A weekly Google Hangout dedicated to discussing content marketing, search marketing, SEO and more.
Topic: Mining Competitor Data For Content Ideas
One of the biggest challenges for content marketing is finding content ideas that engage and convert. In this episode we talk about using competitor keyword and content data to mine some idea nuggets that are already resonating with your audiences.
Erin O’Brien, COO at GinzaMetrics
Karen Scates, Manager Marketing & PR GinzaMetrics
FULL VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Karen: Hi, everyone. Welcome to today’s edition of FOUND Friday, our YouTube episode where we talk about everything marketing and SEO. There are lots of ideas and articles out there about how to come up with fresh content ideas. This week, we’re talking about using competitor keyword and content data to mine some idea nuggets that are already resonating with your target audience.
When we say, “Look at competitor content for new topics,” people might think we’re suggesting you may copy content onto their own sites. Can you clarify that?
Erin: Yeah. We’re definitely not suggesting that you copy your competitor content and rewrite the exact same thing. (1) Search engine ranking-wise, that’s not going to help you and (2) what we’re really talking about today is utilizing what other people are doing in market and how that’s resonating with target audiences to figure out where you might actually be able to increase your own content or make a few changes or see where you might have some opportunities that you may have otherwise missed.
Karen: So can we talk about some ways to identify the content you might want to look at for your own ideas?
Erin: There’s a bunch of different ways that you can kind of mine competitor content. In the GinzaMetrics platform itself, one of the things that we allow you to do is, based on the keywords and topics that you’re interested in for your own brand, to see a couple of different things. One is how your competitors are ranking for those specific keywords and topics and then the content that’s actually ranking for them so you can actually see whether a competitor is actually ahead of you in rank or not, what corresponding content they have that’s being shown for those same target keywords.
That’s really helpful in term of saying, “This keyword or group of keywords is really important to us for this specific campaign or product or feature set etc. What are other people creating in our market that’s actually taking audience traffic?” That’s where we talk about creating keyword groups and content groups is really important for people because this is one of the ways that allows you to slice and dice and segment things a little bit more easily is that when you want to come up with these fresh content ideas, a lot of times it is around a specific topic and so you don’t just want a list of all these things for every keyword you’re tracking because for a lot of people, that’s in the thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands or even millions depending on the size of your site.
Some other ways that you can do that – and I think we’re going to dive into it a little bit more, as well, is using social signals so there are a lot of different ways that you can do that. But one of the ways that we like to do it at Ginza is we’ll provide a list of all of your different competitors’ sites and then we’ll index their content and show you all the social sharing data for their content, which you can then sort by content group. One of the ways that that’s obviously useful is you can dive in and say, “This is what they’re creating that’s actually getting a lot of shares,” and then you can take a deeper look at what elements in that content are working.
Karen: I think we can’t emphasize enough the importance of those keyword and content groups and we’re always saying it, but really it’s the only way to make this whole keyword tracking and discovery a manageable process. We have several blogs and some other stuff on that, other resources on that. I’ll make sure that I include it on our resource page along with this YouTube video, as well as in the blog that’s written afterwards.
But when we say competitors, we’re talking about more than just your largest direct competitors, right? Who should marketers be catching in their Content Discovery net? What are some ways to do that?
Erin: It’s a really good point that you want to pay attention to not just the direct list of competitors, the two or three people that you really consider to be your main things. That’s really important, too, but a lot of times what’s taking traffic from you are a group of ancillary, smaller things that may be peripherally competitive to you or may offer adjacent features or products but maybe not in complete overlap.
There’s actually a really good graphic we should show in the blog post that talks about where competitors fall in an adjacent thing, and that’s part of our Competitor Discovery feature. One of the things we do with Competitor Discovery in the GinzaMetrics tool (you can do it on your own but doing it this automated way is definitely a lot easier obviously) is we’ll take a look at all the kinds of keywords and topics that you’re looking for and the kind of content that you’re creating, and then what we’ll do is we’ll go out there and we’ll see who else is creating content that’s taking traffic for those types of topics. Then we’ll actually show you the exact list of keywords that they’re matching with you on and the exact content that they’re creating.
Now where we’re talking about finding these content ideas is in this content that they’re creating [5:11 inaudible]. Again, we’re not saying that what you should do is copy this information. What you should do is you should say, “They’re creating a lot of content around the topic from this angle but have they created videos? Have they created webinars? Have they created whitepapers or case studies?”
What you want to look at is how can you actually take the themes and things that audience members are finding that really resonate with them and figure out a way to make it your own and maybe come at it from a different type of content. A lot of times there may be a really popular blog post on something but you could make a video on it, as well, or you could do a podcast or you may do a series of graphics. There are a lot of different ways to come at a content angle and that can be you own unique version of it.
Karen: Another interesting thing to look at is how are your competitors reaching your audience? So if you noticed that they have a lot of videos out and that those are popular and you’re not really doing any videos, or if they have a lot of SlideShares up and those seemed to be popular and you’re not doing a lot of SlideShares, looking at not just the messages that they’re sending out but how they’re sending them out. And that goes back to that medium, method, and message that we talk about all the time.
Erin: Yeah. That’s really true. One of the most important things about using the medium, method, and message ideology is that it helps you analyze your campaigns and content but it’s also supposed to be utilized to make optimizations and do things better in the future and that includes coming up with better content. A lot of times what you can do – I’m talking about content ideation – is you can take a current message or an old content idea that may be evergreen and instead of having to come up with a whole new stream of content, come up with new ways to send that content out or new ways to present it.
It’s important to be able to look at your entire industry and your market and say, “How are other people reaching folks? What is getting shared? What does seem to really work?” Or one of the things that you may notice by doing some of this competitor research and your own is there’s a complete absence of a particular medium and nobody has tried it and maybe that’s a completely greenfield opportunity that you could just jump in on.
Say we’re just going to talk about SEO and not about content marketing at all but we were just going to talk about SEO. While there’s a million things to talk about with SEO there may not be a million and one. So once we’ve gone through that million things, it’s on us to figure out how to continue to keep this topic fresh, engaging, and interesting while getting people the information that they really need to make better decisions.
So if they’re talking about wanting to make better decision using these methodologies, we’ll say, “We’ve written a blog post about every single topic that we could possibly come up with and how to use our product to accomplish those things and that. Okay. Maybe now we need to do a video series. Then maybe after that we need to do some podcast. Then maybe after that, we need to do whiteboard sessions or whitepapers or we need to talk to customers who are using our product to solve these problems and do some case studies.” There are a lot of different ways to continue to come at this.
One of the reasons we suggest looking at what your competitors are doing to find that information is because a lot of times they will approach a problem from a way that you hadn’t particularly thought of but that seems to grasp what’s going on in your market and we don’t think you should copy that idea. What we think you should take is the intention or the general trajectory that they’re coming at it from and consider weaving that in to boost your own content and ideas.
Karen: So once you have some topics and keywords to focus on, what are some ways marketers can make that content their own?
Erin: Once you’ve got the ideas, I think that one of the things that you should consider is you should have, obviously, your own brand voice and a style that works for you.
Here at Ginza, our style is decidedly casual and, at times, a little abrasive. But one of the things we try to do is – we’re a smaller organization, we’re also international, and so one of the things that we try to do is we try to incorporate a lot of different types of things. We try to cover international topics of interest and we also do have a fairly conversational style. Another thing is I think we have a distinct look and feel to our website and what we create. And we happen to be very video heavy. We share these videos on social and do things like that.
I think that once you start to develop your own – and a lot of people already have it, you have your own brand and your own way of going about conversations with people – take a look at what’s already working for your audience and what’s working for your competitors and see what the natural intersection of those things would be. So it’s going to look very disjointed if you take a competitor’s message and decide to just say, “Well, now we’re just going to dump that into our colors and font.” What you need to figure out is does this actually even impact you?
That’s another thing to consider, too, when we’re talking about it. I had this conversation with someone last week. They were asking about competitor information and using a tool to mine for stuff. They found something on a competitor site and they said, “Hey, I really like this and we want to do it. Do you have any recommendations?”
The first question I had is, “Yes, you found something that’s working really well for them and they’re getting tons of social and they’re ranking really highly for it, but what does this have to do with your brand? If you started creating a lot of content for this particular topic, even though it’s working really well for your competitors, can your product address this? Can your brand address this? Is this something your brand can stand behind? Is this something that your product team, your sales team, the rest of your marketing department, your engineering team – is this something that everybody’s actually going to get behind as a methodology or way to do something?”
That’s really important, too. When you’re talking about making it your own, the first step is be sure that you actually could make it your own before you go out creating content. Because if you lead people to that and then the actual product or service or brand doesn’t deliver on what you’ve messaged, it’s ten times harder to get somebody back. So sometimes it’s actually better to just let your competitors have it if something is really working well for them and you can’t deliver on that.
Karen: Going back to the medium, method, and message, what’s working about that message? Is it how it’s being delivered? Is it the actual message? Being able to tell, is it because it’s on video? Is it because it’s consumable in a certain way? Even if maybe you can adopt that message, you might say, “Hey, our audience really likes to get this in this way and maybe learn something there, as well.”
Karen: We’ve been talking a lot about monitoring social trends and your share of voice, how can you use that data to inform content creation?
Erin: One of the cool things about share a voice – I think a long time ago (it has been like five or six years), share a voice was really popular when it came to who has the most share of voice around a particular topic, who has the most share a voice around this or that. One of the reasons I like keyword and channel, specific share of voice information is like what we’re talking about is who is creating the most content on a specific channels within your targeted industry because that’s telling you where your competitors are focusing the majority of their marketing efforts.
We have pie charts for Competitor Share of Voice that we just came out with last week or – God, was that this week? It’s Friday the 13th and my timing is so screwed up. What we allow you to do with that is for all social channels – not just Twitter and Facebook but YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, SlideShare etc. – is for your industry and for all the competitors in your market will actually show you who is creating the most content, who has the most followers, who has the most likes, shares, and pins, etc. But what’s cool about that is what you’re looking at in those individual charts is not just how much things are being liked, which is important obviously, but how frequently your competitors are sharing content on those particular channels, which can a lot of times help you dig in more to what is working for them, what could you be trying?
So if you see somebody who actually continually outperforms and outranks you in terms of keywords happens to be doing a ton of posts on YouTube or Pinterest, you might say, “Hey, we only lackadaisically post something there once in a while, maybe we need to dedicate a little bit more effort into visual marketing like imagery or video,” and then figure out how to make that your own.
Again, going back to not copying their stuff but looking at what elements of that marketing mix are working and then try your own messaging out there first. Then if you need to mold your messaging to be something that resonates more with your audience, at least start out with the baseline of your existing messaging, your existing marketing information on that channel that maybe you hadn’t tried before. Give that a try first and then mold from there.
Karen: Another thing that we talked about using that for is just looking for those sudden changes because that can alert you to some other things that are happening in the market and with your competitors.
Erin: Yes. A lot of time what will happen is, because audiences have trends, obviously products and industries have trends that shift regularly, shift based on news, shift based on new features becoming available, shift on changing needs, and in the case of SEO and stuff, shift on Google’s algorithm updates and their whims. A lot of what we talk about when we talk about sudden shifts is using something like top keyword activity. Top keyword activity not just for you, but top keyword activity for your competitors. What that is – in Ginza anyway – it’s a chart that essentially just tells you over the last week or month or whatever what actual topics and keywords have changed the most both positively or negatively in rank and with the corresponding content, so you can actually see all of a sudden when something takes a big shift.
I know that one of the interesting things for us was we have this blog post that has been up for a couple of years but all of a sudden it was back up at the top of keyword activity and I was thinking, “What happened?” Then I went back and I read. There were actually a couple of new stories that had come out on that kind of topic and it had led people to searching for stuff. Because we had maintained positive rank, we were back up at the top again in terms of keyword activity and people were really starting to look for it again and finding us. We had re-shared it and it just rebuilt momentum. So it’s also a great way to breathe some life back into content again.
The other part of that top keyword activity idea is that we do it for your competitors, too. Keeping an eye not just on your stuff but if all a sudden a competitor is starting to really come up and rank for one of your target keywords, we’re going to show you the corresponding content. You need to look at that and say, “What have they created and what’s happening to make that piece of content of theirs all of a sudden go up 30 or 40 ranking positions in the last week?” And then maybe do a little bit of digging into that keyword group of yours and see what else in that keyword group is going on because that’s a really good way to prioritize what you’re doing. It’s like, “Maybe I should prioritize the thing that’s actually going crazy right now.”
Karen: How can monitoring competitor content actually put you ahead of, instead of just trying to keep up with your competitors, how can you use this data to really get ahead of your competitors? Because that’s really our ultimate goal.
Erin: I think that a lot of what we’re saying may sound kind of reactive and it’s not. Because you’re not just looking at one competitor, you’re looking at the entire competitive landscape. And when you’re examining it from a topic and keyword standpoint, someone may actually do something that changes their rank or increases something over time for a couple of days. But when you start to actually see an entire groundswell and you’re out ahead of it because you notice it first because you’re watching the whole landscape and you’re watching share of voice about channels, so maybe a topic and a channel are starting to expand and become really popular, create the content for the channel and proactively have not just one piece of content but multiple kinds of content around that topic, multiple types of content in that particular channel.
Very rarely is a channel only popular for a day. Like YouTube, obviously, increase in popularity over the years and a lot of video content. So we didn’t just make one video one time around search and content, we do a regular weekly series. You’re watching it right now. We make this. But we not only do this, we do whiteboard sessions, webinars, and all kinds of stuff and that’s because this is a growing regular need. Then this video becomes a podcast, and that podcast becomes a blog post, and those things get shared on social.
A lot of that about getting out ahead of the competitors is where is your audience starting to pay attention and maybe your competitors haven’t even noticed that that’s where they’re starting to pay attention. Or maybe they’re only focused so much on their own content that they didn’t notice the other places that things are being paid attention to in the market that they could’ve jumped on. A lot of it is look for the overall groundswell, not for flash in the pan just one time. Like one piece of content that got picked up and shared on social a bunch, that is helpful but what you’re really looking for is the larger trends.
Karen: Let’s just talk about some takeaways, some first steps. If you haven’t already been doing some of this, how do you get started?
Erin: I think that we always talk about keyword groups and content groups and people think that that’s the most boring part of it but it’s really the foundation. So if you create some keyword groups that have to do with things for your brand, whether that’s product, feature, messaging, marketing campaigns, geographies, whatever – in fact, you can create all of those things, you can create keyword groups around all of that, you don’t have to just pick one thing – that will allow you to see your content and your marketing information in that way. Then when you track your competitor’s information, it’ll allow you to slice and dice based on those categories because it’s very hard to see trends when you’re trying to look at the entire system.
So to be able to really spot a real trend, you need to be able to say, “This seems to be something that’s happening around this particular type of feature.” Then from there, I think that the other thing that’s important is you need that kind of blend of search and social because that’s all the organic stuff that people aren’t paying to send traffic to and that’s actually showing is the real way that your audience is talking about and discussing a lot of your industry and markets would be on a blend of search and social.
Looking at the social share of voice data, looking at the social trends over time, and seeing where certain keywords, keyword groups, and ranking changes are happening on social, you can then go back, take a look at search and say, “Hey, it seems like these four or five pieces of content that we found for them are really getting a lot of popularity.” The similarity is they all happen to be landing pages with videos embedded or they all happen to be landing pages that use this keyword or they all happen to have customer testimonials. What is it about that content that’s working?
I would say that the first step is set up keyword groups and content groups. It’s going to help you really slice and dice stuff. Next is, make sure that you’re looking at this cross-section of search and social. The last thing I would say is that idea of the Competitor Discovery portion of things is going to be really paramount to making things better because you’re not just going to be identifying the couple of people that you’re probably already watching. You’re going to find all of these other ancillary things that are taking traffic from you, which often have really good useful insights on how to attract people, how to talk to them, where to talk to them, etc. So that’s kind of that peripheral area of maybe not direct competitors but people in your space that happen to do a really good job getting your audience’s attention.
Karen: Those are some great tips. Hopefully people can get started now on some of that work and get ahead of the competition for 2016, which is, by the way, just around the corner. Kind of scary.
That’s all the time we have for now. If you have questions or suggestions for future FOUND Friday episodes, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can join in the conversation on Twitter at #FOUNDFriday.
Until next time, have a great fall and enjoy some pumpkin spice a lot to [23:57 inaudible] something.
Erin: Have a happy Friday the 13th and I will catch you guys next week.
Karen: All right. Bye-bye.