Content marketing works.

That’s why brands are allocating a significant chunk of their marketing budgets to produce high-quality content. But with so much competition, if you really want to see an ROI on your content marketing efforts, you need to perform a content marketing analysis before you ever put pen to paper (or start tapping away on your keyboard).

In our guide on how to create content, we talk about the importance of auditing your competitors. By doing so, you can plan your content marketing program more strategically—ensuring that your content stands out from competitors’ efforts and delivers exceptional value for the consumers of that content.

By performing a competitive content analysis, marketers can better understand the competitive landscape, benchmark their content efforts, and identify whitespace that offers opportunities for reaching new audiences.

In this guide, we’ll teach you the importance of competitive content analysis and how to perform a competitive content analysis of your own. But first, let’s learn a bit more about what competitive content analysis means.

What is Competitive Content Analysis?

In content marketing, competitive content analysis is the process of gathering insight into the content campaigns, publishing cadence, and creative themes in competitors’ content programs.

After all, how can you win against your competitors if you don’t have any idea what they’re doing?

A competitive content analysis should be one of the first things you do when formulating your content marketing strategy. The process should be collaborative and utilize feedback from other departments that may have a better understanding of the competitive landscape. 

Most importantly, the findings from the analysis should be available for all members of the organization to see. 

The Value of Competitive Content Analysis

Content marketers sometimes have tunnel vision. We’re so focused on creating excellent content for our own brands, that we don’t take time to consider how our content compares to competitors’ efforts.

By doing so, we’re putting the chicken before the egg. 

Without performing a competitive content analysis, we’re more likely to produce unfocused campaigns that don’t improve on what our competitors are doing or take advantage of real opportunities in the marketplace.

In other words, don’t start creating content before you know what you need to do to succeed. And to find out what you need to do to succeed, you need to perform a competitive content analysis.

This process offers several distinct benefits for brands, agencies, and publishers:

  • Benchmark efforts: Unless marketing teams know where the bar is set for content in their industry, they’ll be unlikely to surpass it with content that surprises, delights, and builds relationships with their target audiences.
  • Identify whitespace: Analysis of content campaigns across an industry can identify whitespace and messaging gaps, enabling brands to reach new audiences by refining messages.
  • Find inspiration: When content teams never stop to see what competitors are doing, they’re likely to keep churning out the same types of content over and over. Competitive content analysis that details the best content campaigns in a given industry can inspire teams to develop more creative approaches.

Sold on competitive content analysis? Great. Let’s learn how to perform one.

How to Perform a Competitive Content Analysis

Performing a competitive content analysis requires drilling down into competitors’ content to try and better understand their strategy. Here are the steps you need to take to come away with a clearer picture of the competitive landscape.

Step 1: Identify Competitors

It’s an obvious step—but it’s easier said than done. That’s because, when it comes to content marketing, there are two different types of competitors you need to worry about. The first one is the businesses that sell a similar product or service to yours.

The second is the businesses that target keywords that are similar to yours—and these two types of competitors aren’t always the same. For instance, as a content intelligence company we target keywords related to building a better content marketing strategy using data. But we’re competing with others who also want to rank for those same keywords.

So even though we’re not competing for the same business, we are all competing for Google’s affection. I want my content to rank more highly than my competitors’ content for the same keyword. 

When it comes to identifying competitors, consider the keywords you want to target. Then type those keywords into Google Search and see what other brands pop up. Those brands are your competitors just as much as the brands that sell a product or service similar to yours.

Step 2: Take Inventory

Once you have a list of competitors, you need to take inventory of their content. This means cataloguing all of the content sites and the channels that they create content on (blogs, YouTube, social media, etc.). 

When performing this step, be sure to look for content outside of their blog. Many brands provide additional content in other locations, such as their case study page, testimonials page, FAQ page, and media/press page. A good best practice is to visit the sitemap at the bottom of the website and use it to find all the pages where content might live.

Content formats you may encounter include the following:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Ebooks
  • Reports
  • Whitepapers
  • Testimonials
  • Webinars
  • Newsletters
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics

Be sure to make note of all the formats your competitors utilize.

By taking inventory, you’re learning about how much they invest in their content, how often they create new content, the content formats their audience enjoys, and the topics and themes that they focus on.

For example, if you’re a seller of organic foods, and you’re performing a content analysis of a competitor, your findings may include that your competitor has roughly 150 blog posts, and publishes one new blog post per week. Each blog post is between 750-1,500 words, and features 5-10 links, as well as 1-2 images. You also find that they have five case studies on their site, 25 videos on their YouTube channel, and that they publish one post every month in an organic food magazine.

The three themes they focus on in their blog content are cooking, gardening, and dieting. But what they don’t talk about is restaurants that serve great organic food. Thus, you’ve found an opportunity to create content around a niche your competitor is ignoring.

Step 3: Evaluate Quality

Evaluating content quality can be a subjective process. But it’s important to formulate a good understanding of what you think is good content, as this will help you understand how much work needs to go into creating content for your own brand.

Here are some questions to consider when evaluating content quality:

  • How accurate is the information provided?
  • How up-to-date is the content?
  • What is the tone-of-voice of the content?
  • Are there any spelling or grammatical errors?
  • How detailed is the content? Is it a surface-level analysis, or do they do a deep dive into the subject matter?
  • How is the UX of the page? Is it appealing to look at? 
  • How fast do their web pages load?
  • Does the structure of the article make it easy to read?
  • Does the author have some sort of authority in the industry? Are they qualified to speak on the subject?
  • Is their content similar to other pieces of content on the same topic, or do they offer new information?
  • Do they use visuals, and what kind? Do the visuals help you understand the information provided, or are they not interesting?
  • How easy is it to navigate their content hub? Can you easily sort by topic or format?

If you can, we also recommend trying to find hard data on the quality of the content. For example, how much traffic do they get to their content? Are there a lot of comments on their posts? How large is their email list?

After collecting all of this information, give the blog a score or grade that reflects what you think of the quality of their content.

Step 4: Learn Their SEO Strategy

The quality of content is an important piece of the competitive content analysis. But to gain a complete understanding, you also need to audit your competitors’ SEO strategy. In performing Step 1, you should already know who you’re competing against for keywords you want to rank for. 

Now you need to look at how your competitors are using those keywords. This means evaluating the following:

  • Page titles
  • URL structure
  • H1, H2, and H3 tags
  • Keyword density
  • Image alt text
  • Internal linking
  • Meta description

There are a variety of tools that can collect this data for you easily. We like the Chrome plugin Detailed SEO Extension. This plugin can perform an SEO analysis of any page you’re browsing, and provide you with its title tag, headers, links, image alt text, and more.

Alternatively, you can plug your competitors’ domain into an SEO tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs. Here you can get a more comprehensive view of your competitors’ SEO performance. Insights you can surface include which keywords the brand ranks highly for, how many backlinks it has to its website, it’s domain authority, and more,

Step 5: Social Media Analysis

Social media is an important part of any content marketing strategy. So as a last step, take a look at how your competitors are promoting their content on social media. This means going through their LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts to try and answer the following questions:

  • How often do they post?
  • What type of content do they share?
  • How many followers do they have?
  • What is the tone of their social posts?
  • How much engagement do they get on their social posts?
  • Do they include social sharing icons on their website and blog content?

At the very least, you could get some ideas on how to creatively engage with your audience on social. On the other hand, you may find that your competitors don’t use social media nearly enough, which provides an opportunity for your brand to engage with an underserved audience.

Apply What You’ve Learned

Now that you know what your competitors are up to, apply your findings and optimize your own content marketing strategy. Your competitive content analysis can inform you of how often you should create content, what you should create content about, how long your content should be, what formats you should utilize, and more.

From there, you can determine how much you need to invest in your content marketing strategy to stay competitive. By knowing exactly where you need to improve, you can allocate resources more effectively.

Also keep in mind that a competitive content analysis isn’t a one-time-thing. You should constantly revisit your analysis to see how your competitors are adjusting their strategy and what you need to do to keep up.

Simplifying Competitive Content Analysis With Knotch

Knotch is a Content Intelligence Platform that enables CMOs and their teams to plan, measure, and optimize their content programs across all owned and paid channels. Delivering real-time, actionable intelligence, Knotch gives content teams greater visibility into the performance of their own campaigns as well as their competitors’ efforts.

To improve competitive content analysis for marketing teams, the Knotch platform enables marketing teams to search and discover competitors’ content investments by brand, publishers, and industries. Teams can review detailed competitive information about content strategy, publishing cadence, and themes. Marketing teams can also:

  • Gather inspiration from the best content campaigns in any industry.
  • Benchmark content efforts with access to vast historical data about content categories, themes, audiences, and engagement.
  • Search and follow competitors’ digital content investments.
  • Uncover the top creative themes to power content strategy.
  • Spot messaging gaps in campaigns within an industry and refine messaging to reach new audiences.

Additionally, the Knotch platform provides a comprehensive catalog of publishers and a matchmaking tool that helps identify the best publisher for a campaign based on KPIs, creative approach, and target audience demographics.

Try Knotch for Competitive Content Analysis

If you want to streamline your competitive content analysis process, request a free 7-day trial of Knotch to see if it’s a fit for your organization.