How to Use Competitive Research Tools to Create an Unbeatable Content & SEO Strategy SimilarWeb Sep 3, 2020·11 min read In our increasingly digital world, having a great product is no longer enough to drive sales. You have to ensure that the right people know your brand and understand why it is better than your competitors. One of the most cost effective ways to accomplish this is by implementing a strong content and SEO strategy, since that will drive free, organic traffic to your website. Although there are many tools you can use to develop your website’s organic strategy, such as Google Keyword Planner, the best way to get an edge over your competitors is to conduct competitive research. SimilarWeb and MarketMuse are two competitive research tools that pair together perfectly to give you insight into SEO and content trends in your industry — helping you understand how your competitors are driving organic traffic, and allowing you to audit your own website’s content and SEO strategies to find opportunities for growth. What are the Benefits of SimilarWeb’s Competitive Data? Before we dive into the capabilities of each of these tools, you first need to understand the value of competitive data. Competitive data is the cornerstone of any strong marketing strategy. This is true whether you focus on PPC campaigns, affiliate marketing, or SEO strategy. It allows you to see traffic trends in your industry, and gives you an inside look into how your competitors are driving traffic so that you can optimize accordingly. When using competitive data to craft an SEO strategy, you are able to see which keywords are driving traffic, and what the market share is for each keyword. So not only are you able to see where you are over-indexing, but also where you have new keyword opportunities. By using SimilarWeb’s Category Level Top Keywords, you can discover new and trending keywords in your industry and begin optimizing your SEO strategy. Another major reason the importance of competitive data cannot be overstated is that it allows you to uncover how you can create content with a high ROI, and prove it by monitoring your results. SimilarWeb helps you understand real user intent for specific keywords by showing you which keywords are driving the most traffic in your industry and the exact search terms in user queries. This lets you know which queries are driving real clicks, as well as to which landing pages those clicks lead. Additionally, you can conduct all of this research and save your projects in custom dashboards so you can monitor changes as they occur. SimilarWeb provides fresh keyword data from as recently as the last 7 days. Understanding how you perform against the competition and what your overall organic search traffic share is in almost real-time is crucial to evaluating the impact of your SEO strategy. How to Understand Your Competitive Landscape Using MarketMuse MarketMuse, an AI platform that enables content strategists and SEO managers to evaluate content quality at scale, is critical for understanding your competitive landscape. MarketMuse’s platform is built around a topic modeling technology that analyzes tens of thousands of pieces of content for any chosen topic or keyword, resulting in a knowledge graph that showcases related topics, concepts, and entities that a piece of content should include in order to be comprehensive and to rank well. It works for everything from a single page document to an entire domain to determine how well any topic has been covered. Moreover, MarketMuse is capable of measuring content quality across multiple domains to see for which topics each domain ranks, and how well each domain covers the topics at hand. This type of intelligence makes it possible for marketers to identify gaps in competitors’ content for any topic, and reveals the strengths, or weaknesses, of each of their pages. You can use this information to ensure your content is always the most comprehensive, giving you the advantage when it comes to search engine rankings and driving organic traffic on competitive topics. How To Pair SimilarWeb and MarketMuse to Get Cutting Edge Competitive Insights SimilarWeb and MarketMuse data layer together perfectly for you to uncover high-value topics and perform competitive research to understand how to win more traffic via organic search. For example, if you look into SEO opportunities for a large bank that aims to expand its content inventory related to its key offerings, you find some really interesting areas for growth. SimilarWeb shows that if we compare the timeframes from June 2018-May 2019 to June 2019- May 2020, the Finance category in the US grew by over 7%, YoY, with the majority of that growth occurring post-February 2020. Now that you know the overall industry trend, it’s time to drill deeper into how that impacts your bank. The first question you have to ask is: Where is the traffic coming from? SimilarWeb provides some insight into this important question as you can see below: It’s clear that Organic Search, Direct, and Referrals are the primary channels responsible for the increase in finance-related traffic. Organic Search actually overtook Direct to claim the top spot of driving related traffic for finance sites over the last 3 months. Meanwhile, Social, Paid Search, Display Ads, and Mail, have all had constant traffic rates since June 2019. The fact that traffic volume from organic search is increasing suggests there is a great opportunity for players in the finance industry to increase their market share through a content and SEO strategy that is based on new and trending topics that people are searching. SimilarWeb reveals closed-garden data to where you have the best keyword opportunities, and by filtering for non-branded search queries, you can identify high-search-volume topics that are trending upward. As shown above, searches for mortgage calculator are up 29%, accounting for an estimated monthly search volume of 3.5 million. This suggests that for a bank offering mortgages, highlighting and investing in content about the availability of a mortgage calculator would move people beyond the Awareness phase of the user journey. Additionally, diving into the search intent reveals that these searchers are actively looking for the best mortgage options, so you can assume that they would be high-quality traffic, and therefore capturing their interest and attention will create high-quality leads. How Do Your Competitors Stack-Up? Before you target the keyword mortgage calculator, you must first understand the quality of existing content for this topic. To help do this, we looked at three sites that ranked highly for this keyword to see the number and strength of the pages they have covering the topic and how well each of those pages rank. We pulled data from a wide variety of sites including publishers, real estate agencies, and financial institutions to run this analysis. To determine which pages from each domain relate to our core topic, MarketMuse generates a topic model for the chosen topic which outlines the competition’s content for the subject at hand. It then analyzes the relevant domains, and uses a similar scoring methodology to identify any pages that cover the topic model. This analysis determines how many pages on each domain are related to the chosen topic, and pulls the strongest pages based on their relationship to the topic model. You can see several examples below. Rocket Mortgage The pages analyzed above are from the following URLs: rocketmortgage.com/ rocketmortgage.com/learn/mortgage-preapproval rocketmortgage.com/learn/what-is-a-mortgage rocketmortgage.com/calculators/refinance-calculator rocketmortgage.com/refinance/get-started rocketmortgage.com/calculators/mortgage-calculator rocketmortgage.com/learn/what-is-escrow Bank of America The pages analyzed above are from the following URLs: bankofamerica.com/mortgage/mortgage-calculator/ bankofamerica.com/mortgage/affordable-loan-solution-mortgage/ bankofamerica.com/mortgage/affordable-housing-programs/ bankofamerica.com/mortgage/mortgage-rates/ bankofamerica.com/mortgage/home-mortgage/ bankofamerica.com/mortgage/learn/how-to-apply-for-a-mortgage/ Zillow The pages analyzed above are from the following URLs: zillow.com/mortgage-learning/what-is-a-mortgage/ zillow.com/mortgage-learning/20-percent-down-payment/ zillow.com/mortgage-calculator/va/ zillow.com/mortgage-calculator/ zillow.com/mortgage-rates/ zillow.com/mortgage/calculator/payment/ModernPaymentCalculatorAdvancedReportPage.htm Unsurprisingly, all the relevant websites have comprehensive pages specifically targeting the keyword mortgage calculators, in addition to strong content surrounding each of those pages. By looking at which pages MarketMuse associates with your main topic, you can better understand how to cover the topic and which keywords to target in order to build a comprehensive content cluster. For example, it is worth noting that most of these competitors have pages defining what a mortgage is, explaining how to apply for one, and what escrow means. Keep that in mind as we dive into more detail in the section entitled “How to Create Winning Content with Your Target Keyword.” How Can You Predict the Likelihood of Winning with Your Target Keyword? The first question many people wonder is, how long will it take to see positive results? Once you begin creating pages that target your keyword, MarketMuse’s Difficulty and Personalized Difficulty metrics will provide insight into that question based on the keyword difficulty of your target keyword. Keyword difficulty indicates how likely it would be to rank on the first page of a search engine based on the competition for a given keyword. The higher the difficulty, the harder it is to rank. MarketMuse takes this process a step further by including Personalized Difficulty. The traditional measurement of keyword difficulty has a major flaw in that it treats every domain the same and fails to take into account how well you’ve previously covered similar topics. However, it is common knowledge that search engines are much more thorough and take more than just one page into consideration when creating page rankings for a given query, and therefore each domain needs to be treated differently. Search engines also evaluate the entire domain’s topic coverage. A domain that has multiple authoritative, comprehensive articles on a topic is more likely to succeed, rank well, and win traffic for a difficult keyword than a domain that has not previously targeted the keyword. In the image below, we added the keyword mortgage calculator to a bank’s MarketMuse Inventory to evaluate how difficult it would be for the bank to get its page to start improving its rankings and increase its organic success. In this example, we chose a fairly large bank with some previous coverage of mortgage-related topics, but that was not a top competitor in the mortgage space. Let’s pretend that is your bank and your goal is to create a content and SEO strategy targeting mortgage calculator. The difficulty of the topic mortgage calculator is 75, and MarketMuse has calculated your Personalized Difficulty at 80. This tells you that it will be comparatively harder for this specific bank to rank well for this topic, compared to other domains that rank in the top 20. This is not meant to be discouraging, but rather to inform you that you can’t produce only one page of content targeting the keyword mortgage calculator and expect to rank well. You would need to expand your content and coverage of mortgage-related topics and use strong linking to form a powerful content cluster. How to Create Winning Content with Your Target Keyword Once we’ve finished conducting research into the keyword mortgage calculator, the next step is to understand how to produce the best landing page and content for this topic. To do this, first type mortgage calculator into MarketMuse’s Compete Application to get a lay of the land. The difficulty of the topic mortgage calculator is 75, and MarketMuse has calculated your Personalized Difficulty at 80. This tells you that it will be comparatively harder for this specific bank to rank well for this topic, compared to other domains that rank in the top 20. This is not meant to be discouraging, but rather to inform you that you can’t produce only one page of content targeting the keyword mortgage calculator and expect to rank well. You would need to expand your content and coverage of mortgage-related topics and use strong linking to form a powerful content cluster. How to Create Winning Content with Your Target Keyword Once we’ve finished conducting research into the keyword mortgage calculator, the next step is to understand how to produce the best landing page and content for this topic. To do this, first type mortgage calculator into MarketMuse’s Compete Application to get a lay of the land. This shows the top 20 results for mortgage calculator at the time of your query. MarketMuse also provides a Content Score for each relevant page, ranking from 1–20. In this category there are a few heavy weights that can brag Content Scores of 53 — Bankrate, Smartasset, and The Mortgage Reports, followed by NerdWallet, Dave Ramsey, and Bank of America with Content Scores of 45, 46, and 39, respectively. Before continuing, let’s define what a MarketMuse Content Score is and why it matters. MarketMuse Content Score is a quality score, based on the usage of relevant concepts and players for a specific focus topic. For every topic, MarketMuse’s AI analyzes thousands of pages of content to create a topic model of relevant keywords and keyword usage. Then, MarketMuse revisits Google’s top 20 search results for the topic at hand to determine how well those pages stack up in their coverage of the topic, in relation to the overall topic model. MarketMuse’s Compete Application shows you more than just the top 20 rankings and their content quality though. The Competitive Heatmap allows you to see related topics that the best ranking pages cover, and discover their content gaps. The heatmap shown above makes it easy to determine individual pages’ content depth, in addition to the content breadth across the topic landscape. Reading the heatmap from left to right, you can see the content breadth and figure out which related topics are must-haves based on how many pages have included them. We call these the “table stakes”. A quick way to find the “table stakes” is to identify where the Heatmap is overwhelmingly blue and green as you read horizontally, and to ask yourself “which topics fit this criteria?” For this topic, you should have identified the following: Down payment Mortgage payment Mortgage insurance Monthly payment Interest rate Loan This means, at a minimum, to be considered comprehensive and relevant, your page must cover the above topics. The Heatmap doesn’t just show you how to replicate what everyone else is doing though. It also reveals your content gaps based on the competitive landscape so you can create differentiated, unique content on relevant topics. In short, MarketMuse will help to discover what you can talk about on your page related to mortgage calculator that your competitors aren’t covering. To find those gaps, you must again look horizontally across the Heatmap, but this time focus on rows that are mostly yellow or red. The colors yellow and red indicate little to no coverage of that related topic. Continuing on this example, this process tells you that the below topics would allow you to expand your coverage beyond that of your competitors: Extra payments Mortgage lenders Closing costs Prepayment Loan programs HOA fees Next Steps to Success To learn more about how to use these tools to take your content and SEO strategy to the next level, check out our report on How to Build a Winning Content and SEO Strategy, written by the Co-founder and Chief Product Officer for MarketMuse, and Tomas Seliokas, SimilarWeb’s Strategic Consultant. Alternatively, watch our on demand webinar on the Content & SEO Awakening: Improving Your Website’s Market Share.