How to optimize your content strategy with a competitive analysis
It doesn’t matter if you’re starting from scratch or optimizing an existing content strategy: knowing, understanding, and following what your competitors do is essential to making decisions that really deliver results for your company.
And it’s important to note: we’re not talking about copying content that your competitors produce.
The idea here is to make the most out of the existing content production gaps in your market niche.
By the end of this article, you’ll understand how to do competitive analysis and develop action plans to help your company stand out as an authentic content producer that delivers value to its audience.
We will focus on 4 main topics:
- Understand who your real competitors are
- Document each competitor’s content strategy
- Analyze the quality of the contents
- Understand how to create competitive authorial content
Enjoy your reading!
Understand who your real competitors are
You certainly already have some names in mind, but this step requires a little more consideration.
Defining who your competitors are in your content strategy goes beyond mapping companies that compete directly for the same market as you.
Typically, companies that sell a product/service similar to yours are also competitors in content creation. After all, your competitors solve the pain of a very similar buyer persona.
But for a complete analysis of competition in a content strategy, you need to consider companies that create content targeted at the same persona as yours, even if the products/services themselves are not direct competitors.
These are your content competitors.
And where do you start to identify your competitors?
Well, the answer is at a place where we usually solve all our questions: on Google.
Search for the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel relevant terms for your buyer persona. Which companies stand out?
Take into account your direct competitors who are behind in content production. Even though they have little participation in search results, they compete for the same market share as you and deserve your attention.
At this stage, one tool that can help a lot is SEMrush. By doing a general analysis of the thinkwithgoogle.com domain, for example, this tool presents the main domains that compete for the same keywords.
This analysis shows the main content competitors of that domain, how many keywords they have indexed, and how many keywords other domains have in common with it.
SEMrush is a paid tool, but it offers a huge amount of information that can help you analyze your competitors. Therefore, it will appear other times in this post.
From these analyses, assemble your list of competitors with those you really need to monitor.
Document each competitor’s content strategy
This is the most operational step in the process. The time spent on it will vary greatly depending on your competitors’ level of investment in content.
It’s time to dissect the content strategy, and you must take the following items into account:
- type of content;
- amount of content;
- posting frequency;
- topics covered.
You can do this by using a spreadsheet in which you will record each data from a competitor to later facilitate your analysis.
A simple example of a table to track your results looks like this:
You can download our spreadsheet template here:
Directing the content to the sales funnel stage is very important for a content strategy; however, we will leave it out of this analysis.
A company must have materials from all stages of the funnel for every channel and topic, so this analysis will not bring great insights.
But remember: be sure to consider the funnel stage in your content strategy!
And how to analyze every aspect of a strategy? Let’s take it in parts.
Analyze which channels your competitor publishes content on.
It is important to find out:
- if they have more than one blog;
- if they publish rich material on their website;
- if they have a Youtube account;
- if they promote webinars (and where they broadcast them);
- if they produce exclusive material for some social network or any other communication channel that receives content.
SimilarWeb is a free tool that can help you understand which channels carry traffic to your competitor’s website.
It allows you to map any domain and gives information such as traffic (in a rough forecast), time on the website, pages per access, and the most relevant here: traffic sources.
Besides showing where a domain’s visitors come from, you can also view the sources separated by an area.
For example, you can see which specific social networks generate the highest traffic rate.
This will give you an overview of where your competitors operate and what specific niches they seek to reach.
Type of content
Map your competitor’s entire content production, seeking to identify what types of content are produced for each channel. Some of the most common are:
- blog posts;
- white papers;
- case studies;
Each of these has a strategic objective and understanding how your competitor distributes its content creation investments will show a little of their marketing plans.
Amount of content and posting frequency
Map how many contents your competitors have on each channel and how often they publish new articles.
To keep up with its releases, it is important to follow its social networks and monitor the blog and newsletters.
This monitoring will show how your competitor is directing its investments and efforts monthly.
Try to understand what topics your competitor addresses in the content. Think from a macro perspective, select broader topics, and divide them into more specific categories as much as possible.
Typically, companies focus their content production on topics that are relevant to their products/services.
As the first-relevant topics become exhausted, companies begin to produce content about their weaknesses or issues that are not directly related to their product.
In this analysis, SEMrush becomes very useful again. It allows you to evaluate which keywords your competitor ranks. By doing this, it is possible to identify the most addressed topics.
Here is an example of how such an analysis could be done at Think With Google domain:
You can organize keywords according to the position in search results your competitor occupies, search volume, trend, among other options.
This will show you a lot about the quality of the covered contents.
Analyze the quality of the contents
With all this data properly documented, it is time to move on to a more analytical part of the process. You need to evaluate the contents of your competitor, trying to fit them on a quality scale.
At this point, you may have an important question: what is quality content?
There is no perfect formula. Basically, we are talking about content that combines Content Marketing (strategic orientation and focus on the buyer persona’s pain), SEO (understanding Google and how it reads your text), good writing, and visual production (organized and appropriate for your buyer persona).
It is important to remember that a 500-word post can have as much quality as a 3,000-word ebook, just as a top of the funnel content can be as good as a bottom of the funnel content.
Quality does not come from size, but from how well a content meets the requirements we mentioned earlier.
SEMrush can help you evaluate the quality and relevance of content created by your competitor; after all, it shows you how Google sees the quality of content.
Look for the ranking of your competitor’s content and try to understand what leads you to appear or not among the best results for searches of keywords important to your business.
Another tip is to take into account the performance of the content on social networks.
Do the publication of each material generate engagement? Do people leave feedback in comments?
Set a standard of measurement. It can be a grade from 1 to 5, a scale that goes from low to high quality, in short: the important thing is to have a unique rating method.
This will be very important in the next stage of analysis.
Understand how to create competitive authorial content
If you have followed each of the above steps, you already have a lot of data about your competitors’ content strategy.
It’s time to cross-check and analyze them to understand how you can optimize your content strategy based on your strengths and differences.
Your analysis should start from a few crucial points, but it can be extended in several ways.
We’ve listed the most important analyses to do and what optimizations you can make to your content strategy based on them.
Quantity of content X Topic X Quality
Perhaps this is the most valuable analysis in a content assessment.
Understanding how deep your competitor approaches each topic will show you how they organize their investment priority within their strategy.
You’ll be able to see which topics they understand to be the most important to generate opportunities, and which they consider secondary.
This analysis will show you several content topic gaps that you can explore to gain visibility and authority online.
And most importantly, you can identify topics that your competitor generates a lot of content, but aren’t being produced with great quality.
This is an opportunity to invest in better content that competes for the highest place in search engines.
When looking at the results of this analysis, be sure to always compare it with what you do.
Differences in thematic focus say a lot about how the company sees its competitive strengths and will provide insights into what areas you should focus your content production on.
Clearly, assessing your chances of competing for a topic can maximize your odds of generating results with your content.
Topic x Quality analysis is essential to generate insights. Luckily, SEMrush allows you to do this quite easily. By comparing two domains, you can visualize:
Keywords that you compete directly:
Keywords that your competitor ranks and you don’t:
Keywords that you rank and your competitor doesn’t:
Never lose sight of your strengths concerning the competitor. How is your product/service better than theirs?
This will be an important guide when defining the priority topics in your strategy.
Quantity of content X Channel
This analysis will show you how important each channel is to your competitor. The choice of a communication channel is part of the persona’s demand, not the other way around.
Map out which channel your competitor is leaving aside and assess whether it is a content creation opportunity. Always remember that this same channel has to be relevant to your buyer persona. You need to be where your ideal client will find you.
Also, look for channels where you compete directly with your competitor, but could invest more effort to get ahead and get more traffic and relevance.
The frequency of posting per channel can show how your competitor is directing its efforts in shorter periods.
Amount of content X Type of content
What content formats do your competitors prioritize? Which ones do they let through?
The answer to these questions can be found through this evaluation.
Try to understand why some formats are prioritized over others, and how you can take advantage of the types of content your competitor does not produce.
Also, try to understand whether the types of content your competitor produces are aligned with the channels selected, and how you can use the channels you have as a differential to get ahead.
Map out which channel your competitor is leaving aside and assess whether it is a content creation opportunity.
If you can, put the quality factor into this analysis.
Understanding where your competitor’s major production efforts are can help you understand which types of content generate the most value for your buyer persona and, therefore, should be prioritized.
Frequency X Topic
This analysis will show you how your competitor divides its content production among each topic.
Understanding which topic they focus on can indicate strategic directions they intend to take their business in and issues that have received little attention.
When various new contents have a clear focus on a topic, your competitor may be trying a volume-generating strategy to gain first positions for that topic.
This can be valuable information for you to be aware of and invest in protection for your already ranked articles.
If an important topic is “forgotten,” try to understand why.
Does your competitor already rank well for this subject, or have they merely preferred to direct their efforts to other topics?
These are four examples of simple analyses, but they can bring a lot of information about your competitors’ content strategy, as well as ideas for optimizing your own content production.
An important activity for some niches is to keep up with foreign content competitors. In some markets, innovations and trends start in Europe or Asia before becoming popular in USA.
Even if you don’t usually compete for the same visibility space as your competitors, knowing which topics are being covered, which channels are being used, and which content strategy is being applied can put you in a leading position in your market.
There are several other analyses that you can do to determine how your competitors think and execute their content production. The important is to have in mind how competitive analysis can help your content strategy.
Once you periodically track how they execute the strategy, you’ll have the ability to make decisions more aligned with your company’s strategic goals.
Do you want to know more about how to make your brand stand out in the market? Sign up for our webinar with expert Mark Organ, on August 25th, where we will discuss brand positioning, content experience, and much more!