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Ways Your Competitors Can Help Improve Your Content Strategy

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Melissa Fach updated
Ways Your Competitors Can Help Improve Your Content Strategy

Recently, #SEMrushchat discussed ways your competitors can help improve your content strategy with guest Erika Heald. The discussion offered many insights on the mistakes businesses often make and the different critical factors they forget to examine. Our community offered excellent advice and strategies any agency, consultant, or business can use. 

Check out the answers our community offered below, and please share your thoughts in the comments. 

Before starting a competitor content analysis, how do you determine which kinds of information you should be looking for?

The basics:

  • You need to know who your online competitors are and how they rank compared to you. 
  • You need to know the keywords and intent you want to rank for and the current competition for those phrases. 

Competitor Research

The truth most people are unaware of all of their online competitors. I recommended placing your site in Market Explorer to get a good view of online competition:

Market explorer data

You may know the leaders, but with this growth quadrant data, you can see which sites are growing fast that you need to keep an eye on. 

Keyword Gap Analysis

A gap analysis will show you side by side the keyword rankings you rank for vs. your competitor. You can also see which keywords you are missing, the keywords you need to work on, your strongest rankings, untapped keywords and more. 

Keyword ranking gap data

Let's see what our experts had to say:

Lily Ray — "Look at the search results to determine how feasible it even is to rank, how we should structure our content, tone/sentiment analysis, what featured/rich snippets we can earn, and whether to focus on informational and/or transactional content."

Brian Kato — "I typically start off creating personas for my ideal customer. This helps me narrow down competitors that are both direct and indirect to my niche without getting caught up in analysis paralysis."

Pair Networks — "First, you have to know your customers. Where are they going for the information you don't provide? Which of your competitors provide that info? Second, you have to know where to find subject matter experts who can provide that information in a better way."

Marianne Sweeny — "Where they rank for focus keyword phrases is an indication of their authority. Deconstruct the ranking page for topic representation, content relationships with internal and external contextually related pages. How does your page on same topic compare?"

Erika Heald — "Before you can know what information to collect in a competitor content audit, you need to start by defining your goals. What is it that you hope to learn from your audit? What channel(s) are you looking to improve? What are some overlooked channels?"

Express Writers — "Set goals first. If you're going to be analyzing your competitors, figure out what you're hoping to gain from it beforehand so you know what to look for. This way, you'll have a clear focus and will be less likely to get distracted."

Read How to Steal Your Competitors’ Traffic with Content Gap Analysis

What are the essential steps to do a content audit of your competitors?

No kind of audit should take place without a detailed list of the information needed. What you need to know will determine how you will obtain the data. Below you will see a lot of good ideas from our chat participants, but if you need more ideas and a solid plan, I suggest you read The Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting a Content Audit in 2020

Nerissa Marbury — "1) Gather competitor's content. 2) Categorize the content and utilize available data to gauge popularity. 3) Develop a competitor customer profile. 4) Find gaps in competitor content and competitor customer's wants. 5) Modify your strategy."

Pair Networks — "1) Identify competitors to audit. 2) Identify the competitor's content channels with the most consistent engagement. 3) Analyze the problem most consistently solved by the content. 4) Analyze the technical aspects of the content."

ThinkSEM — "Know which competitor(s) content you're assessing: website vs PPC landing pages; Instagram or Pinterest, etc. Know what you're auditing for: blog comments? Twitter RTs? SEO best practices? Essential to know you'll never know conversion data."

Kyle Whigham — "Identify which pieces of content are driving engagement, be it traffic (estimated of course), likes, shares, etc. Social signals send a clear message as far as what your shared audience finds valuable and interesting."

John Gibbings — "1) Isolate Competitors by Intent. 2) Run a Content Gap! -> Where do your competitors have visibility, where you don't? -> Are their sub-niches among competitors? -> What services of yours are at risk, with competitors edging in on your visibility?"

content audit workflow

Is there an instance where looking at your competitor’s content strategy to help yours wouldn’t work? 

Lauren Osselton — "It depends on context. I think looking at competitors' content strategy never hurts, but you need to remain agile and adaptable. Remember your brand is unique and while ideas from competitors help, you ultimately want to create your own path and values."

ThinkSEM — "Of course! You can analyze all you want, but unless you've got the inside track you'll never know a competitor's CONVERSION data, which is ultimately what signals successful content. Without that, even the best analysis tools are just guessing."

Carlos Castro — "It may be the case that your competitors are performing well but they are not taking the full audience needs into consideration and if you only rely on your competitor's analysis, you'll be missing a huge opportunity of improvement."

Bridget @ G2 — "There's a time and a place to take risks with your content - differentiate and disrupt." 

Webeo Global — "If your target audience is different, it will definitely have an impact. If you are posting the same content you will not see any benefits at all, prospects and clients will get bored reading the same thing."

Melissa Fach — "One reason I didn't cheat on tests in high school was that I didn't trust that other people actually studied hard enough. I don't do that with content analysis either. I just gather insights."

Analysis Resources: 

What is the #1 thing that brands need to know to attract their target customers with content marketing?

Kyle Whigham — "Don't throw things at the wall and hope something sticks! Use audience insights (ie from social pages) to understand your audiences demographics, their wants, needs, interests, pain points, and their objectives in following you." 

Stevie Howard — "I am still always shocked at how often I have to say this... DEMOGRAPHICS. Seriously, the difference of 10 years or region can mean very different marketing strategies. Know ABOUT your audience!" 

Brian Kato — "Be genuine. People see through brands that only pitch their product or promote themselves. Take a vested interest in the needs of your audience." 

Erika Heald — "A brand is never going to be able to attract their ideal customers with content marketing if they don't understand WHO their customers are, WHAT their unique challenges and needs are, and WHY customers choose them to meet those needs or not." 

Itamar Blauer — "You have to know what your audience are searching for. There's no point creating content that is irrelevant to the customer's intent. User intent is key, people!" 

Lead Forensics — "Content about common challenges that your customers face or issues within your industry. Create trustworthy content and advice for prospects and clients- all businesses need evergreen content." 

content value proposition

Additional Reading: 

Once you identify your competitors, what are some of the most important content-related metrics you will be comparing across the board?

Thom Craver — "It better be whatever your money-making KPI is. Typical top KPIs, depending on your vertical are sales conversions, lead gen or ads revenue on pageviews. Of course, don't overlook assist visits along a long path to conversion."

Nerissa Marbury — "Backlinks is one area as it will tell you where the competitor is getting mentions. This could spark ideas on where you can seek mentions too. Keywords is another. Knowing the terms attracting the desired audience and ranking." 

Netvantage Marketing — "Different types of content will have different metrics. If it's an educational piece, does it get engagement and shares? If it has a CTA does it lead to product clicks? Etc. Picking metrics depends on the content's goals. " 

John Gibbings — "With Google reducing SERP inclusion down to two pages, I feel that content cannibalization will become a real thing again. I was fine owning more real-estate to push down the other guys, but fairness has been redefined. Build for the Cornerstone." 

Bridget @ G2 — "Push past the vanity metrics for long-term success with content. For example, time on page is often forgotten but it's major." 

Read Content Marketing ROI: How to Measure Your Success.

Thank You to All of Those That Shared Their Insights

Each week, I participate in and watch the SEMrushchats looking for great minds and fantastic tweets that offer expert-level insights to our blog readers. Please keep sharing your strategies and opinions. Don't miss SEMrushchat every Wednesday, at 11 AM ET/3 PM GMT.

Additional Reading: 

Melissa Fach

Either just recently joined or is too shy to say something.

US Personality of the Year 2017 Winner and die-hard Star Wars fan. Herder of cats. Non-cook. Find me on Twitter @SEOaware.
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