Overview

Great content, like great ideas, can spring from anywhere. No one has a monopoly on good content, and we can all learn from each other.

The best place to start is by researching our competitors’ content. Understanding what’s working well for the leaders in your space is the first step in improving your content intelligence.

Wait. What’s Content Intelligence?

Glad you asked! 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.

Having data is great - but to improve your content strategy, you need to be able to turn those metrics into tangible actions.

Preview of the 6 steps:

These steps will be described in full below. For each competitor:

  1. Review publishing strategy
  2. Analyze the networks and formats that are producing shares
  3. Review top performing content measured by shares
  4. Review top content measured by backlinks
  5. Review who is sharing and linking to their content
  6. Run a content comparison search with your own brand

Explaining Competitor Content Analysis

The aim of a competitor content analysis is to understand what is working for the leaders in your space, and what you might be able to apply to your own content marketing.

Here’s an important tip to remember: your content competitors might not always be the same as your product or service competitors. Sometimes, your direct competitors might not even write content! Make sure you are thinking broadly when putting together a list of competitors.

Once you’ve got them, some key questions to ask include:

  • What is their content strategy?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is their top performing content?
  • Who shares and links to their content?
  • How does their performance compares to our own?

Here is a six step process which will take less than 20 minutes but give you a detailed understanding of your competitor’s content strategy.

6 steps to review your competitor’s content

  1. Review your competitor’s publishing strategy

You can get a good sense of a company’s content strategy by analysing their publishing frequency. Go to BuzzSumo’s content analysis tool and enter your competitor’s domain. If you enter a top-level domain such as buzzsumo.com, you will get an analysis of all content published on the domain including job posts and press releases. Depending upon your competitors, it may be more appropriate to analyse just the sub-domain or folder where they publish their core content. For example, for BuzzSumo it would be buzzsumo.com/blog

Below is an example analysis for Trackmaven’s blog.

We can see that Trackmaven experimented with an increased publishing frequency in 2016. They increased their production of blog posts to around 10 a week. Despite this increase in publishing frequency, we can see that the total shares of their content actually fell. Following this experiment, Trackmaven reduced the content publication on their blog and are spending more time on promoting their existing content.

This provides an indication that significantly increasing our own content publication is unlikely to be effective, possibly because it is difficult to focus on promotion when you publishing ten posts a week.

2. Analyze the networks and formats that are working for Competitors

The BuzzSumo content analysis report will also reveal the social networks where a site’s content is gaining traction. In the case of Trackmaven, we can see that their content has been shared equally across networks over the last five years.

We can also see that their most successful content over the last five years on average has been infographics. When we change our search to look at just the last 12 months their most successful content has been list posts (posts with headlines that begin with a number).

3. Review their top performing content measured by shares

To review a competitor’s top performing content go to the Most Shared section in BuzzSumo. A search for the competitor’s domain will return the most shared content across the whole of their site for the period you select.

We can also review specific content types. In the case of Trackmaven, we already know that their most shared content type on average is infographics. Thus we can search specifically for infographic content by simply adding ‘infographic’ after their domain.

This reveals the top infographics and may give us some ideas for infographic posts of our own. We can use this same search format to search sites for content on a particular topic, for example: Linkedin.com leadership. This will return the top posts published on leadership on LinkedIn.com.

We can also filter by using the content type filter as shown below. In this example, we have chosen list posts. We can then see how Trackmaven are using list posts and the success they are having.

4. Review their top content by backlinks

We can also look at the posts which are gaining the most backlinks. Use a BuzzSumo most shared search and review the number of links, which is the number of links from unique domains. Interestingly it seems as if Trackmaven posts on the ‘best time’ to post have gained the most links, possibly because they act as reference posts. We can search for all their posts with ‘best times’ in the title by adding this phrase to the search i.e. Trackmaven.com “best time”. This reveals that Trackmaven has used this phrase 17 times in blog post titles in recent years, and they have gained some of their highest numbers of links.

5. Review who is sharing and linking to their content

Both backlinks and social shares amplify content. 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.

We can start by reviewing everyone who has shared their content on Twitter by going to the Buzzsumo influencers tool and entering theirdomain in the “Search Content Shared” tab. This gives us a good overview of who has shared their content over the period we select.

Below are the top influencers who have shared content from their site.

Our next step is to look at their backlinks by using BuzzSumo’s backlink anayzer. This gives us an overview of their backlinks and the top posts that have linked to them.

In this case we can see really powerful backlinks from articles on Fast Company and Forbes.

So far we have been looking across all Trackmaven’s content. We can also drill down and look specifically at the people sharing and linking to a particular post using the ‘view sharers’ and ‘view backlinks’ feature on a most shared search.

If we click on the view sharers option we will get a list of the top influencers sharing this piece of content on Twitter.

This may highlight influencers that we should be building relationships with to amplify our own content.

6. Run a Competitor Content Comparison

How Trackmaven is doing is one thing – but we also want to know how they are doing compared to us. So the next step is to compare their content data to our own. We can do this by running a domain comparison report on BuzzSumo which gives us the data below.

In this case we can see that for the period selected we published less than a third of the content Trackmaven published but we can see that our posts typically gain a lot more shares.

The report also shows us a range of other comparisons such as content length and content type.

The content type chart reveals that the BuzzSumo blog gains most traction on average with ‘how to’ posts whereas Trackmaven have had more success with infographics and why posts. Thus we might consider developing some infographics and experimenting with this type of content. Using BuzzSumo’s most shared and content analysis tools will help us to understand if the new content formats work with our own audience.

Summary

By following these six steps you will gain a very good understanding of your competitor’s content marketing. You will understand:

  • Their publishing strategy and its effectiveness
  • The networks where they are gaining most traction
  • Their most successful content types
  • Their top content measured by both shares and links
  • Who is amplifying their content by sharing and linking to it
  • How their content performance stacks up against your own

There is a lot more that can be done with BuzzSumo.

Once you have completed a competitor content analysis, analyzing your competitors Facebook posts is a good next step.