It's not always easy to know where your competitors are acquiring links from, but it is easy to understand the type of content they are developing in the hopes of deepening customer engagement and soliciting new business.
One of the simplest tactics, and an area that every business should have someone within their marketing or business develoment departments responsible for, is to analyze the content strategy of competitors. Let's learn a little about how to identify content sources, extract meaningful data and keep track of others within your industry in Website Magazine's Complete Guide to Competitive Content Analysis.
Identify Content Sources
All of your competitors - on the search engine results pages and social media destinations - produce content, although some of them do it more regularly than others. If you're not aware of who your competitors are, you should learn - and fast.
To do this, conduct queries related to the content you are optimizing and take note of who - not what, at least not yet - you find. You'll likely find more than just your direct competitors, but also those catering to the community around certain industries including forums, blogs, etc.
Extract Meaningful Data
Once you find the content you are looking for, and the content that is most likely being consumed by your prospective users and/or buyers, you need to extract the important data. This is done simply by making note of what content items are the most popular.
Most blogs and forums do this for you in the form of listing the most popular posts, showing activity counts and the like. Building out a spreadsheet with this information is an important step in your content marketing success. How else would you know what to write about - and how to improve on what your competitors are doing - if you don't know what is already working and what's not?
Get Connected and Stay Connected
It's not uncommon for our collective egos to get in the way when doing a competitive content analysis. When is the last time you said you wouldn't "like" your competitors' Facebook page or join their blog community? It was probably fairly recently, and that's a big mistake.
When you are virtually connected to the competition, you are in the best position to know just as much as they do about the comings and goings within your shared industry and the people who buy your products and use your services. When you are able to keep your enemies close, victory is much easer to attain.
Monitor the Content Landscape
Content is the virtual life force flowing through the digital pipes of the Web. Every website, from retailers to independent bloggers and every service and software company in between, publishes content.
The issue is that many don't publish enough content and even fewer produce high-quality content that engages users by educating them on the use of a service, informing them of existing trends as they relate to a service or product, or entertaining and elightening them with stories from the front lines. A handful of top-tier sites do, however, and it is to those sites (perhaps your competitors) that you must turn to understand their strategies for producing content.
If you find that you are not producing content of a certain type or variety that your competitors are, you had better fire up your keyboard and get busy. For it's only through content (which leads to deeper social connections) that you will be able to secure your future as a successful Web company. Below are the three types of content to which you should be paying the closest attention.
In my personal experience, those Web companies that put the education of their users first are the companies that continue to separate themselves from the competition day after day. It's not a coincidence that our recent article on Knowledge Base Optimization was so well received.
Search engines know that users want that content (and spend a lot of time searching for it and consuming it). The more educational content you have featured in the form of frequently-asked-questions sections, step-by-step tutorials and even community-based forums, the better you'll be positioned to capitalize on very high-converting long-tail traffic.
Content production does not need to focus exclusively on education. There is also a very significant opportunity in producing broader, information-based content. For example, if your product or service addresses some general trend occurring in the consumer marketplace, why not have those within your enterprise develop opinion pieces that share their viewpoints?
If there is a news event that has shaped and defined your industry, regular blog posts are ideal ways to capture the attention of users seeking this information. And, on the real-time search results pages, it is a virtual blessing if you are able to produce this kind of content regularly and ahead of your competitors.
Educating users about a product or service, and information on the why related to the need or want for purchasing that product or service is important, but it's likely not what will encourage users to stay or return. To achieve that elusive virtual nirvana, website owners must show a little personality and honestly express themselves. Whether through video, images or personal stories, the companies that show their true colors are the ones that have an easier time building a loyal base of customers.
In the end, what you should look for when conducting a content analysis of your competitors is the type of content they are producing, how much and how often. Adjusting the content percentages is the way to drive higher quality visits repeatedly.