Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists copy; great artists steal”. Beyond artists, this philosophy has not only proven to be a valuable lesson for artists, but also some of the world’s most successful companies.
Steve Jobs openly embraced Picasso’s philosophy. As Jobs explained, “It comes down to trying to expose yourself to the best things that humans have done, and then trying to bring those things in to what you are doing.”
When it comes to blogging, this philosophy proves true once again. You can learn an awful lot by simply keeping a close eye on your competitors. For the purpose of this discussion, think of competitors not only as those who sell a similar product or service, but also as those who are creating similar blog content.
In the grand scheme of things, we are all competitors to some extent, competing to convert readers into leads, and ultimately into paying customers. From the topics and keywords your competitors are blogging about to the headlines that drive the most shares on social media, these are the things you can steal from your competitors blog:
1) The Aspects of Blogging Strategy That Work Best
Before you peel away too many layers of the onion, begin by gaining a general understanding of your competitors blogging strategy. The idea here is to gain a sense of how effective your competitors are at blogging so you can begin to craft a strategy that builds on their success and exploits their weaknesses. These are a few of the things you will want to investigate:
How often are your competitors blogging?
Who consistently ranks in the top three positions for important industry, product or service search terms?
What types of blog content are your competitors publishing? Tutorials, product specific information, videos, curated lists?
Are there any obvious gaps in your competitors existing content?
2) Which Types of Content are the Most Engaging
Not only is the number of comments and shares an indication of how popular a specific blog post is, but it can be an indication of the types of content that engage readers and spark social media conversations.
Learning what works, and what doesn’t work from a competitor’s blog will help you avoid making the same mistakes others have already made.
Furthermore, if your competitors have built a following on social media there is a good chance that the same followers might be interested in your content as well. The tactics for engaging these social media users are really quite endless, but one of the more direct tactics is to identify the social media users that are most actively sharing and commenting on your competitor’s blog content and engage them in some way. Follow them, retweet or respond to their tweets, add them to a list, these are all soft touch points that help drive targeted social media interactions and website traffic.
3) Inbound Linking Opportunities
Increased website traffic is one of the many benefits of blogging. In general, blogging frequency impacts your rank for important search terms as well as the number of indexed website pages and inbound links.
But what is an inbound link? In a nutshell, an inbound link is a link from one website to another. For example, this is an inbound link to Kula Partners, one of HubSpot’s Certified Agency Partners. Inbound links are the currency of the internet, and a website rich with inbound links will naturally rank better in search engines.
Inbound marketers have complete control over the volume of blog content that they publish and the keywords that they optimize for, but most marketers still tend to leave link building to fate. However, as SEO expert Brian Dean recently pointed out, “if you’re serious about generating high quality links, you need to be very systematic with how you create and promote your content.”
The Skyscraper Technique is method for building high quality inbound links with the goal of becoming the trusted thought leader around important industry topics. This technique is a very effective way to identify potential guest blogging opportunities and websites that are already providing links to similar content.
The Skyscraper Technique can be executed in three simple steps:
Step 1: Find link-worthy content
The first step is to identify your competitors existing content that gets tons of inbound links. Tools like Open Site Explorer, Topsy and and even a simple Google search can help you identify their highest ranking content.
Step 2: Make something even better
The second step is to create your own piece of content that blows the existing content out of the water. This will rarely be easy, but the rewards can be substantial so don’t shy away from a little hard work. Make your piece of content more up to date, longer, more detailed, more thought out and better designed. It needs to be obviously better than the existing content for it to be successful.
Step 3: Reach out to the right people
Once you have crafted a killer piece of content the final step is to reach out to the people who have linked to existing, similar pieces of content. Using the link building tool of your choice export a list of all of the websites that have linked to the existing content and send them a friendly email letting them know that you have created a new, much improved piece of content.
4) Sign up for Your Competitors Mailing Lists
Evaluating your competitors blog from the outside looking in isn’t good enough. You need to subscribe to their email lists to get a sense for what it is like to be directly engaged in their email workflows.
Subscribing to your competitors blog and email lists will help you keep a pulse of their content creation, email frequency, design, subject lines and copy writing. This is a great way to learn what works, and what doesn’t work so well from your competitors so you can build on their success and exploit their weaknesses.
Let me be clear, I am not proposing that directly stealing content from your competitors blog is a good idea - in fact that is a terrible idea. The fact of the matter is that with so much marketing content being generated, about nearly every product and service, chances are you aren’t the only marketer attempting to attract targeted website traffic by publishing compelling blog content. Learn from your competitors, from industry publications or any content publisher for that matter.
The bottom line is that in order for your blog to be successful you will need to do at least one of these two things really well – you will need to be clearly better, or clearly different. Use the suggestions we have provided to help identify what doesn’t work and avoid it, and to identify what works and do something similar, but better.
Originally published Apr 14, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016