By Cory Collins
30 Sep 2015

BuzzSumo for Competitor Content Analysis Overview – Tutorial Tuesday

SEO Strategy     Competitive Analysis

Hello and welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! Each and every week we here at Linkarati walk you through an online marketing tool, process, or tactic.

This week I’ll be examining BuzzSumo, the content analysis tool that’s the rising star of the web. Specifically I’ll be running through how I use BuzzSumo for quick competitive analysis, and to overview where (and how) my competitors are succeeding.

Hello and welcome to Tutorial Tuesday! Each and every week we here at Linkarati walk you through an online marketing tool, process, or tactic. 

This week I’ll be examining BuzzSumo, the content analysis tool that’s the rising star of the web. Specifically I’ll be running through how I use BuzzSumo for quick competitive analysis, and to overview where (and how) my competitors are succeeding.

It's hard to overemphasize the value of BuzzSumo and the data the tool presents. Here at Page One Power we’ve shared how we use BuzzSumo to research new clients’ industries, discover easy link opportunities, and locate linkable assets. We recommend BuzzSumo publicly and use it constantly.

Today I want to talk about using BuzzSumo in competitor analysis.

How BuzzSumo Helps Competitor Analysis

BuzzSumo is constantly improving and adding new features.

Overall, BuzzSumo’s main (or at least, original) function is to tell you which content is performing best on different social platforms within your industry.

For example, here’s a search for SEO:

Simply search a phrase important/core to your industry and see which content has been most shared for that phrase, and on which platform. Even better, you can use advanced search strings to refine your search to a single website, multiple phrases, URL, twitter handle, or author.

Obviously this core feature—content analysis on social platforms—has value in a competitive analysis. You’ll be able to quickly see your competitor’s content with the most social shares, allowing you to quickly dig into the pieces and unearth insight.    

However, BuzzSumo has added a few additional features which make it more powerful in content analysis. Specifically:

  • View backlinks
  • View sharers
  • Filter by content type
  • Domain comparisons
  • Content alerts.

Let’s get into the walkthrough.

Step Zero: Create a List of Competitors

I was tempted to jump straight to using BuzzSumo, but realized this would deemphasize one of the most important steps: creating a comprehensive list of competitors.

It’s vital you have a well-rounded list of competitors.

The best competitive analysis will still be worthless if you don’t gather up a comprehensive list of competitors that accurately reflects your competitive landscape.

The goal should be depth and comprehensiveness. You’ll want a list of competitors that overlap across your entire business.

Jon Cooper has a great list of questions to ask new clients and I’ve covered how to find search competitors in the past.

The long and short is don’t skimp on creating a list of accurate competitors – this is the foundation of the entire process, and will largely dictate the success of your competitive analysis.

Having said that, I will be demonstrating the use of BuzzSumo with a single example website (Wait But Why). You should repeat this process for your top competitors. 

Step One: Plug Your Competitor Into BuzzSumo

You’ve determined your competitors and are ready to get cracking. So head into BuzzSumo and plug them in for some competitive insight.

Note: for example purposes in this tutorial I will be using Wait But Why, because they have highly shared content and I absolutely adore their work. Really great posts that I can’t recommend enough – if you’re interested in how the world works, and futuristic ideas, you should check them out.

Here’s what you should see when you plug in your competitor’s domain:

That’s what a normal search for a domain will look like within BuzzSumo.

Some points of interest I’ve highlighted:

  1. You’ll want to start in the most shared tab
  2. You’ll put your domain in here. No need to use the full URL of the homepage – just shorten down to the .com (or whichever TLD they use).
  3. I’d recommend looking into the past year, to get the most information possible. Start broad and add filters later.
  4. Keep all content types in the first search. Again you want to start broad and filter down as you dig deeper into the analysis.
  5. Handy export button here – you might want to use this, although BuzzSumo does a fantastic job of presenting all the data within their tool.

A broad search such as this will return the site’s content based on top total shares across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Let’s dig a bit deeper and take a look at the data BuzzSumo is presenting.

Step Two: Analysis of BuzzSumo’s Overview Data

So now you should have an easy overview of your competitor’s top performing content on social platforms.

This is a good point to take stock of easy insights.

Going back to the Wait But Why example, let’s take a look at some easy to find insight into the content.

That’s the top 5 posts from Wait But Why.

Looking at the social share numbers, content type, and titles I can draw a few conclusions.

  1. 131,000 shares on their top article! That’s huge – they’ve got gigantic reach.
  2. 115,000 of those shares came from Facebook. That’s almost 88%. If this trend carries through the rest of their content, Facebook is far and away their best platform.
  3. Their second top shared post is almost half the social shares of their first post. The next four after that are all ~40,000. That’s a steep curve.
  4. Their top content is all classified as articles. And they’re all extremely, extremely long. As a reader of the site I know that these are actually some of their longest posts, but I could easily determine that by clicking into the posts themselves.
  5. These posts appear to tap into an already established audience, specifically mentioning Tesla, SpaceX, and Elon Musk.

Let’s dig into posts beyond the top five and see what we can learn. In fact, let’s go look at the bottom of page one, which ends with post #20.

Again a few conclusions:

  1. The share curve is very steep across their content. Looking at the bottom post in the above screenshot, which is the 20th most successful post of the 70 on the blog, BuzzSumo reports at 2,800 shares. Still impressive, but a literal fraction of the top post.
  2. Facebook is clearly the top social platform for Wait But Why. Were I a competitor, that is important information I should know.
  3. Twitter is the second most successful platform, but plays a very minor role in their overall amplification. The Twitter numbers vary wildly, where some posts have ~100 shares and others have 500+ shares.
  4. Clicking through these posts reveals a variety in post length and topic, whereas the top posts all seemed to be in-depth analysis/explanation/futuristic style posts.

So what are the most important insights we’ve gleaned with a quick overview of BuzzSumo?

  1. Wait But Why has a steep curve in share counts. Virality is clearly a factor in some content, although they’ve been able to duplicate high social success consistently.
  2. Long posts do better with Wait But Why’s audience. The posts when Tim really researches and explains a topic thoroughly do better across the social web.
  3. Futurist and psychology posts seem to do the best for Wait But Why.
  4. Facebook is far and away the top social platform for Wait But Why. Any paid ads/content promotion should be done within that platform.
  5. Twitter represents an opportunity for Wait But Why. They’ve received thousands of social shares within Twitter for multiple posts, and have an opportunity to develop and audience and platform there which would lead to better amplification in the future. The goal should be consistency within Twitter performance and promotion.

These insights would be invaluable if I was competing with Wait But Why for audience, which is why BuzzSumo is so invaluable as a marketing insights tool.

But let’s dig deeper.

Step Three: Analyze Social Sharers of Top Content

Seeing a competitor’s top performing content in a glance is great. But an analysis needs to dig deeper.

Let’s peer underneath the hood of the top performing post and see if we can see what’s driving success. Because of privacy settings on social platforms BuzzSumo currently only provides insight into social shares on Twitter.

Given that Wait But Why is primarily successful on Facebook, we should check their top performing post on Twitter. This will give us an opportunity to see how they could establish and grow a greater following in the Twitterverse.

Specifically let’s peer at the top post The AI Revolution: Road to Superintelligence, and part two of the post The AI Revolution: Our Immortality of Extinction. Two posts that every human should read, but especially SEOs, and also two of the top performing posts on Twitter.

Simply click the “View Sharers” button within BuzzSumo next to the content you want to examine.

This will take you to this page:

Elon Musk shared the post?! Wouldn’t it be great if Tim of Wait But Why could establish some sort of relationship with him! (This is a joke: Elon Musk actually contacted Tim in order to have him write a series of posts about his companies Tesla and SpaceX. I’m not sure if it happened before or after his share of this post, but I would still want to know if Elon Musk was sharing mine (or my competitors) posts on Twitter.)

Glancing through this list you can see plenty of influencer amplification.

As a competitor, I would export this list to an Excel file for easier analysis:

This will give you an Excel file that looks similar to this:

Let’s clean that up.

  1. Delete column A
  2. Reduce the new column A “bio” to a reasonable size.
  3. Hide column B-D (select and right click > Hide).
  4. Reduce column I to a reasonable size
  5. Freeze the top row
  6. Add highlight color to the top row bold.

You should end up with something similar to this:

Now you can sort by whichever metric you’d like. One of the more common being column F, number of followers. This is usually a fair predictor of amplification and reach, so long as the number in columns J-L are decently high.

That makes it pretty easy to scan through and see who’s amplified this post, and who you should consider promoting to in the future if you create comparable content.

Step Four: Domain Comparison

Next let’s take a look at BuzzSumo’s Domain Comparison feature.

Flip over to the “Domain Comparison” tab:

Then decide which two domains you’d like to compare (either two competitors or your own domain) and click compare.

For this example I’ll use XKCD’s What If blog, since they’re fairly similar in style and content to Wait But Why.

Here’s what you’ll see:

Within this page you’ll find:

  • Articles analyzed, total shares, average shares
  • Average shares by network
  • Average shares by content type
  • Total shares by date published
  • Average shares by content length.

This will give you a quick comparison and contrast between domains, allowing you to better understand how your site is stacking up to the competition.


BuzzSumo is one of the best content analysis tools online.

If you’re working to create content in order to drive traffic, foster reader loyalty, or build an audience you should be using BuzzSumo.

You’ll be able to get invaluable insights into both how your own content is performing, but even more brilliantly into how your competitor’s are achieving content success.

If you're not convinced now, make sure to keep an eye on BuzzSumo - they're continually improving their tool and more and more marketers are finding new and unique ways to leverage the data they supply.

Cory Collins

Cory Collins works in strategy development at Page One Power. Cory is a writer, runner, SEO strategist, beer brewer, and lives with his dogs and wife in Boise, Idaho. Cory's super power is eternal curiosity.