Audit your content and competitors for link-building

1. Using a tool like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz, make a list of your website pages with the most backlinks and social shares. This will inform you on what worked in the past.

If you’re using Ahrefs, go to Pages > Top content to view the pages with the most mentions from unique domains and the most social shares. A look at the most popular blog content from by backlinks and social signals. You can find similar reports in other tools like SEMRush or MOZ:  An example of a similar report by MOZ.

2. Create a Google Sheets document listing the top pages that you want to analyze and the number of backlinks and referring domains for each.

Depending on how big your website is, the report you see might be very messy. You’ll see a lot of pages that are not relevant to your goal like about-us and contact pages. To get the right insights, download the list and review each of the top 50-100 pages into a Google Sheets document. Keep relevant content pages like reports, guides, and articles, and remove the pages that don’t matter to your analysis.

3. Add columns for Content format and Topic and assign a format and topic to each of the pages.

Classify each page as one of these types of content format:  Thought leadership articles Ultimate guides (how-to articles) Lists and reviews Original data and research reports Free tools Pick a set of broad topics that you usually write about and assign one to each page. For example, for HubSpot, these topics could be categories like inbound marketing, email marketing, and content strategy.

4. Create charts that compare the number of backlinks by content format and topic so that you can see which topics and formats are performing best.

Here is a chart showing which Content Format performs best on HubSpot’s blog: The type of content that generates the most backlinks for HubSpot is related to stats or research. How-to (or ultimate guides) is the second best type of content.

5. Use Google Sheets to determine the average number of unique referring domains you got per type of content format: ultimate guide/how-to articles, thought leadership, stats/data/research, lists, and templates.

Take the list of pages, determine the format of each page, and make sure to add the total number of referring domains for each page. Your list should look like this. Filter the list by content format. For each format, calculate the average number of referring domains per page. Repeat this process for the total backlinks column. These totals will indicate about how many backlinks you should expect if you continue publishing similar content and promoting it the same way. Here’s an example of how many backlinks a page gets depending on the type of content. Stats/data-related content gets over 1500 backlinks per page so it’s worth creating more of the same.

6. Make a list of your top competitors and analyze their best performing content by backlinks using a tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush or MOZ.

Find content ideas, topics, or formats that you haven’t used before and to create something better than your competitors. Look for inspiration, rather than copying what’s already done. If you simply copy an idea, you won’t see great results because the audience is saturated; they’ve seen that before. Instead, take the idea and build something better, more accurate, or with more relevant data.

7. Using a backlink analysis tool like Ahrefs, SEMRush, or MOZ, determine how many backlinks from unique domains your competitors got for each type of content and topic. You can use these insights to estimate how many backlinks to expect if you create similar content.

If you use Ahrefs, go to Site explorer > Pages > Best by links and paste there the domain of your competitor. Repeat these steps for each one of the competitors you want to analyze: Export the list to a Google Sheets document and keep only essential columns: Page URL, Page title, Referring domains and Dofollow (Backlinks). Also remove the pages that are irrelevant to your analysis such as homepages and contact pages. In this example, I removed which is the Marketing Blog’s home page Add the following columns to it: Topic, Content format. Analyze the content of each page and fill in the Topic and Content format columns. For content format, look for the pages that have the type of content that usually generates backlinks: ultimate guides/how-to articles, stats/research/data, lists, templates, thought leadership. Navigate to Insert > Chart and create a bar chart that shows the average number of Referring domains and Backlinks per topic, and another that shows the same for content format. Set X-axis to Topic or Content format, tick the Aggregate box, and set the Series to Average. Look at which of your competitor’s topics and formats perform best in terms of backlinks and referring domains. In the example with, the best performing format is Templates, followed by Stats/Data related articles and then How-to/Ultimate Guides. Filter the list by format and for each type, calculate the total the average number of referring domains you got per page. Do the same for the total number of backlinks.