A content inventory and a thorough content audit are the best way to get a complete understanding of your site’s content—what content is working and what can be improved. Once these steps are done you know the content you have, but how do you figure out what content you don’t have?

In your content audit, you reviewed your existing content to see where it is not meeting user and business goals. The gap analysis is the process of reviewing and then identifying the content that is needed to fill the “gap” between current state and future state.

Gap analysis is like a Google map for your content strategy. It helps you figure how to get from your current content to more successful content. To get the right directions, however, you have to know where you are and where you want to go.

Where You Are

Once you’ve done a content inventory and thorough audit, you can apply the findings from the audit to help you tackle the keep/modify/delete task, in which you review each content piece and make a decision as to its disposition. This task is the first step in making your content inventory document into a content matrix, the document you use to track the progress of each piece of content throughout your project and ongoing. The content in the keep and modify columns of this matrix are your new “starting point.”

Where You Want to Go

For a lot of companies, the destination is clear. The goal is often more conversions or sales—a measurable outcome that requires action from your target audience. But you are only going to arrive at your goal if your users are successful on their journey, too. This is why the two most important inputs for gap analysis are your users and your sales funnel or buyers’ journey.

User personas are a valuable asset for gap analysis. A good persona provides clarity on users’ needs and goals, their behaviors, or how they will interact with your brand, and even their barriers to conversion.

If you don’t have user personas, you should at least have a clear idea of who your target audiences are and their relevant needs and goals. Because purchase decisions, especially large purchases, are most often a shared process, don’t forget to consider the role and impact of influencers.

User journeys are maps of how a user will likely interact with a web site or software. They are similar to a buyers’ journey, but buyers’ journeys are a sales-oriented tool that maps the steps a user takes along his path in the sales funnel from awareness to conversion. A good buyers’ journey will include different touch points online and offline as well as the impact of influencers on the purchase decision.

The Gap Map: Good Directions to Get There

Once you know where you are and where you want to go, Google maps usually gives you clear, step-by-step directions—other than the occasional detour and the roads less traveled. Your content strategy should be just as actionable and easy to follow, too.

How can you chart that path to a successful strategy? You need to create a Gap Map. This is an easy visual tool that will help you with gap analysis. It is also useful for your content audit work and has ongoing value for keeping your content strategy on track. Ideally, you would create this asset as part of your discovery process—before you begin a content audit.

Start by making a grid. On the vertical axis, list your users. On the horizontal axis, list the stages of your buyers’ journey. You may have more than one type of journey that you are accounting for in your site. Below is a simple map for a fictitious technology company plus a secondary map for a Career Seeker audience.

Step 1: Align your users and their journey on a grid

Next, fill in the user goals for each field by answering the question, “What does this user need at this point in his journey?” Not every space in your map may have a goal. Often, users like Influencers or Decision Makers have intermittent roles in the buyers’ journey.

Avoid tactic-specific items like “Watch a video.” The most important concept here is making sure there is content that meets user needs.

 For example, “Educate me on issues and trends” could be anything from a blog post to a whitepaper or webinar. All of these content types fit the goal. Ideally, your content mix will have several types of content to meet a user goal. The format and type of content are secondary to making sure the user can accomplish his goal at each point in his journey.

Step 2: Add your user goals for each step of their journey

Finally, you may want to add your business goals to each step of the map to ensure that the right calls to action or functions are part of the content mix. Measurable goals are recommended. This helps align your most important business goals with the user goals when you are trying to evaluate if a content item is on strategy or not.

Step 3: Add business goals

Not Getting Lost on the Way

Your completed Gap Map is now ready to use! As you do your content audit and review the content items you have marked keep or modify in your content matrix, add the following fields to the matrix: audience, goal, and journey state; and the product or solution the content supports.

Mark each content item in the matrix with this information using the Gap Map as a guide for the content you need to have in your content strategy. Once you’ve assigned these fields to each content item in the keep/modify matrix, you’ll be able to “see” which goals are missing in your content mix for each user and each stage of their journey.

As you analyze your content against the Gap Map and label it, don’t forget to add a notes column to the matrix where you can write notes on how the content needs to be updated to meet user goals. You can also indicate on the matrix rows for new content items and define the audience, goal, journey state and notes on what the purpose of the new content should be.

You should also consider using your updated matrix for quantitative analysis of how much content you have for each user, goal and journey state, and its related product or solution. This will help you further identify where your content gaps are.

Finally, keep the Gap Map and your updated content matrix handy as you create new content and continue to tag the content with the user, goal, journey state, and related product or solution as you build your content. If a proposed content item doesn’t clearly fit with these goals, it’s time to reevaluate if that content is the right content for your marketing goals, or evaluate if your goals and audience needs have changed.

The Gap Map as a Tool for Personalization

Personalization is a big topic right now, especially with more CMS platforms in market that are capable of delivering a personalized experience. At the same time, many organizations struggle to get just one view of the right content in place for their digital presence. The idea of creating a different set of content for each user is completely overwhelming.

The good news here is you don’t have to have a completely different set of content for each user. Your Gap Map can help you identify where you do need role-specific variations of content—and where you don’t.

Looking at our Gap Map example, all of the users have a need for some content on trends and issues, but their roles are very different. This overlap of the same goal at the same stage by different users indicates that you may need variations of the same content or a larger content set to meet these user goals with assets in that set for each of your users.

Where your users have different needs, or only one user has a goal that aligns in a given stage of the journey, here is where you want to make sure your site architecture and component functionality is designed to guide that user to the content that is unique for his needs.

If you are leveraging the Gap Map as a guide for your keep/modify/delete step, your updated content matrix will provide guidance for which content aligns to your audience personas or roles, which state of the journey it supports, which goal it supports, and which product or solution it supports. This is a key deliverable you will need for personalization, too.

While the Gap Map is not a complete foundation for a personalization strategy, it is a good starting point to evaluate just how much and where your content needs to allow for personalization. Both documents will support your work to tag content with the right attributes for personalization as well.

Getting Alignment and Buy-In

Finally, in addition to being a valuable tool for assessment and tracking, the gap map can also be a compelling way to communicate with stakeholders and get buy-in on the strategy you’re proposing. If all stakeholders can agree on the goals and the steps along the buyer’s journey, you have a framework for presenting targeted recommendations and getting alignment on priorities.


Click here for a downloadable copy of the Strategic Content Gap Map spreadsheet.