Most consumers, especially millennials, are fed up with marketing messages that feel like sales pitches. They prefer authentic, relevant, and consistent content from brands.
In fact, 84% of consumers expect brands to provide valuable, entertaining, and solution-driven content through storytelling. This indicates how important it is for brands to create and distribute great content.
Content marketing has a lot of potential to engage customers, build trust and credibility, increase sales, and grow your business.
However, you need to have a solid content marketing strategy in place to get the best results. And one of the best ways to draft one is through in-depth competitive analysis.
Before I talk about how competitive intelligence can boost your content marketing strategy, let’s take a closer look at what it is.
What is Competitive Intelligence?
Competitive intelligence refers to research about your competitors that helps you with crucial insights to outperform them.
When you research your competitors, you can find useful information to plan your marketing strategies effectively and help your business grow faster.
Researching your competition includes, but is not limited to social listening, focus groups, and identifying their key customers and product features.
How Competitive Intelligence Can Help You Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy
If you want to plan an effective marketing strategy, knowing who your competitors are is important. And it is even more important to know exactly what your competitors are doing.
If you analyze their marketing strategies and see what they are doing right and where they are failing, you can use those insights to your advantage.
You can easily identify opportunities where you can outperform your competitors by using great content. You can also identify the areas where you need to put in more effort and resources.
Although this can be difficult and time-consuming, it can help you create a truly effective content marketing strategy.
Let’s take a look at how you can use competitive intelligence to improve your content marketing strategy.
1. Identify Who Your Real Competitors Are
First things first. You need to identify your competitors in the industry, both direct and indirect ones.
Businesses that sell or market the same products as you do are your direct competitors.
Then there are some businesses or publishers that might not sell or market the same products, but they might be your competition online. They might be publishing content in your niche and competing with you for the same keywords. These are your indirect competitors.
In both cases, they compete to grab the attention of your target audience. So you need to outrank and outperform them if you want to be successful.
Identifying your competitors isn’t that complicated. Here are a few ways to go about it:
Conduct Market Research
It can help you find businesses who sell the same or similar products as your business. You can then take a closer look at their products and marketing strategies.
Monitor Online Community Forums and Social Media
You can also monitor the conversations of your customers and prospects in forums like Quora. This can help you identify your competitors. This is because many buyers seek product recommendations on such forums and social channels.
Conduct Keyword Research
A competitive SEO analysis can help you spot businesses and websites that compete for the same space in search results.This is the best way to identify your indirect competitors who play a crucial role in influencing your buyers’ decisions.
Thankfully, you don’t need to do it all manually. There are tools like SEMrush that will give you a complete list of your competitors.
Image via SEMrush
Compare Your Audiences
You can use tools like Alexa’s Audience Overlap tool to find your competitors. This tools reviews your audience and allows you to see a list of websites that have a similar audience.
You can further narrow down this list by choosing to view only those sites that have similar traffic levels as yours.
Image via Alexa
Once you know who your competitors are, you can then dive into their content marketing strategies so you can outperform them.
2. Analyze Their Content Performance
Your competitors target the same audience as you. But what you need to know is how they target them.
First of all, see where their content lives and what types of content they publish. For this, you should check where they publish their content. Check if they have multiple blogs or use content syndication platforms and monitor their social channels for shares.
You may find various types of content such as blog posts, ebooks, videos, infographics, webinars, podcasts, newsletters, FAQs, case studies, and press releases.
Once you’ve discovered your competitors’ content, it’s time to analyze the performance of their content. This will help you evaluate the efficiency of their content marketing strategy. You can also find opportunities to outperform them.
Check their content for:
See how many blog posts your competitor has published. Also, keep track of their case studies, ebooks, and other content formats. This will help you analyze if you’re well-suited to tackle the competition or if you’ll need a bigger content creation team to compete.
You should also consider tracking how often your competitors publish fresh content or update old posts. This will help you get a clear picture of their present content marketing strategy and efforts.
Distribution of Topics
Once again, you can use keyword research to identify the focus keywords your competitors use and the key topics they discuss. Determine the topics they primarily target in their content marketing strategy.
This will help you find topics that they have built their expertise in and also the topics that they aren’t capitalizing on.
You have two choices here. You can create content around topics that your competitors aren’t focusing on. This will help you attract audiences that they might be missing out on. Or, you can choose to compete with them on the topics that are their strengths.
It’s equally important to know how good their content is. A few factors that can help you evaluate their content quality include accuracy, grammatical errors, language, long-form or short-form content, and readability.
Check how well they optimize their content for search results. You can do this easily by looking for keywords in their page titles, URLs, heading tags, main content, and image alt texts.
Another metric to analyze the quality of their content is based on how readers interact with it. See which topics resonate the most with your target audience. Look for metrics like reading time, social engagement, likes, shares, and comments (positive or negative).
You can use tools like BuzzSumo to identify your competitors’ top-performing content in terms of engagement.
Image via BuzzSumo
Understanding which type of content works well with your audience and which doesn’t can make things easier for you.
You can leverage the insights from competitive content analysis to improve your content marketing strategy. Create content that best fits your audience’s interests, needs, and preferences. This will allow you to grab their attention and eventually convert them into loyal customers.
3. Look for Sites that Link to Your Competitors
To gather more insights for your content marketing strategy, you should look for sites that link to your competitors.
Image via Ahrefs
You can filter this list by the sites that link most frequently to your competitors. Check their Domain Authority.
When you know which sites link to your competitors, you can improve your link building strategy. You can use these insights to spot backlink opportunities that you might be missing.
Treat all the authoritative sites that link to your competitors (but don’t link to you) as your next link building targets.
Also analyze the type of content that has helped your competitors to be mentioned on a site. It could be a roundup post, guest post, blog comments, listicle, or media coverage.
You can also pitch similar content ideas to the linking site. This will increase your chances of getting featured on them.
4. See Who Amplifies Their Content on Social Media
In this digital age, social media has become a crucial part of every content marketing strategy. So you need to monitor how your competitors are using social media.
Determine the social media sites that your competitors leverage such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Pinterest.
Not all social sites may be relevant to your niche. But if your competitors leverage a particular social networking site creatively and effectively, you can use it too.
For each social media network, analyze:
- The number of followers they have
- The kind of content they post
- Their frequency of posting on social media
- How their fans interact and engage with their content
- If they have partnered with any social influencers to increase their content’s reach
All of this information will help you create a strong content marketing strategy for social media. It can help you identify the best social media channels for your niche. You can quickly outperform your competitors by finding areas they might be missing out on.
5. Don’t Copy Your Competitors
Now that you have gathered all of these insights, you should use them effectively to boost your content marketing strategy. You should learn from the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors to improve your overall content performance.
However, you should never copy their content as it can do you more harm than good.
If you lag behind your competitors, find opportunities where you can easily beat them. Take steps to address the issues in your current content marketing strategy. Fix all such issues to ensure that you make the most out of your time and resources.
You should also consider conducting a competitive content analysis on a quarterly basis. If your competitors experiment with their content marketing strategy more actively, you can conduct an analysis more frequently.
Competitive intelligence can help you identify useful insights related to the content marketing efficiency of your competitors. You can then leverage the insights from your analysis to grow your business.
But don’t let your competitors define everything for you. Using competitive intelligence should be only one part of your overall content marketing strategy. For the rest, focus on what differentiates you from all others in your niche.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant who specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic, and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.