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Mike KaputJune 30, 20156 min read

How to Use BuzzSumo for Content Marketing

If knowledge is power, BuzzSumo is a content marketing cold fusion reactor.

The tool tells you how content performs online and breaks down that performance by multiple metrics across domains, keywords or topics.

This data helps marketers like you better create, optimize and promote content.

Why is BuzzSumo important? Because a lot of marketers are bad at marketing.

Whoa there. Before you blast the comments section, let me explain.

Marketers excel at content creation. We’re clutch at writing electric stories that create passionate brand advocates. And we rock at racking up post after post on compelling topics.

But we kind of suck at telling people about it.

Sure, we push out content on social or blast it to our email lists. Yet we often fail to consistently, strategically and comprehensively promote content across owned, earned and paid channels.

BuzzSumo lends a serious helping hand when it comes to the first two. That’s why we have a Pro account at $99 per month. I want to show you some of the ways we use that account to improve our content marketing—and how you can do the same.

We have no affiliation with BuzzSumo. We just love the tool. And we think you might love it, too. Here’s how to improve your content marketing efforts with it.

1. Start Real-Time Conversations Using Trending Content

BuzzSumo’s Trending tab (pictured below) is one smart way to generate new content ideas, find third-party links to share on social and identify real-time marketing opportunities.

BuzzSumo's trending content tab


It displays the most shared content in the last two, four, eight, 12 or 24 hours across many default categories—or custom categories you create. BuzzSumo lists shares across:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Google+

But custom categories are where the tool really shines. Just add a hashtag, keyword or domain to the search box to list it on your Trending dashboard. The result is a one-glance dashboard for top shared content across the categories and companies most important to your business. This provides plenty of material to share and converse about on social media or hot topics to leverage for real-time marketing purposes.

In the screenshot above, we’re tracking “Marketing” to identify break-out industry trends to talk about. And I am tracking “Apple” because I want someone to buy me an Apple Watch.

With a BuzzSumo Pro account, you get up to 10 custom categories.

2. Generate Content Creation and Curation Ideas with the Top Content Tab

While the Trending tab is akin to sifting for gold nuggets in a stream of content, the Top Content tab is like finding a lucrative seam. Just type any topic, keyword or domain into the search box and BuzzSumo returns a list of the most shared links. In the screenshot below, I show how this looks in practice for the search “content marketing.”

the BuzzSumo top content menu

BuzzSumo delivers a list of content marketing related posts, sorted by Total Shares and broken down by shares across different networks. I can filter this search by date, language, country or content type.

The result is a priceless trove of data that tells you exactly what content resonates with audiences searching for a particular topic or keyword. That information can then be used to guide your own content creation or curation activities.

But as the late, great Billy Mays said: ‘Wait, there’s more!‘

Enter your company’s domain on the Trending tab and you’ll receive a full report of your top shared content. I can’t think of an easier way to quickly determine what content works and how to optimize future efforts.

3. Target Influencers and Identify Outreach Opportunities

The Influencers tab does exactly what you think it does: Provides a list of top influencers based on the topic or keyword you choose. Data provided for each influencer includes:

  • Page Authority 
  • Domain Authority 
  • Followers (on Twitter)
  • Retweet Ratio 
  • Reply Ratio 
  • Average Retweets 

When I search “content marketing,” the list below appears:

BuzzSumo content marketing influencer search

A tip of the hat to our friend Joe Pulizzi (@JoePulizzi), who, as I’m writing, ranks first as a content marketing influencer when the list is sorted by relevance.

Below are three suggestions on how to use this information for better content promotion:

  1. Target influencers who retweet often. Mention these influencers in the content you create, then tag them on Twitter when you promote that content.
  2. Identify guest posting opportunities. Sort the list by Page and Domain Authority to build a list of potential outlets you can write guest articles for.
  3. Quickly build a media list. You can filter results by an influencer’s role (bloggers, journalists, companies, etc.). Create a list of relevant journalists with clout that your brand should be following and developing relationships with. Then, export the entire list to CSV or Excel format.

4. Measure Your Content Marketing Results

BuzzSumo content marketing alertsSmart use of BuzzSumo’s Content Alerts feature gives you a 360-degree view of your content marketing efforts. There are four types of alerts:

  • Keyword / Brand Alert: Track keywords and brand mentions. 
  • Link Alert: Determine who is linking to your site.
  • Author Alert: Get notified when a specific author publishes content.
  • Domain Alert: Learn when posts from a specific domain become popular.

All reports are delivered in either real-time or digest format.

Here are some suggestions on how each alert can be used to improve your content marketing:

  • Keyword / Brand Alert: Generate content ideas by tracking industry keywords. Prove content ROI to you executive team by tracking brand mentions. 
  • Link Alerts: Keep tabs on how content is creating backlinks to your site, and measure the value of your content based on these links.
  • Author Alert: Track the latest articles published by journalists and influencers to further personalize outreach.
  • Domain Alert: Monitor when content on a competitor’s site becomes popular.

5. Market Smarter with Content Analysis Reports

The Content Analysis report (found under the Reports tab) breaks down content from a topic, keyword or domain by the following metrics:

  • Total Shares
  • Average Shares
  • Average Shares by Network
  • Average Shares by Content Type
  • Average Shares by Content Length
  • Most Shared Domains
  • Popular Topics
  • Average Shares by Topic
  • Top Pieces of Content

The data is a goldmine of optimization insights. I ran PR 20/20’s site through a Content Analysis report, and after just a few minutes found:

  • Twitter outperforms Facebook for shares by a factor of four.
  • List format articles get more shares than any other type of content we publish.
  • Tuesday and Thursday are the days when our audiences shares our content most.
  • Posts that are 1,000 to 2,000 words get 52% more shares than 0 to 1,000-word posts.

6. Crush Your Competitors’ Content

Now that you’ve optimized your own content, it’s time to make everyone else eat your dust (hopefully). The Domain Comparison report (also under the Reports tab) makes it easy to see how your site stacks up against another.

Below, I’ve run a report to compare business magazines Entrepreneur and Inc.

BuzzSumo content marketing analysis report

Some of the insights might surprise you—or the writers and editors at these publications. Entrepreneur (on the left) would do well to keep articles between 1,000 and 2,000 words for optimal sharing. Inc. (on the right), however, sees many more shares when it publishes 3,000 to 10,000-word stories.

It just goes to show that what works for your competitors might not be working for you. And the BuzzSumo Domain Comparison report will point that out using analytics, not assumptions.

As you can tell, there are tons of potential applications for the content marketing intelligence BuzzSumo provides. This post just scratches the surface.

We’d love to hear how you use BuzzSumo to optimize your content marketing efforts. Additionally, if you have any questions about the tool, we’d be happy to do our best to answer them in the comments. If anyone from BuzzSumo reads this post, we’d love to hear your number one power-user tip for getting the most value from the tool.

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Mike Kaput

Mike Kaput is Chief Content Officer at Marketing AI Institute.