When done right, content marketing is an excellent digital strategy. But it’s easier said than done. If you’re struggling to take your content to the next level, you’re not alone. According to a HubSpot report, the primary challenges facing content marketers include creating engaging content, reaching their target audience, and brainstorming new content ideas.
One underutilized way to solve these challenges is to analyze competitors. If you're setting up or revamping your content strategy, doing a deep dive of this nature is important to not only orient yourself in your market but to also determine what opportunities you have to easily outperform your competitors with content -- and where you need to put in more effort and resources. So grab your list of competitors, put your spy goggles on, and get ready to overtake the competition!
Step 1: Find Where Content Lives
Begin by performing a website audit of your competitors with the aim of determining where content is housed on their sites. This is the quickest part of the content analysis and sets you up to perform the next steps more easily, but requires the most "poking around" to find what you're looking for.
Start by visiting the site's navigation. Click through each item in the navigation to see if there is a sub-navigation that leads to content assets you would want to note. When you've completed this step, return to the site's homepage and continue to scroll to see if there are any other places content would be housed that weren't in the main or sub-navigation.
Finally, visit the footer of the homepage for good measure. The bigger the site, the more likely it is you'll encounter important content repositories in this section of the navigation.
Step 2: Perform a Content Audit
Now that you know where content is on your competitor's site, it's time to begin the content audit. This is the most time-consuming part of your competitive content analysis, but it will give you the best indication of how you stack up against their content creation efforts.
There are three things you'll want to take note of in your audit: quantity, frequency, and distribution.
- Quantity - How many blog posts have this competitor published? What about case studies, whitepapers, ebooks, etc.? This will help you gauge whether you're up against a formidable content arsenal, or whether you're at an equal stage (or further along!) than your competitor.
- Frequency - Do your competitors publish blogs twice per month? Twice per week? What about how frequently they come out with a new ebook? Not everything will have a publish date on it, but do your best to gauge their publishing frequency for each content asset type so you know how active their current efforts are.
- Distribution - This is the item that does not need to be broken down by content asset type, but you certainly may if you find it helpful. Your aim here is to determine where and how they are distributing their content so you can find opportunities they aren't capitalizing on.
Step 3: Evaluate Content Quality
Now comes the subjective component of your analysis. Select a few different samples of content assets from what your competitor publishes and evaluate how good that content actually is. Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating content quality:
- How accurate is their content?
- How in-depth does the content go -- does it just scratch the surface at an introductory level, or does it go into advanced concepts?
- What tone do they adopt in their content?
- Is their content structured in a readable way?
- Who is writing their content? Do they have multiple contributors?
- Is their content largely gated, free, or a mix?
- Do their readers share and interact with the content?
Step 4: Is it Optimized for SEO
The effectiveness of your competitor's content hinges not only on the quality and frequency of publishing but also on how well it’s optimized for search. You can perform a more qualitative assessment of your competitor's SEO by evaluating how keywords are used in their content. You can also, however, make use of several free and paid tools out there that help you more comprehensively evaluate your competitors' search engine optimization. These tools will help you to perform a gap analysis to determine where your competition may be outranking you, and where you may need to improve your efforts to gain traction for specific keywords.
Step 5: Apply Your Findings
Now that you've gathered all of this information, what exactly should you do with it? How do you use your diligent detective work to update your own content strategy?
By knowing where you stand alongside your competitors' content creation efforts, you can decide what you need to do just to keep pace, and then to surpass them. When you not only know who is beating you in the content game, but why and how they are beating you, you can take steps to address the specific issue instead of wasting precious resources trying to fix something in your content strategy that may not be broken.
You should monitor all of your top competitors on an annual basis, but if your competitors are quite active, a quarterly evaluation may be the best option.
Need Help Getting Started?
The market is a crowded and highly competitive place, but that shouldn't keep your business from reaching success. If you are struggling to analyze your competitors and find the gap in the noise that you need to make your business well-known, you may need a team of marketing gurus. Through a lot of research and industry know-how, our team can help you hone in on what your competition is up to, and provide the strategies and methods you need to surpass them.