Are you better than your competition when it comes to your content? Well, hold up. Is there any way you can answer that question objectively? If you’re creating content for your business, you’re kinda biased, right?
Actually, you can answer that question objectively — with a competitive content analysis. A competitive content analysis is a tool that can help you figure out what your competitors are doing and how you currently stack up against them. Then, you can put together a kickass content strategy that helps you stand out from the rest.
What is a competitive content analysis?
In The Art of War, Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
Badass, right? To be confident in yourself and your content, you have to not only discover what you can do, you have to understand what your competitors do. Do neither, and there’s a good chance you’ll fail.
If ancient quotes on military strategy aren’t quite your thing, think of a competitive content analysis as market research. It’s more than just scrolling through other brands’ social media and websites for a few minutes. It’s an in-depth analysis that’ll help you pinpoint where you are in your industry compared to your peers, find content gaps, and discover fresh content ideas.
Identify your competitors
Your first step in completing a competitive content analysis is to identify your competition. Make a list of any direct competitors you can think of. What brand, company, or small biz owner fulfills the same customer needs as you do? Or, what same problem do they also try to solve? Now… don’t just assume someone is your competitor because they do the same thing as you. Really find people who are your direct competitors — the folks who also work with the same clients or who sell to the same people.
From there, you can narrow down your competitors further by examining what they offer. Let’s say you own a Pilates studio in New York City. That doesn’t mean that you have to analyze every Pilates studio in the city. You might choose studios that offer virtual classes like you, ones that cater to similar customers, or ones within a few miles of your studio location.
If you really wanna dive deep with your competitive content analysis, you might even create a list of your indirect competitors. These are brands or businesses that have a similar purpose or solution to a problem. Going back to our Pilates studio example, some indirect competitors might be health apps, personal trainers, or other fitness classes and studios. However, we find this to be confusing for most people who are DIYing their content strategy, so tread lightly here.
Sort your competitors’ content
Got your list of competitors? Great. Now you’ll list and sort each brand’s content. What kind of content are they sharing? Remember, content is more than just blogs. Your competition’s content may include:
- Their website and/or blog
- Facebook captions, photos, and videos
- Instagram Reels, Stories, and photos
- Snapchat and TikTok accounts
- Podcasts and YouTube videos
- Their email newsletter
- Whitepapers, infographics, ebooks, and other downloads
- Courses, webinars, or other products with content
After you’ve listed each competitor’s content, evaluate each content channel further. Questions like the following can help you gain insight into what your competitors are doing.
- Which content type is the most popular or most often updated?
- Which content type seems to get the most audience engagement or feedback? It may not be the same!
- Which channel or website shows up first in Google search?
Next, it’s time to decipher what your competition is actually saying.
Read and evaluate content pieces
After your competition’s content is sorted and categorized, you’re ready to learn what they’re sharing with their audience. This is the meaty part of your competitive content analysis.
Start with one competitor and choose one content channel to evaluate, like their blog, for example. When reading through their content, keep questions like these in mind.
- Is their content short-form or long-form?
- What are their main differentiators (i.e. do they have different beliefs, processes, or practices from you)?
- What topics are they writing about? What keywords are they using?
- What’s their brand voice?
- How frequently are they publishing new content on this channel?
- What’s their audience engagement for this channel like?
- Is their content accessible? Easy to read and comprehend? Easily scannable?
- Do they partner with others to create content?
- How do they use images, videos, GIFs, or memes?
Hot tip: If your competitor has a lot of content in each channel, it may be easiest to start with the most popular or most recent topics.
Figure out what you can do, but better
You’ve gathered all the data on your competitors in one nice, neat document. (A spreadsheet, we hope. We love spreadsheets.) The final step of your competitive content analysis is to actually do something with all that juicy data.
Look at both the quantity and quality of your competitors’ content. What topics can you use for your own content strategy? What fresh perspective can you bring to your audience? What content needs does your audience have that may not be met by your competitors yet?
There are lots of ways you can use the data you’ve collected to benefit your content strategy. Here are a few examples:
- If your competitor has a blog that isn’t written well for their audience, write your own blog post that has better design and readability.
- If your competitor shares an opinion in Tweets or social media posts, share your own in a different channel.
- If your competitor has just one piece of content on a great topic, figure out how you can take that same topic (or a clearer one) and turn it into multiple pieces of content
Hot tip: think twice about creating content on a topic just because it’s popular. You may go for this topic because it performs well with your audience, but they may be sick of hearing or reading about it. You might be wasting your time unless you have a really interesting and unique take on the topic. Instead, think about the most popular content in your industry and ask yourself, “How can I take a different approach?”
Don’t ignore the competition
While it’s more important to know your audience than your peers, understanding what your competition is doing will help you continue creating unique content that stands out from the rest.
Plus, you gotta check in with your competition regularly to stay on top of trends. Customer needs, industry trends, and content topics are always evolving, after all. You have to pay attention in order to do the same.