When it comes to marketing on the internet, one of the best strategies is learning from your competition.
Let’s be honest, here: By this point, there’s competition for nearly everything. This is no longer the early days of the internet when you could be the first travel company, the first bookseller, or the first programmer for hire. You probably have competition for anything you’re selling.
Fortunately, this competition is also an opportunity for you to jump-start your blog and learn from the mistakes of others. Here’s what you should know about how to find blog competitors, what to learn from them, and what else you can do to maximize your performance.
#1: Determine Who Your Competitors Are
Figuring out who your competitors are sounds easy in theory, but in practice, it’s much more challenging. Many companies immediately gravitate towards the first page of search results, saying that whoever holds the top spot is the competition.
That’s technically true, but if you’re just starting, you’re not meaningfully competing with them yet. This is true for the same reason that a used car dealership isn’t competing with a Formula One race team.
Understanding what larger companies do right is helpful, but your real competition is businesses around your size and reach, plus those a little larger than you are. If you have a shoestring marketing budget, you won’t get the same results as a billion-dollar business with hundreds of marketing employees.
This information is why the first part of determining who your competitors are is being honest and figuring out who you have genuine competition with. Look for people who talk about similar things, sell similar products, or have an estimated income close to your own.
#2: Identify Popular Content
There are two forms of popular content. While they tend to follow similar trajectories, their relationship is not absolute, so don’t rely on just one indicator to find and understand them.
The first thing to evaluate when deciding how to find blog competitors and learn from them is what content people are reading most. Some types of content are inherently more popular than others. If you can determine what those are, you can start writing those to attract a better audience.
The most popular types of content vary by industry, so there’s no single style of content to make. However, you can make a good guess for where to start looking by trying to understand who potential customers are and what they care about.
For example, let’s say that you manufacture kid-focused skincare and hygiene products. Kids probably aren’t going to read much of your blog, so there’s no point in advertising to them. However, their parents might.
Upon researching, you may find that parents are interested in how-to guides they can use to teach their children how to use various personal care products to their full potential. Once you know what your customers want, it’s easy to start writing content that caters to them.
The other type of content is what people share the most. Many people will gladly share blog posts they find helpful or interesting, especially if there’s an on-page button to copy the link or post the article to social media.
Some websites even show how often people share the articles on different platforms, so it’s not hard to figure out what people share. Fundamentally, shareable content is popular material, but making shareable content is hard.
Specifically, most content only gets a handful of shares at best, which is hardly enough to turn a profit. There’s so much content that the market is saturated, and new topics can quickly get flooded enough to drown out everything you want to post.
The solution here is not to create more content, which makes the current problem worse. Instead, it’s better to focus on the highest possible quality for your content.
#3: Write for People
Once you know who you’re competing with and what sort of content they have that other people like, the next step is writing your content for the people you want to attract to your blog.
Fortunately for you, many of your competitors write for the algorithm instead of for people. Here’s what’s going on.
Many companies write keyword-focused blogs, which means they try to include many different terms they’ve decided are relevant to the content. This isn’t fundamentally a bad thing. Or, to put it another way, it’s almost impossible to avoid keywords while still having content relevant to the topic.
However, while sprinkling in a few relevant terms works fine, many companies still try to include dozens of different words and phrases in their content. Writing like this creates a phenomenon many companies are unfamiliar with known as distortion.
Distortion is a reduction in the quality of an article because of an external demand to write it in specific ways. The most common cause of distortion is trying to include too many keywords, which forces the writer to make content around those keywords instead of the subject.
The problem with distortion is that readers will see and understand it, even if they don’t know the name. They’ll recognize that the article they’re reading sounds strange, stiff, or unnatural. It may not adequately address the subject, and when they’re dissatisfied, they’ll leave.
Search engines like Google don’t like distortion. They use complex algorithms to understand natural language and determine what’s high-quality information and what isn’t. Stuffing in keywords reduces an article’s quality, and therefore what rank people can expect to get.
This information comes down to the same central point: You must write for people if you want your content to succeed. You should follow a search engine’s guidelines for making content, but don’t try to manipulate an algorithm that changes once or twice a day.
#4: Understanding Tone
Another thing you can learn from your competitors is the tone of writing you can use for your blog.
A California surfer shop might write like their stuff is totally radical, dude, because they’re sick enough to do that instead of using the same boring lingo as some hodad. I can even switch it up and write in first-person because I want to sound like I’m a human with opinions instead of an informative blog.
All of this comes down to knowing your audience and understanding what tone might appeal to them most. There are seven primary tones your competitors may be using.
Informative articles are the bread-and-butter of the internet. These help provide knowledge and factual information, with minimal opinions except when they’re particularly relevant. Informative blogs are excellent for companies that want to help customers use products or explain complex nuances about particular subjects.
Formal writing is mainly for scientific, business, or academic articles. Formal articles tend to have longer sentences, denser references, precise grammar, and terms that casual readers may not know. Formal blogs also avoid slang and tend to use third-person tones. Most blogs outside of specific niches should not be formal.
Humorous writing connects with audiences and makes them laugh. Humor can be highly effective when done well because it reads as both friendly and intelligent. However, it’s important to understand what audience members will find funny. It’s easy to fall into being offensive instead, which completely spoils the effect.
Inspirational writing focuses on optimism and encouragement. You can write this way with a little practice, even if you’re not used to writing. It’s particularly effective if you include personal anecdotes about success, like that time I was able to draw on my previous marketing experience to teach about blog writing. (Hey, wait a second…)
Friendly writing is conversational but otherwise similar to inspirational writing. The main focus is on building trust and may involve asking questions of the reader. Do you think you’re starting to understand the impact different tones can have on your blog? I hope so because the advice here comes from over a decade of personal experience.
Curious writing focuses on asking questions. Unlike informative articles, blogs that focus on curious styles may leave many unanswered questions that prompt people to start doing more research. These are most effective if you can convince people that learning more about a particular topic will help them.
For example, have you ever considered the impact of color on your blog’s success? What about the time of day you upload your blogs and how that matches with the schedule of your readers? For that matter, what’s the difference between a blog and standard marketing material? Learning from your competitors is only one part of the marketing process.
Finally, optimistic and pessimistic writing either encourages people to do something or warns them against it. You’re not going to make as much profit if your blog entries have a lot of distortion, so you need to focus on other ways of marketing your content.
Point of View
An article’s point of view is a key part of writing it. Like tone, point of view has a major impact on the overall structure of the blog and how your readers may experience it.
I like first-person writing because it’s direct and engaging. I’m talking like a human, so I can share different thoughts, feelings, and opinions that are hard to do in other formats. I also know that this point of view is great for articles that rely on the writer’s expertise.
You may prefer second-person writing, which talks to the reader without being as personal. Looking around the internet, you’ll see that many blogs use this tone, and it’s a solid default. Second-person writing can also help if you have multiple people writing for your blog but want them to sound similar to each other.
Finally, third-person writing is rare outside of academic circles. The reader may have read many articles like this in the past, but since it came across as passive and stilted, they had to think carefully before deciding whether it would be appropriate for their content.
#5: Look For Gaps
While learning how to find blog competitors, one thing that often gets overlooked is searching for weaknesses or gaps in a competitor’s content. It’s easy to evaluate what they have posted, but it’s much harder to determine what they haven’t.
To find gaps, ask this question: What might a customer care about that the competitor hasn’t addressed yet?
Seven major factors tend to influence customer interest and satisfaction, so these are the areas to pay attention to.
- Choice: What options do customers have for the product, and how do they compare to each other? Easy-to-read guides that explain the differences are helpful to potential buyers.
- Customer Service: What kind of help and support can customers get? For blogs, this can involve things like explaining common problems or detailing the exact steps to take to resolve a particular issue.
- Ease of Use: How easy is it for different people to use the product? Customers who think a product is intuitive are much more likely to buy it. However, guides breaking down complex techniques are also valuable.
- Functionality: How well does the product work? Customers buy products for a reason. Convince them they have a problem, and they’re much more likely to buy your solution for it. That’s fundamental marketing.
- Price: How affordable is the product, and is the price justified? Are there any discounts available? How does the price compare to those from other companies, and how can you make your product look better in comparison?
- Quality: A quality product is one that’s built well and can last for a long time. This has a close relationship with functionality, but a product can be durable without being helpful.
- Reputation: Is there any branding or history that might be relevant to the product? People tend to trust well-established businesses more than newcomers.
You can learn a lot from your competitors if you have the time to sit down and research them. However, that information is only helpful if you gather it correctly.
Start by figuring out what content they have and what performs the best. Once you’ve gathered their best-performing content, read it critically. Evaluate things like the length, tone, point of view, and relevance to customers to find out why it’s popular. Write these answers down.
After that, research what content they have that’s performed the worst, and repeat the process to understand it.
Once you know what works and what doesn’t, look for gaps in their content you can exploit. Together, this information puts you in the best position to create high-quality, appealing, and successful blogs.