How to Create and Use Benchmark Reports in Content Marketing

If you want to understand the quality and performance of your content, comparisons are critical. Content benchmark reports offer a way to evaluate against your past efforts and your competitors, and gather insights on how you can improve.

Enterprise content teams are constantly iterating and improving content to drive traffic and capture leads. With benchmarking, your content analytics don’t live in a vacuum. You can evaluate more clearly if it’s hitting the mark and delivering ROI when you benchmark.

So, how do you create a benchmark report and use it to glean actionable insights? Let’s find out.

What Is Content Benchmarking?

First, let’s talk about what content benchmarking is. It’s the process of tracking content performance and comparing that to either your own past efforts, or to that of your competitors, or both. You can also use it to assess opportunities, threats, and best practices.

You can use benchmarking to look at many different aspects of content marketing, such as:

  • Production Throughput: How does your content volume measure up against a previous time period, or to how much your competitors are producing?
  • Organic traffic and SEO: How do you compare to competitors regarding keywords, visibility, backlinks, and all things SEO?
  • Social media engagement: Are your social media efforts resulting in a growing community? Do your competitors have larger, more involved communities?

These are the top benchmarking components because it’s relatively easy to obtain competitor data around these items. Other things around traffic, leads, or other effectiveness measures would be much harder since that information is private to the company.

So, why bother with benchmarking? From what you learn, you can make changes to your content strategy to push past the competition and more.

The Importance of Benchmarking Your Content

The content game is fierce, and you have to create more and more of it to get results. And you can’t just phone in the content. It needs to be high-quality, engaging, and relevant. Your team is also under pressure to prove ROI.

With day-to-day management of content, benchmarking may seem like a task to sideline. That can be risky. Failure to benchmark could hinder your team’s ability to succeed because you have tunnel vision. Regular competitive analysis is crucial for any aspect of marketing. Your product marketing team is always benchmarking, so you need to as well.

Now that you know about content benchmarking, it’s time to create your report to see how you stack up against your competitors.

4 Steps to Create and Use a Content Benchmark Report

Follow these steps to develop your report and use it to inform actions.

1. Define Your Competitors

First, you need to understand who your content marketing competitors are. Those in this group aren’t always the businesses that compete in your industry. That is the most predominant group. You also have to consider other websites that attempt to rank for the same keywords you’d like to but don’t necessarily sell a similar product.

For example, we want to rank for all types of words about content marketing because we sell software to content teams. However, we also compete against organizations like the Content Marketing Institute for those rankings. Yet, we wouldn’t consider them a direct competitor like other software companies.

2. Select Elements to Benchmark and Determine How You’ll Access Competitor Data

As noted, because you’re seeking data about other companies’ content efforts, you think about what data is readily available, such as throughput, SEO and organic traffic, and social media engagement.

You’ll need tools to derive data about your competitors. Semrush has a competitive research tab that allows you to:

  • Review domains with a complete analysis of metrics like organic search traffic, paid search traffic, top organic keywords, and backlinks.
  • Discover a competitor’s keyword rankings and find new ones.
  • Complete a keyword and backlink gap analysis to see how you compare.

For throughput, you’d look at your competitors’ websites and estimate what they are producing each month. Social media engagement would be manual, too, looking at the posts they make each month and the type of engagements (likes, shares, comments). You could also monitor their fan/follower counts. However, you wouldn’t be able to know things like clicks.

SEMRush - Competitive Analysis - content benchmark report

Image: Semrush

3. Gather Data Based on What You Want to Compare and Start Mapping

Next, it’s time to gather the data. You can start small by looking at their top-ranking keywords and the type of content those drive to (blogs, long-form, infographics, web pages, etc.). Then it’s time to start mapping out how your competitors are performing.

You’ll want to keep the data in a shared spreadsheet so that different team members can work on it and anyone can add to it.

Next, you’ll start benchmarking.

4. Start the Comparisons

So, you’re building a matrix with your competitors’ data and your own. You’ll start to see trends and insights as you do this exercise. In fact, after you compile it all, it’s worth doing a group session to evaluate it together.

From this, you’ll want to find opportunities, threats, and best practices. Here are a few examples.

  • Understanding content engagement on social media: You can look at what content gets the most love from fans and followers. Are others doing things unique with content that gets attention, like live streaming? If so, maybe it’s time your brand tried it.
  • Keywords where they outrank you: Investigate the content that’s getting the nod above yours and dissect what makes it so valuable to the Google algorithms. Is it the quality? Length? Backlinks? Take what you learn and update your posts.
  • Comparing throughput: Are your competitors outpublishing you? If so, that could be a key reason they outrank you. So, how can you increase throughput and not compromise on quality? It may be a good idea to look at your processes and workflows. If they are non-existent or inefficient, then you could benefit from content marketing software.
  • Once you have a list of action items, implement them. Then come back to your benchmark and determine if those changes helped you improve your content’s performance.

While content marketing benchmark reports require significant effort, they can be very useful. What you learn can catapult your content to the next level and improve ROI.

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