If there is one component you should never leave out when building your SEO strategy, it is content benchmarking. It is an excellent way to maximise your Return on Investment (ROI). Measuring your digital success is not that easy. Even when you have achieved your digital marketing goals and KPIs, it does not mean you are good enough. Remember that your competitors work day and night to outperform you.
Additionally, the internet is growing faster than your business. This is why you must benchmark your content against your competitors. Content benchmarking allows you to track how well you are performing compared to real-life competitors.
This article will discuss what content benchmarking is and why it is essential in your SEO strategy.
What is Content Benchmarking?
In simple terms, benchmarking is comparing the performance of something against the standard. In digital marketing, content benchmarking is the process of measuring your marketing campaign versus your competitors’. By tracking specific metrics and KPIs, you can assess your performance realistically. Content benchmarking is common in businesses.
For instance, you can conduct internal benchmarking within a department so that your employees can complete set tasks per week or month. This encourages accountability and provides your employees with a goal to work toward. You can also apply the same in your social media marketing design. Instead of second-guessing whether your content is performing well, you can look at your benchmark and get data-driven answers.
However, the primary focus of content marketing is not to beat your competitors. The objective of your efforts should also compete for your readers’ attention. Relevant and high-quality content is the most effective ranking technique. Mapping out your competitors’ content is the first step to creating quality content and achieving your marketing objectives. This is where effective content benchmarking comes into play.
Content benchmarking includes studying your competitors’ content strategies, learning the opportunities, threats and other practices that work for your website.
What is the Importance of Content Benchmarking?
Before a company redesigns its website, the marketing team must look at its competitors’ websites and industry-leading websites to identify ideas to copy and build upon. The redesigning process takes a lot of time and a significant percentage of their annual budget. As such, it is crucial to find out what your competitors are doing, what are the current technology capabilities, the features that the current market expects and any other details that can make your website stand out. Here are some primary reasons why content benchmarking is essential.
- Encourages You to Set More Actionable Goals
Content benchmarking can help you identify and develop your digital marketing goals. For instance, it can tell you how often you need to update your blog.
- You Can Highlight Your Wins to Stakeholders
Marketers experience pressure to prove the ROI of their efforts to managers and higher-ups. If you are unsure of what success on SEO means, content benchmarking can help you explain your performance in a context that you can understand.
- You Can Keep a Better Pulse on Your Competitors
Benchmarking encourages you to keep better tabs on your competitors’ content strategy. This makes it easier to spot industry trends and brainstorm future campaigns to set yourself apart.
Which Competitors Should You Analyse?
This is a good question. You cannot be an independent café and benchmark against Starbucks. You must look at competitors whose online presence and targets resemble yours. The chances are that you already know who your closest competitors are. However, conducting a competitive analysis can help you understand who you should focus on.
The best place to start is with competitors who are roughly the same size business as you and bring in similar amounts of business as you do. This will give you a better idea of how you are performing compared to them and what you can do to outperform them. You can also benchmark against your bigger competitors and set bigger plans for reaching their success. The numbers of your bigger competitors are more significant than yours, but that does not mean that you cannot learn from these brands.
For you to find your competitors, you can use Google to look up local businesses like yours and investigate them. You can also use other spying tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush. Once you have a list of your competitors, pull out your digital marketing KPIs and let’s get started.
How to Perform Content Benchmarking
Follow these steps for you to understand your competition better and define your content strategy.
Define the Keywords of Your Content Benchmark
The first step in your content benchmarking strategy is the basis on which your website is built. Begin by identifying the essential keywords in your website. Determine which keywords attract the most traffic and the ones that generate the most leads. You can consult traffic data from Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Go into your Google Search Console and click “Search Analytic” under “Search Traffic.” Check the options “Clicks” and “Queries” and select your date range. Google Search Console will generate a list of queries and search terms that attract the most traffic to your website. Copy and paste these keywords into an excel or Google sheet. Also, use Google Analytics to identify keywords that convert.
Map Your Competition
With your keywords ready, it is now time to find out who you are up against for each of these keywords. First, decide how many competitors you wish to include in your content benchmarking. Choose between three to six competitors, depending on how often you plan to be updating your content benchmark, the time you will need to do so and the amount you wish to analyse. Also, consider the industry size. If you are in an extremely niche industry, do not compare more than five competitors. However, if you are in a complex field, conducting more analysis is probably a good idea.
Analyse Your Competitors’ Keywords
This is the fun part of content benchmarking since it involves understanding how you rank in SERPs compared to your competitors. The research keywords available can help you with this step, but each has different features. If you use a tool like SEMrush, it has a “keyword gap” feature that allows you to identify the keywords you have in common with your competitors, in addition to those that they currently rank for and you do not.
Create a new Excel or Google sheet with this data and organise the keywords according to their ranking order. This order allows you to better visualise the keywords with the most potential for you to beat your competition. For instance, you can improve the ranking for the keywords you rank highly for in search results, but lower than your competitors’. You could also strive to rank those keywords that rank on the second page and for which your competitors rank on the first page of SERPs.
Identify Your Competitors’ Best-Performing Content
This step involves analysing the URLs of your competitors that attract the most traffic. Understand the types of content that your competitors publish and what portion of this brings in organic traffic. For you to obtain this information, you need a tool that breaks down the traffic percentage of each URL of your competitors. Enter the name of your competitor in SEMrush’s search field. Then go to the “top organic keywords” table and select “view full report.” You will find the traffic percentage of each URL in the last column. Export these results into a new Excel sheet in your content benchmark document. Add another column for the content type since this is where you will categorise the type of content for each URL.
Analyse Your Competitors Best Performing Content on Social Media
Search engines interpret links and mentions by social media and other authoritative websites. As such, you must do the following:
- Look for the type of content that gets your competitors the most backlinks.
- Identify the type of content that is most popular on social media.
- Determine the content that brings you the most social media coverage.
Again, you can use tools like SEMrush and Buzzsumo to help you with this step.
Compile a List of Possible Ideas and Actions
At this point, you know more about your competitor than you did during the first step. With this information, you now have a clear idea of what works for your competitors and what you can employ in your SEO strategy to outrank them. The final step is to analyse the data and brainstorm ideas that will improve your content strategy. This information should inspire you and place all the opportunities, challenges, gaps to fill and rankings to defend within your reach.
You do not need to record every activity of your competitors. The idea is to create an overall impression of their content marketing. Remember that every company conducts its content benchmarking process differently. However, always make your process easy to replicate because you may want to perform another benchmark in the next six months or years.