One of the best indicators that your business is going to be profitable is the amount of competition that you have. There is nothing worse than setting up a website in a market where you are all by yourself, which is a clear indicator that nobody spends money there. Having competition shows that people are actively spending money in the market all the time. Now you are going to discover how to watch industry competitors and how to use your competition to your advantage regardless of the type of business you own.
Finding Out Who They Are
Ever since I started online and learning the fine art of internet marketing I have always wanted to be considered the expert in something.
Rather than trying to be good at everything, I took a great marketers advice and focused on one marketing method.
That chosen method at the time was search engine marketing.
It didn’t take me too long to realize that you needed to be good at two things in order to succeed.
Creating editorial calendars for your content, and building quality backlinks.
Boy was I in for a world of hurt.
Daily I struggled to publish new content to my website, and if you have gone through that yourself, you know it can really be a pain after a month or so.
That is when I discovered how to watch industry competitors and their content in order to generate content for myself, and today I am sharing that discovery with you!
You are not about to learn another content curation method.
Although great for traffic in some markets, that type of content does absolutely nothing when it comes to positioning you as an expert.
Think about it like this, if you’re a plumber, what good would it do you to have content on your site created by another plumber.
Why would I hire you? I would seek out the other plumber.
My method uses the content that is created by your competition to create a content plan based on their ideas.
We are not using their ideas and pretending they are our own, we are taking their subjects and providing our opinion on them.
This will allow you to leverage the brain power of however many people you want in order to generate content quickly and effectively.
Go Where Your Competition Is
The first place we need to watch industry competitors is in the search engines.
Since search is where your buyers are going to go to find you, this is the most logical place.
Start easy, we want to look at the AdWords offers that are there.
Typically a business that is doing well can afford to pay for the top listings in the search results.
For instance, if you’re a lawyer you might be looking at an $18.00 per click ad in AdWords. You wouldn’t show an ad if it wasn’t bringing you clients.
Use the ads on the first four pages to build a list of businesses who are operating in your niche.
In the example below I stayed with the lawyer’s keyword. I have circled the AdWords displaying for that keyword.
What you will do now is click on each of those ads and find out more about the company that is advertising there. You might end up on a landing page, but don’t stop there and go to the next one. Go to the main domain and see if you can find a blog. That is where your content ideas are going to come from.
Using this one method you can find at least 10-20 different industry competitors to watch.
Next lets go back to page one and check out the top ten in the search results.
I like using just the top ten because you’re going to be researching more than one keyword in your market so why worry about people on the second page.
Go to each of the sites listed there and copy the URL’s to your spreadsheet.
I save just the main domain so you can use Excel to filter out the duplicates in a bit.
After you have gone through about ten keywords you should easily have at least 100 different domains to monitor. On the search engines, this is your competition.
Pro Tip: You can also do this using your local phone book if you’re listed there. Find out if the other businesses in your city listed in the same section as your business have a website. Add them to your spreadsheet as well.
Now that you have your list of websites we need to do a bit of clean-up with the list.
First use the data management tool in excel and delete any duplicate domains that you may have. (you probably won’t have duplicates but better safe then sorry)
Next you need to find out if those websites have RSS feeds.
To do that going to have to do a bit of manual work. At this point you need to decide if you want to follow all 100 or so websites or maybe the top 20 or 50.
If you’re an information marketer in a very active space I would start with the top 50 and as you go filter out those that don’t seem to be worth watching anymore.
If you are a plumber though, you might have some really lazy competition.
Which is good for you in the long run so find the RSS feeds for all 100 on your site list.
As you may have figured out this process can be a bit time consuming so I would recommend that you outsource it.
If you do some searching on Fivver.com you can find someone who does this type of research or just get yourself a VA to watch industry competitors for you.
If you don’t have the funds don’t worry, you only have to really do this once a quarter (if that) to make sure your following the right people at the right time. That’s why you have a spreadsheet after the initial setup is just about adding and deleting.
Pro Tip: With the growing popularity of social media and video you really should also get the URL’s for your competition’s YouTube channel RSS feed if they have one. Again, if they don’t that’s a good thing for you. If you’re really gun ho get their Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ profiles. But typically in a lot of markets I would venture to say they either don’t have them or they don’t maintain them regularly.
How to Track Them All Over the Net
Now we have to track what these folks are doing on their websites.
Nobody in their right mind wants to visit 100 sites a day to see if there is new content posted and that is why we use the RSS feeds.
The first tool you need to sign up for is Feedly.
It’s free and crazy easy to set up and input your RSS feeds.
Using this is just easier than most of the other RSS tools that I have found out there other than Google Reader which was shut down for some dumb reason.
I really like the clean interface in Feedly and think that you will as well.
Here are the steps to set it up:
First you need to add 3 of your feeds to the site by clicking on the green button.
Once you are all set up you will get a pretty looking dashboard like so:
Also take a look on the left hand side there in the menu box.
Do you see where it says “All” and has a list underneath?
That cool little feature will allow you to create several different list if you’re into a bunch of different markets.
You just create a new category and you’re off to the races for each of your websites that you support. An excellent tool if you’re your writing a lot of content.
Now that we have that set-up to we need another tool called Pocket.
Once you have an account and start using this tool you are going to be using all the time for even more things other than research.
It is integrated with over 500 different apps and you can save pretty much anything want to it. Heck, if you like to cook you love good recipes right? Save them to Pocket.
Here is how to set up Pocket:
Once you get to the website feel free to watch the video about the tool if you are so inclined. It provides a pretty cool overview of what it does.
Then click on the big red “sign up” form as pictured below.
Note: If you prefer to use social media accounts to sign up with services I would suggest doing that here with Pocket as well. It makes it so much faster when you’re on an app or Feedly to add things to the service with only a couple clicks.
Once you inside the interface is drop dead simple to use.
Everything you add will show up on the display where you can go read it, delete it, or even add it your archive so it’s there forever if you liked the information.
And finally we want to set up Evernote.
This is really a personal choice in how you want to manage your notes. You may be the type of person that likes to do research the night before so you can get up early in the morning and write.
In that case Evernote is perfect because your saved content is there ready for you. But if you are they type of person who does research straight into writing, notepad or a Word document will do the job here.
If you have never used it before, Evernote is a piece of software that you can load onto your computer, smartphone or iPad.
I am pretty sure you can load it onto just about any device these days which is cool.
In our case though, we are just going to add it to our computer. In order to do that simply download it here.
There is also a web version of the tool if you want to use that.
Using the software version does however allow you to shut down your browser which helps keep you focused on your writing.
Using Their Hard Work against Them
Now that we have a complete library of content to skim over we can use it against our industry competitors.
First we go into Feedly and read over our newly created feed.
When you click on an item inside your Feedly newsfeed it will open like this:
Look for trending topics first, something that is being talked about over and over again on several different sites.
Then read a couple of the articles to get a better understanding of perhaps why it’s trending now. Perhaps there was a news story published or Oprah talked about it this morning. (Don’t discount the power of the O)
As you do it yourself you will that the entire article is listed there. Scan it over and if it’s a trending topic and click on the “add to Pocket” button under the title.
There is the option to send your content straight to Evernote, but you have to upgrade to do that. Since we are keeping this SEO strategy on the free side lets skip it.
At this point pick five articles about the same topic and send them to your Pocket account.
Pocket is where you’re going to do your deep research for the day, should take you about ten minutes depending on how fast you read.
Read over each of the articles on your chosen topic for the day.
If you’re using Evernote, in your browser you can actually highlight sections of each the articles and put them in your Evernote account.
Pro Tip: You can use the Evernote Web Clipper in your browser to do this, download it here. You can also use the Diigo tool bar to this if Evernote just isn’t your thing.
To do that in the software simply click on the HTML Highlighter in the app.
Then save your chosen content using the green “Save” button on the bottom of the app toolbar. This will actually import the entire web document into your Evernote software for you. but add your highlights like so:
Taking bits and pieces of key points from your selected resource articles.
If you chose to provide backlinks to your sources (I don’t unless I am quoting or citing) make sure you save the URL’s so you know what came from where. Evernote makes that easy for you as well, if you look at the boxed area in the image above, that’s the source URL.
Now you have the basis of your article. And you didn’t even write anything yet, pretty cool huh!
Writing In Your Perspective
Remember that early that we went over how we are not curating content. Nor are we copying other people’s work and calling it our own.
We are however taking their points of views as expressed in words and making it ours.
Meaning, if your article now looks like this in Evernote:
You need to now take those points that you found and shuffle them around to create an outline for the basis of your article.
For instance, remember in the image where I showed you the highlighted areas from the Web Clipper? Well I didn’t really like those headlines, but on that same web page the headline examples in the image above where there as well. Those points I can actually do something with. I was even able to come up with a title for my new article that people would actually enjoy reading. (ok, its not the best title but its getting there)
All I need to do now is to keep going through my process and finding some paragraphs to add to my note.
Then as I go through I read the sections that I copied and write my own paragraph either agreeing with or disagree with the point that has been made.
You are just going to write it in your own words.
Then delete the original reference paragraph.
Rinse and repeat the whole process until your entire brand new piece of content is complete.
Remember: I doubt there is an original idea in any market that has not been thought up already. The fact of the matter is that there is so much information out there to be had. Its up to you to take that information, and package it in a new and exciting way to present it to your readers. That is how you gain their trust and respect.
Once you get used to doing this process it should take you about an hour from starting your research to publishing your post.
And working for just an hour a day to see great returns is not really too bad wouldn’t you say?
Creating content is the core behind any SEO strategy for 2014 and if you are trying to put out a lot of it you can and will find yourself searching for new ideas day in and day out.
When you watch industry competitors it allows you to stay on top of current trends within your market. Thus keeping you in the forefront of industry news and establishing yourself as an authority.
The key is using the right tools to automate this tedious task. Using Feedly, Pocket, and Evernote combined will make the whole process quicker and more enjoyable. Plus, by using these tools you can do it while you are on the go with your smartphone or tablet.
Remember, watching your competitors is not about copying their work and using it as your own. It’s about finding trending topics and adding your own opinion to it.
Even if you just formed your opinion about the subject ten minutes ago.
And if you’re a small business owner, liked a plumber for example, you can see how your competition is using the internet to market their businesses online.
Knowing what they are doing, or what they are not, could allow you to find a method to market your company in a way that stands out from the rest.
Leave a comment below and let me know how you watch industry competitors!