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June 7, 2018

B2B Digital Content: 10 Things You Can Learn from the Competition

Competition can be a good thing. Just think about it — Where would Apple be today if they didn’t have a Microsoft constantly threatening to gain a larger hold of their market? And, vice versa, where would Microsoft be if they didn’t have an Apple to constantly contend with? While innovation surely wouldn’t have stopped entirely for either company, it probably wouldn’t have been implemented with the same speed and regularity that only really good competition can provide.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs facing and laughing with one another at a tech conference.

Of course, the same logic that applies to these super-competitive tech companies can also be applied to the super-competitive world of SEO and content creation. But if you still need further convincing, you’ve come to the right place! Check out some prime examples of how your B2B can learn from your competition, then implement your new knowledge into your own content strategy.

SEO

Search engine optimization is a constant battle, so seeing why and how your competition’s content is ranking so highly can be a great first step toward a better SERP. There are many tools out there that allow you to dig deep into your competitors’ websites to see exactly why they’re able to rank so highly in search for certain keywords, phrases, and so on. And, in some instances—especially within niche industries and markets— you might even be able to exploit opportunities you wouldn’t have thought about unless you were evaluating other sites competing for top search spots. This can include things like beating the competition with better quality backlinks, or finding a more keyword-friendly slug that has yet to be adopted by your rivals.

However, it’s not always about what your competition can teach you about content. In some cases, it’s more about identifying vulnerabilities and learning how to gain a competitive edge in areas where the competition is lacking. For example, are they ignoring a key topic that could provide you with a much-needed advantage? Are they leveraging Google snippets or schemas? Do they have quality backlinks? There’s a lot to learn from a competitor’s SEO efforts if you take the time to examine them.  

Keywords

Going down the keywords rabbit hole might sometimes feel like chasing the unattainable. After all, moving the needle even just a few spots on keywords can take days or even weeks of research and content tweaks.  On top of that, you don’t always know how well your efforts are going to pay off in the end, nor do you know how much of an ROI you’ll see. In many ways, it’s a guessing game—but there’s no reason it can’t be an educated guessing game.

Modern tools like Moz, SpyFu, and SEMrush allow organizations to dig deep to see what keywords competitors are ranking for. Then, content creators can compare them to their own keywords, or even go so far as to see what common keywords a group of similar companies are targeting. After all, if everyone in your industry is focusing on the same top keywords, there’s probably a good reason for it, and you don’t want to miss out on a chance like that.

Messaging / Voice-Tone

It’s not uncommon to read a competitor’s content and think “Wow! They’re talking to their users much differently than we are!” And that’s quite alright, because every organization has its own unique way of speaking (that is, its own distinct tone or voice).

Even so, there’s a lot to learn from thinking about the similarities and differences in how you and your competition speaks. For example, there are always some general writing-for-the-web best practices that might seem irrelevant or unapplicable to your industry or business…that is, until you see someone else doing it really well. You never know what might actually work until you see it in action. Then, you can think of ways to take what you like, tweak it to fit your own brand or organization’s voice, and potentially discover a whole new way to connect with your audience.

Blog Topic Ideas

It can be extremely difficult to launch a blog in niche industries, particularly within the B2B marketing arena. But with the right strategy, you can strategically benchmark against your competitors to see exactly what sorts of trends and topics they are blogging about. This process can help you generate ideas about how to best showcase your own thought leadership in a way that works for your company and its audience. You might even discover that managing a blog is not a feasible content strategy at all, and that you would find enhanced value in creating more technical, research-oriented content pieces in the form of a research library. You’ll never truly know until you scope out the competition and see what’s working (or not working) for them.

Landing Pages & Campaigns

An interesting research exercise you could try involves identifying and seeking out relevant keywords for products or services that your company provides, then asking: Is anybody else advertising for those things? If so, see where those paid placement links take you. If it’s to a general website or any on-site page, you can start to learn what types of content that your competition values as high priority for the many Googlers of the world. If it’s a landing page, then you can usually assume that your competition has built campaigns around a specific area of their business, and maybe even get a few tips for building out your own campaign. This will help you learn where you have advantages, disadvantages, and untapped opportunities for your own campaigns and landing page content.

Case Studies & Results-Based Content

Every day, a growing number of online users are referencing reviews and stories from real-life customers, and a well-constructed website should feature an area for these users to easily browse and locate for that type of content. But how your visitors can use it can vary greatly from site to site, and there is no one-size-fits-all case study template or universal approach that works for every bit of content or every company. As a result, researching a wide variety of content layouts might help you identify the best and worst of several competitors, then apply your favorite parts to your own site.

While doing this, consider: is the copy written from the company’s perspective, or the client’s? Does the content link to service areas? How are some of the harder-to-quantify results presented? Just remember that, at the end of the day, your customers want results. That usually means that, if they’re already thinking about working with a new vendor, then they are also likely checking to see what kinds of results those potential vendors are generating.

Content Management Solutions

Having a technically-minded content writer or strategist who can thoughtfully evaluate what the competition is doing through their own digital content can reveal some surprising insights. For example, say a competitor just launched a new website, and you’re curious what they are using to manage their site content with. A little research might reveal that they are on the same platform that you’re considering switching from, or a brand new enterprise-level platform that might also serve your business well. With this knowledge, you can be more confident in your own decisions regarding content management and the capabilities you’ll be needing in the future.

Social Content Sharing

Social media is here to stay, but the popular tools associated with it are constantly changing. Next year’s trendiest social network might not even exist yet, nor the strategies to generate successful content on them. But for now, there’s no reason you can’t look at what you’re competition is doing on the social media sites that already exist and are most relevant to your combined audience. What are they sharing on their Facebook? Is it different from what they’re sharing on LinkedIn? Are there obvious strategic differences in how they are utilizing various social media platforms that you could learn from? With the right preparation and a good eye, analyzing the social media efforts of your competition can certainly provide some telling insights into their overall content strategy.

Video Content  

Video is not only one of the more expensive content endeavors to embark upon, but also one of the hardest mediums to come up with ideas for. That’s especially true if you want those ideas to be truly effective and resonate with your viewers without breaking your marketing budget for 90 seconds of video. With that said, one of the most surprising things that your competitors can teach you about content creation can sometimes be related to video. Still, because of the large budgetary setbacks, it often takes a pesky yet creative competitor coming up with really great video content to get your marketing leadership on board with more video content and media initiatives. For example, a well-catalogued competitor’s YouTube channel might give you all sorts of ideas for your own content. Or a low-budget, self-produced video by your competitor might reveal some ways to get around the high price tag of video with some crafty DIY opportunities.

Email

Any content strategy worth the effort should leverage email marketing as much as possible. But like most marketing tactics, email marketing comes with several uncertainties. For example, always take the time to consider:

  • How often should I email?
  • How much content should be included in each email?
  • Should I do industry- or service-specific campaigns?
  • What should I put in the email if we don’t really have new content to push out there?

To confidently answer these questions, you can gain some valuable insights by simply subscribing to receive a competitor’s emails. Everything from what types of subscription are available, to great subject line ideas can come from your fellow B2B marketers. Again, just make sure to consider how you can create your own fresh and brand-consistent content inspired by these initiatives, and not merely try to steal their ideas to pass off as your own.

Ready to Start Benefiting from Your Competition?

As you can see, there’s always something to be learned from even your fiercest competitors. No matter how bitter your rivalry is, or how different your brands are, there’s potentially limitless benefits to be leveraged from monitoring the content of your competition and analyzing what’s successful. From email marketing and social media initiatives to brand voice and tone, there are no shortage of areas you can delve into in your efforts to better your strategy.

By taking cues from your competition and benchmarking or integrating the high points with your own unique content or SEO strategy, you create the potential for greater market influence and an improved ROI. Just remember Apple and Microsoft—the most innovative, creative, and groundbreaking ideas are often created as a direct result of competition!

If you need help identifying the right place to start in your own competitive content process, the digital marketing specialists at Blackstone Media can set you on the right path. Contact us today!