dive into Dr. Rajagopal’s San Francisco Plastic Surgery & Laser Center or Dr. Ellyassnia’s professional website reveals a complete content strategy that targets customers from the awareness to the decision stage. Each provides a wealth of introductory content explaining the basics of several plastic surgery procedures, in essence, a comprehensive encyclopedia of “what is” articles.
Each keyword rich introductory article directs visitors to more specialized content appropriate to later stages of the customer journey—more detailed information, reviews, and pricing. At every stage, the “person” behind the brand is always present in the form of photographs and videos. This content is always personal no matter how general or informative.
These core websites use a classic and effective content strategy: the sites are heavy with awareness content, but even the most general content funnels visitors to later stages of the buyer’s journey. The bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) content—such as pricing, calls to action, and virtual consultations—may not star in this show, but they are the closing act.
As you work to brand yourself, don’t be discouraged when you take a deep dive into your best competitors’ content. All the content you’ll find took months or years of steady and focused work to build. A best practices content gap analysis provides a map for the long haul, not a recipe for a quick fix.
And don’t be disheartened by professional design or impressive visuals. Your most successful competitors, like Dr. Rajagopal and Dr. Ellyassnia, hire professional designers to develop a meaningful, clean visual brand and overall design appropriate to their customer’s expectations. You, too, will deal with this issue in good time. For now, just focus on the content gaps. Then get to work.
Content gap analysis FAQs
What are content gaps?
Content gaps are missed opportunities in your online communications. Content gaps represent real money being left on the table—potential visitors, prospects, and customers who will find your competitors, not you.
How do I identify online content gaps?
A comprehensive Content Gap Analysis involves building customer profiles, mapping the online resources they rely on, analyzing the content strategies of competitors, and thoroughly auditing one’s own online content practices.
An easy and effective approach is examining the content “best practices” of your most accomplished competitors. Make a list of everything that your most successful competitors do online. Every place online that they have colonized, every piece of content, and every keyword they dominate is an opportunity for you to reach future customers.
How do I fix content gaps?
Fixing online content gaps is a long-term project. Each content gap is a separate problem to be solved but is always part of a longer, planned process. A comprehensive content strategy (beginning with a full content gap analysis) is key to the business success of your personal brand, so it must be ever-present in your daily projects and tasks.
About the author
Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management agency. He has over 15 years of experience with SEO, Wikipedia editing, review management, and online reputation strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics.