Competitive research is one of the core pillars of SEO and content strategy. In every industry, vertical, and topic, dozens, if not hundreds, of sites are all trying to outdo one another to see who can capture the coveted first-page organic rankings on Google’s search results pages.
Trying to build and execute an SEO or content strategy without understanding the competitive landscape is like playing dodgeball blindfolded. Your opponents are coming for you, but you have no idea what direction they’re coming from or how hard they’re going to throw the ball at you.
With the stakes so high, you need the right toolset to find which topics your audience is searching for, which ones your competitors are winning on, which ones they’re weak on, and how you can produce better content that ranks higher and drives searchers to your pipeline, not your competitors’.
In this article, we’re going to look at how you can use MarketMuse and SimilarWeb together to do deep competitive research, find trending opportunities, and learn how to create content that is as good or better than anyone else going after the same topics.
How SimilarWeb Looks at 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 at how your competitors are driving that traffic so you can identify weaknesses and turn them into your advantages.
When using competitive data from SimilarWeb to craft an SEO strategy, you are able to see which keywords are driving traffic, and the market share for each keyword. Not only do you see where you are successful already, but where you have gaps. By using SimilarWeb’s Category Level Keyword Analysis you can discover new and trending keywords in your industry so you can find new content opportunities and ensure you are the go-to domain for everything related to the topics you want to own.
Moreover, you can conduct all of this research and then save your projects in centralized dashboards so you can monitor changes in real-time as SimilarWeb provides keyword data from as recently as the last 7-days. Understanding how you perform against your competition and what your overall organic search traffic share is in near real-time is crucial to evaluating the impact of your SEO strategy and making on-the-fly adjustments.
Understanding the Competitive Landscape with MarketMuse
MarketMuse is an AI platform that makes it possible for content strategists and SEOs to understand content quality at scale. At the core lies a topic modeling technology that analyzes tens of thousands of documents for any topic or keyword.
This can be applied to a single page or an entire domain to determine how well a topic has been covered. Beyond that, MarketMuse has the capability to measure content quality across multiple domains to see what topics they are ranking for and how well they have covered those topics.
This intelligence makes it possible for you to identify gaps in your competitors’ topic coverage as well as their weak and strong pages. You can use this to ensure your content is always the most comprehensive, giving you the edge when it comes to ranking well and driving organic traffic on competitive topics
How to Use SimilarWeb and MarketMuse for Competitive Insights
Let’s look at how you can layer SimilarWeb and MarketMuse data together to find high-value topics and do competitive analysis to understand what we need to do to win on those topics from an organic search perspective.
For this example, we’re looking into the opportunity for a large bank that wants to expand its content inventory on topics related to its key offerings.
As it happens, we’re in luck – SimilarWeb is showing that since February 2020, the Finance category has grown more than 7% during the last 12 months, with the majority of growth coming post-February 2020. It’s clear that consumers are searching for finance-related topics.
So, we know that finance-related searches are increasing, which is a great start. But we need to drill deeper to see how that will impact our bank. One question we have to ask is: Where are people doing their searching?
SimilarWeb has some answers.
We can see here that Organic, Direct, and Referral channels are the most responsible for the increase in finance-related searches. In fact, organic search overtook Direct traffic to become the most important marketing channel for finance publishers during the last 3 months.
Compare that to Social, Paid Search, Display Ads, and Mail, which have been flat since June 2019.
What we know now is that the increase in Organic search volume suggests a great opportunity for brands in the finance industry to increase their market share by investing in content creation. Content that speaks to new and trending topics that people are going to Google to learn about should increase our bank’s web traffic and get users into our funnel.
Now that we know people are searching for finance topics, SimilarWeb can show us where the best opportunities reside. By filtering for non-branded search queries, we can find high-search-volume topics that are trending upward.
As we can see here, searches for “mortgage calculator” are up 29.19%, with an estimated search volume of 3.5 million. For a bank that offers mortgages, a calculator that helps people who are moving beyond the Awareness phase of their decision journey would be a key piece of content. These are searchers who are actively searching for the best options for a mortgage. We want to capture their interest and attention in our mortgage products.
How Good Are the Top Competitors?
Before we start executing on our mortgage calculator, it’s good to understand the quality of the competition on the topic. We looked at five competitors ranking highly for “mortgage calculator” to see how many strong pages they have related to that topic and how well those pages are ranking. We pulled data for a diverse array of competitors to include publishers, real estate, and financial institutions.
To determine which pages on each domain were related to our core topic, MarketMuse generates a topic model for that topic, analyzes the domains, and uses a similarity scoring methodology to find pages that cover the topic model to some extent.
This analysis looks at how many pages on each domain are related to the topic and also pulls specific pages that are especially strong in their relationship to the topic model.
In the graphs, pages are grouped into buckets depending on where they rank in Google (1, 2-4, 5-10, 11-20, 21+, NR – no ranking).
Six strongly related pages:
Six strongly related pages:
Seven strongly related pages:
Bank of America
Six strongly related pages:
Six strongly related pages:
As expected, these domains don’t only have great pages specifically targeting “mortgage calculators,” they also have strong content surrounding those pages. By looking at which pages MarketMuse is explicitly associating with our main topic, we can get a sense of what we might need to cover to have a comprehensive content cluster around mortgages.
For example, most of these competitors have pages defining what a mortgage is, explaining how to apply for one, what escrow means, etc. That’s important when it comes to building a mortgage-focused content Cluster.
Predicting the Likelihood of Success on a Mortgage Calculator Page
If we were to create a page targeting the term “mortgage calculator,” how likely is it that we would see positive results soon after publication?
MarketMuse’s Difficulty and Personalized Difficulty metrics can give us some clues. Most content strategists are familiar with the concept of keyword difficulty. It tells you how difficult it would be to gain a page one ranking on a keyword-based on the other domains and pages ranking there. The higher the difficulty, the harder it is to rank.
MarketMuse takes this a step further with Personalized Difficulty. The problem with the traditional measures of keyword difficulty is that they don’t take into account how well you’ve covered similar topics. Those scores treat every domain the same. But we know that search engines take more than just one single page into consideration when ranking pages for a given query.
They also look at the rest of the domain’s topic coverage. A domain that has multiple authoritative, comprehensive articles on a topic is more likely to succeed on a difficult keyword than a domain that has no coverage.
We added this topic to a bank’s MarketMuse Inventory to see how difficult it would be to get this page to start gaining rankings and organic success. As we said, this is a fairly large bank with some coverage of mortgage-related topics. It’s not, however, a top competitor in the mortgage space.
The difficulty of the topic “mortgage calculator” is 75, and MarketMuse has calculated our Personalized Difficulty at 80. Thus, it’s going to be comparatively harder for this bank to rank well for this topic compared to the other domains ranking in the top 20.
We shouldn’t be discouraged by this. It just means that we can’t only produce one page targeting “mortgage calculator” and expect to rank on page one right off the bat. We need to expand our coverage of mortgage-related topics and link these pages together to form a powerful content cluster.
Creating the Best Page for Our Mortgage Calculator
Once we’ve validated that we want to move forward with the topic of “mortgage calculator,” the next step is to understand what is necessary to produce the best page on the topic.
Let’s type “mortgage calculator” into MarketMuse’s Compete Application to get a lay of the land:
We can see the top 20 results at the time of our search for “mortgage calculator.” We can also see the MarketMuse Content Score for each page ranking from 1-20.
There are a few heavy hitters here.
|The Mortgage Reports||53|
|Bank of America||39|
Let’s back up for a second and define what a MarketMuse Content Score is and why it’s important. MarketMuse Content Score is a quality score based on the usage of relevant concepts and entities for a specific focus topic. For any given topic, MarketMuse’s AI analyzes thousands of pages of content to create a topic model of relevant keywords and their usage. With the topic model created, MarketMuse goes back to the top 20 search results in Google for the topic to determine how well those pages covered the topic relative to the topic model.
MarketMuse’s Compete Application doesn’t just show you the top 20 rankings and their content quality. The Competitive Heatmap shows you which related topics the best pages are covering, and where their gaps are.
The Heatmap makes it easy to determine the content depth of individual pages, as well as content breadth across the topic landscape.
If we read the Heatmap from left to right, we can look at content breadth to figure out what related topics are must-haves based on the fact that every other page has included them. These are the “table stakes.” A quick way to find them is to look for where the Heatmap is overwhelmingly blue and green as you read horizontally. What topics fit these criteria? For the most part, the ones at the top:
- Down payment
- Mortgage payment
- Mortgage insurance
- Monthly payment
- Interest rate
Competitive analysis reveals that our page must cover these topics to even have a chance at being as comprehensive as the others.
The Heatmap doesn’t just show you how to do what everyone else is doing though. It also shows you gaps in the competitive landscape you can use to create differentiated content on the same topic. What can we talk about on our page that is related to “mortgage calculator” according to the MarketMuse topic model that no one else is?
The trick here is to again look horizontally across the Heatmap and look for rows that are mostly yellow or red. This indicates little to no coverage of that related topic. In this case, adding these topics would allow us to expand coverage beyond what our competitors are covering:
- Extra payments
- Mortgage lenders
- Closing costs
- Loan programs
- HOA fees
Not only should we create a page that explains those concepts in relation to mortgage calculations, but the topic model also gives us a sense of what we can include in a robust calculator that can serve this user intent, as well as other more niche intents like “mortgage calculator with HOA fees.”
What to Do Next
When it comes to the most competitive high-volume topics, one page isn’t enough, even if it’s the best of the bunch.
What’s needed is to create a content cluster to support that page. This is how you grow your authority on a topic and put yourself in a position to outrank your competitors. Forget about the old advice that says you should conduct keyword research looking for high-volume, low keyword difficulty topics, and avoiding the most competitive ones. The most competitive ones are that way for a reason and the others may not even align with your business goals. You can be an authority and win high rankings on competitive topics, it’s just a matter of finding which content you should produce to fill out your cluster.
It requires some smart research and creativity, along with strong execution. Using platforms like MarketMuse and SimilarWeb together, however, can give you a powerful stack of research and planning tools that make you more efficient in finding topics that will bring in qualified traffic and execute against them.
In the webinar, you’ll learn how data from both platforms can be used to do deep competitive research, what the competitive landscape looks like in the finance industry, and how to use competitive research to build SEO and content strategies that drive business results.
Written by Camden Gaspar