Businesses don’t operate in a vacuum, and great insights can be gained from spending the time to analyze how your client compares to its key competitors. But don’t fool yourself: any competitive analysis you perform will be hard work. You’ll need to get scrappy in gathering, examining and reporting meaningful data that gives your client a valuable frame of reference at how they’re currently doing, and how they might close any gaps you identify.
There are numerous areas of your client’s marketing strategy that you can analyze, including search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), social media presence and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). You can also compare the architecture and features of a client’s website to those of their competitors, or examine how effectively they and their competitors are addressing their target audience.
Let’s say you’re creating a content strategy for a client. You’ll begin by performing what’s called a Content Audit, which paints the competitive landscape by showing your client how they stack up in terms of content, reveals how their existing content fits into their customer life cycle and explains what conclusions can be drawn from your auditing process.
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In the Content Audit, you’ll spend a significant amount of time exploring your client’s website. There are many ways to do this audit, but consider using mapping software to map out the structure of the site, or an Excel spreadsheet to list the different kinds of content and where they’re located. Create separate columns for different types of content:
- Product pages
- Case studies
- Blog posts
- Solutions articles
- User guides
- White papers
As you audit the content, make plenty of notes about the quality. Do the videos or user guides seem to be helpful? Do the case studies focus on a problem and a solution, or are they little more than shallow sales material? The more honest your assessment, the more prepared you’ll be for the next step.
Once you’re comfortable with the structure and content of your client’s website, it’s time to see how they stack up against some of their competitors. Which ones? That’s a great question.
Your client can probably list numerous real-world competitors, but these aren’t necessarily their online competitors. Use tools like semrush to determine how successful these perceived competitors are in terms of keyword rankings and other metrics.
Once you’ve selected a couple of key competitors, it’s time to put on a pot of coffee (sorry, no shortcuts to be found here) and start taking an inventory of the competitors’ content using a spreadsheet to track the number of each kind.
After you’ve inventoried their blog, whitepapers, case studies and other content, create charts that show your client how they stack up at a glance. While your client is likely familiar with a competitor’s products and sales strategies, the client is often unaware of content gaps that can be discovered through an in-depth analysis.
You can also bring other valuable observations to the table that are almost like showing them their opponent’s hand of cards. For instance, taking a deep dive on a competitor’s blog might identify strategic or promotional tactics; you might be able to discern that the competitor is using an agency to supplement (or completely fill) their blog, or that the competitor is using a specific social network to promote their blog posts (which shows where the competitor believes their audience to be).
Wash, Rinse, Repeat
If you’ve invested the hours to perform a competitive blog analysis, you’ve also likely come away with a good idea of what types of topics the competitor is putting on their blog, what competitive advantages the competitor believes they have and how the competitor’s marketing message has been refined over time.
Look at the topics that you find on the competitors’ sites as you think about content gaps that your client needs to fill. In many cases, some of these gaps can be closed by repurposing content that your client has already created.
In any case, you’ll have plenty of valuable insights to bring to the table the next time you talk to your client. If you’ve done your competitive analysis well, in fact, the client will likely be hungry for more insights and recommendations on how these insights can be applied.
What have you learned from your experiences in content analysis? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
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