By Kristi Hines published September 14, 2015

How to Find the Best Pieces of Content in Your Industry


Are you ready to perform the research to determine the most successful content on specific topics? If so, there are tools that can help. We’re going to look at the metrics you will want to use and tools that will help you get them quickly to find the best pieces of content in your industry.

First, let’s define the two types of metrics you can use to determine the success of any piece of content:

  • Impact metrics – These are a little harder to find, but tell how well the content is performing beyond social shares.

Now, let’s look at the specific metrics more closely and which ones are the most important when researching content.

Buzz metrics

Buzz metrics typically include the number of shares and “likes” on the top social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus. Tools like BuzzSumo can help you find these metrics easily.

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If you’re interested in social visibility, finding the content in your industry that gets the most social shares may be the only thing you need. BuzzSumo lets you search by topic, domain, and even author to find the top content based on social shares.

You also can click on the View Backlinks button to find backlinks from other blog posts to a particular piece of content or the View Sharers button to see the people who have shared a particular piece of content on Twitter.

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Buzz challenges

The problem with judging a piece of content’s success based on social sharing is that social shares can be easily acquired. Research has shown that people share content they haven’t read. Many people do it just to keep their social accounts active. They even automate the process using services like Hootsuite, Twitterfeed,, and other social media services that allow you to automatically share anything published to an RSS feed.

Speaking of people who share content without reading it, you can buy social shares. There are services that will promote every piece of content you publish and guarantee a specific number of social shares. Through sites like Fiverr, you can buy bulk packages of shares, “likes,” comments, etc., from the top social networks.

There are networks where you can create a social-sharing group that manually or automatically shares the content published by each member of the group. There are those where you can buy “credits” to promote your content to the community members in hopes that they share it on their social networks in exchange for credits to promote their own content. There also are private blogger and marketer groups on Facebook, Skype, etc., where everyone in the group helps promote each other’s content.

And, of course, there are the valuable ways of paying for engagement, such as boosted posts on Facebook, promoted tweets on Twitter, sponsored updates on LinkedIn, and promoted pins on Pinterest.

In short, anyone can inflate the social-sharing numbers for a piece of content. With the right budget, your article can make the top of any social-sharing ranking tool. While not all content creators do this, looking at social media shares is not always a foolproof way of judging content success.

Impact metrics

Impact metrics, unlike buzz metrics, are a little harder to manipulate, primarily because they combine several metrics beyond social shares. Tools like Impactana can help you go beyond social media metrics and into ones that help you determine how successful a piece of content really is.

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Here are some metrics you can find using this tool, and why they are important to content marketing research.


First on the list of impact metrics are backlinks. Yes, you can definitely buy backlinks almost as easily as you can buy social shares. But most people will not buy backlinks for a piece of content as they would for a website home or product page.

When would backlinks not be a good metric to consider for content impact? When you are looking at domains that host content, such as YouTube, you automatically have a high impact based on the number of backlinks to the domain. The fact that YouTube has 11 billion links does not necessarily make each video on its network an impactful video.


Another great indicator of content popularity and true impact is the “views” metric. As we mentioned, you can obtain social shares from people who will never read your content. The problem with getting lots of social shares with no views is that you will not be able to achieve your primary content marketing goals (such as conversions) if people are not coming to your website to read your content.

Hence, the views metric is extremely important. You can use this metric to determine whether a piece of content is getting traffic from social shares and other referral sources.

When are views not a good metric to consider for content impact? When you are looking at content types such as YouTube videos. Because views are counted on the video page itself, some video owners turn to paid services to inflate their video views, similar to purchasing social shares.


Discussions on blogs and other types of content may not seem like a valuable metric, but they are an additional representation of content that receives traffic. People have to visit a piece of content to leave a comment on it, therefore, if you see a high number of comments, you know that people are making at least one visit (if not more) to that piece of content.

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When are comments not a good metric to consider for content impact? When the comments are not adequately moderated. Some sites will publish almost any comment to inflate their comment numbers, when in fact many of the comments are from people who are using blog comments for link building to their own websites. Comments that make an impact are those that are done purely to add value to the discussion around a piece of content.


One metric that is a little more difficult to inflate by artificial means is downloads. SlideShare, for example, is a network that allows you to share presentations with others that are available for download. In this network’s case, you may find that the best pieces of content aren’t just viewed, but are downloaded often.

How to research content that makes an impact

Now that you know what metrics to include when researching content that makes an impact, let’s look at how you can research those metrics with the above-mentioned tools.

Find the top content on your domain

Tired of getting a partial view of your content’s performance from multiple tools that track views, backlinks, and social shares separately? Do a search for your domain to see your best content in the past year. You can do this on BuzzSumo by searching for your domain name.

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On Impactana, you can do it with the site: search operator.

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You can narrow your results by adding specific criteria for your content, such as number of views, backlinks, comments, shares, etc. For example:

  • backlinks>100
  • site: views>5k
  • site: shares>1k
  • site: comments>50
  • site: views>5k AND comments>50

You may need to adjust the numbers based on the popularity of your content.

Find your competitor’s best content

Want to know what pieces of content are the best from your competitors? Conduct the same searches with your competitor’s domain instead.

Find the most popular presentations

If you are speaking at an event, then you want to create a killer slide deck to accompany your presentation. You can do a search for the presentations that got the most social shares with the following search query on BuzzSumo. Be sure to put the domain first and keyword or phrase next.

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To go further, find the presentations that were downloaded most often for your topic to get some inspiration on how to create a slide deck that everyone will want to grab later with this search on Impactana:


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Find the most discussed blog content

If you need inspiration for your own content, you can find it by reading the comments on other pieces of content. The goal is to find questions in the comments that remain unanswered and answer them in a blog post.

You can do this on BuzzSumo by finding the post on your topic that got the most shares and looking to see if it has comments. Or you can do a search for the most commented upon blog content on your topic on Impactana like this:

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Find people discussing your brand

Larger brands may have trouble keeping up with every single blog post about them. Fortunately, you can focus your efforts on reputation management with the content that has the most impact. Search for content about your brand, excluding content from your own domain, like this on BuzzSumo:

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You can also do it on Impactana:

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You can use these searches for reputation management as well as other marketing activities. For example, if you find a positive mention of your brand without a link on a popular website, you can request that your link is added so all of the traffic coming to that content can generate some leads for your business. You also can find positive mentions from reputable websites that you will want to promote to get more visibility for your business without having to toot your own horn, so to speak.


As you can see, there are many ways to determine the success of a piece of content. The key is to look at a variety of metrics when possible to ensure that a piece of content is genuinely popular and successful, without paid boosters.

While most in-depth content research tools like the ones in the examples are not free, they are the most powerful in terms of getting you the numbers you need to know fast. Otherwise, you would have to spend a lot of time doing manual research.

Looking to score big points with your target audience? CMI’s 2016 Content Marketing Playbook has tips, insights, and ideas that can help increase your success with 24 of the top content marketing tactics.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Author: Kristi Hines

Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, ghostwriter, and copywriter who develops high-quality content for businesses that want to educate their audiences about business and marketing. She also teaches content creators how to drive traffic and engagement to their content in her course, the Content Promotion Plan. You can follow her latest tweets @kikolani.

Other posts by Kristi Hines

  • Buddy Scalera

    Wow, excellent post. There are some very smart techniques in here that I am going to have to try.

    • Kristi Hines

      Thanks Buddy! Let me know what you think when you try those out. 🙂

  • Jon Marquardt

    Thank you, Kristi!
    Consider shopping this article beyond content marketing circles: useful and empowering for students and other professions, too.

    • Kristi Hines

      Great idea. Thanks Jon! 🙂

  • Ann Smarty

    LOVE Buzzsumo and impactana is quite new to me. Checking it out. Thanks, Kristi!

    • Kristi Hines

      I live on both of those tools. I’m sure you’ll like Impactana too! 🙂

  • Kirri Romero

    Smart ideas that I want to try. Thanks Kristi

    • Kristi Hines

      Thanks Kirri! 🙂

  • Rick Lomas

    I’ve been using the Alpha version of impactana since May. It wasn’t love at first click, but I’m getting into it more and more now. Thanks for the article Kristi…btw ‘Impactful’ – is that a real word?

    • Mr. William Davis

      Impactful is not a real word. Unfortunately way too many people use it.

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    • Kristi Hines

      I had some trouble with the search queries at first, but now that I know them well, it offers data that no other tool does. Not a free one at least.

      As for impactful, I’ve seen it popping up in random places. I think I came across it while looking for synonyms.

      The comments about it are interesting. 🙂

  • Uttoran Sen

    Excellent resources Kristi,

    Buzz sumo tool is my favorite, along with that I use the ahrefs tool as well. Just tried out Impactana and seems like it will require login, so I bookmarked it for later.

    Yes, backlink is a better metric compared to social shares. Buzzsumo requires to go pro before we can sort it by backlinks though.

    Uttoran Sen,

    • Kristi Hines

      Thanks Uttoran! Impactana is currently in Alpha, so it’s free and lets you look up content by backlinks. Just search for keyword backlinks>100 to find content with lots of backlinks. 🙂

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  • Brent Rodriguez

    First of all, BuzzSumo is really incredible source for marketing and I have just found something most exceptional about BuzzSumo in this article.

    Kristi, your provided techniques are really looking promising about to get best pieces of content. I am great fan of yours and I think you are the leading marketing writer of this world.

    • Kristi Hines

      Thanks Brent! 🙂

  • juliejoyce

    This article is so well-timed for me…awesome resource that I’m bookmarking!

    • Kristi Hines

      Thanks Julie! 🙂

  • Ethel Paderes

    I also use Buzzsumo when searching for new topics, it’s helpful. However, I agree with you when you said that the number of shares can be bought and manipulated. I’ve heard about Fiverr and so far, the offer may be tempting but then your long term goal to become an authority vanishes because you rely on fake followers, likes, etc. So, it’s better to really know your industry and also take a look on what works with your competitors.

    • Kristi Hines

      There are lots of ways to buy social shares beyond Fiverr. That’s why I like using Impactana too – if nothing else, you can confirm whether a post is actually popular or just has a ton of social shares and not much else.

      • Ethel Paderes

        Agree! Also, I’m going to check Impactana. 🙂

  • AnnetteGrotz

    Great resource. Thank you so much for the detailed article and idea generating suggestions!

    • Kristi Hines

      You’re welcome Annette! 🙂

  • Tim Fehraydinov

    BuzzSumo is extremely popular, so it’s nothing new, but the idea of Impactana sounds interesting. Already checking it out. Thanks for putting it here!

    • Kristi Hines

      You’re welcome Tim! 🙂

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