Free Tools to Do A Competitor Blog Audit

Your content is one of the greatest tools you have at your disposal, from a marketing point of view. It gets your name out there, attracts attention, bring in regulars, markets your brand, builds your authority, connects you to other experts… you would be hard pressed to find a way it wouldn’t be helpful. Having a consistent, high quality blog can launch your entire career, and turn a hobby into a money making venture.

But how does it rank with the content of your competitors? Competitor blog audit involves gathering data that allows you to compare your work with someone else’s, or to get a feel for what your target audience is looking for in a successful blog. It is something that every blogger should be taking part in regularly; to make sure they are constantly evolving with the needs of their potential readers.

Step 1 – Determine Your Competition

While you may be able to get some idea of what people are reading by looking at the biggest industry blogs on a topic (such as TechCrunch or Gizmodo, for example), chances are that you are nowhere near their level of visibility. Maybe someday you will be, but for right now you should focusing on websites that are more direct competitors.

Put as few as three on this list, and as much as five. If after you have made this list you feel the need to put some big names on there, one or two could be added. Just keep in mind that these big names will be best case scenarios for the future, as a goal in mind. When comparing their data, it should be as part of a longer term strategy, with the bulk of your information coming from the direct competitors to start out with.

Helpful tool: Use BuzzSumo to find recently active and successful blogs on any topic!

BuzzSumo

Step 2 – Look At What Content They Provide

Not all blogs are all about text blog posts. Multiple media forms is just a part of an overall, well rounded content strategies on the web today. Look and see what your competitors are doing on a regular basis. Infographics? Podcasts? Videos? Slideshares? Mini clips, like Vines? Comics? Are they specializing in one or two, or have they branches out into every niche possible?

Helpful resource: Here’s an easy guide to understand blogging easier

List all content under each name, and see what sites have what media in common. You should be able to narrow down what is working and what isn’t based on who is trying what.

Step 3 – Figure Out What Is Popular In Each Media Type

It is pretty simple to get an idea of what is bringing in the most benefits for your competitors blogs. SEO ranking is part of this, but we will look at that in another step. Right now, you should be looking at their engagement.

Helpful resource: Give this tool any blog RSS feed and it will pull out recent articles and their social media numbers

Social media analytics

Comments, social media shares, and referral traffic present a clear picture of how people are reacting to those topics, the tone of the post, and the media style. Take a collection of links to the most engaging content on those sites, and include it in your spreadsheet.

Step 4 – Start Sorting Out The Most Popular Posts In Each Category

Take the links you are finding, and start sorting them into categories by media type, topic, or style. That will give you a look at what is working most for each site. Note any patterns that begin to emerge, where the sites have data in common. If three of your five competitor blogs are getting a lot of engagement on posts that include infographics, but not a lot on audio podcast downloads, that should tell you something.

Helpful tool: Our Social Media Tool will process lots of links for you and return helpful social media stats and author details:

Social Media tool

You can also start to compare these links to your own content, to see what it has in common (or doesn’t) with your own posts. This process is excellent for pointing out things you may have been doing wrong, or just not quite nailing down.

Step 5 – Look At Competitor’s SEO Tactics

Finally, you want to know how people are driving traffic through direct searches. That means taking a look at the keywords they are properly exploiting, and those they aren’t.

Tool: Website Crawler and XML Sitemap Generator

You may be able to find some keywords they aren’t targeting, and take advantage of those ones yourself. Or find some keywords that you should be pushing for, as pushing past their SEO rank is an easy way to start getting more traffic.

What To Do With The Data

Essentially, this is just a way to seeing what is working for others, and what isn’t. How you choose to use it is entirely up to you. You could either start to focus on the same topics and media types that they are, or you could go the alternative route and start to focus on the areas that they are lacking. Both have a chance of improving your content strategy, and so boosting the popularity of your site.

Personally, I prefer to use it more loosely. I will see what topics or content get the most mileage, but will try and find a way to incorporate that into my own interests and work. Never forget that while you are auditing your competitors to see how they are improving their own success, you don’t want to copy them. You have your own strengths, your own readers, and your own style. You want to be easy to distinguish from the rest of the crowd.

Conclusion

You should be conducting a competitor audit at least once every few months. It just lets you keep an eye on rival sites, as well as find opportunities to connect with others, or get warning when something on your own site needs to change. As you can see, the positives are endless.

Do you have any tips for conducting competitor blog audits? We would love to hear about them, so let us know in the comments!

New Marketing Tactics to Try in 2015: What’s Yours?

Welcome to 2015!

A new year is a good time to try something new (especially given that Q1 is usually a slower quieter time for many marketers!) Is there any tactic you are planning to try this year?

Here’s some inspiration for you!

Jolynno: Video Marketing + Podcasting

Yes, I currently use Instagram marketing and Facebook primarily. I plan to use video marketing in 2015 paired with podcasting. I think these 2 mediums are gaining in popularity and offer a more personal way to connect to my audience.

As for podcasting, I want to offer my blog posts as podcast sessions and see how I can then grow that to a regular podcast broadcast. Video marketing is an affordable and easy way to build rapport and share information and tips. I have only done a few videos in 2014 but want to expand upon this in 2015.  I also plan to have several webinars as well so I can have a more immediate connection with my audience. This will also help me to grow my email list which is  big goal for me next year.

Steve Counsell: Maximize Personal Branding

For a while I have been bouncing back and forth between a company based brand and a personal brand. In 2015 I will start to maximize on my personal brand but moving all of my efforts into my personal website and writing an ebook on DIY SEO.

To get started I have committed to blog every day through January and to finalise the first draft of my ebook in the next few days.

Creating a buzz around a brand has been a challenge but I feel that by pushing content out there and publishing it on social media and links building I’ll succeed in my goal of launching “Me” as a brand for online promotion.

I’ve watched other do the same, people like Brian Gardner and Ryan Deiss seem to be very good at pushing their own brand through CopyBlogger and DigitalMarketer.

I aspire to be like these guys – eventually…

Cormac84: “Skyscraper Technique”

I’ve already made the decision to create a lot more content for my site in 2015 and this led me to think what’s the best way to create long form content that will work well for me. So, after some thinking and some research I decided that Brian Dean’s skyscraper technique is one that works well and will help me achieve a lot of my goals.

It’s quite simple, just find a great piece of content on someone else’s blog and make a far better one again. Follow this up by reaching out to those already linking to the good piece, informing them about the existence of your even better piece.

For me it means long form content, more on-site blogging and hopefully more great links.

Jared Banz: More Focused Content Marketing + MyBlogU

I am not trying any new tactics per se for 2015, but I do plan to bring them together better. Content marketing was huge for 2014, and I think it will continue to be important in 2015. I plan to have a focused approach in my content marketing efforts as I know the competition will be fierce.

What do I mean for a “focused approach”? 

I plan thoroughly research local SEO and interview other professionals through MyBlogU. Once I have researched the topic at length, I will likely write an e-book, which will likely be a revised version of multiple blog posts that I write. I also plan to explore new venues (for me) like SlideShare and YouTube to leverage the content I have already produced. Finally, I plan to offer professional services for local SEO, which I believe to be a hot item in the coming year.

I believe that this is a great approach because it involves other professionals and it helps me to become a master of a relevant topic. This past year, I utilized MyBlogU for one interview, and I was shocked by the amount of quality traffic that I received via social media to my blog post. I’m hoping to build on a great experience with MyBlogU, while also adding more opportunities for my business to grow.

Paul Manwaring: Video Marketing

For me it’s trying to create more engaging content through video marketing. I’ve seen an increase in bloggers venturing out into video such as Patt Flynn and Shane Melaugh. I personally enjoy watching a video post as opposed to reading an article.

I set myself a goal of producing 1 video post per week for my blog. Sometimes it will be a guide, other times it might just be a video version of an article I write. The idea is to give my readers the option of either watching or reading my content.

I have invested approx £1000 in studio equipment, it may seem like a lot but I want to produce very high quality videos as presentation is everything and no one wants to read an article on an ugly, poorly designed website, so I take the same viewpoint to my videos. It’s also partly my hobby being a designer and I really enjoy setting up the studio in my flat and recording and editing the videos. The equipment will last me for years so I’m not worried about the initial outlay, as I know it will pay off eventually.

Ashley Faulkes: “Commitment” Marketing

There is a great marketing tactic that I have been meaning to try and 2015 is the year for it! It is based on a psychological principal called “commitment” (which I am currently reading about in a book called Influence – I recommend you read it). The idea is this, by getting a customer to buy something from you, anything really, even something really small, they have made a commitment to a relationship with you.

Sounds simple and maybe even worthless, but the results can be amazing. By getting someone to commit to something, their psychology changes and they behave in a way that makes them live up to this commitment. The result is that they are far more likely to buy from you in the future, even a lot more expensive things. All sorts of companies do this on a daily basis.

I first saw this in action on SuperFastBusiness.com, a marketing site that I follow and podcast I listen to. The owner James Shramko is super experienced in sales and marketing and has loads of ideas to learn from. This was one of them. He sells a cheap SEO website check, a small commitment, and all the rest of his services are usually 10x more at least. He is running a 7 figure business that is constantly growing, so I am sure this works. 

So this tactic is being rolled out on my websites in 2015. Let’s see how it goes!

Jeffrey Romano: Visual Content

One tactic that I’m planning to implement in 2015 is upgrading the quality of the visual content on my blog. Instead of using normal stock photography, I’m planning on creating blog post covers and I’d like to generally be more creative with the photos I have available. I believe this will add to the quality of the posts plus it will help when I share my posts on social mediHaving nice visuals to accompany posts when sharing on Pinterest, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter helps to increase the CTR when sharing. Furthermore, it would help the credibility of my brand and help differentiate my blog from others in the Internet Marketing/WordPress space.

Two bloggers that have inspired me to improve my visuals are Regina from byregina.com and Andrea Beltrami from www.thebrandedsolopreneur.com. Both of them have great blog post covers which helps their posts stand out when shared. Particularly on Pinterest. Both bloggers also try to include many images in their blog in order to introduce variety in their content and keep readers engaged.

I hope the above answer is satisfactory Ann. If you have any other questions about this, please feel free to get back to me.

KenS: Short Fcebook-Friendly Videos

I’ve noticed a lot of mini-videos are appearing on Facebook these days. We have a pretty good FB following, but like most they tend to hang out on FB and not jump over to the site. Sooo… we are going to try a few of those short videos to get people to visit our site and blog. For example, I am going to put up a blog post about candy and cereal and to promote it I am creating a short video about my kids eating a bowl of candy (just like cereal). The hope is that the short video will push people to click on the link and see what else there it.

What new marketing tactic are you going to try this year?

Are you planning to try any new tactic (may be new to you, not overall new) to promote your site or your brand in 2015? Please share! Please share some example of who you were inspired / who you saw do it right!

4 Aspects to SEO Basics for Websites, Blogs and eCommerce

What do you do about SEO if the site you built doesn’t seem to have SEO features built in? First, you need to know there is more than one aspect to SEO. There are actually at least four:

  1. Meta fields
  2. On page SEO
  3. Incoming links
  4. Page load time and caching

SEO Basics

No matter what type of site you have, you can learn to improve your on page SEO and your incoming links. Whether you can configure the meta fields easily depends on what your site is built on.

Website Builder SEO

If you used a website builder, it may or may not have some accessible SEO meta fields. For example, IM Creator provides the ability to create meta title, description and keywords for the entire site – but not for individual pages.

Other website builders may not provide any meta fields at all. Ideally, it is best to be able to set different meta fields for each page on a site. If your site doesn’t support meta fields, focus on optimizing your on page SEO and building incoming links.

WordPress SEO

Sites built on WordPress have many more options. Originally, WordPress users installed SEO plugins. The most popular are:

  • All-in-One-SEO
  • Platinum SEO
  • SEO by Yoast

Today, advanced WordPress theme platforms including Thesis and Genesis have SEO fields built in. They are customizable for each page and post individually.

Some WP users install an advanced SEO plugin even if their theme has SEO fields in order to take advantage of additional features. For example, Yoast rates how well your page or post is optimized and also supports Twitter cards to pull your images into Twitter whenever one of your posts gets tweeted.

Ecommerce SEO

If you expect your ecommerce store to show up in searches, having and using the SEO fields is essential. Major ecommerce platforms typically provide meta fields for product and category pages, but many of their users haven’t bothered to fill them out.

The Google Panda update seriously penalized ecommerce sites that did not have enough text in their descriptions and on their category pages. If you haven’t filled in these fields and optimized  all of your pages for SEO you should.

You also need to find a way to increase incoming links to your pages. Many ecommerce sites fail to rank because they haven’t attracted sufficient incoming links. Some used article marketing heavily for this and were later penalized by the Penguin update and had to remove those links. 

Find  out more by reading Improve Google Indexing on Your Ecommerce Website.

Image Size, Page Load Time and Caching

Many site owners make the serious mistake of using high resolution images or just images that are so large they take a long time to load. Keep in mind that not all internet users have high speed access or new computers with tons of memory.

Online images don’t need to be any higher than 72 dpi. Except for complex infographics you should be able to keep them under 160 kb and under 60 kb would be even better.

WordPress users can Enable Gzip Encoding and Caching to speed up their sites. All site owners should work to reduce page load time as much as possible. Discussions in the forum suggest that under 10 seconds is essential and ideally average page load times of under 3 seconds would be better.

The Google Page Speed Score add-on for FireFox can assist you in analyzing how your pages are loading.

Make sure your hosting is reliable too! Here are some tools to monitor your uptime

Google Webmaster Accounts

Creating a webmaster account on Google and Bing are recommended to make your site easier for them to index. Google Webmaster Tools has an SEO FAQ to answer many common questions.  

Image: SEO basics