Aaron Agius is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of the award-winning global marketing agency Louder.Online.
When done right, content marketing is an excellent digital strategy. But it’s easier said than done. If you’re struggling to take your content to the next level, you’re not alone.
According to a HubSpot report, the primary challenges facing content marketers include creating engaging content, reaching their target audience and finding new content ideas.
One underutilized way to solve these challenges is to analyze your competitors. What content insights can you gain by studying your competition? And how can you use those insights to improve the impact your content has internally and on your audience?
If you don’t know what the standards are for your industry, it’s hard to surpass them and create genuinely useful content. By analyzing several competitors in your sphere, you can gauge what kind of expectations your market has for content.
These standards—or benchmarks—can include:
• Word count: Look at the length of your competitors’ blog posts and articles. Are they crafting 3,000-word pieces? Or are they sticking to shorter content? Either possibility gives you hints about the market’s appetite.
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• Publishing frequency: Consider publishing at least as often as, preferably more than, your competitors. More content means more potential engagement.
To really understand how you might want to emulate your competitors, analyze several instead of just one. For example, only seeing one competitor write 1,000-plus-word blog posts doesn’t tell you much. But when you see that 10 other competitors are doing the same thing, you can be confident in that benchmark.
Discover Keywords To Consider
One of the most beneficial insights you gain from studying the competition is their keyword use. It can be tempting to focus on only the highest volume keywords in your industry. However, a competitive analysis can reveal hidden keyword opportunities.
Some long-tail keywords may be lower in search volume, but they are worth including in your content. Increasing your use of long-tail keywords provides more entry points into your content, expanding your reach and engagement. Keyword tools like Semrush and Ahrefs can help you identify what these keywords are.
If you notice a competitor is ranking higher than you for a particular keyword, do some deeper analysis. They might simply be including more long-tail keywords than you in their content.
Uncover Trends You’re Missing Out On
People naturally want to consume content from those who appear authoritative on the subject. One way to increase your authority and drive more repeat traffic is to be the first to publish content on new and exciting trends.
A quick evaluation of your competitors could tell you that you need to stay more up to date on trends in your industry. The earlier you cover an emerging topic, the better chance you have of creating a narrative that serves your content marketing strategy.
BuzzSumo is one great tool that allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of trends in your industry.
See Whether You’re On The Right Track
Imitation is a form of flattery. And while you might not like competitors stealing your mojo, there’s a plus side to it. If you notice that competitors are starting to copy your style, tone, content format or any part of your content strategy, that can tell you a lot. It could be a great sign that you’re on the right track with that particular aspect of your content.
For instance, say you noticed a gap in the market regarding a certain issue that’s important to your customers. Before you created your authority piece on the subject, almost none of your competitors had any content about it. After keeping tabs on your competition, you notice a plethora of blog posts spring up covering the exact same topic.
When multiple competitors adopt a new content strategy that you started, take it for what it is—a sign that you’re moving in the right direction.
Check Your Balance Of Information Vs. Persuasion
As a content creator, you have to strike a balance between education, engagement and action. Yes, it’s true that your content should primarily provide objective information. If you’re too salesy, you risk alienating your audience and destroying the trust you’ve built up.
At the same time, content ultimately has one goal—to help your business grow. And if no one is taking action after consuming your content, you need to adjust your strategy.
Look to competitors to see how they weave persuasion in with information. Do they link to their services in the middle of an otherwise information-rich blog post? Are they directing their audience to an email list? If so, what language do they use to achieve it?
By looking at the competition, you can learn a lot about how to tweak your content in a way that continues to serve your audience’s need for information while ensuring they take action toward working with you.
Find Potential Content Pivots
There’s likely at least one competitor who has figured out a certain content type or platform better than you. That’s okay, but you need to learn from it to avoid being left behind.
For instance, your blog posts may be getting thousands of page views a day, resulting in dozens of newsletter sign-ups. But what if your market is starving for more video content? Your competitor might be covering the exact same topic, but churning out YouTube videos every day—allowing them to feed the hungry market and direct them to their services instead of yours.
That’s why studying your competition is key. It tells you if you need more content, a more unique content angle or a different content approach altogether.
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Author: Aaron Agius, Forbes Councils Member