Posted on September 15, 2012 by
Spread the word...

I thought I should expand upon my talk at BrightonSEO as some of the attendees might have a few lingering questions – so here it is!

The key points that I would like to stress upon are as follows:

  1. Content is not king, it is king-maker.
  2. Creating shareable and compelling content is neither cheap nor  easy  - in most cases.
  3. Leverage your competitor’s content to find out what works.

In this post I will shed some light on the method I use to create shareable content, with the help of my competitor’s hard work. In this particular case I have used SEOBook.com as an example.

Content is not king, it is king-maker

Leaving technical SEO aside, content is the most important driver of success when it comes to your digital strategy. Yes, there are ways of manipulating the search engines without quality content, mainly through “black-hat” techniques. These methods are short lived and they are only good for seasonal products and services. For example, if you are in a business that only caters for Christmas season then you might want to manipulate search engines very aggressively with all sorts of dark techniques a couple of months before the season starts. You can take this risk because you are only interested in a 2-3 month boost but after that it wouldn’t hurt you a lot if search engine penalise your site because you will have another 8-9 months to recover from such events.

I am not an advocate of aggressive methods regardless of “what-hat” they are. In today’s world businesses who succeed and thrive in the digital realm are ones who produce valuable content that helps their existing clients and educates their potential customers. Apart from helping you establish yourself as an authority and trustworthy brand, content helps you with your search marketing efforts.

Let’s face it, the only way you can gain natural links and social shares is through good content. All else is artificial. People will naturally share your content and link to it if they find it useful in some way. Based on this, content is not a king, it is a king-maker!

Shareable and compelling content is neither cheap nor easy

Listen to any seasoned digital marketer and they will say “go and create compelling content”, this is easily said than done. Creating shareable and valuable content is not cheap and is not easy, not at all.

Here are the common issues that make content creation difficult and expensive:

  1. Do you have the budget to research and create valuable content?
  2. Do you have the resources to seed your content once you have created it?
  3. Say, you spent £500 on research and £1000 on creation. How do you know it is going to work?

There are exceptional circumstances to this, you might create something very quickly and it might work wonders but that is not going to happen each single time. You have to invest time and effort and that translates to a lot of money.

Leverage your competitor’s content

One of the ways through which you can make your content creation process affordable and easy is to figure out what has worked for your competition. To be able to do this you need to two crucial pieces of information:

  1. What is my competitor’s most shared content?
  2. Who shared my competitors most shared content?

How do I find my competitor’s most shared content?

If your competitor has a small site then it is very easy to manually find their most shared content, some would be glaringly obvious because of the social share buttons. However, if you are dealing with sites with say 200-200000 pages then it is almost impossible to identify their most shared content.

To solve this issue I created Social Crawlytics, it is a free tool that you can utilize to identify your competitor’s most shared content by just entering their domain in the dashboard and the application will do all the hard work for you.

 

Social Crawlytics can help you with the following:

  • Find the most shared content of a given website.
  • Find most shared authors of a given website subject to the site having implemented Google+ Authorship properly.
  • Find which social networks are the main drivers of their content/social strategy.
  • Set up scheduled social share monitoring tasks.

Once you have identified your competitors most shared content, there are a few things you can do:

  • Replicate their content and produce a better version i.e. ebook, whitepaper, how-to, data visualization
  • If their content is outdated, produce an up-to-date version i.e. infographic with old statistics
  • Taking learnings from their content, inspiration always helps!

Below you are looking at a competitive analysis carried out on SEOBook.com.

As you can see above SEOBook.com is getting a lot of traction on Twitter, Delicious and Stumbleupon.

Here is a screenshot of their most shared pages:

As you can see I have identified a piece of content that could be replicated/updated. It is an infographic that has been shared just over 1900 times.

Armed with that information, I can get my content/creative team to brain storm to come up with a better version of that infographic. I know it works because almost 2000 people have shared it – there is a precedent!

Now I need to find out who shared that infographic so I can create a list of prospects so that when my infographic goes live I know exactly who I should target to seed it.

Who shared my competitors most shared content?

So you have identified your competitor’s most shared content through Social Crawlytics, now you need to find out who shared their content. Before we get into the process I must explain why this is important.

Web is becoming open and more social therefore relationships are taking a central role. Garnering relationships with the most outspoken and influential people in your market sector will go a long way. If you have garnered relationships with influencers then you can get your content propagated effortlessly, particularly if you content is valuable.

You need to find out who the influencers are behind the success of your competitor’s wide reach. Once you have identified these people you need to create a short list of the most influential ones so you can seed your content. Remember, if they have shared your competitor’s content then it is very likely that they will share your content. These are your prospects!

There are few services you can use to identify these people:

  • Backtweets
  • Topsy
  • DataSift Historics

With the help of Social Crawlytics and above mentioned services you can create shareable content easily and garner relationships with the right people who will push you content on your behalf.

Identifying prospects for outreach

Let’s go back to our previous example. We had identified SEOBook’s Google Longtail Keywords Infographic as a success and had put in place a task to create a better version of it. For the sake of this example, I will only use Topsy. As you can see in the screenshot below I have put the exact URL of the infographic in Topsy and have opted in for “Show Influential Only” so that Topsy gives me the list of the most influential people who have shared that infographic.

So the following people are my prospects, once my infographic is ready I will be contacting these influencers to get their attention to my content and since I know that they have shared something similar before I know that the vast majority of them are likely to share my content. And since these are the influencers, it is very likely that their followers will do the same – domino effect.

So go ahead and try this method yourself and if you have any questions please ask in comments. Also go and use Social Crawlytics, if you need more credits then nudge me on @ysekand.

If you tweet this article you will get 6000 credits on Social Crawlytics as a thank you, just make sure that @ysekand is included in the tweet so I can keep track.

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  1. Azzam says:

    Awesome. Thanks for the link to the tool for find competitor content.

    This will be a valuable tool to see what works for them or not.

    I would like to see that can further measure additional content that is shared across the competitor social media activities.

    This could include content shared on twitter, but not necessarily that which includes a link from their own website

  2. Ian Cleary says:

    Excellent article, I really like the combination of socialcrawlytics and topsy

  3. Matt says:

    Hi Yousaf. Fantastic post and great tool. I’ve used up all my credits already. Any chance of a top up.