How to do a competitive content analysis

A competitive content analysis is an assessment of your competitors' content strategies and output. It allows you to find out what works well for them, what is less effective, what they leave out, and how you can then use their tried and tested successes and failures to enhance your own content marketing strategy.

Even if you are a seasoned digital marketeer, analysing your competitors' websites will always help to improve your own website ranking and the quality of your content output. And you can be sure that your competitors will be doing the same with your site, so continuing to learn and develop from one another's work is a great way to improve the content for your shared audiences.

So how do you do a competitive content analysis? Why are they important? And how can you use them to get your content to where it needs to be?

We will take you through a step-by-step guide on performing a competitive content analysis and find out why they are crucial in honing your content marketing strategy.

A competitive content analysis is made up of several steps. These include:

  • Making a list of your competitors
  • Analysing their SEO metrics
  • Auditing their content
  • Researching their workforce
  • Implementing your research into your content strategy

Each of these steps can be broken down into smaller ones, which we will explore in detail later on, and for some of them, you will need a subscription to SEO tools such as Ahrefs or Semrush.

But let's start by determining why exactly competitive content analyses are important.

A competitive content analysis allows you to learn from your competitors. You take the best from them and then improve on their work in your own content strategy.

Likewise, your competitors will likely perform competitive content analyses that include you and make further improvements. So every analysis will further enhance your industry's content strategies.

A competitive content analysis lets you:

  • Evaluate your work relative to others.
  • Find the content types your target markets engage with.
  • Find content gaps and locate areas you can build in.
  • Gain inspiration for content ideas from your competitors and develop new and exciting content.

All of which can be used to create a winning and competitive formula for your content marketing campaigns.

So let's now look at a step-by-step guide on how to do a competitive content analysis.

Make a list of your competitors

You should begin your competitive content analysis by creating a list of your competitors.

This list should include both direct and indirect competitors. So what is the difference between them?

Direct competitors are organisations that offer the same products or services as you. For example, Manchester Utd is a direct competitor of Chelsea F.C. as both organisations provide football fans with sporting entertainment.

Indirect competitors are organisations that offer different products or services that are different from yours, but that compete to satisfy the same customer needs. For example, a high-end restaurant is an indirect competitor to a shop selling fast food. They both provide food, but serve very different products.

In both cases, your content competitors are targeting the same audience as you.

As an additional part of this step, you could also make a list of websites you may want to collaborate and form partnerships with.

Review your competitors' SEO metrics

You need to know how to review and judge the quality and success of your competitors' content beyond simply reading, watching, or listening to it.

To do this, you will need to understand and evaluate their SEO metrics using an SEO tool such as Semrush or Ahrefs. Subscriptions to these tools cost money, but every content marketer worth their salt will tell you just how useful they are to developing a content strategy.

There are several SEO metrics you can use in your analysis. For example, you can measure the following:

  • Organic site traffic. This indicates the number of visitors to a site from organic searches, which are searches direct from a search engine. From this, you can glean a benchmark of organic site traffic within the industry and find out how successful your competitors' SEO efforts are.
  • Domain authority. This refers to the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking of your competitors. Search engines use hundreds of factors to determine domain authority, though they are often boiled down to the acronym EEAT (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness).
  • Engagement. It is not enough for a site to rank and for visitors to view it; they must also engage with its content. You can judge the level of engagement by finding the average time spent on the site, the average number of pages viewed, and what percentage of visitors leave without any engagement.
  • Keywords. You should analyse the keywords that your competitors target and which you also want to target. You should evaluate your competitors' performance and rank for each.
  • Backlinks. Backlinks are a good metric for checking a site's EEAT. They show search engines that a website's content is trustworthy, relevant, and useful.

Evaluate your competitors' online content

Once you have got to grips with the SEO metrics of your competitors and figured out what is successful, what needs work, and where there are gaps, you can then do a full review of the content itself. This step is often called a 'content audit.'

A good way to begin an audit is to split the content into different content formats or categories. Amongst others, these might include:

  • blog posts
  • case studies
  • videos
  • images
  • podcasts
  • infographics
  • how-to guides
  • newsletters
  • longreads
  • eBooks
  • reports
  • quizzes
  • expert commentary

You can choose how many categories to split the content into, and the categories may vary from site to site.

You should then start to think about why certain types of content would work better with your target audience and how they are likely to engage with it (for example, on their social media, news outlets, podcast apps, etc.).

You might also consider the content length and how that suits your audience. Longer pieces are less relevant for an audience of busy workers or social media users with a low attention span, for example. Also, how often are they publishing? What is the quantity of their content output?

Analysing the quality of your competitors' content can be tricky, especially if it is good. If you read a meandering article that is peppered with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or lacks clarity and focus, it is easy to judge where it went wrong. However, if you read an effective piece, it can be hard to identify everything good about it, aside from the lack of obvious mistakes.

Here are some things to look out for when evaluating written content:

  • Detail. Are the posts detailed enough? If the topic they are covering requires a lot of explanation, is the article adequately long? Conversely, does the article waffle on and provide too much information irrelevant to a relatively simple subject?
  • Does the article follow a structure with H2 and H3 subheadings?
  • What images are used in the article? Do they work well within the context of the piece?
  • Is the writing easy to follow and understand?
  • Has the writer used lists? Do they work well in the piece?
  • Are there any spelling or grammar mistakes?
  • User acquisition/call to action. How does the content encourage the reader to engage with the product or service once they have finished reading the article?

You can then create a scoring system and give each piece of content an overall score based on how it performed in each category.

Research your competitors' content teams

You can also research your competitors' content teams and workplace culture to find out how they operate. You should be able to do this by either browsing their websites and finding the team pages or by searching the LinkedIn profiles.

This should help you to understand the kind of roles the employees have, what areas need specialists, and what duties can be taken on by people in existing roles.

You will also gain an insight into where your competitors are putting their resources and the departments they invest in. For example, they may only have a few writers and employ a large video/audio production team.

Adapt your content strategy

Once you have completed your competitive content analysis, you need to put your research into action.

You should now have the following:

  • a list of your direct and indirect competitors
  • a list of sites and publications you would like to partner with
  • a clear idea of what your competitors' strong and weak SEO metrics are
  • an understanding of the type of content your competitors produce and why it works or doesn't work for their/your target audience
  • an evaluation of the quality of their content
  • an insight into what is missing from your competitors' sites

These should all be substantiated with greater detail. Perhaps you now know some new keywords you should be looking to rank for. Or you might have found a new channel or link page that it would be good to target your content on.

Your analysis should lead to an evaluation of the areas you need to improve on and how you can do so to compete. You should set targets and benchmarks based on the industry norms you gleaned from your analysis to ensure you are on the right track as you progress your content strategy.

If you pursue a similar content campaign to one of your competitors, does it yield equally good results? If so, what can you do to further hone the strategy? If not, why not?

You should also understand who your strongest and weakest competitors are. When it comes to your next competitive content analysis, focus on the stronger performers and consider dropping the weaker ones for competitors you haven't previously analysed.

A competitive content analysis is an evaluation of your main competitors' content strategies. It allows you to locate areas that work well and reach your shared target audience and to notice any parts of their strategies that are less effective.

A competitive analysis of your industry ensures your content is up-to-date, far-reaching, and impactful. Follow our guide to perform your own analysis and start perfecting your content marketing strategy today.