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Why Competitive Audits Are Like ‘The Cool Cat Boogie’

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Hey, Gus, how do you dance? How do you groove? Can you teach me how to move?
Sure, Pete! It’s a simple song. Just do the robot and dance along.
  - From Pete The Cat And The Cool Cat Boogie

the-cool-cat-boogieBe different. Be unique. Stand out.

We’re constantly pushing clients to find the things that separate them from the competition, then shout about it from the rooftops for the whole world to hear.

It’s no surprise then that when we suggest a competitive audit, those same clients are often confused, if not downright incredulous. “If the point is to stand out,” they ask, “why do you want me to copy my competitors? Isn’t that a waste of time and money.”

We don’t. And it’s not.

The purpose of a competitive audit isn’t to turn you into a copycat. As Wise Owl tells Pete in “Pete The Cat And The Cool Cat Boogie,” it’s to help “you be you” and set yourself apart from the pack.

How Does This All Fit Together?

Listen, I get it. You’re skeptical of any professional advice pulled from a children’s book. And generally, that’s a sound practice. But while a few years ago my analogies would have come from the likes of Cormac McCarthy and John Steinbeck, after two kids in three years, I now take inspiration from Pete The Cat.

Pity me, but also bear with me. Together we’ll make this work.

I’ll go out on a limb and assume that, unlike me, you don’t read “Pete The Cat And The Cool Cat Boogie” two (sometimes three) times a night. That’s OK, here’s the CliffsNotes version:

Pete loves to dance, but his pal Grumpy Toad tells him he does it all wrong. So he asks his friends to teach him to dance like they do. But Pete can’t – he keeps tripping and falling and making mistakes. Eventually, Wise Owl tells Pete to just be himself and dance his dance.

It’s a fun book, for sure. It even ends with a step-by-step guide of how to do the Cool Cat Boogie. But how does it relate to content audits?

Read on, friend. Read on.

What Is A Competitive Audit?

Before we go any further, let’s define what we mean by a “competitive audit,” and what is meant by competitors. At Square 2, we generally ask clients to provide us with three to five direct competitors. These competitors should be reasonable. If you’re a startup bakery, Betty Crocker is probably not a realistic competitor.

Once the competitors are defined, we audit each company, as well as the client, in three areas:

  • Messaging
  • SEO/organic visibility
  • Content

At this point, the reasons why Betty Crocker isn’t a realistic competitor should be a little clearer. Even if you’re fighting for some of the same customers, a small startup doesn’t have the resources to compete with Ms. Crocker, her multi-million dollar budget and her team of master SEOs, branding aces and content creators.

In each portion of the audit, we’re able to learn how you stack up against the competition and uncover opportunities for you to stand out from the crowd and get in front of more prospects.

Competitive Messaging Audit

There’s a school of thought that says you shouldn’t worry about what your competitors are saying. Just focus on clearly messaging the things that make you different and the value your services offer.

That’s well and good, but what if one (or all) of your competitors is saying the exact same thing (this happens often)? Or what if one has a disruptive message that’s monopolizing your prospects’ attention?

Wouldn’t you want to know? Wouldn’t you want to adjust your own messaging to differentiate yourself better, or sharpen your branding to command more interest?

When we do competitive messaging audits, we look at the main message as well as messaging for core services. The point isn’t to get clients to copy what others are doing but rather to determine what is already being said so you can:

  • Identify successful messaging that needs to be countered
  • Find opportunities for fresh, unique messaging
  • Avoid repeating competitor messages

As a creative copywriter, the two scenarios I love most are when every competitor is making the same claim and when one has developed killer messaging. The former offers a blank canvas and infinite possibilities. The latter demands we create something equally inspired.

To execute either, and to ensure you have a unique differentiating message, we need to know exactly what your competitors are saying.

SEO/Organic Visibility Audit

Most clients understand that following SEO best practices not only improves rankings and traffic, but it also helps get their message in front of people searching for their services. What many clients don’t know is that a competitor’s SEO provides valuable information that can be used to improve their own SEO efforts.

Keywords

Tools like SEMrush, Moz and SpyFu allow you to track the keywords you rank for. You can also see every keyword your competitors rank for. I prefer SEMrush, in part because it tracks the top 100 rankings for every keyword and the page that each ranks for. Moz and SpyFu only track the top 50.

Keywords are the foundation of any strong SEO strategy. However, building out a comprehensive keyword list is time-consuming and labor intensive. But your competitors’ keywords can offer a shortcut. They not only show you what they’re ranking for, they can also provide insight into the keywords you should be targeting.

With your competitors’ keywords, you can:

  • Create the foundation of your own keyword strategy
  • Fill in gaps in an existing keyword strategy
  • Review the page associated with each keyword to determine the type and quality of content needed to rank

Backlinks

Here’s what you need to know about backlinks: They’re incredibly valuable, everybody wants them and few sites get them. When another site links back to your site, it signals to search engines that your site is credible and the content is useful. That vote of confidence helps you rank better. The more authoritative the site linking back to you, the more valuable the link.

The problem is backlinks are hard to come by. According to Backlinko, 94% of all blog posts have zero external links. The combination of rarity and SEO impact makes backlinks very desirable. And having a bead on a potential backlink is incredibly valuable.

In addition to keyword research, tools like SEMrush and Moz list how many backlinks you and your competitors have, and where they come from. You can use your competitors’ lists to target sites as part of a backlink campaign, since they’ve already shown they’ll link to content like yours.

Content Audit

For years, people have been saying content is king. And for good reason: It drives traffic, engages visitors and converts leads. That’s why, even if it’s not a formal part of the audit, I review competitor content.

This task isn’t as in-depth as a typical internal content audit. Often it involves little more than reviewing the quality of content on the blog and resource pages, and the social media platforms being used to promote it.

While that information may not seem as useful as your competitors’ keywords or backlinks, it helps fill in the picture of what they’re doing to attract and engage leads. It can also serve as a jumping off point for creating a content strategy that competes for those same leads.

Additionally, the quality of the content (especially blogs and pillar pages) has a direct impact on SEO, affecting dwell time and other engagement metrics that Google uses as ranking factors. It can also establish the type of thought leadership that keeps visitors coming back and makes them more likely to do business with you.

Some things that can be uncovered in a competitive content audit include:

  • The frequency with which they’re blogging
  • How regularly they blog
  • The types of offers
  • What social media platforms they use
  • How many followers they have
  • How often they post to social media
  • How much engagement they get

Learn To Do The Cool Cat Boogie (You Gotta Be You)

Great, so content audits can turn up valuable information. But how does that help you be you and, more importantly, how does it relate to Pete The Cat?

In reality, “Pete The Cat And The Cool Cat Boogie” is about finding happiness by doing your own thing and not paying attention to what others are doing. It’s a great lesson for kids but antithetical to what I’ve been telling you.

However, the analogy I’ve been developing isn’t about the literal interpretation of an awesome children’s book featuring a cat in a fly leisure suit.

I bought the book because, like Pete, my almost-two-year-old daughter loves to dance. Anytime she hears Nathaniel Rateliff, she stops what she’s doing to get down. It’s also my jam, so I dance with her, and she’s copped a few of my moves. After reading about how to do the Cool Cat Boogie, she also incorporated a few of those moves.

Little by little she has added elements from other people and places to create her own signature dance that is all her.

That is the purpose of a competitive audit.

Take the things that others are doing well and apply them to what you do. Make them your own. Use your competitors’ keywords to target new terms. Take their messaging and use it to develop your own unique messaging.

Borrow everything you can and incorporate it alongside the things you already do well to create a funky dance prospects will be hard-pressed to ignore.

What is conversational marketing and why should you care? Learn everything you need to know about implementing conversational marketing at your business by watching our on-demand webinar.

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Topics: competitive audits

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