Knowing what your competitors are doing well – or badly – can play a major role in giving your content marketing an edge.
Legal content marketing is undoubtedly central to 21st-century marketing, especially for small and medium firms who cannot call upon the big budgets and in-house marketing departments of the big names with their well-known brands.
A range of important principles is well established to ensure that your content marketing is effective to start with. The use of good keywords, the relevance of your content, the deployment of great images and videos, the provision of good backlinks and of course the technical SEO of the site or sites carrying your content are all important.
Knowing and understanding all this is an important start. But when everyone is competing for that all-important first page of the search engine results, it is inevitable that some will make it and some will not.
It is never possible to guarantee a top ranking because search engines like Google and Bing keep secret the full list of SEO elements in their algorithms.
Competitive intelligence is the name given to the process of information gathering about your competitors and their commercial environment. It will not just involve finding out what other firms are doing, but also their challenges, their customer base and other external factors affecting their fortunes.
Why knowing your rivals is important
Developing competitive intelligence is particularly important when composing a content strategy with the aim of hitting page one of the search rankings. By studying what the competition is up to, it becomes possible to establish why it is their content is succeeding – or failing.
There are various ways of doing this. Visiting their website is a good start, as it may be swiftly apparent why someone is doing well or badly. For instance, if you go to a rival site and find pages with slow load-ups, you have probably hit upon a technical SEO problem that could lead to a high bounce rate and lower their site ranking.
In addition, you can see how much content they are producing, as well as their level of quality. This qualitative assessment may provide some quick wins in terms of assessing your own strategy and examining what it is you should do, as well as what to avoid.
Tools of the trade
While the above may be a largely qualitative assessment, there are certainly lots of ways of carrying out a quantitative assessment. This is where tools such as Semrush, Spyfu and Buzzsumo can come in by examining web pages and producing all sorts of useful data.
For example, these tools can carry out keyword research on your rivals. They can show how many keywords these firms use, which ones are successful in getting high rankings and lots of user engagements, as well as tracking how the strategies adopted have changed.
For example, it may show one firm has increased the number of keywords in use, while another has reduced it.
By looking at data to show what has worked well and where they have fallen short, you can learn what to copy and what to avoid.
Apply your knowledge consistently
The best way to ensure you are applying this principle correctly is to operate it in accordance with every other part of your strategy.
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For example, your social media strategy would similarly be informed by observing what platforms your rivals might use, or how good they are at linking their social media posts to their content.
The second of these points is very important; if social media posts are reaching the right market and also directing them to content, this improves the level of engagement potential customers will have with your news and blogs.
Another element to consider is the area you specialise in. A law firm that deals with wills and probate will need to focus on the personal and compassionate touch, whereas a Mergers and Acquisitions specialist will concentrate more on emphasising a professional and skilled image.
Therefore, in terms of competitive intelligence, it is important not to be comparing apples with oranges. When crafting a style, it is vital legal content writers consider the buyer persona of the target market and the circumstances in which they may be availing themselves of your services.
Of course, planning a content strategy is not just about copying the best practices of rivals and avoiding any obvious errors they make. To do that alone is to be reactive. If you really want to get creative, start thinking of some new ideas that the others have yet to come up with.
For example, suppose your law firm has a unique selling point that you can highlight regularly in your content. Or, it may be your research identifies a group of people that are not being reached with your marketing.
A niche example in both cases might be a minority ethnic or language group that you have the linguistic and cultural knowledge to serve better than your rivals.
Alternatively, it might be that others have not been reaching millennials effectively.
That would provide a big opportunity to reach a group that, far from being a small niche, is a large segment of society and at an age where successfully capturing customer loyalty could mean you have them on board for the long term.
When engaging in content marketing, it is worth noting that some of your rivals might not be doing this at all.
Indeed, a very good reason to research competitors is to find out if they even have an up-to-date marketing strategy, to begin with. Others may be only dipping their toe in the water, perhaps because they have hardly started at all.
If you have a well-developed content strategy, you should have a clear and significant advantage over such firms. But in order to take your strategy to the next level, good competitor research will provide more detailed knowledge to establish you can find ways to beat those who have their own well-developed content plans.
At BeUniqueness, we can combine our skills in providing SEO for law firms with competitor research to identify the strengths and weaknesses of competitors. This will help guide your planning as you seek an advantage over your rivals and a place on the first page of the search engine rankings.