How to Conduct a Competitive Content Marketing Analysis
One of the most important things a content strategist needs to know is how their content is fairing against their competitors’. Without knowing what type of content your competitors are creating, where are they distributing it or how often, it will be very difficult to truly differentiate your brand and your content from theirs and thus give potential visitors a reason to take a look at your content instead of competitor’s. Because of this, you need to perform a competitive content marketing analysis which will help you not only do the above, but also find opportunities that your competitors missed.
Of course, it takes a lot of time and work to do a competitive content marketing analysis, but it’s more than worth it, so let’s dive into it.
Step 1: Determine the Goal of Your Competitive Content Marketing Analysis
What is exactly are you trying to learn from analyzing your competitor’s content? What information are you aiming to extract and how do you intent to use it? Don’t start a competitive content marketing analysis without first setting goals for it.
Analyzing your competitors content can tell you if the audience engages more with them or you on your websites and social media respectively and by how much. For example, if a an article you wrote on LinkedIn received 30 likes and a similar one from your competitor 100, you know you need to change some things here.
You will probably be better at some social media platforms than others, so its important to know not just your total social reach, but separately for each channel you are using and those you are not using (to determine if you are missing any opportunities there) as well. For instance, you could have been under the impression that Pinterest wouldn’t work in your niche, but if your competitor is using it successfully, why not try it yourself?
Engagement will tell you if you are meeting the needs of your target audience. If a competitor has more shares, likes, retweets or comments, they are doing something better than you and the audience is rewarding them for it.
Step 2: Find Out Who Your Direct Competitors are
In a sense, every company out there can be a competitor as you are both vying for the customers time and money. Of course, trying to analyze everyone in the world would be a huge waste of time, so just focus on those companies that are actually in your industry and market and are selling the same or similar product and services as you do. For example, McDonalds and Burger King are direct competitors, but McDonalds and Nike are not, so you would analyze the first and not the second company.
You will probably be able to identify 2-3 direct competitors from the get-go, but keep in mind that you should be looking for those that are performing at least on the same level as you do or better. Why? Simply put, why would you analyze someone that is not doing the same as you do? What do you have to learn from them?
However, you don’t want to compete with someone who is clearly a bigger name than you. If your website has, let’s say 1000 unique visitors per day, don’t try throwing hands with someone who has 100,000 or more. Go for someone who you can actually compete against without it being a complete mismatch.
One way to find your close competitors is by performing a simple Google search. All you need to do is search for the type of product or service you are selling and see which companies and brands appear in the first page. Again, you can probably skip the first or second result as these will be big companies most likely, but the rest will be your direct competitors.
Step 3: Take an Inventory of Their Content
Now that you’ve determined who your direct competitors are, the next step is to find out where they house their content. Content can live anyone on their websites, so the first thing you should look at is their site navigation. For example, if you see something labeled “Resources”, that’s likely where you’ll find eb00ks, whitepapers and case studies, among other things, in other words, lots of content. On the other hand, a sectioned called “Pricing” or “Services” probably won’t have what you’re interested in.
Still, double-check to be sure. A lot of time you’ll find content hidden in sub-navigation. For example, you might find “News” in the “About Us” section or “Webinars” in “Training”. Just make sure you cover the entire website so as to not miss anything important. You’ll also want to scroll all the way down the homepage to the footer as you’ll also be able to find some more content here as well that is not listed in the navigation or sub-navigation of the site.
Step 4: Do a Content Audit
A content audit will help you evaluate your competitor’s content quantity and quality and how you match up against them.
When looking at quantity you should look at not only how many blog posts and other types of content (i.e. whitepapers, case studies…) the competitor has already published, but also how frequently are they doing this. If you are going against someone who is publishing content every day, while you are only managing to do it once per week, that’s already a big advantage for your competitor.
Analyzing their content quality is a bit more subjective, but in general a look at their engagement will paint a good picture here. Do they have more shares, likes, comments, etc? This can tell you which topics the readers the most open to and in what way.
Also, don’t forget to dig a little deeper and ask:
- Is their content in-depth?
- Are they creating accurate and relevant content?
- Is it well-structured and easy to read? Does it have subheadings, bullet points, etc?
- Are there grammatical and spelling errors?
- Who their writers are and what is their area of expertise?
Step 5: Use the Right Competitive Content Marketing Analysis Tools
Although competitive content marketing analysis may seem like a lot of work (and let’s face it, it is), there are fortunately plenty of tools you can use to help you with it.
Here’s a few tools you can use to spy on your competition:
- SEO Tools
There aren’t many things that are more competitive than search engine optimization. This is why you need to be on the lookout for the keywords your competition is using as well as backlinks they are getting. SEMrush is one of the most popular tools to analyze not just your own performance, but also that of your competitors and compare the two to get a better picture.
- Social Media Monitoring Tools
Knowing what the audience says about you and your competitors is important, so it’s a good idea to use a tool for this as well. Now, depending on your size and needs (how in-depth you want the analysis to be), you may be looking for enterprise-level tools, or you may do just fine with free social media monitoring tools like Hootsuite. There are others, of course, but personally I’d advise you to use something that covers several social media platforms, not just one or two.
- Web Monitoring Tools
Finally, and probably most importantly, you want to know what the Internet is saying about your competitors. For this, you can take a look at various major news and review sites in your industry and see how often they mention your competitors vs you. One tool that can help you with this is Mention.
Step 6: Apply What You’ve Learned to Your Content Strategy
The whole idea of performing a competitive content marketing analysis is to see where your competitors are outperforming and where you need to step up your game, but also to see which opportunities they are missing that you can pounce on.
Some things you won’t be able to compete on. For instance, you may not have the resources and enough people in your content team to publish content every day, but you may be able to do create more in-depth content than they do and thus one-up them base on this.
Also, this analysis could also tell you that you need to spend more time on social channels and which channels in particular. Perhaps you need to spend more effort on Twitter or LinkedIn to catch up with your competitors, or get yourself on Google + before them.
The goal here, of course, is not to copy what works for your competitors (it may not work for you), but to use what you’ve learned to differentiate yourself and your content. Work even harder on those areas you are already good at and take advantage of those where you see an opportunity.
A competitive content marketing analysis is not a one-and-done thing. You need to do this at least every 3-4 months, if for nothing else, than to stay ahead of any content marketing trends. Only then will it have any real value that you can apply to your content strategy.
Are you performing a competitive content marketing analysis? Are there any steps that I’ve missed and you think are important? Let me know in the comments below.