Need an Edge? Do A Content Marketing Competitive Analysis

“Business is competitive.” No kidding, right? And so is marketing. Content marketing, in particular, is ferociously competitive.

Just consider the graphic below. It shows how many pieces of content are created every minute of every single day.

That’s what your content is competing with.

No wonder we’re all a little stressed. And no wonder why everybody wants an edge.

So get one. There are plenty of ways to steal – ethically – from your competitors.

Here’s how:

1. See which content of theirs has performed best.

Head over to BuzzSumo. Paste in the URL of your competitor’s website, or perhaps their blog.

See which pieces of their content have performed best.

Like this:

What you’re gonna steal here are ideas for your own blog posts and other content. So if they’ve written a very popular post about “un-welcoming” squirrels, for instance, that might be a topic you could try for your blog. Or maybe for an ebook.

2. See who’s been sharing their content.

Content promotion is super important. We all need to be doing more of it. But just broadcasting out to the world about your latest piece isn’t very effective. What you really need to do is to find the people who would love your stuff.

BuzzSumo is good for that, too. Next to every article in the BuzzSumo listing is a button that says “View Sharers.”

Click that … and guess what you’re gonna see?

This view works best for pieces of content that have gotten a lot of shares – like 300 or more. But it’s still worth your time. With just an hours worth of research, you could create a nice list of potential influencers to share your content with.

3. See who’s been linking to them.

One last trick with BuzzSumo before we move on. Just like you can see who’s shared someone’s content, you can see who’s linked to their content. (To be fair, there are dozens of other tools that will show you inbound links.)

Clearly, this can be very valuable for link building. If a website owner was interested enough in a particular type of content to link to it, they might be open to another link suggestion. So spend some time on their site to find a place where your content would really benefit their users. Then shoot them an email suggesting the link.

Or even better: Create a useful little infographic (something simple) and offer it to them to use on a particular page. All you’ll ask in return is a link back to your site.

4. Snitch their pages’ keywords.

Be careful here: Don’t just dive in and grab a competitor’s keywords without thinking. Even if they’re in your business, that doesn’t necessary mean their keywords automatically are right for you.

But it sure can be enlightening to see which words they’re using.

You can check a competitor’s keywords in two basic ways: by hand, or with a tool.

To see their keywords by hand, just choose “View source” in your browser when you’re looking at one of their pages. For Firefox or Chrome on a Mac, it’s Command-U. For Windows, it’s Control-U.

You’ll see something like this:

If you want to do this on an industrial scale, use SpyFu (or any of the other keyword snooping tools). It’ll give you a dizzying array of information.

Like this:

And this:

Actually, if you haven’t used a tool like this yet on your competitors, hold on to your chair. You’ve just hit the jackpot.

5. Snitch the keywords they’re bidding on.

SpyFu doesn’t just do organic keywords. They can show you which keywords your competitors are bidding on. And for how long they’ve been bidding on them. And for how much, and with which ad copy.

Actually, if I were still managing PPC, I wouldn’t even consider doing it without this kind of information. Pay per click is just too expensive to be bidding blindly. Tools like this can save you a chunk of your budget every month.

6. Get all their backlinks, too.

Yep – SpyFu does this. But so do tools like Moz, Majestic, SemRush, Raven, and others. You’d be crazy to do much link building without this information.

7. Follow the people they’re following on social media.

Many of their followers will follow you back. And so you will have very quietly (but effectively) nabbed part of their social media audience.

Clever you.

Bonus tip: In sales? See who your fellow salespeople are following. Often they’re trying to develop relationships with potential accounts.

8. See where their traffic is coming from.

Even the free version of SimilarWeb will give you a spooky amount of information about someone’s site. My favorite view is the traffic sources, but you can get information on everything from referring sites to paid traffic to their mobile app activity.

Seeing which social media platform is driving the most traffic for them is interesting, too:

9. Invite their freelancers to work for you.

This one doesn’t get talked about so often, but it’s definitely going on.

As you know, content creation is something most content marketers struggle with. And finding good freelancers is hard.

So if your competitor happens to hire freelancers (and gives them bylines, so you know who they are), then that might be an opportunity for you.

Many companies up the ante on this, of course. They actively seek to hire their competitors’ best talent.

10. Set up a listening station.

We get so focused on our competitors, sometimes we forget about their customers. Those customers are, after all, potential prospects. They’re kind of the point of all this work.

Setting up a listening station can help you understand those customers better. It can be very interested to learn what your competitors’ customers think of them. Or what they think of anything else, for that matter.

For example:

  • Are there particular features of your competitors’ services that their customers really love?
  • Do their customers have a common gripe about the company?
  • Do their customers share any interest? Could you spin any of those interests into some content to attract these prospects?
  • Do they have enthusiasm for any third parties, or causes? Perhaps there are some partnership opportunities for you.

You can set up a listening station with a few free Google Alerts. Mention is a good tool, too. It starts at $29 a month after the free trial.

A word about the accuracy of online tools

Be a little skeptical about the information you get from any online tool. Many of them are excellent (of course), but honestly, most of them are only guestimates. Excellent guestimates, but still …

Where you can, try to compare the information different tools give you. It can be interesting to see how one tool says a site is getting, say, 200,000 visitors a month, but another tool says they’re only getting about 50,000 visitors. Look for comparisons rather than relying on specific measurements.

Does this make your job harder? Yup. But it will save you some embarrassment. It’s tough when you make an expensive strategy decision based on the information from one tool, only to learn later that the data was … squishy.

Again – most of the time, these tools are great. Just be careful about “betting the farm” on what they tell you.

Conclusion

We don’t talk about it much, but there’s a hard truth in marketing: Most of what you do isn’t going to work.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new tactics (not only should you try new stuff, but, actually, you have to try new stuff). It does mean that you need to be prepared to attempt different things, test them, and then move on quickly if they don’t work. To “fail fast,” in other words.

The trouble is, there are hundreds of things to try. More than you’ll ever be able to get to. Using a little competitive analysis can help you winnow down the list of which tactics to try. If something’s working well for your competitors, it’s no guarantee it’ll work for you … but the odds are good it might.

Back to you

Do you do any competitive research for your marketing? What’s your favorite trick? Share your secret (even just a little bitty one) in the comments.

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