Competitor content analysis: Here’s what you can learn



Andrew Dennis

It’s 10 pm – do you know where your competitors are?

Like the effect those PSAs had on parents in the 80’s and 90’s, this message likely brings up feelings of concern and uncertainty, especially if you’re a brand fighting for your spot in the marketplace.

Competitor analysis is an integral part of running a successful business and this holds true for online brands as well, particularly when it comes to search marketing and SEO. While it may take quarterly or even annual studies to discover when you’re losing market share to the competition in terms of positioning or share of mind, you can see your competition start to outrank you in the search results immediately.

Since search engines largely rely on algorithms to determine the results they show searchers, these results are constantly updating, and if you’re standing pat with SEO, you’re losing ground.

To mitigate these losses – as well as find growth opportunities – you need to monitor competitor strategies, and one of the best places to start is with their content.

Analyzing competitor content to identify content gaps

Keeping an eye on the competition is important because it can help you find gaps within your own content strategy and where your pages might be missing the mark.

Start by identifying your competitors’ top pages. One way to find these pages is to use a tool like Screaming Frog to see which pages have the most internal links pointing to them. Internal links signal importance to search engines, so these are the pages your competitor has flagged as their most important. Review these pages to see if there are any relevant pages you need to add to your site.

Another great way to find missed opportunities through competitor content is to identify which pages are driving organic traffic to competitor sites. Tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs make it easy to identify top pages based on what percentage of organic traffic they earn. 

If you see a page that is responsible for a substantial percentage of your competitor’s traffic – and you don’t cover that subject on your site – it may be worth exploring what it would take to create your own page on the topic. Furthermore, if your competitor’s content is thin, poorly structured, or you are otherwise confident you can create something equal or better, you’ve just found a prime opportunity to capture more search visitors.

Analyze your competitors’ top pages, and the keywords associated with those pages, then examine your own content to see if there are any gaps you could fill to create new sources of organic traffic.

Competitor content analysis for content improvement

Analyzing competitor content can also empower you to improve your existing pages.

As you analyze your competitors’ top pages, don’t just focus on keywords – scrutinize the structure and organization of the page to understand why it might be performing so well.

Does the page go in-depth and perhaps it’s ranking based on thoroughness? Or is the page answering a specific question quickly and succinctly? Or does it do both?

These are important questions to answer if you want to understand why their page is ranking, and more importantly, how you can improve the performance of your pages.

You should also pay attention to the formats and types of content used. Is the content broken up with images or screenshots? Do they use bullet points and sub-headers to make the page easy to scan? Is video or audio present on the page? Again, these are your competitor’s top pages, and that short video they’ve embedded on their page might be the difference between their content’s performance and yours.

However, don’t stop at your competitor’s page. Go examine the corresponding search results where they rank and analyze the other pages featured there. While these pages might be from brands you don’t consider traditional competitors, these are the pages you’re competing with for visibility in search. Also, these pages can provide further insight into how you can tweak and improve your existing content.

Other information you can glean from competitor and current ranking pages includes:

  • Primary intent that search engines associate with the given topic.
  • Relevant and related sub-topics or questions.
  • Associated SERP features (rich snippets, knowledge graph, local packs, etc.)
  • And credible external sources and relevant citations.

With this information, you will have all the tools necessary to update your page to best answer the query you’re targeting. 

At this point, the only thing standing between your content and page one rankings might be backlinks. However, with backlink tools like Majestic and Moz you can identify the sites linking to those top pages – if you work to improve your page to the level of quality of the ranking pages, it’s likely these sites would be open to linking to your page as well.

Leveraging competitor content for linkable asset ideation

Speaking of backlinks, analyzing competitor content can help you generate ideas for link-worthy content too.

Before, you were scrutinizing competitor pages based on organic traffic, but many of the tools I’ve discussed here will also help you identify your competitors’ top pages based on backlinks. Just as you analyzed their top trafficked pages to understand why they rank so well; you can analyze these top linked pages to understand why they attract so many backlinks.

This analysis provides you with a host of topics that generate links and interest within your niche. You can also dig into the backlink profiles of these pages to learn how they are linked to gain insight into what types of pages and websites would want to link to this content.

For example, your competitor may have executed an original study that produced one interesting statistic that is being cited by numerous websites. It’s likely you won’t be able to replicate that study – and if you do, other sites are more likely to find your competitor’s site when searching for a citation – but you can analyze their study and identify what made it interesting to springboard ideas for tangential or supportive research.

Of course, improving on their idea, also known as the skyscraper technique, is an option as well, but this approach typically requires significant investment.

The key to this analysis is identifying linkable topics and pivoting them to be unique while maintaining the attributes that made your competitor’s pages link-worthy.

Benefits of competitor content analysis

Content marketing continues to be an integral part of successful digital marketing and SEO as search engines constantly provide the advice to “create good content.” However, consistently generating quality content ideas and executing them well is difficult, particularly if your goal is to rank your content in competitive SERPs.

Fortunately, your competitors are here to help! Through competitor content analysis you can learn:

  • Which pages and topics your competitors identify as important.
  • How your competitors earn organic traffic from search.
  • Where gaps exist within your current content marketing strategy.
  • Which low-investment content opportunities are available.
  • Ways to improve existing content for better search performance.
  • Which topics generate interest and backlinks within your niche.
  • And how and why websites link to content within your space.

Understanding your competitors’ content strategies will help you outperform them where it matters most, in the search results.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power. Along with his column on Search Engine Land, Andrew also writes about SEO and link building for the Page One Power blog, Linkarati. When he’s not reading or writing about SEO, you’ll find him cheering on his favorite professional teams and supporting his alma mater the University of Idaho.



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Finding content marketing opportunities that influence search performance



Andrew Dennis

Content marketing is a broad term that can be interpreted in multiple ways within the greater marketing spectrum. For some, content marketing is a blog post, for others, it could be large, interactive pieces. For John Deere, content marketing took the form of a print magazine all the way back in the 1800s!

Regardless of the format or type of content being marketed, presenting useful or entertaining information to your audience – in a way that speaks to them – has always been an important part of good marketing. Things are no different within search, where content marketing equates to promoting your webpages (content) to relevant audiences online (marketing via social media and other websites).

Today I want to walk through the process I use to help clients identify and capitalize on the content marketing opportunities available to them. Let’s dive in!

Start with existing content

The best place to start when searching for content marketing opportunities is with your existing pages – these are the opportunities that will take the least upfront investment as the content already exists.

You can easily identify your top pages – in terms of organic traffic – in Google Analytics. While it’s important to understand how your site is earning traffic, we’re looking for new opportunities – your best pages are already performing, and to achieve growth you need to capture new opportunities.

Find new opportunities with existing pages

To find fresh content marketing opportunities, start with Google Search Console. In GSC, you can analyze which keywords or queries are associated with your website and see how many clicks and impressions they’re earning in Google search. You can also analyze clicks and impressions for your individual pages. 

Compare queries and pages to ensure you have pages that are good matches for your top queries. Are these the pages you would expect to be earning clicks and impressions? Do you have a better page that isn’t showing in Google Search Console? Ask yourself these questions as there may be an opportunity to optimize and promote an existing page that could rank better and earn more clicks than the page Google currently associates with a given query.

If you have the budget, there are also some great tools available that can help you identify your top pages and those that are barely missing the mark. Tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush all offer various ways to analyze your content.

These tools will help you find your most successful content, but more importantly, you can find pages ranking on the first page. Often, some light optimization (tweaking titles, header tags, etc.) and updating can be the difference between page two rankings and appearing on the first page. 

It’s much easier to update existing pages than create new content, so you should always start by analyzing current rankings to see if you have any of these opportunities available.

Updating, repurposing, and promoting existing content

Once you’ve identified new content marketing opportunities for your existing pages, it’s time to execute.

Most, if not all, of your content marketing opportunities for existing pages will require some level of updating or reformatting or both. In some instances, you might find a page that was simply underpromoted and needs more links to perform better, but for the most part, you will need to do some on-page optimization as well.

Updating content

Updating your pages means more than changing the publish date.

To improve search performance for an existing page, you need to make substantial updates in terms of depth and recency of the information on the page. For example, I recently found that a guide I had written that was ranking for a few keywords. To help push it onto the first page of the search results, I updated the post. 

These updates included:

  • Restructuring the content for improved scannability and a clear hierarchy of information.
  • Deeper research into the topic to provide more actionable information.
  • Rewriting outdated sections to offer more accurate information.
  • Adding relevant links to authoritative external sources.
  • Fixing and updating broken external links.
  • Adding internal links to related pages.
  • Adding fresh, high-quality images.

Making these updates was a significant time investment, but still took less time and effort than generating a new content idea and writing a post from scratch. And best of all, the updates helped push the post at the top of the results I was targeting!

Repurposing and reformatting content

Along with updating your pages, repurposing or reformatting content can also improve rankings.

Converting content to a new format or adding new formats to an existing page can often help that content perform better in search. For example, if you notice there are multiple video results for the term your page is targeting, chances are your page could benefit from adding video content. Some other reformatting options include:

  • Adding a concise definition or bulleted list at the top of the page for informational queries to optimize for rich snippets.
  • Creating complementary interactive elements such as a tool, quiz, game, etc.
  • Converting long-form text into an easily digestible infographic.
  • Developing high-quality, original photography and imagery.
  • Transcribing video or audio content into a blog post.

Repurposing content not only breathes new life into a page, but it can also improve that page’s performance in organic search if it creates a better user experience and better answers searcher intent.

If you have pages that rank well but not on the first page, consider analyzing the current top results to see if you can identify trends in formatting – if your page is missing these elements, adding them could help your page rank better.

Finding opportunities for content creation

While optimizing existing pages is the path of least resistance, to sustain long-term success in organic search you will also need to create new content.

Content inspiration can come from a variety of sources, but if you want to build content that performs in search you should focus on niche analysis and competitive research.

Niche analysis

Niche analysis for content marketing involves researching how your audience is searching online and which topics they interest them.

You need to understand how your audience searches for topics related to your business and the language they use. Subtle differences in word usage can equate to large differences in search volume and you want to optimize your content for the terms your audience is using.

For example, look at the difference between the search phrases [coffee mug holder] and [coffee mug rack] (using Moz’s Keyword Explorer):

This small distinction between “holder” and “rack” equals a difference of ~2,000 in terms of monthly search volume. If you had asked me which had more volume, honestly, I would have guessed “rack” – therefore, it’s critical to understand the language your audience is using to find information relevant to your brand.

Paying attention to formatting is important during niche analysis too. If you notice that your audience prefers a certain format – and that is demonstrated in the top search results – make sure you build your content in that format as well.

Competitive research

Competitive research is one of the best ways to identify gaps in your content marketing. If there is a topic that is driving organic traffic to multiple competitor sites, and you don’t have a page that addresses that topic, you have a gap in your content marketing.

SEMrush is one of the best tools for competitive research as it will give you a report on which keywords and pages are earning the most traffic (in terms of a percentage) on competitor websites. If you export these reports for a handful of competitors, you can compare trends and find opportunities to create new content that will bring a relevant audience – since you share the same audience as these competitors – to your site.

The key point here is to look for trends across multiple competitors because that confirms the topic is something that resonates with your audience.

Another important point is to review the quality of your competitors’ pages. Can you realistically create something that is equal or better? If the answer is no, move on to another opportunity because that is the bar you will have to meet if you ever want to rank for the associated terms.

Conclusion

Content marketing opportunities are easy to find if you know where to look.

Start with your existing pages and identify where you have opportunities to make small changes that can have a big SEO impact. These opportunities typically involve some form of repurposing, reformatting and updating.

After exhausting the available opportunities with your existing pages, glean content inspiration from analyzing your audience and niche, as well as researching top competitor pages.

Following this simple process will fuel your content marketing for years, ensuring you’re building content that will perform well in search and help your site earn organic traffic.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Andrew Dennis is a Content Marketing Specialist at Page One Power. Along with his column on Search Engine Land, Andrew also writes about SEO and link building for the Page One Power blog, Linkarati. When he’s not reading or writing about SEO, you’ll find him cheering on his favorite professional teams and supporting his alma mater the University of Idaho.



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