“Just do your own thing.”
That's what the experts say when it comes to blogging.
That means carving out your own space within your niche. What is DOESN'T mean is to be totally oblivious as to what others in your niche are doing. Blinders do no one any good (except for maybe horses).
Instead of pretending like your competitors don't exist, you need to go into stalker-ish mode and check out what they're doing. Nope, that doesn't turn you into a creeper. It DOES means you're savvy and one step ahead, my friend.
I hate using the b-b-boring term “competitive analysis,” but that's precisely what it is. And what smart companies big and small do when they're deciding how best to market and promote themselves.
As part of the marketing plan I created for Blog Clarity, I busted into a competitive analysis of a few other websites in my niche (and some others – see below).
I learned SO much from doing this: what other chicks like me are talking about, what their readers are most interested in, where they're kicking my butt, and where I'm kicking theirs. I also got ideas on things I need to implement. Perhaps most importantly, I saw what made ME unique so I can play off of that in my branding.
Wanna do one for your blog or biz? Here's exactly what you need to do.
How Many Other Companies or Blogs Should I Peek At?
You could get sucked in for days looking at one site after another. Resist the urge. Instead, stick to just a few. Try this:
Three direct competitors
If you asked your readers what other blogs they read, which ones would they say? If you run a small business, what other products or services do your customers or clients use? Pick three from those. These should be competitors who have pretty much the same target audience that you do.
Pick someone way bigger than your blog or biz. This is the person or biz who has mega traffic or lots of sales/clients. It's up to you whether you pick a superstar who seems like they really deserve their superstar-ness, or if they're just an a-hole and you secretly give them the side eye.
One outside your niche
This will give you a well-rounded look at the landscape and can spark mega ideas. In my 15-year marketing career, I've worked for industries from golf to enterprise software to financial to CPG (consumer packaged goods like my current role at Burt's Bees). The things I've learned from each of those jobs has carried over to the next role, regardless of industry.
My 10-Point Dead Simple Competitive Analysis
Run through each of these questions for each competitor.
1. Tone: How would you describe the vibe of the site?
Some ideas: funny, dry, sharp, nurturing, satirical, confident, vibrant, witty, passionate, casual
2. Strengths: What do they do best?
Do they have amazing content or images? Does their community hang on their every word? Is their blog design stunning? Is it easy to explore their website? Just a few things to get your mind going.
3. Weaknesses: Where could they improve?
Think the opposite of #2. Do their images really suck or is their content bland? Could their blog design use a little refresh? Jot down their weak points.
4. Their Killer Ideas: What do you wish you thought of first?
The good competitors all have these. Some ideas are general enough you could do (if they offer free handouts, you can offer handouts too– just on topics that are your strengths). Others ideas might be so specific that you can't replicate them without being a copycat. But write them down- sometimes it can spark a completely new (and even more awesome) idea.
5. Number of Times Posting Per Week
How often are they posting new blog content? Is that more or less than you?
In researching my competitors, I found that most everyone blogged twice a week or less about blogging. Instead, they're busy creating courses or doing coaching. That surprised me, but helped me realize that it's okay for me to only post twice a week too.
6. Most Popular Content
Check out their sidebar, tabs, or elsewhere on their site to see if they've listed their most popular content. Then, head over to BuzzSumo and use their insanely cool tool. The free version will only get you so much info, but it'll be enough to get a rough idea of their content. You can also check their blog on Pinterest to see what articles are being pinned the most. Just type http://pinterest.com/source/websitename.com and you see any pins from that particular site.
7. Email Freebie
Email freebies (aka a lead magnet) are all the rage and just about everyone has one nowadays. They're a great way to grow your email list if the freebie closely aligns with the topics you write about. See what they're offering, if anything. If you don't have one yourself, then add it to your to-do list!
8. Most Active Social Media Platforms
Which platforms are they most active on? You can also check out how often they are posting on certain social media platforms, but don't drive yourself crazy counting all that. Perhaps pick the platform in which they're strongest and look there (Pinterest is hard to tell since dates aren't displayed unless you click on a particular pin).
9. Social Media and Blog Engagement
What does their audience think of them? Take a look at both social media and blog content. Do their blog posts get a lot of social shares? Do they kill it on a particular platform? How are they trying to drive engagement on social (asking questions, using images in a particular way, running contests, etc)?
10. Overall Thoughts
What is your overall impression? Should you keep a closer eye on them on the regular? What changes are you going to make going forward now that you know more about them?
Want to Get Researching Your Competition? Grab This Free Worksheet!
Hey- I'm Melissa! I'm a mom, side hustler, online course instructor, and brand marketer. I run a 6-figure blog helping online biz owners find their a-ha moments with can-do tips, tutorials, and online courses. I also work at Burt's Bees as the assistant manager of Brand Engagement (yep, it's as cool as it sounds). Jump start your biz productivity with my free worksheet!