Whether you like it or not, content marketing is a fierce landscape.
You can’t just mind your own business, be tunnel-visioned on your campaigns, and hope for the best. If you want your brand to make a dent in your niche, you need to be relentless.
In this post, we’ll talk about the top strategies that will help you uncover your top competitors’ content marketing strategies and claim them as your own.
Why Do Competitor Research?
You may be wondering, why on earth would you want to copy the content marketing strategies of your competitors?
Here’s the thing: even if you’re a seasoned marketer with years of experience under your belt, starting over in a new niche will involve truckloads of research.
What keywords could rake in profits? Which types of content appeal to your target audience?
Guess what, you don’t have to comb through tons of resources if you can simply spy on your competitors.
All the information you need will be consolidated into one location — no number-crunching and head-scratching required.
Then, without further ado, here are four competitor research strategies that will show you everything you need to know.
1. Start with Keywords
Performing keyword research in competitive analysis accomplishes two things.
In addition to providing you with lucrative keyword ideas for your content, it’ll also help you identify your top competitors in terms of Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
If, however, you already have a batch of target keywords in your sights, you can go ahead and give them a whirl on Google. This should quickly reveal the top competitors you should analyze.
Suppose you run a blog that reviews web hosting companies. The keyword “best web hosting companies” should lead you to the cream-of-the-crop brand in your niche.
If you don’t have a list of target keywords handy, a tool like Keyword Explorer by Moz should point you in the right direction.
By typing in a seed keyword, you’ll be presented an analysis page where you can view crucial metrics, such as the monthly search volume and keyword difficulty.
The “SERP Analysis” panel should show you a list of the top competitors you should include in your analysis.
Keyword Explorer will also show you a list of keyword suggestions that will help you branch out and identify more competitors. While you’re at it, you should also look for viable, long-tail keyword variations that have lower difficulty ratings and more commercial intent.
2. Observe their Design Elements
Now that you have a clear idea of who your top competitors are, it’s time for a quick recon.
By visiting their site, you should be able to identify standout design elements that capture the audience’s attention.
Elements like a search bar, an explainer video, live chat functionality, and image carousels, for example, shouldn’t be ignored. The same goes for trust elements such as security seals, certifications, and customer testimonials.
As per required by the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR, websites should also present a cookie consent notification if they utilize the data of EU-based users. Since more and more consumers are aware of this issue, it’s a good idea to present them this notification to build buyer confidence.
Cybersecurity companies like Bulletproof can help you write and configure your cookie consent notification. Other trust badges, meanwhile, can be obtained from your payment gateway partners or SSL certificate provider.
For now, create a list of all the page elements you encounter and tally how often they’re used by different competitors. Over time, you should begin to notice a pattern on how your top competitors structure their pages.
3. “Borrow” Content Ideas
After observing your competitors’ website from a design perspective, your next priority is to dissect their actual strategy.
Most modern blogs tend to organize their content according to clear-cut categories, which would make this step straightforward.
By merely reading their blog, you should be able to scoop up several content ideas that your audience may want to see on your site. Also, pay attention to the variety of content types they offer and look for ways to mix them up.
For example, if they have a lengthy guide about pet training, you can repurpose their content into an infographic with a tool like Canva.
Spicing things up with visual content is a great way to outshine the competition and be more recognizable to your audience.
While you’re evaluating their content, also try to understand how they incorporate target keywords.
Do they use an exact match keyword on the title? Can you find traces of their keywords in their domain URL or extension?
These details may seem minor, but they just might give you the opportunity to outperform your competitor SEO-wise.
4. Find Out Their Link Sources
Speaking of SEO, the last piece of information you need is their backlink sources.
Remember, to increase your search engine rankings, your website needs to get backlinks from authoritative websites. Doing so will make your site discoverable to search engine crawlers, which are in charge of evaluating and indexing your content.
Going back to Moz, Link Explorer is a simple tool that will help you extract the backlink profile of any site or page. All you need to do is enter the URL, wait for the results, and navigate to the “Inbound Links” section to reveal your competitor’s backlink sources.
That’s it — you now know where your top competitors are building their links.
What shall you do with this information?
Before you execute an outreach campaign and approach these websites, be sure you check the target URL of each link. This will help you come up with a content topic to pitch if you plan to submit a guest post.
Alternatively, you can attempt to pull off the Skyscraper Technique, which involves rewriting your competitor’s content into something better and promoting it to the sites that linked to the original source.
Competitor research may sound intimidating, but it actually follows a clear and repeatable workflow.
You just need to know the right methods and use the right tools to drill down into your top competitor’s strategy.
The guide above should be more than enough to get the ball rolling. If you have other questions or suggestions, feel free to reply to this post using the comments section below. Cheers!