In a world where more than 27 million pieces of content are shared on a daily basis, it can be difficult to stand out from the “content sea” long enough to get noticed by new readers.
This is complicated by the fact that every business has competitors, and every single competitor wants to be stand out just as much as you do.
So, you’re in a field where other businesses are likely looking to cover the same topics, news, and events as you are.
That’s a tough deal.
So, how do you ensure that your content is what stands out from the crowd, and you’re the one rising above field competitors?
Why Study Your Competitors? “Only the Paranoid Survive”
If you’ve been in the management world for awhile, you’re probably familiar with Andy Grove’s famous book Only the Paranoid Survive.
While Grove’s book title might seem dire, it’s actually a good lesson for anyone looking to outperform their competitors.
The truth is that, in today’s world, content is competitive and in order to gain a cutting edge on the other companies in your industry, you need to be able to foster and engage a deep-seated curiosity about what your competitors are doing and how they’re doing it.
Here at Express Writers, we’ve done just that.
While we wouldn’t call ourselves “paranoid” by any stretch, we’ve dedicated ourselves to outperforming our competitors.
Our Blog vs. Theirs: How We Outdid the Competition
As a content creation company, we pride ourselves greatly on being able to write amazing content.
Heck, check out this massive case study I just published on the fact of the matter: we outrank other writing companies by a whopping 5% on Google. We’re talking companies with literally 100x more funding than us. (Come on, guys, it’s as simple as using the service you provide! Actually…it’s a lot harder than that just sounded.)
So, one small facet of our overall content marketing picture is to look at what our competitors are talking about, and how to do it a lot better.
Check out how we did just that.
Here’s a real case study of how we’ve outdone our competition:
Them (Competitor): An agency in our industry field recently wrote a <500 word, general piece on “how to do content marketing for boring industries.” There was no formatting, sub headers, and it was written by a non-native English speaker (which would be okay if the writing flow wasn’t significantly off in a few sentences).
Us: We took the idea we saw from our competitor as inspiration, went a step further, and first researched a long tail keyword with a viable opportunity. Using SEMrush and KWFinder, both of which are our go-to SEO tools, we found out that “guide to writing for boring industries” gave us both a great long-tail keyword and an idea for a topic. We handed this to one of our full-time copywriters, Ashley. She put a piece together for the Write Blog that was more than double the length and offered practical points that every business owner could put to use on how to create content for their online presence even if they were in a “boring” industry. Ashley talked about the actual writing content part instead of the broader content marketing picture, as our competitor did (we got more nitty-gritty): she showed our readers how to develop a metaphor, use statistics, and more. The piece included much more research, outbound/relevant and high quality links, and practical solutions.
Here’s what the us vs. them looked like in the end. (Domain name removed from the competitor screenshot.)
Them: Under 5 social shares. No comments. No rankings.
Us: 91 social shares, a couple comments. Ready for the cool part?
We be cool cats. #1 ranking for that keyword. Heck, we outdid Moz!
So as you can see, in the end process we don’t just “copy” topics from others when we do study our competitors. (I don’t condone that.)
We’ll go deep and look at what questions they’ve left unanswered in their content, or what’s missing from the value in the content, and how we can do it better. Sometimes, we’ll even look at the comments on the piece with questions from readers. And, we might back that up with checking to see what people are asking about on Quora in the topic; then we’ll write blogs to provide a fuller, clearer picture on the topic.
As mentioned earlier, because of strategies like these, we have more content ranked in Google than any of our copywriting competitors, by an entire 5% visibility on average. In Google, 5% is a big deal.
How’s that for a solid strategy?
While you don’t need to lose sleep over what your competitors are or aren’t doing, it will serve you well to pay careful attention to what they might be missing within their content and how you can do it better.
Here are five tips to get you started.
5 Key Ways You Can Write Better Content Than Your Competitors
When it comes to scoping out your competitors’’ content, there are a few key places you want to look. These tips will help give you a structure you can develop further as you progress.
1. Keep an eye on the competition
As is true with any sea, the content sea is always moving. Because of this, it’s important to stay on top of the game when it comes to monitoring your competitors. While we’re not advising that you install tracking software on their cars or anything quite that “out there”, we do advise that you use commonly available monitoring practices to keep an eye on their content creation efforts, especially in the following areas:
- Links. Who is linking to your competitor and which posts are earning those links? It’s easy to monitor links by using a service like BuzzSumo link alert. This service will let you know every time your competitor receives a link to content they’ve published, so you can get a feel for what is performing well and what’s not.
- Content performance. Of the content your competitor published in the last week or five days, which piece is the most popular and how many social shares is it getting? What topics did they cover in that same period? Which posts had the least interaction? BuzzSumo also offers content alerts that will allow you to see when your competitor publishes new content and how many social shares it has received.
- Break-through content. Break-through content can be classified as any content that earns a high level of social shares or a high-profile mention from an industry influencer. Has your competitor published any and, if so, what sort of response has it gotten?
- Social media mentions. How often is your competitor’s content mentioned on social media? Where are those mentions coming from? Not surprisingly, you can use BuzzSumo to track your competitors’ mentions, although you can also choose from a variety of other tools, including Google Alerts and SocialMention.
By monitoring your competitors’ content activity, you can get a solid feel for exactly what they’re doing and how you can do better.
2. Dissect their content
Now that you know where, how, and how often your competitors are publishing content, it’s time to get started dissecting it to find places that you can do it better. To begin with, let’s think about the following measurements:
- Content length
- Images/visuals in content
- Content quality
- Keyword optimization
How long is the content? If you read the comments, does it seem like readers are hungry for more or are there questions that were left unanswered within the content? Is the article too short for such a broad topic or too long and drawn-out for a simple one? Could you do the topic more justice by shortening the length of the content or expanding upon certain ideas? While there’s no specific benchmark for content length, long-form content (around 2,000 words) generally performs best in terms of engagement and social shares. Keep this in mind as you seek to create your own competitive content.
Images/Visuals in Content
Does your competitor use visuals in his or her content? If so, how many? Are the visuals well-placed and relevant to the body of the content? Are there other visuals you could include that would help enhance the readers’ understanding of the topic? Screenshots, for example, or charts? Would adding a custom infographic or a high-quality stock image enhance the feel of the piece. Conversely, would the piece do well with fewer visuals? While creating great content comes down to much more than just altering the visuals your competitors include in their pieces, it’s wise to take notice of another company’s visual strategy in order to enhance and outperform it.
This is a big one. Is your competitor’s content lacking in quality? Are there factual inaccuracies, outdated statistics, spelling and grammar mistakes, or other such content sins? If so, it’s easy to outperform this content. More and more today, readers and search engines want quality, expert content. Creating content that is better-written and more relevant than the content of your competitors is a great way to get your foot in the door and begin staking your claim as a leader in your industry.
Is it obvious which keywords your competitors are optimizing their content for? Is it keyword-stuffed or are the keywords too sparse within the content?
Using a tool like SEMrush can help you gain insight into more than 120,000,000 keywords while also gaining access to analytics reports that tell you things like how your competitors are conducting their digital advertising, where their organic and paid search traffic is coming from, and how they’re using link building to enhance your content. This can help you glimpse the “bones” of their content strategy so that you can build up your own.
Here’s that screenshot I shared earlier, which was taken in SEMrush of the project we have set up there to analyze Express Writers against a few main competitors:
3. Create a new funnel
If you’ve noticed that there is a major piece that your competitors are missing (A social media outlet, for example, or an educational opportunity), it may be wise to create a new funnel.
This means creating content that operates from the standpoint of pre-established goals and is designed to be distributed on a very specific platform or in a specific format.
While this is often a labor-intensive approach, it’s a fantastic way to establish yourself as a leader in the industry and to create unique, original content that runs parallel to your existing website.
Here are a few ideas to create a new funnel for content:
- Develop a course. Is there a distinct lack of a certain “how to” within your industry or questions that readers ask that nobody seems to be answering? Creating a course and an associated landing page can be a fantastic way to not only deliver this content to users by to establish yourself as the authority in the niche.
- Dominate social media. If you’ve noticed that your competitors have a very weak presence on a social media platform (or several social media platforms) don’t hesitate to establish your own presence there. This will help ensure that you’re meeting all of your followers where they choose to interact and that you’re providing valuable content for readers on all platforms. Plus, if none of your competitors are there yet, it helps you ensure that your content will stand out that much more!
- Create some infographics. Infographics are a fantastic form of content for anyone who wants to go viral in a hurry. If there is data in your industry that could easily be turned into an infographic, it’s wise to consider the possibility. In addition to being highly sharable, infographics are also fantastically valuable for readers.
4. Focus more on human interest
Sometimes, the weak point of your competitors’ content is not that it lacks information, doesn’t optimize for keywords correctly, or is poorly written – it’s simply that it declines to focus on human interest.
If you think about it, every piece of content you create elicits some type of reaction from your audience.
With many companies, however, that reaction is simply boredom. It doesn’t matter how statistically accurate or well-written a piece is if it doesn’t resonate with readers.
In light of this, it may be wise to identify the places where your competitors’’ content simply misses connecting with its readers.
Is there a place you can answer their questions better? Get inside their heads more efficiently? Help them solve their problems? Help them identify their problems? Is there a place you can simply be funny and make them laugh? No matter what type of content you deal in, these simple questions can go a long way toward helping you connect more efficiently with your readers.
Empathy, human interest, and impact are powerful factors in the success of content and if you can harness them to work to your advantage, you’ll find that you have award-winning content in no time.
One great tool to help you do this is ContentMarketer.io. This simple tool can help you connect with influencers and reach out to people you mention in your content and posts. Fantastic for securing mentions from influencers and helping rocket your content into the spotlight, this tool will quickly become a go-to.
5. Keep your eyes on the horizon
Remember the content sea analogy? If you don’t know where you’re pointing the ship, it’s easy to wind up somewhere you don’t want to be. In light of this, it’s important to balance your content monitoring efforts with a healthy dose of anticipating what’s going to come next.
Fewer people will be interested in content on how to start a great blog, for example, than they will about Google’s huge new algorithm release.
Novelty is powerful and people want content that stays up to date on the happenings within the industry. While creating time-tested evergreen content is important for the overall health and well-being of your blog, keeping your eyes on the horizon of your industry and being aware of developing trends is a great way to become to go-to for readers who want relevant and timely content.
To help yourself stay abreast of what’s happening, use a tool like BuzzSumo to track trending content and get a feel for what’s earning the most shares in the industry.
At the end of the day, outshining your competitors’ content is as simple as paying closer attention.
By monitoring their content output, evaluating what gets shared and what doesn’t, and locating places that you can fill in gaps in their strategy, you can build a content strategy that will quickly outshine your competitors’ on every level.
Don’t sell yourself short on great content. Head to our Content Shop and order high-quality, expert content writing today!