Creating content that’ll woo the community and build an audience can be a difficult task. In your mind you have ideas of what you’d like to write but there’s also the need to cater to the reader. Finding balance is one of those difficulties when you’re developing a content marketing plan.

  • You don’t want to spend hours working on a piece that fizzles
  • You don’t want to spend hours working on a piece that fails to convert
  • You don’t want to spend hours working on a piece that is out of touch

Your content marketing plan is one you’ve created in best intentions to answer the questions, entertain, or inform but sometimes the competition beats you to the punch. They push out a piece that suddenly stops you in your tracks forcing you to rework the strategy.

Instead of being a laggard, trying to play catch up on the competition, you should get your hands dirty and leverage the work of your competitors to give your business an edge in the rankings.

The Psychology of Web Content

They say less is more but when it comes to Web content we have to remember:

A. People generally skim

B. People look for page “weight”

Imagine you are a reader comparing two articles side-by-side.

The first is your typical blog post with good information broken down into manageable chunks via sub-headings; there may also be a few images stuck in here and there. It delivers on its promise so it’s good in your book.

The second is essentially the same article but it expands on the topics to a greater degree pulling in additional questions, links to resources, and media. Each section isn’t just a paragraph or two of text but now paired with a video, downloadable asset, or slideshow.

Now jump back to that A & B.

If you were to skim through the first article you’d pick up on the sub-headings and any formatting that helps draw your eyes to the important information but in the second one your skimming is disrupted by additional assets and media which entice you to stick around a while longer and dig a little deeper.

The other thing going on is that if someone were to ask for your recommendation between the two pieces you’re going to side with the one that has additional assets because it feels complete. Even if they were identical (which I’m not saying to do) you’d still side with the latter because it just feels like it contains more value.

The take away is that you can use the competition’s work as inspiration and then one-up the piece by adding extra value by expanding on the topics with relevant information, assets, and media.

Breaking It Down & Building It Up

Reverse engineering is often used when we think about tearing down a product to figure out how it works so that we could make a copy or build a better version. What you want to do is the latter.

Your goal is to examine and reverse engineer the work and effort of your competition, in our case the content marketing, so that you can publish work that goes above-and-beyond what they have to offer in terms of value for the community, rankings for search, and conversions for the business.

I think the best way to explain this is through concept.

Let’s take a look at one of the most popular blog posts here on, act as if we were a competitor, reverse engineer the piece, and see what we can come up with that would make the new work bigger and better.

By reading through the lines we can identify a few key elements of the post which made it popular and effective – which includes:

  • A strong promise about earning money
  • Detailed methods to obtain this goal
  • A lot of resources

Now let’s see if we can do one better …

The post, overall, is very solid and pretty much covers all the angles to make it a piece of evergreen content but there are plenty of ways to increase its value – such as:

  • Video – There are multiple ‘steps’ which are quite technical and would be difficult to fully understand through reading alone. Video would greatly help the reader to understand these concepts.

Other benefits of adding a video would include increasing the time a user is on the site, having the ability to build an audience on the video sharing site, and adding personality to the content.

  • Downloadable – The post is quite lengthy which means it could have been a short ebook. Additional value can be added by giving users an option to download the work as an ebook that also comes with bonus items like worksheets.

The downloadables could also be shared through different websites and platforms.

Overall it’s clear that adding video and downloadable resources would be the easiest option to add additional value to a blog post like in our example.

Consider this:

  • The competition has likely created content that does well but is text only
  • You can add extra content through feedback you see in their blog comments

Breaking down the competition’s work, finding its appeal, and then rebuilding it with additional value will greatly save you time and energy trying to deliver a constant stream of content to the community.

The goal is to not just copy their work, slap a few things onto it, and call it a day. The goal is to take the ideas and set a new bar for the industry. Having both parties go back-and-forth trying to one-up another is ultimately good for the industry and community because it continually delivers greater value and pushes each party to try their best and exceed expectations.

Go out there, look around at the popular content on your competitors’ site, and see what you can do in regards to reverse engineering content to deliver greater value to the community. Doing so will, without a doubt, give your work an edge in the rankings (and industry).