Marketing

How to Use Competitive Analysis to Build a Content Strategy

How to Use Competitive Analysis
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A competitive content analysis helps marketers understand the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunity gaps when it comes to competitors’ content marketing activity. A complete competitive content analysis looks at your competitors’ existing content, SEO, and product strategies so you can differentiate your brand’s content.

There’s a fine line when it comes to competitive content analysis. If you’re constantly checking out what the competition is up to so you can mimic them. You’ll never create anything unique. But you do need to know what they’re up to.

Therein lies the paradox to be unique and position yourself differently, you must first understand how your competition positions itself.

Learn how to analyze your competitors to identify their strengths and weaknesses — not so you can copy them — but so you can carve out a unique direction for your own content marketing. You’ll also be able to ask yourself all the important content strategy questions. Let’s get started!

How to conduct a competitive content analysis

Are your competitors targeting high-performing keywords you aren’t? Are they answering customer pain points with in-depth blog posts, FAQs, ebooks, and webinars?

Find out what they’re doing well so you can do it better with competitive content analysis. Follow the four steps below to create a comprehensive analysis for your brand to create a higher-performing content strategy.

Competitive Analysis

1. Analyze your competitors’ product strategies

Before looking at anything else, you must first understand your competitors’ products and target markets.

A common mistake many companies make during a competitive content analysis is assuming another company is competing for its audience. But just because they’re in the same market does not mean they are trying to attract the same customers.

For example, say you created the content strategy for an e-commerce company with a product that enables people to create online stores. You might assume the prominent companies in your industry are competitors simply because they have similar products.

But your mistake was assuming you’re going after the same customers. You created a content strategy by analyzing what those competitors did and tried to beat them at their game. They went after new non-technical and solo entrepreneurs.

What you should have done was focus on your strengths and differences. Eventually, you realized your product was meant for more technical peoplethe developers and designers who support e-commerce entrepreneurs. By focusing your content more on this audience, you quit playing on someone else’s battlefield and created your own ground.

The best way to analyze a competitor’s product is to actually use it. Buy it from them if you have to and go over their features. Look through their community forums to see what people are complaining about. You can also look at review sites that do product comparisons.

Analyze your competitors' content strategies

2. Analyze your competitors’ content strategies

Once you have identified who your real competitors are, look at their content strategy. If they’re targeting the same audience as you, you’ll want to understand how they are targeting them.

Your competitors probably address a small range of topics in their content. Usually, these topics are based on their strengths, the things their product does best.

There are two ways to combat this during your competitive content analysis:

  1. Attack their weaknesses by creating content that addresses the topics they aren’t. Attract the audiences they’re missing out on.
  2. Go after their strengths. Do this only if your product can beat them at those strengths. If you can’t, then downplay their strengths in your content and focus on yours.

Your competitors’ content diversity might vary, too. Some might focus solely on blog content, while others have big YouTube channels, podcasts, or webinars.

Look for opportunities to establish a presence on channels before your competitors do. If they aren’t on YouTube, get there first. If they’re not putting content on Instagram or making videos on TikTok, start putting content there and build a following. That doesn’t mean you should ignore your own blog. It just means that you need to expand faster to reach other audiences first.

Analyze your competitors' SEO strategies

3. Analyze your competitors’ SEO strategies

The next step in your competitive content analysis is to figure out what keywords your competition is targeting. What are they ranking for, and what are they not ranking for?

If your competitor has lodged itself firmly at the top for a certain keyword, it might be futile to try to dislodge them. But that doesn’t mean you cede those keywords to them.

Instead, start by attacking other keywords that they aren’t ranking for, and use that as a platform to help you take over keywords that they are ranking for.

Using the e-commerce company example again, imagine your competitor was firmly on top for high-competition keywords like “e-commerce platform.” Had you focused on that at the expense of easier keywords, you may not get anywhere near the first page.

So after your competitive content analysis, you worked the cracks and started ranking for keywords they ignored—but you also made sure those keywords were consistent with your product and the content you want to write.

Find out what your competitors are ranking for using a tool like SEMrush. It gives you a full list of keywords that are working for them and enables you to identify where you can beat them.

Put it all together

4. Put it all together

Now you have a clear idea of what audience your competitors are targeting, what features they’re touting, what content they’re creating, and what keywords they rank for.

But keep in mind that it’s not a good idea to let the competition dictate your strategy. You should already have a plan based on your company, product, and target audience.

Any information you’ve gained from your competitive content analysis should feed into this instead of dictating a new strategy.

Make a list of your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses in product, content, and keywords. Start by identifying what can be won with little effort, the weaknesses you can exploit, and address those in your content and SEO.

Once you’ve incorporated the low-hanging fruit into your plan, you can assess the feasibility of going after their strengths. Remember, sometimes it’s not worth trying to create content or rank for keywords that your competitors are well-known for.

The best strengths to go after are the ones your product can beat them at. The perfect combination is when they target a popular topic but aren’t ranking for those keywords, and their product does not address all the issues around that topic.

The topic’s popularity indicates that people care about that, which means you can swoop in with a better product and start to rank for those keywords.

Create a competitive content analysis spreadsheet

When you do all your research, put it together into a spreadsheet or document. This document doesn’t need to be updated too often, but it helps to check in every quarter to stay up to date on your competition. Use the information you gathered to modify or create a highly targeted and effective content strategy.

Remember, you want to be the leader in the industry. Exploit weaknesses and target content gaps others have missed, but don’t get sucked into copying your competitors’ strategies and playing catch-up.

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About the author

Sid Bharath

Sid Bharath is an entrepreneur, digital marketer and the VP of Growth at Thinkific. He is a regular contributor to the ClearVoice blog.