How to create a competitive content insights report step-by-step

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If you’re like most marketers, you’re focused on your content marketing efforts, but you’re probably also curious about what your competition is doing. Where do they excel? How you do rank? What do you need to do to outpace them? Are there opportunities you might be missing out on?

It’s normal to wonder how you rank; now it’s time to find out and act.

A competitive content insights report can be an exhaustive report, or it can be more high-level. Some agencies offer a very thorough competitor content report. It’s incredibly useful for clients and helps drive their overall digital content strategies for months or even a year to come.

It can take numerous people with varied backgrounds and skill sets more than 100 hours to complete this type of competitor review. While all could benefit from the information gained, not all companies have big enough budgets to invest in something of this nature.

I believe this is critical information for your content marketing strategy, so I’ve pared the process down into smaller, more manageable steps that you can tackle on your own or in partnership with your agency.

When you review a competitor’s content, you want to look at both their earned and owned media. If you focus on just one area, you could miss an opportunity. While there are many ways to do this review, what I’ve found the most helpful is the following process:

Start with the website

Sit down with a notepad and start navigating through it one page at a time.

  • What type content pieces do they have?
  • Are there copy blocks? How big are they?
  • Is there a blog? (We’ll come back to this later — just note it for now.)
  • Are there videos?
  • Do they have case studies or testimonials?
  • Are there any downloadable e-books or white papers?
  • Is there an e-mail newsletter signup?
  • Are there pop-ups on the page?
  • If they’re consumer-facing retail, is there a loyalty club?
  • What special pages do they have (e.g., coupon, locations, etc.)?

Go through each page within the category and subcategory navigation and take notes. Take screen shots of examples you think could be handy in the future.

Next, go to the blog and start reading posts

  • What are the topics?
  • How often do they post?
  • Are there multiple authors?
  • Do they include video? Photos?
  • What type of posts do they include? Are there listicles, interviews, etc.?
  • Is it highly promotional or more informational?
  • Do you think it engages their audience?
  • Do the posts include a CTA (call to action) and allow comments?
  • Overall, how do you think they’re doing from a blogging perspective?

As with the website, take notes and screen shots. You’re going to use this to complete your final report or craft your strategy.

Go to their social media channels

  • Which channels are linked to the website or the blog?
  • Is there unique content on each, or do they publish the exact same thing to each channel?
  • How many fans or followers do they have?
  • Do they follow social media channel best practices?
  • What type of engagement do their posts get?
  • Do they use hashtags appropriately?
  • Do they promote their blog posts or website content via social?

Finally, look at their backlink portfolio

Gather link data by using tools like Moz’s Open Site Explorer (free options available) or Ahrefs (paid service).

  • How many links do they have?
  • What is the domain authority?
  • Where do most of their backlinks come from?
  • Are they doing much with digital PR or media outreach?
  • Have they listed themselves in local directories as appropriate?

Once you’ve gathered your data, review it from a content strategy standpoint

  • Does everything tie together nicely, or does it feel like the channels aren’t talking to each other?
  • Do they cross-promote and distribute?
  • Can you tell what their content strategy goals are?
  • Does it seem like they’re being achieved?

You will want to repeat the same process on your (or your client’s) content, and then compare against the competition. The number of competitors you review is up to you, but from my experience, I’d limit it to three or fewer; it’s a ton of data to pull, and honestly, you’ll seldom find more than three competitors doing great, unique things from a content perspective.

Review the data in-depth and determine two things:

  1. Where your client (or you) needs to play catch-up. What is the competition doing that you’re not? What do you need to add to the site? This could include items like adding images or video to testimonials or adding case study landing pages rather than a current PDF version.
  2. What competitive advantages are there for you or your client? If no one in the competitive set has a good blog, then creating and running a great one could be an advantage. If everyone has only written testimonials, maybe video testimonials would work better.

Go through section by section and create a list of action items based on No. 1 and No. 2 above, and you’ll have the beginning input for your strategy plan. You’ll know exactly what your content needs to be more competitive, and you can start an action plan to fill in the gaps and move ahead of the competition.

I’d also recommend taking a baseline picture of the site’s overall traffic, keyword rank and authority so you can review the results of your efforts in the future.

If you’re not sure how to choose the competitors, you can work with the client to establish which ones to review. Most clients know who’s doing what within their industry.

Or you can do a very streamlined version of the same process where you review the home page, blog and social channels only. The streamlined recommended set should take a maximum of two hours per client/competitor. The actual analysis could easily take 10 to 20 hours per site by the time everyone has done their part.

In the agency model, we had team members at two levels (Junior and Senior) and in three job function areas (SEO, Social and Content) working on the final product. You’ll need to break it out per your team’s strengths and focus areas. It may be too much for one person, or you may have someone with the perfect background to do it all.

While an in-depth competitor content insights report is a daunting task, it’s absolutely worth the effort. I’ve walked out of client presentations with an action items list that felt like a mile long. And that’s a great thing. A big action items list represents future content expansion opportunities and a chance for the client to see big performance improvements. It’s a win-win.

Have you done a complete competitor content insights report for yourself or your clients? If so, are there pieces you include that I didn’t touch on? I’d love to hear.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Rachel Lindteigen is the President and Founder of Etched Marketing and the former Senior Director, Content Marketing for PMX Agency. Rachel has over 20 years of content writing, editing and strategy development and 10 years of digital marketing experience. She works with many top e-commerce retailers and crafts both local and national level SEO strategies. Rachel has a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from the Walter Cronkite School for Journalism and Telecommunications at Arizona State University and an MBA in Marketing.


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