Great content, like great ideas, can spring from anywhere.
One great place to start is researching your competitor's content. Understanding what’s working well for the leaders in your space is the first step in improving your content intelligence.
In this guide, we'll explore:
What is content intelligence
Why your content competitors may not be the same as your product/service competitors
6 steps to analyzing your competitor's content
What is content intelligence?
We like this definition from the American Marketing Association:
Content intelligence represents the systems and software that transform content data and business data into actionable insights for content strategy and tactics with impact.
It's not enough to know your competitor just published a great new whitepaper. You need to step back and assess their entire body of work to generate meaningful insights that will inform your own work.
Content competitors vs. product/service competitors
The companies you compete with for readers, engagements, and links may not be the same as those you compete with for sales.
To make sure you are benchmarking against the right competitors, we recommend starting your analysis by looking at topics, not domains.
Enter the topic you want to write about.
For example, at BuzzSumo, we write often about content marketing and strategy. Here's an analysis of top producing companies on the topic of content marketing.
Looking across these sites (and what a great selection it is!), we see many thought leaders, blogs, publishers, and even some that offer complimentary products that assist with other content marketing efforts. But no one that is really a direct product or service competitor.
Yet these are the leaders we want to benchmark against to create content that connects with an audience.
6 steps to review your competitor’s content
Now that you've put together your competitor list, it's time to dig in to the results.
Step 1 - Review your competitor’s publishing strategy
You can learn a lot about a competitor's strategy by analyzing how often they publish new content.
Back in the Content Analysis Report tab...
Enter your competitor’s domain alongside your own.
If you enter a top-level domain such as buzzsumo.com, you will get an analysis of all content published on the domain. This may include job posts and press releases.
Below is an example competitor comparison of three separate SAAS sites: Hubspot, Marketo, and Active Campaign.
We can clearly see that Hubspot's content drives significantly more engagement over time.
If Hubspot is your competitor, ask yourself what you can learn from their strategy and execution over the last two years?
In this situation, Hubspot is a relative goliath amongst the David's we're comparing, and so it will have an established network of regular sharers pushing its content out.
Think about what you can do to challenge that dominance. In this example, pay close attention to overperforming competitor content.
If you notice a website usually receives 39 shares on average...
And yet a recent article achieved 400+
Dissect that content in the URL Analyzer to find out why...
In this instance, it's due to some very prominent Top Sharers, with extremely high retweet influence.
Step 2 - Analyze the networks and formats that are working
Next, you want to dig in to the social networks where your competitor's content is gaining traction.
CMI's content over the past two years is predominantly shared on Twitter. And on average, their most successful content over this period has been 'list' posts, followed by 'how to' articles.
Click the 'List' column and you'll see the exact pieces driving the most engagement.
Some questions to ask:
What is your top performing content type?
What social network drives the most engagements for your posts?
Is there an opportunity to diversify your content to take advantage of other networks and formats?
Step 3 - Review their top performing content by engagements
Go to the Web Content section in BuzzSumo and enter your competitor's domain. This will display the individual pieces of content that have performed the best over a given period.
For CMI, four of their top fives pieces they have written in the last year have been about (perhaps unsurprisingly) content marketing.
We can also review specific content types. Since we already know 'list' and 'how to' posts work best, we can filter to either or both of those content types in the sidebar. Here's is a look at their 'how to' content.
This may give us some ideas for 'how to' posts of our own.
Try combining topics and domains for an even more targeted search. For example, LinkedIn and Medium are great sites not just to network, but to publish content. But the range of topics is much broader than you would want to pull into your research.
Enter your topic and add a few domains to the Domain filter in the sidebar. Here's a search for articles on the topic of leadership development, published on linkedin.com or hbr.org.
Questions to ask:
What other words/phrases/points of view are showing up in your competitor's best headlines? (Check out our guide on how to craft the best headlines.)
Are there opportunities to publish on third-party sites to complement your own blog?
Step 4 - Review top content by backlinks
Backlinks offer a different, yet equally valuable view of high performing content.
Run your search and sort by the 'number of links' column.
Notice that the posts that drive the most links are not always the posts that drive the most engagements. For CMI, the articles that have driven the most links over the past 2 years have been a mix of the timely (trends) and the actionable (new research).
If you add terms like trends or KPI to either your original topic or your competitors' sites, you can see if these articles are outliers or indications of a winning strategy for building linkable content.
Step 5 - Review who is sharing and linking to competitor content
Both backlinks and social engagements amplify content. The more engagements and links, the wider the audience that may see your post. If your competitor’s content is gaining traction, it is useful to see who is helping to amplify it.
We can do this in a number of ways using BuzzSumo.
Influencer Content Search
Start by reviewing everyone who has shared content on Twitter from a competitor's site. You can do this by navigating to the Influencers section, choosing "Search Content Shared," and entering their domain.
(Note: this feature is available on our Large and Enterprise plans only. Contact us if you'd like to upgrade or trial this feature. For further details on the features offered in each plan, check out the BuzzSumo pricing page.)
Use BuzzSumo's Backlinks feature to find the top backlinks your competitors are getting.
You can also quickly view the top backlinks and sharers of any individual article.
Run a Most Shared search for your topic or domain and click on either of the links next to the article title to pull up this information.
Step 6 - Run a Competitor Content Comparison
If you haven't already, it's time to face the music and stand your content right next to your competitor's.
Navigate back to Content Analysis and enter your site into the search bar. Then, add your competitor's site to the "Add Comparison" field beneath.
Notice these charts display the same types of information as when you analyzed a site on its own. But seeing them side-by-side can help better highlight your gaps and opportunities.
Don't panic if you're lagging behind. Everyone has room to grow but not everyone takes the time to do a thorough, honest assessment of the current state of their content performance.
You are already on your way to improving your results!
Competitor content analysis is a vital part of a sound content marketing strategy. To recap:
Analyze their publishing strategy and its effectiveness
Review networks where they are gaining the most traction
Identify their most successful content types
Note their top content (measured by both engagements and links)
Flag their content amplifiers
Compare your content performance head-to-head