Building content moats for stronger competitive advantages



Updated on November 16, 2020
Topics: ,
6 min well spent

Content has, in large parts, become a commodity. If that’s the case, then how do you compete? How do you differentiate?

In economics, when trying to sell more commodities you’d seek to improve customer service, more attractive distribution, bundling, or pricing. But this is the internet where products can have zero marginal costs. The old rules of economics don’t apply the same way.

You’ll find many search results like the one in the screenshot below. Look at the titles. Boring!

"what is good web design" search results on Google
Not the most creative titles

Which one am I going to click as a user? Either the first one or the result from a brand I recognize (and value).

Enter Content Moats.

Content Moats: differentiation and defense

In business, moats are things business can do to build competitive advantages. These advantages compound over time and can ultimately decide who wins or loses a market.

Amazon, for example, built incredibly strong moats through low prices, vast selection, and fast delivery. Their moats are so strong that hardly anyone can compete with them. Amazon deeply understands how to stack moats on top of each other. Prime is an example. Or Echo. Or the many product reviews on the platform, which in itself are a result of Amazon’s basic moat. When they reinforce each other, we speak of network effects.

Another example is Wikipedia. It’s going to be really hard to build an encyclopedia as strong as Wikipedia (until machine generation technology becomes strong enough, maybe). Their moat consists of their visibility in organic search, which drives readers and contributors.

content moats

Content Moats are built by production value, data, and relationships. The goal is to provide an offering that’s not just valuable, but memorable, and unique.

3 examples of companies who built Content Moats

There are many examples of companies that successfully built Content Moats and even more of those that didn’t. Three popular examples are Hubspot, Ahrefs, and Canva. Interestingly – but not accidentally – they’re all SaaS businesses.

HubSpot

It’s hard to compete with Hubspot on content in the sales and marketing space. They rank for almost 550,000 top 10 keywords.

hubspot performance in ahrefs

As the company to evangelize the concept of Inbound Marketing, they build a well-oiled content engine that continuously levels up their production value. Look at the content hub for “sales process” and how it’s divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The articles form a library, almost a course.

hubspot sales process content hub

They also regularly publish fresh data and content based on surveys.

hubspot data

Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a best practice in content development. They publish at a much lower frequency but at a much higher production value.

ahrefs product value of articles

Their articles include high-quality videos, graphics, and their tips are usually really good.

Canva

Where Hubspot rules over the Sales and Marketing space, Ahrefs over SEO and Content Marketing, Canva rules over anything that has to do with graphic design.

As a graphic design tool, of course, they have great visuals. But they also link to templates, free courses, and tutorials.

canva content

What Canva does exceptionally well is merging different forms of content into one coherent journey.

different content formats on canva

Even though they’re a SaaS company and scale primarily through product-led growth, Canva understands how to accelerate that growth with Content Marketing.

How to build Content Moats

Content Moats are best built by the right use of different elements that I list below. Keep in mind that those elements need to fit together and form a coherent strategy. When used correctly, they make it harder – maybe impossible – to recreate your content or compete with you.

Videos

Short video summaries of an article, animations, or fully produced videos that cover the same topic.

Audio

Podcasts or audio versions of the article (don’t use cheap automation apps).

Design

Beautifully designed content and layouts.

Product templates

Links to product templates in the content.

Unique

Unique and high-quality photos, charts, or graphics.

Interviews/guest writers

Interviews or opinions from people that are really hard to get.

Relationships

Co-marketing, links or partnerships with other brands and sites.

Product touch points

Direct integrations with a product.

Unique external data

Surveys, data aggregations, public data analysis.

Unique internal data

Data from your platform or product.

Content Moats = key to building a brand

Everybody can spend a couple of hours researching and summarizing content from the top results on Google. But creating something truly outstanding takes time and effort.

Moats are built with things that are hard to do. Otherwise, everybody could do them. And that, to me, is one thing most people get wrong about Content Marketing. It’s not just about content volume or hyper-optimized content. It’s also about what people do when they land on that content and if you want them to come back and interact with it, you need to differentiate.

What’s the next step? Stacking moats on top of each other! Start small by adding. Start by adding a few elements I mentioned above to your strategy. Then, slowly add more. Don’t try to add everything at once, unless your content already has a high quality.

Paid members can check out my checklist for creating outstanding content (want to join the club?).

Discuss!

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