How to discover the Content Strategy of your Competitors

If your competitors are crushing you online, it may have something to do with your content. And if you want to take an accurate look at how your articles or blog posts perform in relation to other brands in your space, you need to dig in.

You'll need a good tool in your arsenal to understand your competitors' content strategies.One worth checking out is Content Explorer, a new feature from Ahrefs that lets you take a look at other websites' content strategies. 

Content Explorer has been around since 2014, but the company completely revamped it and launched the new version in April of this year.It's getting a lot of buzz now, and with good reason: 

Ahrefs Content Explorer

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Content Explorer features

I've long been a fan of Ahrefs for SEO, especially the Keyword Explorer tool, which allows marketers to search for nearly seven billion keywords in over 170 countries and evaluate metrics such as keyword difficulty, click-through rates, related keywords, and search volume.In short, it's the most comprehensive keyword tool available at the moment.  

The relaunch of Content Explorer gives me another good reason to stick with Ahrefs, as it can tell you all about competitor content, including:

  • Social actions
  • Traffic
  • How often they update that content
  • When it was originally published

Basically, the tool tells you everything your competitors are doing with their content.More importantly, it tells you what things your rivals are succeeding at and helps you highlight areas where you might be able to gain an advantage.

It's important to note that Content Explorer doesn't just consider itself a way to discover your competitor's strategy.It has a ton of other features that are highlighted as essential for any content marketer, including the ability to:

  • Discover popular content around specific keywords, based on social shares, organic search traffic, and referring domains
  • Highlight mentions unrelated to your website or brand, which could be used for backlink creation campaigns
  • Filter results by language, domain rating, word count, and backlinks.Language filtering is especially useful because you can see if brands are posting content in other languages, which could help you find new markets that you may not have considered before.

And specific features that are new to Ahrefs' Content Explorer 2.0 include:

  • Broken pages (404 and 410)
  • Published and republished dates
  • Content trend chart
  • New online charts
  • UI and filter improvements

Overall, Content Explorer is a comprehensive tool for searching for popular content for any topic.The deeper you go, the more you can learn about your content, your competitors, and where the searches are going for your keywords and industry.

Dive Deeper:

Our Test Explorer content: Backlink

I don't think we're revealing any secrets since Backlinko's Brian Dean is pretty open about its content and SEO strategies.(It's kind of all his own.) 

We've put backlinko.com in Content Explorer to run a test.We could immediately see all of its content strategy, including:

  • How often he publishes
  • How often they republish (i.e. how often it updates its contents)
  • How long are its pieces of content (3,500-4,000 words)

Ahrefs - Backlink

You can see that more than half of its content has been updated in the last 90 days.Its competitors are not doing that.They are spending a lot of time producing new content, but not enough to update what they already have.

Ahrefs - Backlinko2

If you are Brian Dean's competition, this is useful information to have.It can mean shifting your content strategy to focus on increasingly complete and evergreen pieces instead of churning out short, frequent pieces on the next big thing in SEO essentially, focusing on quality over quantity.

As a benchmark, I also searched the Single Grain website in Ahrefs and compared it to the data we have on our side.It is accurate and accurate.

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Pros and cons of Ahrefs

Google updates their algorithms at all times, and so everyone has to scramble to catch up, SEO-wise.You may notice a sharp drop in traffic after an update.

One of the great things about Content Explorer is that you can see if your competition is suffering a similar fate.If they are, then you have the opportunity to figure out how to improve your ranking before they do.If they're not, you can figure out what they're doing and do it better.

I think using a tool like Ahrefs is much more powerful than just reading a post on my blog or Neil or any other marketer sharing tips for content strategy and SEO improvement.You'll get some great tips from reading, sure, but not all the tips you read will apply to your particular business.With Content Explorer, you get real, actionable insights that are unique to you and your industry.

The only drawback of Ahrefs is that it's not cheap.Monthly plans start at $99 and go all the way up to $999.I think it's worth it, but your mileage can vary.Luckily, they offer a 7-day trial for $7 so you can try it out, compare it to other tools you're using, and see if it's right for you:However,Ahrefs Prices Ahref's Content Explorer isn't the only tool you can use to discover your competitors' content strategies.

 SEMrush's Content Analyzer is another option that includes a content checker feature, which tells you when the content was most recently updated and the number of shares received by a given content on social media:In addition, you can also compare two URLs to see which one worked best:SEMrush  This is great for measuring your content on a given topic against similar content from your competitors.

SEMrush's tool is comparable to Ahrefs, price-wise, and both offer free trials.If you're not currently using either tool, you can try both before you decide to buy.

Dive Deeper: Google's Biggest Search Algorithm Updates Impacting Your Traffic in 2019 [Infografica]

How to use your competitor's content strategy to your advantage

So, once you've collected all this competitor data, what do you do with it?Start with a SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and analyzing it is a vital part of any competitive marketing analysis.This approach is usually used to examine businesses as a whole, but you can scale it to focus on content marketing as well.

Here's what you want to look for when evaluating how your content fits your competitors in each category:

Strengths 

What are your competitors doing well and what can you learn from their example?How does their content compare to yours?Some things to consider include:

  • Word count: Often, the longer the content, the better it will perform.What's the average length of your posts compared to that of your competitors?
  • Format: Is the content scannable and easy to read, with headings and bullets to break up text?
  • Publication date: How new is the content?
  • Last updated: How up-to-date is the content and when was it last updated?
  • Keyword ranking: Whose content is higher for important keywords in Google?

Although Content Explorer will mainly provide quantitative data, don't forget to consider a qualitative analysis as well.If the content your competitors are producing is really better than yours in terms of value to your audience, it won't be long before it surpasses yours.

Weaknesses

Next, take a look at the worst performing content from both you and your competitors, and see if you notice any models.Analyze it against the list of strengths to highlight specific areas where it doesn't measure up.

Opportunity

Now that you know the weaknesses of your competitors, you can focus on making them your strengths.If their average word count is 900 words, create your own 1,900 (the average Google first page post is 1,890 words).If they're creating video content, chances are you should do it too (be sure to post the transcript with the embedded video on your blog to get the SEO boost).

Run URLs for their most popular pages via Ahrefs, SEMrush, or whatever tool you're using for competitor analysis.Have they been updated recently?Do they have broken links?Create content on the same topics, with links to relevant recently published content and up-to-date information.

At the end of the day, your opportunities are all to seize what the competition fails and turn it into a success for you.

Threats

Your threats are the areas where your competitors are already undertaking your business or have the potential.If you see that one of your competitor's landing pages is one of the most popular pages — and has significantly more traffic than your landing page for a competing product or service then you know you need to improve your conversion funnel, stat.

Similarly, if your competitors have positive mentions on the internet and you don't, then you need to convince your happy customers to start singing your praises in a big way, or enlist an influencer to review your product.

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Using competitive analytics to create a killer content marketing strategy

Now that you know what you need to work on, as far as content goes, it's time to review your content marketing strategy (or, if you don't have one, it's time to create one).These three questions will help you define your strategy:

Who is my target audience?

This is by far the most important question you need to answer.If you are an agency, what kind of clients do you serve and, above all, what kind of clients do you want to serve?

If those groups are equal, this part is easy.If not, you need to determine whether you need to move the idea of the ideal customer or if you need to change your strategy to reach a different type of customer.

What do they need?

In business, there is something called the "success gap": the space between the client's desired outcome and business goals.If you have an app, your goal is to get people to use it.Your customer has a different goal, though.So your app is solving a problem for them.

What can you provide them that will help them use your app to solve their problem?If you have a productivity app, for example, maybe they need to see case studies on how other customers have used it to make their lives easier.

A good way to answer this question is to read reviews of your product or service and look at your customer service history.What are your customers' weaknesses?How are they not achieving their goals?Do the same for your competitors.Are they closing the success gap or do their customers have the same complaints as yours?

If you can eliminate the success gap, not only for your customers but also for those of your competitors, you have provided real value to your content.This value is likely to translate into brand trust and increased revenue.

Where are they?

This question may be a little more difficult to answer.If you're a B2B company, LinkedIn is a good place to start.If you're a B2C targeting millennials, Instagram and YouTube might be your best channels.If you're a B2C that distorts older people, Facebook or a good old-fashioned email isn't a problem to try.

Dive Deeper:

Your strategy: do it better than your competitors

After answering these questions about your competitors' content campaigns, you can develop your own strategy.Take the metrics you've already compiled on how your competition's content is performing and what keywords they're ranking for, and use this information to create something better.

For example, let's say one of your competitor's top 10 articles is called "Top 10 SEO Tips," which was published in 2017, hasn't been updated since then, and links to an SEO tool that's no longer active.

To beat them, you could create an article titled "Top 25 SEO Tips for 2019," which is longer, contains the most up-to-date information about Google's algorithm, links to popular and current SEO tools, and includes all the keywords from the original article ranked by.With a little promotion, your item shouldn't take long to be higher than your competitor's.

Once you've created the article, promote it through your marketing channels using our Content Sprout method.Boost it on your social media pages.Send it to your email list.Upload a short video hitting the main points on YouTube.Create a 30-second teaser for Instagram.

Another way to spread your content is through Broken Link Building (BLB).Find links to broken content on websites in your niche and send them links to replace that content.You can do this through Ahrefs, SEMrush, or with free tools like the Check My Links Chrome extension .

After submitting all that content, study your metrics.Double-down on what worked and try new tactics for what didn't work.Didn't that boosted Facebook post convert?Try a live video next time.Or a discount offer.Continue testing and continue to refine your content marketing strategy.And keep looking at competitor metrics too, so you'll know when they'll notice what you're doing.

Dive Deeper:

You can beat your competitors

When it comes to getting ahead of the competition, knowing their tactics and what works is the most important information you can have.Not only can you emulate their strategies, but, over time, through trial and error, you can overcome them.

If you do all this and don't achieve success, take a long look at your product or service to find out if it's your offering, not your messaging.Maybe it's a simple solution, like adding a new feature that your competitor offers or adjusting prices.Maybe it's not that easy.

Marketing is all about learning.When you have the right product, the right strategy, and the right tools, you have everything you need to turn your knowledge into a successful business.

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