Backlinks vs Social Shares: How to Make Your Content Rank for Different SEO Metrics

As seen on Search Engine Watch.


A new study by Kaizen has revealed that content that performs well for backlinks does not necessarily perform well for social shares, and vice versa.

Analysing over 2300 pieces of finance content, Kaizen has discovered the best performing pieces of content for URL rating, the number of referring domains and the number of social shares. 9 out of the top 10 pieces of content with the highest URL ratings also featured in the top 10 pieces of content for the most referring domains.

This shows a clear correlation between the two: the higher the quantity of referring domains, the higher the quality of URL rating.



The best-performing piece of content for both URL rating and number of referring domains was the Corruptions Perceptions Index 2017, by Transparency International. The campaign highlighted the countries that are or are not making progress in ending corruption, finding that the majority of countries were making little or no progress.



But what made this campaign succeed so well in SEO terms?

It has global appeal.

By placing emphasis on visual components of content, the campaign is easily understandable without language, and is based on data from across the world, making it globally backlink-worthy.

It is emotional content.

 The piece evokes an emotional response from the element of corruption, and the fact that the majority of countries in the world are making little or no progress in ending corruption.

It is evergreen content.

‘Evergreen Content’ is content that is not tied to a specific date or time of the year and can be outreached (and gain links) at any time. In addition, Transparency International are able to update the data each year, creating a new story for outreach and increasing its chances of landing links.


By combining these typical elements of viral content, the Corruption Index earned 6372 referring domains, and a URL rating of 84, making it the most successful piece of finance content in the study.

Social Shares

The Corruption Perception Index also ranked in the top 10 pieces of content for social shares, with a grand total of nearly 48,000. However, it is only one of two pieces to rank in the top 10 for URL rating or Referring Domains and Social Shares. There is much less correlation between social share success and backlink success, showing that they are not directly or significantly linked.

The most successful piece of content for social shares was this car insurance calculator by, with 91,000 total social shares. This piece of content, as well as the majority of the top 10, is B2C-focussed. In comparison, the URL rating and Referring Domains lists are more technical and B2B-focussed.

Therefore, B2B content performs better for SEO strategies focussed on backlinks, whereas B2C tools and guides suitable for customers rather than businesses perform better for social shares.

The Corruption Perception Index is an exception, performing well for both backlinks and social shares. However, by focussing on analytical data from experts and businesspeople and providing relevant data for both businesses and customers, it has equal value for both B2B and B2C audiences.

In Conclusion

Don’t expect the same piece of content to perform well for both backlinks and social shares. BUT, if you are able to create content that provides equal value for both B2B and B2C, you can create opportunities for multiple outreach strategies that has resounding value throughout the industry.

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