By Garrett French published July 6, 2010

How to Discover Your Competitors’ Most-Shared Content

As a content marketer, one of the audiences you need to be aware of is your linking audience. This consists of the individuals who publish, curate, report on, discuss, argue about and share info about your target market. This audience can include competitors as well as non-competing trade publications, bloggers, forums and other sites that publish content. Inbound links from this audience of related, well-respected sources are  quite important:

  • They confer trust on your site from search engines
  • Your site is perceived as more credible from your market’s participants
  • They ultimately increase referrals, conversions and your overall market presence.

This post details how to determine popular content on competing publishers’ sites, based on the number of inbound links to individual pages. By understanding the type of content that is shared consistently on your linking audiences’ sites, you can answer these types of questions:

  • Which content on my competitors’ site is most popular?
  • What individuals may be willing to share my content?

Here’s the process I use to analyze which pages on competing sites have earned the most links from your linking audience.

List your industry’s top publications and competitors

Make a list of five competitors and other publishers who target your market with informative, entertaining or otherwise engaging content. For this exercise, five is plenty. What constitutes a thorough survey will depend on the size of your market!

Identify the most-linked pages on their sites

You next want to see which pages on their site are most popular based on the number of incoming links. I recommend Yahoo Site Explorer, which is free (though it may become extinct), and Open Site Explorer, which requires you to sign up to see data. Both of these tools provide you with lists of a site’s URLs in roughly the order of the number of links they have received.

For example, let’s take a look at Junta42 in Yahoo Site Explorer >>

Junta42 in Yahoo Site Explorer

The first URL listed is the homepage, which is normal. Ignore that in your analysis.

The second URL listed is the blog. For sites with blogs that consistently publish great content, this is normal as well. The third URL, which is a list of the Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs, begins to shed some light on what the linking audience – for content marketing information – likes to share with others.

Junta42 in Yahoo Site Explorer

Click the “Explore” box for the “Top 42 Content Marketing Blogs” URL, and then the Inlinks button. Now you can see a list of websites that are linking to this top blog list.

Junta42 in Yahoo Site Explorer

This list of sites that link to this page on Junta42 represents a segment of the linking audience for content resources. What can you gather from this?

  • If you were competing with Junta42 (don’t bother ;)) you’d know that curated resource lists appear to get shared.
  • You can decide to make badges for the people ON your resource lists as a way to encourage them to share the fact that they got mentioned (which is something that Junta42 does).

As you begin analyzing your linking audience, it’s wise to keep careful track in a spreadsheet of a few key bits of information. In particular, record the URLs you discover that have attracted lots of attention from the linking audience. Remember – once you create your own (better, value-added, competing) versions of this content you’ll want to reach out to members of this linking audience and ask them to take a look at what you’ve done. Further, this list of highly-linked URLs should interest your content strategists, as well as the SEOs on your team.

Look for trends and commonalities of highly-linked content:

When analyzing your top competitors and other publishers in your market, look for this kind of info:

  • Common trends in topics
  • Reading level
  • Target audience
  • Page layout
  • Embedded media
  • Image usage
  • Asset format

Are there any characteristics you can discern that make their content stand out or in some way accounts for the number of links their pages earned?

In particular, be on the lookout for informational content similar to your own. You want to know who linked to this content, as the individuals who linked may be interested in what you’ve already published.

Author: Garrett French

Garrett French is the author of the "Ontolo Link Building Book" and Chief Marketer for the Ontolo Link Building Toolset, which enables content marketers to quickly identify, quantify and engage their market's linking audience. You can follow him on Twitter at @garrettfrench.

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