By Jesse Stoler
21 Apr 2015

Using BuzzSumo for Industry Research - Tutorial Tuesday

Competitive Analysis     SEO Strategy

Welcome to another installment of Tutorial Tuesday, our weekly series dedicated to highlighting a specific SEO tool, process, or skill. This week, I’ll be talking about how to use BuzzSumo to prepare for a link building campaign.

We live in the information age. There is more unfettered access to data today than at any time in world history. If you have an analytic, judicious eye, there’s a world wide web of data at your fingerprints to assist you in just about every task. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?

This is particularly true in link building and SEO. There’s so much you can learn using a wide array of tools that it would be complete nonsense to start a campaign without research. One tool invaluable for research is BuzzSumo.

For the purpose of this article, let’s pretend you own/operate a site devoted to analyzing the National Basketball Association. Hey, it’s the playoffs.

Analyzing Successful Content in Your Industry

No, link building does not require content. But if you ask any veteran link builder, they’ll say that content makes the process easier. More content creates more opportunities.

If you do pursue a content strategy as a method of building links, you’re going to want to have some idea of what your audience is interested in.

Now, there are some things you already know just by virtue of being a human. Of course an NBA fanbase is going to want to read more content about Lebron James as opposed to a benchwarmer on the league worst Minnesota Timberwolves.

But you might find that some content appeals to people you wouldn’t expect.

To search for the top socially shared content in your niche, find the “Top Content” menu option at the top.


Pick a keyword to put in the search bar.


The screen will then look something like this:


You may notice something troubling: four of these top five results are not related to NBA basketball.


One out of five is pretty bad, like Shaq at the free throw line bad. What went wrong?

Thankfully, BuzzSumo is telling you.


Quotation marks around your search term will make the results more relevant.


Can you believe this list of relevant results?!


The above was a popular gif in basketball circles this past season. Indeed, it was practically the only thing about the Los Angeles Lakers worth mentioning this year.

In fact, visual content is incredibly popular for the sports audience in general. Want proof? I bet you can’t tell me about that time you and your friends got together to listen to last year’s finals on the radio.

Want further proof? As you can see, three of the top five results are vines.


Of course, not everyone has the resources and/or ability to produce amazing visual content. You’re going to put more of a focus on producing in-depth content. How can you get these results to work for you? Easy. Take a look at the sidebar.


We don’t need all of those options, do we? Let’s go all Stifle Tower on these boxes and reject a few.

There are six options:

  • Article
  • Infographics
  • Guest Posts
  • Giveaways
  • Interviews
  • Videos

If you’re more interested in longform content, you might not be interested in giveaways, videos, or infographics. How do the results look now?


Better, but still Viney. Thankfully, just like a Kendrick Perkins travel, there are more steps you can take.


By entering into the search bar, you exclude all the results from Vine. Now you’re left with the results you’re looking for.

For more creative search modifiers, just look at “advanced search options” right under the search bar.


Measuring the Performance of Competitor Content

There’s nothing wrong with following in the footsteps of your competitors, as long as you don’t blindly copy their strategy. That would be a pointless, possibly illegal exercise. What you CAN do is studiously analyze the reasons your competitor succeeds, and apply those lessons to your own brand so you can improve on what your competitor’s done.

There are plenty of tools that can help you to analyze what your competitors are doing - BuzzSumo is one of the more powerful tools, however.

Let’s say that I consider Grantland one of my chief competitors (it’s home to much of the best basketball writing on the net).

First, return to the “top content” menu option at the top. The search bar will ask you to enter a topic, keyword, or domain to search. In this instance, type in the domain of your competitor.


According to BuzzSumo, this is the top socially shared content Grantland has created over the course of the past year. If you’re interested in a shorter timeframe, you can choose a different timespan option at the top of the sidebar.


In this case, I’m not so concerned with the timespan. I am, however, concerned with the relevancy of these results.

Because Grantland isn’t wholly devoted to the NBA, much of this content won’t apply to my NBA analysis site. As an NBA writer, I have no interest in “Bad Boys III.” Frankly, I have no interest in that movie in any personal or professional capacity.

How can I narrow down these results to be more relevant to me? It’s pretty simple. Just add the word “NBA” to the search entry.


MUCH better. Despite what Allen Iverson might say, practice makes perfect.

As you can infer by the columns on the right, popularity is gauged by social shares on the following platforms:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

That’s the default. You can sort the content in other ways by clicking on the dropdown located at the top-right of the page.


You can sort by shares on an individual platform, as opposed to the total number. Maybe your niche doesn’t really live on Pinterest, so counting them unfavorably sways the results.

Or maybe social shares aren’t your primary concern; you’re prioritizing other metrics. There’s certainly further analysis that can be done.

Look between the result and the share icons. You’ll see three different buttons for each result.


You can peek at the backlink profile of the content by clicking on the top option. For example:


Within seconds, you can better understand the performance of your competitor’s top content. Not only that, but this is a list of potential link prospects as well, particularly if you already have similar content.

BuzzSumo allows you to conveniently analyze your competitor’s top content. Want to know who’s linking to your competitor? BuzzSumo can help. Since they’re your competitor, you should have audience overlap. BuzzSumo allows you to find the content that has piqued your audience’s interest in the past.

But remember, don’t just copy your competitor’s strategy.

When the Phoenix Suns grabbed national attention for their 7-seconds-or-less offense, every other NBA team tried to implement high-octane offensive strategies. During that era, the Suns were perpetual contenders: 50 wins in the regular season came naturally. But the Suns didn’t win a championship back then. No amount of offensive firepower can cover up a defense that can’t get back in transition.

What if you ran a similar offense, but you enlisted a slew of capable defensive wings who can slow down the other team when you miss a bucket? You have this year’s title favorites, the Golden State Warriors.

You should be learning from your competition’s past successes. More importantly, you should be strategically improving upon them.

Identifying Influencers in Your Industry

You aren’t going to dominate the first page of organic search results without getting the help of other important people in your niche. When people with a large social following share your content, link opportunities open up.

Influencers become influencers because they’re often doing notable things and engaging with the community. It will frequently be natural for you to reference them on your site. When you do this, you can inform them of the mention via outreach. Everyone appreciates a helping hand of promotion.

But who are these influencers? Who are the people in your niche that your audience finds most trustworthy? Thankfully, BuzzSumo has more assists on its record than John Stockton.

On the top menu, there’s an option for “Influencers.”


The search bar asks for a topic or keyword. For example:


Here is the beginning of a long list of people who have the acronym for the National Basketball Association in their Twitter bio. A REALLY long list. As long as Giannis Antetokounmpo’s wingspan… maybe.

By default, this list is sorted by relevancy.


So it’s safe to say that everyone on this list tweets about the NBA on a regular basis. There are other ways to sort this list though.


There’s no wrong way to sort this data, and everything you could sort by is listed within the dropdown menu.


What are these categories, you might ask?

  • Page Authority: If the user has a website in their bio--and they usually will--this is the authority of the landing page, according to Moz’s metrics.
  • Domain Authority: The authority of the entire site, again according to Moz.
  • Followers: The number of Twitter followers.
  • Retweet Ratio: The percentage of this person’s tweets that are retweets.
  • Reply Ratio: The percentage of tweets that are replies to other people.
  • Average Retweets: The average amount of retweets this person gets per tweet.

Whatever you’re targeting, BuzzSumo makes it relatively easy to find the people who will help you reach the top.

And you need help. No one gets to the top on their own. Young Kobe needed Shaq - later in life he needed Pau. Lebron needed D-Wade. Even Jordan didn’t win championships until Scottie Pippen joined the Bulls.


Professional sports now operate in the post-Moneyball generation. A plethora of professional sports teams have invested heavily into analytics. If you’re a basketball coach, it’s easier than ever to access aggregated data about your upcoming opponent’s shot chart. It turns out they live-and-die on the efficiency of the corner three. But maybe you didn’t look at the reports and decided to crowd the paint. Congratulations - you’re now an ex-basketball coach.

Link building may not have a lot of common with professional basketball, but both undoubtedly require strategy.

And while basketball coaches may have the Elias Sports Bureau, link builders have amazing tools like BuzzSumo.

Jesse Stoler

Jesse Stoler has years of experience in the SEO industry. His hobbies include stand up comedy and pretending he has fans.