With so much content published online every day, how do you ensure that what you are saying stands out from the crowd?
Well, the easiest way is to find out what everyone else is saying and say something different.
The only way to do this is to carry out competitor research, analysing the content that is already out there relating to a specific topic relevant to your business.
By carrying out a competitive content audit, you will start to identify patterns in the content that most people are publishing, and this should hopefully allow you to pivot and bring in a new angle or something that is unique and bespoke to your business.
Of course, there are some things that simply cannot be written in a different way. If what you are talking about is factual, then there is no changing the facts. In these cases, you have to look at where you can add value, as it’s likely that you and your competitors will all be talking about the same facts.
So, what are the steps involved in carrying out a competitor content analysis?
The first thing to note is that this is not a quick job. This will be a time-consuming exercise if you want to do it properly, however, the insights you are able to gain from a deep competitor content audit should enable you to create unique content that is not only more engaging, but that also ranks well, driving organic traffic and brand awareness.
There are four main stages to completing a competitor content audit:
- Identify your competitors
- Identify and inventory all your competitors’ content
- Establish quality metrics and apply to all content
- Tag and analyse the content
Identify your competitors
Whilst this might seem like an obvious step, it is important to determine which competitors you are going to look at as part of this exercise.
Are you going to focus on your direct competitors (e.g. those brands that sell similar products and services to you), or are you going to take a more holistic view and look at the websites that are appearing in the top ten for the keywords you want to target?
Your approach will depend on your own content strategy. Do you already know the topics you want to talk about, or are you using this audit to help you to identify topics that are popular within your sector?
If it’s the former, then taking a holistic approach and looking at the search results for the topics you want to target, identifying the websites that rank well for those topics, could be your best approach.
If you are using this competitor content audit to help you to identify topics that you want to include in your own strategy, it makes sense to start out with your direct competitors and to find topics that are common.
Once you have established the topics that you want to talk about on your own site, then it might be time to take your analysis to the next stage and include some of the indirect competitors that are ranking for the topics that you are targeting.
Identify and inventory all your competitors’ content
Undoubtedly the most time-consuming element of this content audit will be identifying and inventorying all your competitors’ content.
For this to be the most comprehensive audit, you need to look across all platforms where your competitors are publishing content. Each content type provides a different insight that you can use to help to mould your own content strategy. You can get a sense of what topics work on which platforms and whether a particular topic performs better on one platform over another for example.
As well as identifying top-level topics, you can also use this stage to identify the keywords that are being targeted by your competitors. Look at the key elements within their content – page titles, headings, podcast titles etc as these will tell you the primary keywords that they are targeting.
The amount of content published by your competitors will differ from market to market, topic to topic, however, it is important to be exhaustive in this process if you want to get the most out of this audit and draw some real insights.
Content that should be considered includes:
- Blog posts
- Social media posts
From short-form content like social media posts and even blogs (although they are getting longer and longer) to long-form content such as whitepapers or webinars, taking stock of what your competitors are publishing and where will help you to learn more about the type of content that works and what doesn’t.
Establish quality metrics and apply to all content
Rather than this being a staged approach, you may choose to measure the quality of the content as you go rather than revisiting every piece of content after you have identified it all.
You need to establish some clear metrics that will help you to quickly and objectively rate the quality of the content your competitors are publishing. Use common metrics where possible and use tools to help you to rank things consistently. Try not to include subjective judgements of quality although this can be factored in if you are the only person carrying out the audit as it should be more consistent.
SEMrush is a great resource for analysing different types of content and we use it to pull down key metrics, especially when content is housed on a specific URL. Metrics such as links, authority, keyword rankings etc can all be found for individual URLs, and these can be consistent across web content.
For other content, metrics such as likes, shares, comments etc help to show the level of engagement with that specific content, good metrics for comparing not only competitors’ content on social but also comparing how social performs against other content types.
Once you have scored all your competitor’s content (as well as looking at the quantity of content they publish), you will be ready to move to the most important step – analysis.
Tag and analyse the content
Your goal in this competitor content audit is to find commonalities in your competitors’ content and identify the content marketing gaps that exist for your business. By tagging all the content you have identified, you can group that content together to see what is popular, what drives the most engagement and what is not working.
In order to analyse the content, you will need to consume as much as you can. You might not read each piece in depth or watch every minute of a webinar, but you do need to get a clear understanding of the content to understand why it works or why it doesn’t.
We would recommend prioritising the content you consume. Whether you do that by focusing on the most recently published post, or, using your scoring system, look at the best performing content, it doesn’t matter. As you consume the content, tag the piece with a topic or group of topics.
Once all the content is tagged, that’s when the analysis can begin. By grouping the content together using the tags you have created, you should be able to quickly see whether there are patterns in terms of the content that works and the content that does not hit the mark.
And remember this – just because a content topic hasn’t worked for a competitor(s) doesn’t mean it won’t work for you – maybe they were just covering that topic in the wrong way. Topic fails for your competitors, especially for high volume keywords, are opportunities for you.
When done well, a competitor content audit will act as a map to show you what works, what doesn’t work and how to differentiate your own content to make it stand out from the crowd.
A competitor content audit is not a “once and done” activity. Like you, your competitors are constantly publishing new content and it is much easier to keep on top of your auditing by locking it in as a weekly or monthly task to review the new content that has been published by your competitors.
The initial audit, if you have never done one before, will be extremely time-consuming, however, it will be worth it in the long run. By adding a task to regularly update that audit, you keep an ongoing record of what your competitors are doing, allowing you to gain insights into their content strategy and allowing you to differentiate your own to stand out from the crowd.
If a full competitor content audit is too daunting, maybe start out with 2-3 of your main, direct competitors and build out your audit from there. This can be a great way to gain insights from some of your leading competitors without having to spend too long on the research and analysis phase. Whilst this won’t generate the same level of insight, it will still provide you with a valuable snapshot of what is going on in the space and hopefully help you to differentiate your own strategy.