How to Reverse Engineer Your Competitors’ Content Marketing

Reverse engineering your competitor’s content marketing strategy can be a valuable way to identify potential opportunities and inform your content marketing efforts. With ‘82% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing‘, you’re almost assured that your competitors are putting in the effort where you might not be. Yet!

That also means there is plenty of scope for you to take what they’re doing the best and learn from it. And cheekily improve your own marketing.

Here are some steps you can follow to reverse engineer your competitor’s content marketing strategy:

content marketing seo competitors
  1. Identify your competitors: Start by identifying the companies competing with you in your industry. This could include direct competitors as well as companies that offer complementary products or services. This may seem like an obvious step, but it’s one that I encourage you to put a lot of time and effort into, as it will form the base of your content. I aim for 3 to 5 direct competitors and then, perhaps, one wild card. By wild card, I mean an organisation that isn’t necessarily a direct competitor but is creating and sharing content that could work for your brand and is thriving. They could be from a different industry altogether.  
  2. Analyse their content: Once you have identified your competitors, analyse their content marketing efforts. This includes examining the types of content they create (eg blog posts, videos, infographics), the topics they cover, and the frequency with which they publish new content. 
  3. Identify their target audience: Try to determine who your competitor’s target audience is based on the topics they cover and the language they use in their content. This will help you understand the type of content that is likely to be most effective for reaching that audience.
  4. Look at their distribution channels: Determine how your competitor distributes their content. Are they using social media, email marketing, or paid advertising to reach their audience? And, yes! Suppose you want to gain a competitive advantage. In that case, you should sign up for their enewsletters or email marketing (maybe under a non-obvious email address). Understanding their distribution channels can help you determine which channels might be most effective for reaching your audience and how to approach them. 
  5. Evaluate their results: Look at the results your competitor is achieving with their content marketing efforts. This could include metrics such as website traffic, social media engagement, and conversions. Use this information to identify areas where you might be able to improve your own content marketing efforts.

It’s important to keep in mind that reverse engineering your competitor’s content marketing strategy is just one piece of the puzzle. You should also consider your own unique strengths and value proposition when developing your content marketing strategy. And the aim is never to completely copy what your competitors are doing. The objective is to assess what they are doing and then apply what will work for your company with the intention to improve and build on it so that you stand out from the crowd. 

You might like to try out a handy tool (that I recommend and use) to eliminate some of the grunt work: Semrush tool (head to the comparative analysis part) – Get a 14-day FREE trial.

What things should you compare:

content marketing seo

Take note of the following:

  • the frequency of their blog posts or content
  • length of content
  • strengths
  • weaknesses
  • what have they left out (deliberately or not?)

Choose one post from each competitor (the best one) and analyse it. There’s a complete module on doing this within my Blank to Brilliant online course

How to identify your competitors

Identifying your competitors is an essential first step in understanding the competitive landscape of your industry. Here are some ways you can identify your competitors:

  1. Identify direct competitors: Direct competitors are companies that offer similar products or services to the same target audience as you. These are typically the companies that you are most directly competing with.
  2. Identify complementary competitors: Complementary competitors are companies that offer products or services that complement your own but do not directly compete with you. For example, if you sell shoes, a company that sells socks could be a complementary competitor.
  3. Look at industry reports and analysis: Industry reports and analysis can be a practical source of information on your competitors. These may be available from trade associations, market research firms, or other sources.
  4. Use online tools: There are several online tools that can help you identify your competitors. For example, you can use a tool like SEMrush or BuzzSumo to analyse your website and identify other companies that rank for similar keywords or have identical traffic patterns.
  5. Ask your customers: Your customers may be able to provide valuable insights into who your competitors are and what they offer. Consider conducting a customer survey or holding focus groups to gather this information.

It’s important to keep in mind that your competitors may change over time, so I suggest regularly reviewing and updating your list of competitors. Yearly is a suitable timeframe. 

What is Buzzsumo, and how can you use it?

BuzzSumo is a tool that helps users analyse and understand the content that is most popular on social media. It allows users to search for specific topics or domains and see which pieces of content have received the most social media shares.

There are several ways you can use BuzzSumo:
  1. Content research: You can use BuzzSumo to identify the most popular content in your industry or on a specific topic. This can be useful for identifying trends and understanding what types of content are most likely to be shared on social media.
  2. Competitor analysis: You can use BuzzSumo to see which pieces of content your competitors’ websites are generating the most social media shares. This can help you understand what types of content are most successful for them and potentially inform your own content strategy.
  3. Influencer outreach: BuzzSumo allows you to see which social media users are sharing content related to your industry or topic. This can be useful for identifying influencers and potential partners for your content marketing efforts.
  4. Alerts: BuzzSumo allows you to set up alerts for specific keywords or domains, so you can stay informed about new content that is being shared on social media.

How does SEMrush help with competitors’ content?

SEMrush is a tool that helps users understand and improve their search engine optimisation (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising efforts. It can also be used to analyse and understand your competitors’ content marketing efforts.

Here are some ways you can use SEMrush to analyse your competitor’s content:
  1. Identify top-performing content: SEMrush allows you to see which pieces of content on your competitor’s website are generating the most organic traffic from search engines. This can help you understand what types of content are most successful for them and potentially inform your own content strategy.
  2. Analyse keyword usage: SEMrush provides data on the SEO keywords your competitor’s website ranks for in search results. You can use this data to identify opportunities to optimise your own content for those keywords or target new ones your competitor is not targeting.
  3. Identify backlinks: SEMrush provides data on the backlinks that your competitor’s website has earned. You can use this data to identify websites that might be willing to link to your own content and potentially improve your own website’s authority and ranking in search results.
  4. Analyse PPC advertising: If your competitor is running PPC campaigns, SEMrush can provide data on the keywords they are targeting and the ad copy they are using. You can use this data to inform your PPC strategy and potentially identify areas where you can differentiate your offering.

It’s important to keep in mind that while SEMrush and BuzzSumo are super useful tools for understanding your competitor’s content marketing happenings, they shouldn’t be the only sources of information you rely on. It’s also important to consider your own unique value proposition and target audience when developing your content marketing strategy.

Once you’ve worked out what works for your competitors, it’s time to get started with your own content planning

Here are three tips to keep in mind:

  • The aim is always to be better than your competitors.
  • You don’t have to do everything your competitors are doing – do what works best for your brand.
  • Spend a lot of time working out who your direct competitors actually are (and be realistic about it). 
  • Remember that the most important thing is creating really exceptional content that will achieve your marketing goals, not to just outdo your competitors. 
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