Your Guide to Competitive Content Analysis for SEO



October 4, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Illustration of hand holding a magnifying glass over documents relating to competitive content analysis.

No matter what business you run, you definitely have some competition. Whether they’re doing exactly the same thing as you or just work in the industry, you likely know who your competitors are. And, as the saying goes, a little healthy competition can go a long way. Especially in content marketing, competitive content analysis can be a valuable tool for success.

From charting trends to seeing what content you should be producing, competitive analysis is a great place to start. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about content analysis, including topics such as:

What Is Competitive Content Analysis for SEO?

Competitive content analysis is the process of collecting information on your competitors. Beyond just who they are and what they offer, you’re going to dive into the content they produce. Determining what keywords they target, finding successful articles, and understanding their content strategies are all important here. While knowing what content they’re producing is important, understanding how and why they’re doing it is equally vital. Take the following circumstance as an example. Two companies could be producing similar content. Yet, one seems to get much more traction and engagement than the other.

A company’s tone and style of content can radically impact how successful it is. In some industries, a certain voice and style of communication simply work better. Competitor research goes beyond just knowing what content is being made. It will pinpoint the tone, style, and international of different content.

Interestingly, your competitors might not be brands that sell a similar product or service. A brand that’s unrelated to your industry could still be targeting a similar keyword. With that in mind, any company that wants to rank for the same keywords you do automatically becomes a competitor. While it’s easiest and often most productive to start with your product competitors, this isn’t the only place a content competitor could come from. Be sure to expand your search to more than just product competitors. Using a broader approach will allow you to farm more competitor data and produce stronger strategies going forward.

What Are the Benefits of Competitive Content Analysis?

Effective competitive content analysis centers you in your industry. Especially if you’re only just getting started, it can be hard to know where to actually begin. Competitive content analysis gives you a huge piece of the puzzle. Alongside providing direction, it can help you find your own unique place in your field.

In any SEO campaign, it’s important to know what your competitors are doing. Running competitive content analysis creates a strong launchpad for future efforts. In fact, there’s a range of related benefits of running this form of analysis:

Understand Content in Your Industry

The specifics of content marketing and its structures vary by industry. While some industries favor longer and more in-depth content, others rely on short and snappy guides. Typical content length shifts across different industries. Depending on what field you work in, the content you will produce on a daily basis will also shift and change.

Looking at the content competitors produce helps you understand what you should be doing, too. In terms of volume, competitors can provide a great benchmark. After all, the aim is to outperform them, and competitor research provides an ideal baseline to measure against. This is why we suggest doing competitive content analysis before everything else. This first step provides context and helps you plan high-impact SEO and content marketing strategies.

Identify Content Gaps

If you’re already running content marketing for your site, it’s likely that you’re actively producing content. Whether it’s a blog a day or a few a week, you’ll have a list of titles you’re working through. While you may have already nailed your keyword research, sometimes you might not even know you’re missing out on something. Looking through your content competitors, you can quickly identify exactly what other people are creating content for.

Comparing your current keyword goals to their production can shine a light on new areas. Think about it. Maybe you overlooked a potential keyword or perhaps ruled one out. Seeing what topics your competitors target can help you get more context about content in your industry. With this data, you can see exactly where to target your content efforts to improve quality, intent, authority, and engagement.

Remember, high-quality content is key. With insights from competitive content analysis, you can better understand your audience’s search intent and the keywords and phrases they’re searching for. Then, your team has the information they need to develop a solid content marketing strategy.

Find Inspiration

While definitely not as impactful as the previous benefits, this one still can’t be overlooked. The fact is, when producing bulk marketing content, your creative well could dry up. Even the best of us hit a creative wall sometimes. If your team is struggling to think of new ideas, competitor content analysis is the answer. Seeing what your content competitors are producing can give you potentially hundreds of new topic ideas. Even discovering a new keyword can turn into a pillar and cluster content plan. You might even find inspiration for creating compelling headlines.

Simply put, if you’re stuck for ideas, turn to your competitors. Study competitor criteria like the top content types, titles, keywords, and audience feedback. At the end of the day, content marketing is a vast field. But a competitive analysis can help creative teams target new topics and create quality content that offers value to audiences.

Understand Search Intent

When it comes to search results, every single field is different. Not all content falls under the same search intent online. This is where competitive content analysis can help. By understanding how your competitors target keywords according to user intent, your team can expand content types to fulfill your audience’s search intent. We dive even deeper into search intent for your SEO strategy in one of our webinars, but here are the types of search intent to review in your analysis:

  • Informational intent: Informational search intent is by far the most common and is easily identifiable with “how to,” “what is,” and related keyword phrases.
  • Navigational intent: If you’re searching for something directly, then you have navigational search intent. To get to Twitter, for example, you’d type in “Twitter.”
  • Transactional intent: If a customer is searching to buy, they have transactional intent.
  • Commercial intent: Research around buying—like searching for the best refrigerators on sale—is commercial intent. Content around buying, including available options, falls under commercial intent.

Knowing what your audience is searching for is vital for success. When it comes to targeting valuable content topics, favoring search structures with the typical search intent for your industry can go a long way. Use search structures to your advantage when creating and publishing content. Some SEO tools can help with this. In the image below, Semrush breaks down a competitor’s entire site to give you an overview of which intent they’re focusing on:

Screenshot from Semrush depicting search intent types in relation to competitive content analysis for SEO.

Image via Semrush

While you should match the industry you’re in, don’t be afraid to write outside of the box. From time to time, focusing on a search intent that isn’t typical could become a valuable source of traffic for your business. Just think, if everyone is focusing on informational intent, what happens to users that type in a transactional search? Often, there’s a vacuum for this content, but you can find opportunities in these areas where competitors aren’t.

Related: Know the Enemy: The Purpose of Competitive Analysis

How Does Competitive Content Analysis Support SEO?

Behind every content marketing campaign is a framework for SEO. Optimization is at the core of what we do as content marketers. From higher rankings to more traffic, it all comes back to SEO. Competitive content analysis actually forms a huge part of SEO, especially in the planning stages. When developing a content marketing strategy, your competitors can point the way forward. Take a look at some of the ways in which competitive content analysis can support your SEO efforts:

  • Keyword targeting: Knowing what keywords your competitors have locked down and which you can rise through the ranks on is vital for success. Understanding the SEO work going on behind your competitors’ doors is a great way of informing your own strategy going forward.
  • Backlink data: Backlinks are vital for brands that want to improve their domain ranking. A competitive analysis shows you where competitor backlinks come from and give insight into how to improve your backlink strategy.
  • Location targeting: If your competitors are getting lots of local traffic, you’ll be able to engineer your content strategy to position yourself as a direct competitor. This is mostly done through longtail keyword competitor research.
  • Content focus: Knowing what your competitors create on a regular basis can help your team target specific topics and keyword clusters and plan for different types of content to complement your marketing strategies.

Are you wondering where to begin? CopyPress’s content analysis tool can set you on the right path. By comparing your content and SEO performance to your top competitors, you’ll have the data you need to streamline your content creation strategy and shoot for success.

How To Conduct Competitive Analysis for SEO

Competitive content analysis can become one of the leading tools in your SEO toolbox. As a way to check on your progress while also developing new content ideas, this is something you’ll be doing a lot of. Considering its importance, it’s a great idea to bring yourself up to speed with exactly how you can conduct competitive content analysis.

There is no fixed way to do this. You could start with one competitor and do a deep dive. Alternatively, you could use SEO tools to run many competitors at once. Whatever you’re familiar with is a good place to start. That said, here is our foolproof method:

1. Find Your Competitors

Perhaps an obvious one, if you’re conducting competitor analysis, you’re going to need resources for competitor data. Most of the time, you’ll already know a few competitors for your brand. These could be giants in the industry, a company of similar size you’re familiar with, or a brand that inspires you. If you already know a few competitors, jot them down. This is a great place to begin. Alternatively, you can use an SEO tool to see who is already ranking for some keywords you’re going to be targeting. Even if you don’t have access to a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs, Google will be enough here.

Simply type in some keywords around your business. Instantly, your search engine will be flooded with a range of different brands that are already ranking here. There will be your competitors, as they’re ranking for keywords that you’ll also be fighting for. Competitors can come in many forms. Initially, it’s going to be easier to start with the competitors that come to mind. But, as you get more advanced and focus more on SEO, you’ll gravitate to supportive tools.

Just remember, there isn’t much point in selecting competitors out of your league. While we all love the underdog, you’re not going to be outranking an industry giant in your first week. It’s good to have one aspirational brand in your pool, but it’s better to stick to companies that are only a little bigger than you. Once you’ve gathered a list of five or more competitors, you’re ready to start.

2. Assess Who They Are

Across your list, you’ll now have the name of each brand and their home website. This is where the fun begins. For the next step, you’ll be playing the role of an investigator. Search through their home pages, about us pages, and any landing pages they have. You’re trying to get a feel for what sort of style, branding, and tone they go for. Consider asking questions like these to better understand who your competitors are:

  • What sort of tone do they use?
  • What is their company vision?
  • Where do they focus their messaging?

Understanding this about each of your competitors will help you assess the industry in general. While each brand is different if you notice a lot of cross-over, that could be signaling something about the field as a whole. For example, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an international bank that focuses on energetic and down-to-earth branding.

Most banks are simple, professional, and to the point. There is a certain style that works for some industries. That said, if everyone is doing the same thing, there is also the potential to break the mold. Understanding what style the copy that your competitors use is in will set you on the right path. For more insight into what to watch in your competitive analysis, read our in-depth guide.

3. Turn to Content

Once you understand the general style your competitors use, it’s time to turn to their published content. This is where competitive content analysis truly begins. Open up their company blog and make a note of what sort of content they produce.

A great place to begin is to look at what different categories they have on their site. If they manually split their content into different topics, you’ll already have a clear basis for their primary keywords. Equally, be sure to look at what their titles are like. Do they prefer long and rambling titles, or short and to-the-point content? From there, it’s time to get reading. Open up a few of the content pieces and answer the following questions:

  • How long is the content?
  • Is it well-written?
  • What formats does it follow?
  • What type of content is it?

Understanding the type of content that your competitors are producing can help you shape more effective strategies. And since most content is freely available, you can easily find out a lot about your competitors. The more you research, the more you’ll understand.

4. Identify Top Pages and Intent

While you can get a lot of information through a good old manual search, there’s a reason most marketing teams rely on SEO tools. Sites like Ahrefs and Semrush get the job done quickly. They even have designated competitor analysis tools that you can use. On platforms like these, you’re able to enter a competitor’s website and instantly get information about their keyword strategy.

When running your competitive content analysis, look for information on top pages, the most common search intent, and the keywords they’re ranking for. Listing this information helps to pinpoint every keyword that your strategy can target, along with the content types that rank the most in top search engine results pages (SERPs). Combining automated SEO research with your own search can give a full picture of what competitors are doing to succeed.

5. Start Planning

Once you know everything about your competitors, it’s time to plan. With the information from your analysis, you can adapt and improve your own SEO strategy. For example, you might notice a certain keyword that most of your competitors are targeting that your content isn’t. Alternatively, there might be a huge gap of keywords that no one is targeting. Plan for these instances and how your creative team can approach leveraging this data.

Plus, knowing what others are focusing on allows you to better position your brand’s content. You can select keywords that aren’t showing up in relevant searches. You could even try and compete directly for a top keyword that’s valuable in your marketing niche. The more information you have, the more effective you can make your content marketing strategy.

Related: SEO Competitor Analysis: How and Why To Do It

Get Your Competitive Content Analysis with CopyPress

As Google continues enhancing the Helpful Content update, there’s never been a better moment to start creating in-depth, high-quality content tailored to your audience. And it’s a turning point in SEO and content marketing that we can take advantage of.

Curious about the current climate as Helpful Content continues to update? Register for the Search Engine Journal webinar and join our CEO, Dave Snyder, as he offers input and advice on content marketing strategy.

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