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Do you need ideas for blog topics?

Do you know what content performs best for your competitors?

When you know what content works for your competitors, you can use those topics to brainstorm ideas for your own blog articles.

In this article I’ll share five ways to research your competitors’ content and tools to help you do that.

#1: Identify the Most Shared Content

You and your competitors are trying to attract the same audience. If people are sharing content from competitors’ sites, there’s a good chance they’ll share similar content from your site as well. That’s why it’s important to research what content competitors are publishing and where they’re finding the most engagement.

competitor content research

Find out how to improve your content by researching your competitors’ content.

Using BuzzSumo, you can enter your competitor’s domain name and the tool instantly analyzes your competitor’s blog content. You’ll end up with a table containing the number of social shares for each of that website’s posts; the posts with the highest number of social shares are at the top of the list.

What do you see? To find trends, ask yourself whether a topic or type of media (e.g., infographics) typically gets a lot of shares. Does one social platform perform better than another for particular types of posts? Are there any platforms that tend to have the most shares overall?

buzzsumo most shared content data

View the most shared content on your competitors’ websites.

You can easily identify a few platforms that are very popular with your competitors’ audiences, and if you’re not currently active on those channels it’s probably time to set up shop there.

What about topics? If the most shared type of content is a group post (e.g., interviews with or ideas from multiple influencers), you may want to come up with your own group post that approaches the topic in a different way or tackles a completely different subject.

Or you may find a one-off post that gets shared a lot. For example, you may see a post on industry trends that’s doing very well. You can use that to your advantage by writing your own trends post focused on another aspect of your niche or industry.

If you want to find out who’s sharing your competitors’ content, enter the keywords related to your niche to view a list of the most shared content related to those keywords. Select the View Sharers option next to the articles and make a note of the most influential people sharing that content.

buzzsumo influencers data

Identify the top influencers and bloggers who are sharing content.

If you’re going to write similar content, you may want to connect with these influencers and let them know about your new articles and ask them to share.

#2: Examine Keyword Rankings

Finding out what keywords competitors’ blog content is ranking for gives you additional ideas for content. You may be able to write a much better article (focused on particular keywords, of course) than your competitors and take some of their traffic!

SEMRush is an excellent tool that lets you enter your competitors’ names and get a list of the top 10 keywords driving traffic to them.

The list includes the keyword combination your competitors are ranking for and their current position in search results. In brackets is the previous position when SEMRush last analyzed the results. A helpful feature is that you can see the URL of the page or article that is ranking for those keywords.

semrush keyword data

Find the keywords that drive the most traffic to competing websites.

You’ll also see the average monthly volume of searches for a given keyword combination in the location you’ve specified (e.g., USA), as well as the average cost per click if you want to run Google advertisements for those keywords.

Think about all of the possibilities. With this data, you can find popular topics and write many more detailed articles focused on particular keywords to work your way up in the results.

Want even more ideas? Do additional keyword research based on the keywords you originally plugged into SEMRush. For example, enter the keywords into Google Keyword Planner and Google will show you the estimated number of searches for those words, as well as related keywords. Now you have even more ideas for keyword-based content.

If you’ve already published articles around these keywords, revisit those articles and optimize them for better rankings based on your new findings.

#3: Find the Highest-Ranking Content

Moz provides inbound marketing and SEO software; they rank millions of websites and web pages using their proprietary ranking algorithm.

Every website ranked has a number from 0 to 100 (Moz calls this domain authority or DA). The higher the domain authority a site has, the more influential that website is online. The more influential a website is, the easier it is for it to rank on Google.

Moz also ranks individual website pages and assigns page authority (PA), again using a rating from 0 to 100. Each individual page on a competitor’s website has a page authority. Using the PA score, you can tell which content is ranking highest for each website.

moz open site explorer tool

The Open Site Explorer tool lets you view backlinks for online content.

If you have a subscription to Moz tools, you can use the Open Site Explorer tool to get a full list of all pages for a particular website and sort them by PA. You can also view the backlinks for that piece of content. If you don’t have a Moz subscription, there is a trial available.

A free alternative is to use a combination of Moz Toolbar (Moz’s free browser extension) along with the Google Site command. With the Moz Toolbar installed, every time you search with Google, you can choose to see the DA and PA of all of the pages in the results.

The Google Site command is a simple operator search you can use to find indexed pages on your site or any other site you choose. When you go to Google, type this command into the search bar: site:www.socialmediaexaminer.com (replace “socialmediaexaminer.com” with the domain you’re researching).

You can use the site command search with a competitor’s domain name to view a list of their indexed pages along with those pages’ DA and PA.

google site command data

Use Google’s Site command with the Moz toolbar to discover the top-ranking pages on a competitor’s website.

While the Google Site command isn’t 100% accurate, it will retrieve a significant number of pages indexed on the specified website. You can then go through the list and pick out the posts with the highest PA to give you some good ideas for blog articles.

#4: Monitor Content-Related Conversations

One of my favorite monitoring tools is Brand24. It finds content on:

  • Blogs
  • Website (outside of a blog)
  • Forums
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Image sites

When Brand24 finds mentions, you can apply a filter to focus on conversations on certain channels (use the filters at the top of the results page).

In the following example I wanted to find conversations related to blog content by a specific brand. I entered the brand name as a keyword, and then filtered the results to show only forums. In this case if I see a lot of discussion about my competitor in a specific forum, I should probably join that forum as well.

brand24 data

Find out where your competitors are getting the most attention.

Brand24 also allows you to analyze which influencers are sharing a competitor’s content, who is sharing their content most actively and which sites that mention the content are most active.

I suggest setting up alerts so you can regularly monitor conversations related to your competitors’ content. That way you can become more active on that platform and join the conversation.

#5: Discover the Best Backlinks

For their research report about Google ranking factors, Searchmetrics analyzed over 300,000 results that appeared in the top three search results for Google. One of the key findings was that getting links to your content from relevant and high-authority sites is still an important factor if you want to appear high in Google search results.

Given that, it’s important to research who is linking to a competitor’s blog content and which of those links are the best. If high-ranking sites link to your competitors’ content, they may also consider linking to your content or may even choose to link to your content instead.

Revert to SEMRush and pick out the keywords that are driving the most traffic to your competitors’ websites. The reason those keywords are driving a lot of traffic is likely because the websites have some good external links pointing to their content.

SEMRush will show you the posts (and their URLs) that are getting traffic based on those keywords. Take note of these URLs because you’ll use them in conjunction with the next tool.

back link data

Discover the high-ranking sites that are linking to a specific piece of content on your competitor’s website.

Ahrefs tracks links and ranks domains from 0-100 (similar to Moz). To get started, register for a free Ahrefs account, and then enter the URLs of the posts from your SEMRush results.

The Ahrefs results tell you where links to the post URLs are coming from. Click on the Domain Rank column to see the websites with the highest domain rank that link to a specific URL on a competitor’s website. Contact those high-ranking sites and ask if they’ll link to you instead.

Final Comments

Researching your competitors is extremely important. When you know what’s working for them, you can create your own content around similar topics and give it your own spin. Or you can create similar types of content, such as infographics or interviews.

It requires a bit of time to find and analyze competitor performance metrics, but using the right tools makes the process easier. It’s definitely worth the effort!

What do you think? What do you research about your competitors? Do you use other tools to get the job done? Let us know in the comments below!

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  • Maggie

    Thank you for the information!! Very informative!

  • You are welcome Maggie.

  • Erin Hart

    Great post! I’m looking forward to incorporating this into my overall marketing strategy.

  • Great tips!

    I’m taking a copy writing course and research is stressed throughout it. Even if you think you’re not a strong researcher, just do it! Start small by reading blog posts and comments. Which ones got the most shares and comments? Why? Examine the structure of blog posts and word counts. Of course, you’ll want to adjust these for your audience. Research will help you become a stronger blogger.

    P.S.

    Thanks for the information on Ahrefs and Brand24.

  • FudgeFace

    Oh I just Love you! 🙂 Thank you, Epic Info 🙂

  • Thank you Erin!

  • Thank you!!!!

  • Thanks Amandah.

  • Leigh

    Wow – lots of really great ideas! I got stuck in SEMRush and just came up for air… Lots of really good ideas just from that one link. I’ll have to dive into the others as well…

  • Thanks Leigh, SEMRush is so useful!

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  • Rachel

    So many great tools! Thank you 🙂

  • Thank you very much for sharing this informative post. I found it really useful. Researching can also provide ideas for your next blog post, I believe so.

  • Thanks Rachel.

  • Thanks Jeenmar.

  • Dan Williams

    Great post. BuzzSumo is particularly useful when you’re having trouble thinking of what content to share. Keep up the good work Ian.

  • This post is packed with great info. I’m planning to employ some of these to improve my blog.

  • Thank you Dan!

  • Thanks Meredith.

  • Rashelle

    Great post Ian! I’m looking forward to putting all of this great info to use.

  • Fantastic, thank you!

  • This was a gold mine of information. I am going to use many of these resources, thank you so much for such a thoughtful and well put together blog.

  • Thanks so much Laurels.

  • @disqus_l3YWn4loSZ:disqus, love BuzzSumo as well for those times when you need some inspiration.

  • Thanks for the recommendation on Ahref @iancleary:disqus. Have not tried that one yet.

  • it’s a good one Christian, a little more technical but worth it.

  • treb072410

    Great read!! Thanks for sharing a very useful post here Ian..

  • Thank you!

  • balambico.com

    very useful info

  • Kuba Rogalski

    So informative! And thanks a lot for mentioning Brand24, Ian 🙂