Competitive content analysis

by on 12th August 2014

My last post Identifying Your Audience: a Data-Driven Approach to Content Planning was pretty data heavy, and long. This time I’m going to talk through something a little lighter, that can still flag up some content ideas, and provide a list of people you can outreach to.


By the end of this article you will:

  • Have a system for gathering and analysing content that your competitors are putting out
  • A list of sites which are likely to be open to linking to you
  • Some hints at what content you should be producing

Tools we will be using:



Step 1: Gathering the Data

First things first, you need a list of your main competitors. Hopefully you know who they are. If you don’t: bookmark this, find out and come back when you know.

With your list (I recommend somewhere between 3-6 competitors) you are going to put each of their URL’s and brand names into buzzsumo, to see what you get.

Don’t forget to do this for yourself as well! URL and brand name.

builtvisible buzzsumo

Export all of those results, and save the files.

Step 2: Analysing the Data

Now we have both on-site and off-site content for our competitors. I find that plotting everything on to a graph helps me see what’s going on, so I would advise dropping the various tables into pivot charts and playing around with different graphs for a few minutes.

Here you are potentially going to see some interesting things. For example, you might see that an on-site article gained a number of shares, and then that topic covered in several off-site posts.

You may also be able to see whether your competitors are focusing more on on-site or off-site content. Are they producing infographics, hosting them on their blog and then sharing them? Are they going purely for getting column inches? You may even be able to distinguish their PR efforts from their SEO efforts if they are particularly large and busy in both areas.

Once we’ve had a look at their individual efforts, we can put them into a single table and plot a nice big chart.

Hopefully you’ll end up with something that looks a little like this:


At this point you can probably start to see some trends emerge. Does a certain 3rd party site get its pages shared a lot? Does video or other media type get more shares? Do things like competitions or giveaways feature a lot?

Have a good hard look at the pages that have acquired a large number of shares and really drill down and try and work out what has caused people to share that page. Look at the actual tweets and facebook posts. What context are the pages mentioned in?

Handily, Buzzsumo has a nice little button to show you all the people who have shared the link. Then you can use All My Tweets to show all their tweets on one page. From there its a short CTRL+F to find the specific tweet you are interested in.

buzzsumo builtvisible

For example, in the above screenshot of the results for Builtvisible, we can see that the most shared posts are:

Looking at these pages, it looks like a good way of getting shares is to:

  • Write and incredibly thorough and in-depth piece about a very technical subject
  • Be the boss
  • Write in a more light-hearted tone

Step 3: But What About the Links?

Are social shares a metric of success? Does more social shares equate to more links?

Get the number of linking domains to each of your pages, and add them to your graph. Here, your results are likely to vary wildly, so I’m just going to point out a few things that are going to be of interest.

Here is an example:

You want to keep an eye out for:

  • Pages with high shares and high linking domains (Obviously)
  • Pages with high shares, but not many linking domains
  • Pages with low shares, but high linking domains

Step 4: Analysing the Results

Same deal as last time, have a look at the links each page is getting, work out what the relationship is and why that person has linked to that page.

Jot down all the reasons you think that link might be there. It could be anything.

Look at the pages with links, but not many shares. How did that person know about the page they are linking to? They are unlikely to have seen it on social media. Does the page rank well for a certain term? If so they could have arrived at it through a natural search.

For the pages with not many links but lots of shares, people seem to like the content, so why wouldn’t they link to it? Possibly it was part of a “share this page to enter” style competition, possibly the shares are all from spam accounts that were paid to share it.

In addition, keep a list of all the websites where you think you could replicate or improve upon your competitors work.


We should now have:

  • A list of sites that are likely to link to us
  • Some suggestions of potential content ideas
  • knowledge of what our competition thinks will work

This process is pretty light, and can be built upon in a number of ways. Have and ideas of where you could take this next? Make sure to let me know in the comments!


  1. Hi
    Nice post, thanks for sharing how you use BuzzSumo. You might be interested in this video we have just produced on how you can use BuzzSumo’s new Pro features to track competitor content marketing using the content analysis reports and alerts It is a little long but there is a lot to cover :-)
    Thanks again

  2. Hi Steve,

    Wow, that video is fantastic. I’m obviously going to have to re-write this post when Pro comes out!

    Thanks so much for sharing that with us.


  3. Nice post Adam!

  4. Hi Adam,

    A Great Post is indeed here Again. I really love your way of writing and your mostly all posts are helpful . today you have written about Content Analysis.

    Thanks for Share :)

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