Competitive analysis is not something you do just at start of online business and content marketing. It’s something you have to do regularly. It is a crucial business activity for any content-marketer, particularly one who wants the shortest route to success. Why reinvent the wheel, when your competitors may already have done a lot of legwork on the market and target audiences? You can take a shortcut in your own strategy by looking at the traces that competitor activity leaves behind.
Even though it’s a key part of Content Marketing Strategy, competitive research doesn’t always have to be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. By investing even a small amount of time, businesses of any size can develop a systematic framework for making competitive assessments, gathering intelligence on rivals, and understanding the position of their own brands and products. Not only can you learn the best from competitors, you can also learn to avoid their mistakes.
Do you know who your top 5 competitors are? Most businesses don’t!
Isn’t it amazing that most businesses can’t name their top 5 competitors? They generally have a vague idea of maybe one or two names, or at best they’ll say generically (and rather vaguely) “Our competitors are all those who are into management consulting”. Is this any way to take stock of your competitors and get an accurate idea of what they are up to?
While you are busy slogging away without an idea of what’s happening around you, your competitors may be up to some of the latest smarts available – thanks to technology, published consumer intelligence, their tactical experiments, and their own spying on each other!
If you have no idea who most of your competitors are, that’s the first thing you have to do. Make a list of both direct and indirect competitors. Who are “direct” and “indirect” competitors? Let’s take a small example – of a coffee brand. The direct competition would be other coffee brands, right? The indirect competition would be anything else that stops a person from drinking coffee – it could be tea brands, other beverages, soft drinks, bottled water … you get the gist!
Don’t just be satisfied with knowing just the broad contours of the competitor groups, get to know them by name. Do serious competitive analysis. Find out their websites’ URLs, their blogs, their key people, their Twitter handles and Facebook pages and other social accounts … and for a day or two (or more) just follow them like you were their hired consultant doing an audit on their marketing activity. Note their plus-points and their faux-pas, their good products and their bad products, the tone of their messages, the kinds of audiences they address, and the media and devices they are on.
Technology has made all this research possible from your desk. So just follow the tracks leading out of their websites, and soon you will have their entire life history with you, if you are diligent.
Plus, now there are deep-spying tools to give you even more grist for the mill – use tools like Ahrefs or Spyfu or SEMRush to check how many backlinks their websites have, who they link out to, how many blog posts they have, what they write about, how they do their content marketing and how often they publish new information …
How long has it been since you did some serious spying on potential and current competition? If you can’t even name 5 competitors, drop everything else you’re doing and start gathering data – right now! It will save you endless hours of work on your own marketing if you can let your competitors give you a leg up!
What kind of taking stock of competitors will help you with your own content marketing?
Once you’ve identified your competitors, start your competitive analysis specifically on the granular details of their content marketing. Dig a little deeper into their blogs to gain a better understanding of what type of content they’re publishing.
What target audience problems are they solving? Who are they talking to and what is their level of talk – is it very official language, very casual language, or is it about sharing their own stories to keep audiences engaged?
Analyzing their content can help you determine what opportunities you have to outperform your competitors.Specifically, see if you can identify all the different types of content they produce, to see if they are matching content to the buying cycles of their customers.
Different types of content can include: blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, videos, webinars, podcasts, slide-decks, visual content, FAQs, feature articles, press releases, news or trends forecasts, case studies, buyer guides …
After you’ve got a fix on the quantity and mix of content they produce, cast your eye critically on their quality of output. Most importantly, see how it compares to your own quality of content. Is their quality consistent? Is it factually reliable? Is it data-driven or well-illustrated? Is the information updated? Are they doing anything that you aren’t?
When you know, in great detail, the type of content and the quality of the content your competitors are publishing, it gives you a better perspective of where you need to put in more of your own effort and resources.
Beyond looking at their content marketing pieces on the outside, try to get more information on their SEO structure also. See what types of keywords your competitors are utilizing. Are they trying to rank for specific types of keywords, or are they looking for keywords that have high search volumes, or for long-tail keywords? And how are they optimizing their posts for the keywords they have chosen?
A lot of SEO-related content marketing data on competitors can come out of specific SEO tools like Moz Pro or Majestic or SEOCockpit. Some of these tools are so good that they’ll tell you what’s common in the SEO approach of several competitors, so you’ll know where they are all generally heading!
The only problem for beginner-solopreneurs is that these tools can be a bit pricey. So try them out one by one, but get just the best one of them – and learn to use the tool thoroughly. You’ll find a lot of features tucked out of sight, so you have to learn to dig deep into these tools to mine the best data.
How to take stock of competitors social media activity, to get a sense of their audience engagement
Generally speaking, looking at a competitor’s website or blog will tell you what the competitor is up to … but it cannot tell you how engaged their audiences are with them.
Fortunately, the social media activity of the competitor can give you a great idea of how audiences are relating to their messages.
See if you can spot the big indicators of great social engagement on competitor sites.
Avinash Kaushik, the last word on “online analytics” has suggested some four classic indicators for social media engagement. These are his metrics to check on, as listed in his article “Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value”:
1. Conversation Rate: Conversation Rate = # of Audience Comments (or Replies) Per Post.
2. Amplification Rate: Amplification = # of Retweets/Shares Per Tweet.
3. Applause Rate: Applause Rate = # of Likes/+1s/Favorites Per Post
4. Economic Value: Quantify the economic value created via social media (e.g. subscribes, conversions, trials, sales etc).
Incidentally, Avinash’s system is now being captured by a great tool called True Social Metrics, which allows you to get data on your own content marketing activity plus those of all your competitors.
Image courtesy: True Social Metrics
(Incidentally, the fourth metric of Economic Value is not something you can guess for competitors, but it helps you know how much of your economic value is being generated for you by your own social media marketing.)
7 big advantages to your content marketing by performing competitive analysis
After performing your competitive analysis, you’ll have a better idea and understanding of what your competitors are doing. Take all the information you gathered about each competitor and compare this data with your own performance in specific content marketing areas.
Identify the areas where your marketing may need improvement. Competitive analysis should give you these seven macro areas to think about, at the very least:
- Has it helped you see better what is unique about you and your brand vis-à-vis competition?
- Has it helped you learn more about your own brand’s standing in the market and the appeal of your offer?
- Can it help you re-position yourself in a differentiated and compelling way, if that’s needed?
- Have you been able to identify some new thought-leadership opportunities that you can take ownership of?
- Has it set you off on a discovery of new marketing channels you had never planned on using before?
- Have you better understood what target audiences of different kinds truly want and how businesses actually help them?
- Have you got a whiff of what lies in the future of your industry from the trends visible from your competitors?
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Marketing Strategy”:
- Micro Marketing … Going Granular Can Help Solopreneurs Grow Faster!
- The 7 T’s Content Strategy Method That’s Do-Able For Solopreneurs!
- 20 Questions That Can Help Shape Your Content Marketing Strategy!
- Steal Your Competitor’s Thunder With Your Content Marketing!
- How ToFu, MoFu And BoFu Content Helps Profit-Hungry Solopreneurs!
- Finding Your Niche Is Easy If You’re A Perceptive, Systematic Solopreneur!