Learning People blog growth

Brighton SEO: Killer competitor content research and strategy

Do you want to learn how to research, plan, and write killer content that outperforms your competitors?

I was honoured to have the opportunity to speak on the topic of competitor content research and strategy at Brighton SEO, April 2019. Thank you to everyone who attended! It was a dream speaking to such a receptive and engaged crowd.

If you missed out or loved the talk and want to see the slides again, read on. My presentation explores how to research competitor content that performs well for specific search intentions.

Discover how to analyse competitor content to inform your content strategy, planning, and writing. Understand how to apply your learnings to outshine competitor content and gain traction in organic search.

Without further ado:

My Brighton SEO April 2019 talk covered:

  • Identifying search intentions.
  • Researching competitor content.
  • Analysing competitor content — why does it perform so well?
  • Content strategy/creation.
  • Writing to outshine competition.
  • Measuring success.

Identifying search intentions

This section of the presentation shared a mind mapping exercise that SEO and content teams can use to uncover long-tail search queries and the intentions behind them.

The idea is to explore real life events in the lives of your audience and how these trigger a need that relates to your offering. Once a need is established, what sorts of queries might your audience be searching for? What information are they intending to find? And in what format?

Mapping these potential search intentions out on a white board or a bunch of post its is a smart way to break out of the limits of obvious and overly competitive industry keywords.

Divide your mind map into each stage of the buying cycle. Consider how audience search intentions differ at each stage:

  • Attraction — meeting intentions triggered by life events.
  • Consideration — learning about solutions and benefits.
  • Preference — why should they trust you and how are you different?
  • Conversion — why buy now?

Next, confirm your ideas using tools. Draw up a list of search intentions that will form the backbone of your content strategy and inform your content creation. Here are some useful tools to use:

Researching competitor content

You have identified the search intentions your content will target. Now, it’s time to research the competitor content you need to outperform for these intentions.

There’s no big reveal here. I don’t have a big shiny tool to show you. Instead, here’s an easy and effective approach using incognito browser and your own heuristic assessment.

In an incognito browser:

  • Google.com/ncr.
  • Set required country in settings.
  • Type in your search intention.
  • Analyse top five results.

Once you have identified the top five high performing pieces of content for each search intention, it’s time to analyse it.

The top five perform well for a reason — make it your mission to understand why. What is it about this content that Google loves?

Here are some key elements to include in your heuristic competitor content analysis:

  • What’s the page title and meta description? Does this show that the content meets the search intention?
  • What’s the H1? What are the H2s? How do these show the search intent is being met?
  • Does the piece get to the point quickly and concisely? Have a look at content that has answer box queries present in SERPs.
  • What’s the format? Are images and videos crucial to the search intention?
  • What’s the informational content? Identify all the key points covered.
  • What’s the tone of the content? Is it emotionally appropriate to the search intention? What does this tell you about searcher mind-set?

Content strategy, planning, and creation

You can use the search intentions you mapped out across the buying cycle to inform your content strategy. They may help you form content pillars which could then become categories on your blog or align with specific content objectives.

To learn more about content strategy, read about the seven questions your content strategy should answer.

You can use the search intentions you identified to fill out your content planner or editorial calendar. The questions identified using Answer the Public work well as blog post titles.

The analysis you conducted when looking content in SERPs for each search intention can feed into the content briefs you create for freelance writers.

If you want to create content that outperforms your competitors, here’s what your copywriting briefs should include:

  • Title.
  • Search intention.
  • H1, H2s, H3s.
  • Key points.
  • Tone/searcher mind-set/persona.
  • Formatting considerations.
  • Key sources.
  • Call to action.

Writing to outshine the competition

Want to write killer content that outperforms competitors in SERPs? First up, as a freelance writer, be sure to interrogate the brief your clients provide you.

What search intentions are you being asked to target and what’s the onwards journey? If you don’t have a search intention and a call to action from your client, go back to them and query this.

Next, do your own search intent research. Have a look at competitor content yourself.

Your aim should be to plan and write a piece that does everything the top five pieces do… and more.

11 ways to write better content than the competition

Here are 11 ways to outshine the competition with your writing:

1) Meet search intentions faster and more concisely

Content that ranks for answer box queries gets to the point quickly. It meets the user’s search intention concisely, within the first paragraph or two. Make sure your content does the same.

Deliver the information your audience wants straight off the bat. Then go into more detail as you progress through the post.

2) Tell readers exactly what you’ll cover

A good introduction tells readers and search engines exactly what they will get out of your content. Sell the benefits of reading on.

3) Write for a lower reading age

Smart writers write simply. It’s not dumbing down. Write for a lower reading age than your competitors. Make your content completely effortless to consume.

4) Use an even clearer structure and formatting

Assess the structure that your competitors use and one up them.

Perhaps they’ve made excellent use of H2s but then have some big blocks of lengthy bullets that are not easy on the eye.

Whack out the H3s in your piece. Boom.

5) Give clear definitions of key terms

Don’t use jargon and don’t let any complex term go undefined. Give clear, understandable definitions. You can even quote an expert while you’re at it.

6) Expand on the topic as you progress through the piece

Give them what they want up front and then expand on the topic as you move through the content. Adding detail adds value, so long as you don’t make them wait for the crucial points.

7) Let your brand voice shine through

Show some personality in your content. Make sure reading your content feels like speaking to your brand.

8) Use more authoritative, primary sources

Use better, more authoritative sources than your competitors. Don’t just reference a blog that quotes a statistic. Find the primary source and link to to that.

9) Quote experts. And include social proof

Speak to experts and get quotes from them to include in your content to take it to the next level.

Include social proof, too. If your topic is being discussed on social media, embed relevant quotes to show your audience how their peers are exploring the subject.

10) Link to related content on your site

Give readers who are keen to learn more something else to read on your website. Make sure you link to this in a way that is effortless to read.

Mention and link to topics naturally. Avoid using words that pull the reader out of their flow.

11) Tell readers what to do next

Don’t leave your readers hanging. Let them know what to read and download next. Ensure they have a smooth onwards journey with your brand.

Measuring success

Measure the success of the content you publish against SMART objectives. That is objectives which are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound.

For example, if your goal is to increase organic traffic to your blog, a SMART objective would be: “to increase organic traffic to the blog by 50% by the end of September 2019”.

Make sure you benchmark performance before you publish your new content. Ensure everything is set up in your analytics platform to measure and report on the metrics that matter.

Report on and analyse your content performance regularly. Figure out what tweaks you need to make to improve upon your success. A test and learn approach is the way to go.

Case study

My client Learning People are tech career experts providing online, career-ready education worldwide, specialising in cyber security, coding, IT, UX, project management and digital marketing.

They identified that search intentions around “women in tech” and other long-tail terms were not being met effectively by competitors.

Learning People decided to work with freelance writers on several series of content. Each series addressed groups of long-tail search intentions around specific topics relevant to their audience.

I was commissioned to work on their “women in tech” series. I wrote a series of articles, using the competitor content research and writing process explored today.

This series has only recently gone live so I can’t claim credit for the graph that follows. It shows how views of the blog have grown by 80 percent of the past year.

This growth shows that targeting long-tail terms with content that meets search intentions better than the competition is an effective strategy.

Learning People blog growth

Do you want to publish killer content that outperforms your competitors? Let’s talk.

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