We've come to a crossroads in the world of SEO over the past year or so. Now your content expansion initiatives have to be of a certain caliber of quality to be effective.
The days of generating pages solely for search engines, optimizing the hell out of those pages, and link building without the accompaniment of that content in mind are coming to an end.
So, the thought leaders in SEO were right, "content is king", and it probably always will be. But the standard or benchmark of "content" is changing.
What is the Standard for Content?
The content you create must "work" toward your overall SEO strategy. With this in mind, your content must be that which serves an informational, resourceful and captivating intent for which it meets Google Quality Guidelines but also would gain the sharing of it by your users socially and hopefully the attainment of backlinks from other sites.
What Types of Content Do You Need?
This is one of main questions I receive from clients all the time. They understand the importance of good content but do not know what type of content to create.
Every site and every vertical is different so I wouldn't tell someone selling nursing home services that they need a cool infographic. Yes, there may be some shockingly interesting facts on nursing home neglect or need-to-knows, but does the content type match the demographic and the marketplace? Probably not.
Still, we know that we need content simply because more content can mean more organic exposure. Small sites today primarily only do well if they have a strong brand, amazing link profile, or a great social media program, which usually these three pieces rarely happen independent of one another.
For the rest of us, we need to find a way to expand our content base on-site.
Looking to Those Who are Where you Want to Be
This is why we perform competitive analysis in SEO programs isn't it? We know where we want to rank so we look at those keyword areas to assess successful rankings and how they may have rose to the top. What better place to look for content ideas than at your competitors?
Now before you send the content recon team into the competitor sites, we have to know what we're looking for. You simply don't want to walk-through the competitor site and say, they have a blog, they have an FAQ section or they have an article database. We aren't solely looking for content gaps between our sites, but gaps for content that works.
After assessing where we need to rank and who is out there ranking well, we take it to the tools.
- The first stop is SEMrush, where we're going to individually look at the competitor URLs. We aren't simply looking for the amount of keywords they rank for or the amount of overall search traffic they receive each month. We will look at individual rankings for keyword terms with decent search volume. Looking further, what are the URLs that are ranking aside from the homepage and other top level pages? What types of "supporting content" continues to show up for worthwhile search queries.
- The second stop is OpenSiteExplorer, where I am not looking simply at the amount of total links or unique linking root domains a competitor has, but what the top link destination pages are. Beyond the homepage, main product/service offering pages, what are the "supporting content" pages which have a high amount of links linking back to them? These pages show us the types of content that either have fared well with users to gain links or is a viable type of content for you to go out and build links.
- The third stop is MutualMind, where we will listen to the social landscape to assess our competitors. As with the above steps, we aren't looking at broad top-level numbers, in this case, overall likes, shares retweets, etc. We're looking for social outlets that work well. Also, at a granular level, what are the types of content that their audience (should become yours too) accepts the best? What content causes others to become your content evangelists spreading it further – and also past the eyes of the search engines.
Hopefully the above process indicates to you that competitive content gap analysis is more than a one-off review of a competitor site for ideas on content generation. It is about generating the types of content that fulfills your intended user's needs but also satisfies the metrics that search engines are looking for.