How Buffer generated 100 links in 14 days using data-driven content and digital PR
Most marketers strive for organic growth. A key part of this equation is distribution and links. Question is, are marketers doing enough to balance this along with their content production schedule?
In this analysis, we aim to answer that question by compiling data from Semrush and Ahrefs to see how the top SaaS blogs compare when it comes to data-driven content.
We also analyze backlink data from Buffer to compare link velocity between data-driven and long-form editorial content.
- 89% of marketers rely on organic traffic for content distribution, but only 24% proactively create editorial links
- Furthermore, only 22% of marketers are creating data-driven content
- Research into Buffer’s content strategy found it’s 293% faster to generate links to data-driven studies and research than blog content
- Data-driven content earns 243% more links than blog content
The discrepancy between blog content creation and link acquisition
According to a study by Semrush, 92% of the 1,500+ marketers interviewed invest in blog content, with 89% saying they rely on organic search for distribution—making SEO the most popular distribution channel.
That being said, only 24% say they rely on external publications (digital PR) or guest blogging. Furthermore, only 22% of respondents are creating original studies and data-driven content:
This presents an opportunity for marketers to outcompete on links. By taking a digital PR approach to link acquisition, you can rely on the power of internal links to improve rankings across your content portfolio.
Ninja Outreach did just this, increasing search traffic by 40% by creating relevant internal links across their site:
We know internal links are important because Google has explicitly said so:
“Google must constantly search for new pages and add them to its list of known pages. Some pages are known because Google has already crawled them before. Other pages are discovered when Google follows a link from a known page to a new page.”
The best way to generate backlinks is produce content that bloggers and journalists already link to. For B2B and SaaS brands, this is proprietary data, studies, analysis, and expert commentary.
Nobody creates data-driven content, yet it drives hundreds of links
As part of a digital PR effort, data-driven content is one of the most linkable assets a B2B brand can produce. Below is a table we’ve compiled that lists data-driven reports produced by SaaS brands and the number of links they’ve generated:
As you can see, the number of referring domains vary—even for well-known SaaS brands. But considering the first result in Google has an average of 3.8x more backlinks than positions two to three, even a dozen or so referring domains would make a huge impact for most B2B marketing efforts.
The question is, how does this stack up against editorial content? To answer this, let’s dive into the data behind one of our SaaS companies listed above (and a firm favourite among marketers).
How Buffer generated 100 links in 14 days
Buffer are well-known for their social media marketing guides and content. As well as in-depth, highly valuable editorial content, they produced a data-driven study, "State of Social report," where they surveyed 1,800 marketers about their social media strategy:
At time of writing, there are over 1,280 referring domains (RDs) pointing to this single piece of content.
Let’s compare this to their top 10 blog articles that rank at position 1 on Google, ordered by search volume (duplicate results have been filtered out):
The average number of backlinks from unique referring domains (RD) across their top 10 articles is 373.45. Their article on social media sites (which ranks for the term “social media platforms”) is a clear outlier, which has generated more than 1,300 RDs.
Link velocity is a measurement of how quickly it takes for a piece of content or page to generate backlinks. In the example above, we're looking at Buffer's link velocity for acquiring their first 200 referring domains.
Let’s dig deeper and compare link velocity between the State of Social report and their article on social media sites:
Factoring in other elements—such as Buffer’s brand equity and how links are organically generated through audience advocacy and as a result of page one rankings—generating links to their data-driven content was 293% faster compared to their most-linked to blog asset.
Furthermore, their data-driven content generates 243% more links than their most linked-to blog asset.
Building a digital PR strategy at the intersection of expertise, data, and growth
Based on this research, we can conclude the following:
- Links are critical for improving search rankings for our content
- It’s far easier to generate links to data-driven content than editorial content
- Internal linking impacts organic traffic across our entire content portfolio
- Editorial content generates large amounts of search traffic for high-volume keywords (when done right)
In our anecdotal experience, embedding data-driven content into a Hub & Spoke strategy is the best way to produce content that ranks, generates links, and contributes to organic growth across the board:
In the example illustrated above, data-driven content acts as an "entry ramp" for backlinks to enter our content portfolio:
- The goal is to generate links from publications with a high domain rating (DR)
- This contributes to the page rating (PR) of our data-driven content
- Link value is passed on to our content hub and subsequent clusters
It's important not to select topics for your data-driven content without a framework that aligns with your content strategy. Ideation should focus on opportunities in the sweet spot between:
- What journalists and editors are hungry for
- What the market is talking about
- Your growth and demand generation priorities
The same goes for promotion. Outreach and strategic relationships must be baked into your content distribution roadmap, ensuring each activity has a strong content-channel fit.
Reducing uncertainty with Digital PR Sprints
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. So many B2B and SaaS marketers invest huge amounts of time and money into long-form data-driven content.
This can make a huge impact, as link creators love to cite original sources in their own content. But it can be costly and time-consuming with little certainty of generating results.
A better approach is to run several Digital PR Sprints each quarter. They involve planning, producing, and distributing of data-driven (and creative) content over four or so weeks. This is in favour of the several months it takes to collect survey responses, analyze them, and turn your findings into long-form whitepapers.
The methodology looks like this:
- Analysis & Ideation: Identify trending topics in the market and use publicly available data, creating a unique narrative and commentary that journalists and editors can use to build out their stories.
- Content & PR Asset Production: Package up this data and commentary in a way that journalists can pick up and link to easily. This includes owned blog post and visual content production (e.g. infographics).
- Outreach: Package up your content in a way that makes it easy for journalists, bloggers, and editors to turn into stories.
Give yourself several at-bats by packaging multiple angles into a single piece of content. If something falls flat, reach out to journalists with a different take. Create something they truly want from the outset and you'll get their attention.