Let’s say your organization just announced a new service line. Perhaps it’s in response to recent changes from your top competitor. The update will affect operations. It will affect marketing and your team. And, no doubt, it will affect the website. After collecting some details, you and your communications pals decide to dive in—to see what kind of catchy content you can create. You’ll polish it and figure out where it lives later. You just need to get something on the page. Right? Not so fast.
With a project of this size, a content gap analysis may be your best first step.
A gap analysis is a helpful place to start when revising or creating a large chunk of digital content. It’s a content strategy tool that sets your content up for success and helps you maintain that success throughout its lifecycle. But what is a gap analysis? Why is it important? How and when do you do it?
What is a content gap analysis?
Nikki: At a very basic level, a content gap analysis is about identifying where there are holes in your content strategy. I typically think of three different types of gap analysis:
- Competition: Where are there gaps in what your competitors have and don’t have? Is there a hole that you can fill for their users and win them over?
- Performance: Where are there gaps in how your content is performing and where do you want it to be performing? Are there places you can improve your content?
- Searchability: Where are there gaps in how people find your content or its search engine optimization (SEO)? Could you improve the terms you use and your content’s organization?
Gap analysis is kind of a wide umbrella. You may hear similar terms that mean gap analysis, such as competitor analysis, SEO analysis, keyword strategy, gap assessment, needs assessment or needs gap analysis.
Stella: Gap analysis is an important part of a content strategy and can happen at different points. For a gap analysis on a website, I might ask these types of questions:
- Do users find what they search for on the website?
- Is the current information accurate?
- What information is missing?
- What new or upcoming programs should the website content include?
- What specific keywords or phrases are people searching for?
- When was the website last updated?
Gap analysis helps you identify opportunities to better meet your users’ needs, top your competitors and stand out as an organization.
Content Gap Analysis Example: You work for a healthcare system. Your organization’s website has a page for Lactation Services. As part of a regular gap analysis, you look at your Google Analytics. You see that people search for “breastfeeding class” after they look at your Lactation Services page. You know that your healthcare system offers breastfeeding classes and support groups.
You’ve identified a gap in your services and your content—in this case, missing information. You now have an opportunity to fill the gap. Maybe you decide to add another page to your website that talks about your breastfeeding classes. That way, your content gives your users what they need.
Why do I need a gap analysis?
Nikki: A gap analysis helps you understand what content you have on your website (or elsewhere). If you don’t have the right content on your website, you can lose users. Statistically, if you can’t answer questions for someone, they’re going to look online somewhere else. Whoever can best answer those questions is who people rely on as a thought leader, go to with a health problem or question, or turn to for care. For healthcare systems, this can mean the difference between gaining or losing potential patients, employees, physicians, donors or volunteers.
Did you know? In the past, Google did a hospital study where they found that 61% of patients go to at least two healthcare websites before they book an appointment. That means if one site offers a better user experience and conveys that they are better for a patient’s care, the patient will choose them.
How do I know when I need a gap analysis?
Nikki: It’s a good idea to do a gap analysis regularly. Some hints that you may need a gap analysis include:
- Are you not getting as many people using a certain service line as you expected?
- Are your efforts like marketing campaigns, where you’re tracking Return on Investment (ROI), not doing well?
- Do you have a new service line where you’re doing a massive content overhaul?
Stella: It’s also helpful to listen to what people are saying at your organization—especially about your website. If you’re in need of a gap analysis, you may start hearing internal people say:
- “I can’t find anything on the website.”
- “Just throw it up on the website.”
- “We don’t know if it’s on the website.”
Any of those kinds of internal stressors or pain points can be a good trigger for bringing in a content strategist to help with gap analysis and other content strategy work. Or, if you’re using Google to find content on your own website, it’s a sign that your content and how it’s organized on your page isn’t as helpful as it could be.
How do you do a content gap analysis?
Stella: Gap analysis steps can vary by project. But it’s helpful to start with a conversation about goals—not only your organization’s digital strategy but also your larger strategic goals. First, I ask, “What are you hoping to accomplish with the audience you are trying to reach?”
Then, I move into the research phase to figure out where gaps are happening. I might:
- Pull a sitewide inventory of the entire website, also called a content audit.
- Get access to Google Analytics to see how pages and content are performing and how users are engaging with the content.
- Talk with internal stakeholders and hear from them: What’s going on the site? What needs improvement? What’s missing?
I always tell clients to send me everything in the kitchen sink. Once I know what’s there, then we can figure out what might be missing, what they do or do not offer and how they’re promoting these offerings. We can develop a plan to prioritize how to fill the gaps.
What’s the benefit of hiring a content strategist to perform a gap analysis?
Stella: I think there’s always value in having an outside perspective coming in—someone who doesn’t know how your organization is structured or how things work. Because that’s how patients experience it. They don’t know how your organization or content is structured going in. Someone coming in with an outsider’s perspective and identifying those gaps can be really helpful.
Nikki: When you have an outside perspective, you’re also getting people who have worked with many different health systems. We have knowledge in our heads, like, “This has or hasn’t worked well for this type of health system in the past.” So, you’re getting that kind of consulting expertise. When you’re inside the organization, it’s easier to get tunnel vision that someone from the outside doesn’t have.
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Gap analysis tips for healthcare marketers
Ready to do a gap analysis on your content? Before you start, Nikki and Stella have a few helpful tips and lessons learned to share from their experiences.
- Learn from your data. When you start a gap analysis, it’s helpful to think about what you’ve tried in the past, especially if it didn’t work well. There’s value in understanding what happened or what went wrong. Content strategy decisions rely on data, but there’s always the human factor that may not follow the data. If you’re working with a content strategist, make sure you share any backstory or experiences, so they don’t waste time trying to fill a content gap with something that hasn’t worked.
- Keep your finger on the pulse of your content. It’s tempting to let your content sit, especially after you finish a big project like a website redesign. But remember, content, especially on a website, is live. It’s never truly “done.” You should stay aware of what’s going on with your content, so you can correct it before you lose too much time investing in content that isn’t performing. If you never look at your content, you won’t notice trends and be able to act as quickly. There are tons of tools that can help you keep track of your content. Here are 25 of WriterGirl’s favorite free tools for content marketing.
- Define a process for content updates. Having a process in place for how often you’ll revisit content (and perform a gap analysis) can save a lot of time and effort. A solid governance plan makes sure updates run smoothly and efficiently.
- Use your internal teams as a resource. Especially in larger organizations, it can be hard for a web or marketing team to stay on top of every change. Creating open lines of communication—for example, with an online forum or update request form—makes it easier for people at all levels of the organization to help you keep up with changes. And it ensures your content is always accurate.
- Pull in a content strategist early. Be proactive about where the opportunities are to improve your content. Content strategists can do a lot for your content, but they’re more limited when it’s a rescue mission. A conversation about your content plus a gap analysis is a helpful place to start.
WriterGirl can help fill gaps in your healthcare content to make it as effective as possible. Our expert content strategists use their experience to conduct a gap analysis, interpret the results and create a plan of action. Let us know how we can help your team achieve content success.