If you’ve been writing content for a significant amount of time, you know that consistently identifying high value topics can get very difficult.
In fact, once you’ve built up a decently sized content catalog it may feel like you’ve already covered all the ground possible. Combine that with everyone throwing out content, and it can feel impossible to say anything new.
However, that very backlog and oversaturation can be remarkably effective in helping you generate unique content that will resonate with readers in your niche.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to triangulate your top performing content, popular angles in your niche, and underexplored areas of interest to generate truly unique content. Let’s get started.
Identify the topics that resonates with your audience
The first step in this process is identifying which topics already resonate well with your audience. You’ve probably heard that the greatest predictor of future success is past success, and that applies as much to content as anything else.
If you are hesitant to cover the same ground that you’ve already touched on in the past, don’t worry too much. Before the end of this process we’ll ensure you’re taking a fresh approach to the topic.
In order to determine the topics which resonate best, I’d recommend confirming it based on your goals. For the purposes of this article, let’s say we care most about amplifying our message through social engagement.
1. Log in to Ahrefs and navigate to the content explorer tool.
2. Set the date window you care about. In most cases with content analysis I tend to look at the past year, but in this case I want to look at all the content we’ve posted then manually review the topics and dates. That will give me a good idea of whether the content has consistently appealed to our audience long term.
3. Now enter the URL for your blog or website (or that of your clients) and sort by the metrics that apply to your content goals. In this case we’re sorting by total shares.
4. Now look at your top performing content and group the recurring topics. In this case, you can see that in our top five results we’ve got two articles focused on content promotion, one on outreach tips and another on social data analysis.
Once you’ve grouped all of your topics, make note of the top content area that has most consistently appealed to your audience.
Find the top content trends in your chosen topic area
Once you’ve identified the top performing content for your audience, you need to identify what is currently resonating in that topical niche overall. This will allow you to take the pulse of the current landscape to get a sense of the specific subtopics and points of interest that you should be trying to cover in your new content.
There are many tools you can use to discover this, but here’s a simple process you can use in Ahrefs since we’re already hanging out there.
1. Once again, navigate to the Ahrefs content explorer and plug in the topic category that you discovered as being most performant for your audience. This time, you will want to apply some filters to make sure you’re looking at high quality content.
The specifics will change slightly for your use case, but I’d recommend starting with something similar to these:
Set publish date to past year
Change the relevant language to English (or whichever most fits your market)
Set the domain rating to a minimum of 15
Set total shares (or shares on your most important network) to a minimum of 50
Set referring domains to a minimum of 10
2. Look through the content and identify any specific subtopics that seem to be popular and add them to a list. Sometimes you can grab these straight from the headline, as with this example for “paid content promotion”. Other times, you’ll need to dive into the popular content to find the unique angle.
3. Now, identify a subtopic from your list that you think would resonate with your audience and review the content. What you’re looking for are specific elements of the content that have a lot of potential interest but are briefly explored or largely unanswered.
In this case, the mention of Instagram paid content promotion serves the purposes of the article but there is a LOT more you could cover on this topic!
4. Continue doing this until you’ve accumulated enough to get a good idea of the areas of opportunity within your selected subtopic.
***A Brief Caveat***
As I mentioned, this is a simple and direct process. However, it can pick up some results that perform well simply because the sites they are posted on are popular and will get promoted no matter what. If you want a slightly more involved process that will correct for this, I’d recommend you check out Derek Gleason’s guide to adding more context to your content analysis.
Understand the questions people have about these opportunities
Now that you understand the resonant subtopics and underexplored areas of interest you’ll need to validate that these are areas that readers are actually interested in. What you’re looking for here are high interest questions that have not been satisfactorily answered.
You can find these on the main Q&A sites like Quora or specific subreddits, but BuzzSumo has put together a tool specifically geared towards finding questions and organizing them by topic.
1. Log in to BuzzSumo and navigate to their Question Analyzer. Plug in your specific interest areas. Note: you’re probably going to have to play with the language a little bit until you hit on the wording that gets you a substantial number of results.
2. BuzzSumo will now return a list of questions organized by topic and a word cloud that will highlight the biggest topic categories and let you jump right to the ones that interest you.
3. Now begin exploring the questions around your chosen topic. Pay particular attention to the questions on larger sites (Quora and Reddit) because they will often get more exposure than those on niche forums.
4. Once you find a question that seems applicable, open it up and gather some more info. Ideally, you want a question with lots of interest (follows or upvotes) but very few answers or ones that don’t answer it satisfactorily. That will indicate that this is a hot topic without great info currently – a perfect opportunity for you to dive in.
5. Other opportunities you can look for are questions that have a large number of self-promotional answers. These will often answer the question in a cursory way but drive people to a paid consultation for the real info. If somebody is getting paid for info there’s likely a lot of interest.
6. If others are giving responses to question that seem good but don’t answer it comprehensively, make a note of those as well. You can expand on them in your piece. Also, you can reference the original response for a great opportunity to build a relationship.
Identify where you can uniquely add value to the conversation
At this point you’ve got a list of specific topics that you know are highly in demand and will resonate with your audience and your vertical once you hit that publish button. The last step to determining which of these is the best fit (or which you should prioritize first) is to figure out where you can add unique value.
When you create content that is genuinely hard for others to replicate you have a greater chance for it to spread due to its originality and it will appeal more to high authority sites. It also creates a competitive advantage for your content because no one will be able to swoop in and create something that is 10x better without major effort.
The specific unique value that you can add will vary quite a bit, but it will almost always fall within one of these categories:
Unique expertise – you do this professionally and have direct specialized knowledge
Access to influencer expertise – you’ve got good relationships with people you can collaborate with who have deep knowledge around this topic
Illustrative case studies – you or your clients have demonstrated, with data to back it up, that you know how to respond to this topic
Access to proprietary data – you’ve got access to unique data that you own that can answer key points within this topic
Survey information – you’ve taken the time to gather statistically representative results that do a great job of illuminating the topic
Deep research – you know how to access information that is highly technical, industry specific, or hidden (through out of print works, interviews, etc.) and can translate it to readers
In any case, carefully review your list and note where you’ve got the opportunity to add unique expertise. Don’t skimp on this step. It’s worth engaging with other teams in your organization or reaching out to influencers to get a sense of true competitive advantage opportunities.
At this point you’ve got all the pieces in place, so get out there and write! The good news is, given the way that this process uncovers highly unique opportunities that aren’t unanswered, you can utilize it again and again to fill out your editorial calendar.
If you decide to use this process, I’d love to hear from you. Do you have other ways you’re creating fresh content?
As long as I’ve been doing SEO and digital marketing, I’ve pushed for the early adoption of new products, platforms, and technology. The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (not an Amazon affiliate link, I swear!) has been a book I’ve leaned on since studying marketing in college.
The first law states, “being first in the market is better than having a better product.”
To me, this concept doesn’t speak for product marketing alone. Google is processing tens of thousands of search queries each second. But they are bigger than their standalone search engine. This makes any peripheral plugging into its search engine an incredible marketing and branding platform. The more search results referencing a company, the more that company becomes recognized to searchers. So why shouldn’t SEOs be helping companies be first to take advantage of a new technology? Why shouldn’t SEOs be optimizing for voice search results?
After all, “being first” is our thing.
Granted, some of the new features, technology, and platforms I’ve pushed to clients throughout the years didn’t pan out. For every AMP there’s an Authorship. For every Freebase, there’s a Google+ (sick burn!). It’s common for a modern SEO to suggest using Progressive Web Apps, VR and AR applications (i.e. Amazon Sumerian). If a technology has the potential to improve a searcher’s experience outside the traditional search engine model, build loyalty to the brand, and enhance conversions, it falls into the purview of SEO. After all, rankings in SERPs aren’t all we should be thinking about these days. We should be thinking about reaching the right searcher, understanding their intent, and giving them the experience they want and need (sometimes these are two separate things). We should be thinking about helping searchers, businesses, and Google at the same time. A win-win-win.
To me, everything above has been the natural evolution of SEO to date.
Search By Voice
Voice Search is not new, but the role of voice search in everyday computing is growing at an incredible pace. “Voice-first” is showing up in more technology, from stereos to electric outlets. It is most popularized by titans like Google, Apple’s Siri, and the Amazon Alexa.
Not to be left behind, Voice Search is Google’s latest shiny object. It is part of mobile search, mobile devices, and digital assistants. It works for online and local businesses (i.e. local SEO) alike. Compared to Google’s pushing AMP in 2017, this year has shown a real obsession with Voice Search. Google I/O (in May 2018) introduced projects around AI and “continued conversations”. We learned that Google is still pushing for smart displays in their voice assistants. These will provide more opportunities for users to ask algorithms for things.
New technologies bring opinions and guesses from all areas of the marketing world. Not to mention, a fair amount of misinformation. You might have heard ComScore’s prediction that half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. You might have also heard disagreeing naysayers, basing their opinion on the few “ok Google”-stemmed keywords that make it into keyword reports. This is not a good way to measure voice search activity, as evidenced by John Mueller’s tweet to me:
For normal voice queries, we don’t include the triggering in the logged query. I suspect these are from people who didn’t think the first trigger worked, or who used the button and didn’t realize they could just ask. (both happen to me regularly too :-))
There you go, straight from the horse’s mouth. (John is not a horse.)
These wild speculations are partly because we aren’t receiving any Voice Search metrics from any of the Voice Search providers (though this may change one day), so we’re in a state of ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ at the moment. Despite knowing the search algorithm processes these voice queries.
Want some more juicy stats, speculation, and opinions?
How much of this is representative of real life? Clearly, the truth lies somewhere in the fuzzy middle.
The first question a business asks is whether it’s worth the investment to play in the fuzzy middle. As I referenced the Immutable Laws of Marketing above, my answer would be yes. But I recognize it’s one thing to stand on my pedestal and spend a company’s money for them, where the failure isn’t necessarily a financial pain I would feel. I also recognize that most SEO campaigns need to have a business case, and the “fuzzy middle” doesn’t lead to convincing anyone of a real opportunity.
So my argument for the investment? SEO is changing again. There isn’t a company out there who doesn’t know what SEO is, and very few who think it has no value. SEO as a marketing channel has already been sold through. So we are not talking about selling SEO here; instead, we’re talking about investing in the next wave. From my perspective, I see many articles written about Voice Search, and the occasional conference talk, but I don’t know many SEOs or companies who are embracing it as an opportunity.
Now, returning to an earlier statement: SEO is not just about rankings. It’s no longer just about getting people to click the little blue links on Google.com. It’s not just about earning a featured snippet. It’s about helping all of Google’s user base across all their platforms. We’re talking Chrome, your phone’s Google Assistant, your Google Home and Mini devices (also powered by Google Assistant). It’s even bigger than Google – the spirit of SEO lives in app stores, Amazon, Apple (Siri), Microsoft (Cortana), Youtube, and elsewhere, but I digress.
Think about that last bolded statement for a minute, and consider this real example. My wife was washing her hands in the kitchen and had a sudden thought. She called out, “Hey Google, what is the best soap to use for dry skin?” This is a thought she may have later gone to Google.com and asked (when her hands weren’t dirty), but the convenience of having a Google Mini in our kitchen inspired her to call out. Google responded by saying, “According to Livestrong.com,” and continued by reading the current rich answer:
That shout-out, I argue, is SEO in 2018. There’s no recorded click. There’s no record of anyone hearing that answer (yet). But Livestrong was promoted in my wife’s mind. And so were the products Google suggested.
Winning the featured answer is a start, and SEOs have been studying the techniques for a couple years now. But what about the queries that are more voice-based than text-based? It’s a new type of keyword research. It doesn’t stop there – the skills need to be tweaked for these voice search queries. In this Martech Today article, they called it “voice query design,” as a component of “Voice Interface Optimization.” I’ve heard other terms like “conversational UI” and “conversation design”. Some new terms here, and we’ll see which ultimately stick. Labels aside, the technology shows nothing but signs of sticking.
Who better to help optimize this system than an SEO? This is our bread and butter! As more controls are given to marketers to control the answers Google and Amazon’s Alexa give, the more a brand can control their influence.
If you’ve been optimizing for semantic search, you’ve probably already started voice search optimization.
If you have followed me in the past, I was quick to jump on leveraging Google’s epochal Hummingbird changes. I wrote this and this in 2014 on the heels of Hummingbird. When the dust settled, we SEOs realized what Google was trying to do. Google realized they needed to take reliance away from keywords alone, and add a new skill – comprehension. From search entities and the relationships between concepts, Google certainly got smarter within the semantic search model.
Instead of thinking of queries as choppy, fragmented keywords, I began expecting more natural-language queries typed into the Google search bar. With that in mind, it drastically changed how I optimized copy. I was no longer just trying to optimize for a keyword – I was trying to optimize for a theme, and hit upon the concepts and relationships I assumed Google had in their knowledge graph. Remember, at the same time, Hummingbird also brought us huge improvements in conversational search. More of a reason to consider optimization outside of the choppy approach we were used to.
I was trying to match the way I predicted people would be seeking their information. The intent of the searcher and the inherent value of my content became paramount. So much so, I haven’t done nearly as much keyword research as I used to. Gone are my massive lists of keywords and estimated search volume metrics. These days my lists are much, much smaller.
The voice search optimization mindset
SEOs, we have our work cut out for us. We have much to learn as Google keeps growing the abilities of their voice processors, and we should be currently experimenting with this new technology now. We need to stop watching all the headlines pass by our news feeds (which are the same headlines businesses are seeing), and jump in, grab the bull by the horns, and own this for our clients and bosses. There’s money to be made, but SEOs need to evolve.
Think about the company you represent. What are they experts in? What do they do better than any other? If the answer is “nothing,” let me rephrase: What could your company be experts in for voice searchers before your competitors step up to the plate? (Remember the first Immutable Law of Marketing).
With these strengths in mind, it’s important to think about the direct goal that voice search can answer. I suspect with this new technology, there are some impatient and frustrated users who have had their fill of “Sorry, I can’t help you with that right now, but I’m always learning.” Yes, Google is in the early stages – their new child is still a baby, so it makes sense to feed this technology at its level. Build direct answers that can answer direct and popular queries. Additionally, build content that can answer all the anticipated questions in a series of spoken questions. Traditional keyword research now has to consider such nuances.
Are we providing content in a way that not only clearly answers the needs, but also illustrates the content’s importance to Google; thus, improving Google’s growing comprehension? If I want Google to read my content out loud, or serve up a web page on my phone, I better make my content considerable for Google. To do this, I need direct and helpful content passages instead of long, redundant, over-optimized text. This makes for an easier read anyway. Frankly, this is taking a page out of the content strategists’ playbook, and the mindset they have about web content and the inevitability of voice search. In the end, SEO done right is a win for everybody. Now is the time to include a voice search optimization into your SEO strategy.
Update: 7-31-2018 https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2018/07/hey-google-whats-latest-news.html
“As a news publisher, you can surface your content on the Google Assistant by implementing Speakable markup according to the developer documentation. This feature is now available for English language users in the US and we hope to launch in other languages and countries as soon as a sufficient number of publishers have implemented speakable. As this is a new feature, we are experimenting over time to refine the publisher and user experience.”
I was alerted about this cool tool from Synup that helps you see how ready your business is for voice results: Voice Readiness Test.
This really upset the Majestic team at the time and sparked a lot of controversy, but they did make some valid points-
The test was done with 3 of my personal sites I would not disclose
That makes the entire test biased in Majestic’s opinion
The data set was very small with just 3 sites analysed and compared
The results could not be independently verified
And they were right!
So then re-conducted the experiment on an altogether BIGGER scale (1 million domains vs. the original 3). Ahrefs won again.
Now it’s 5 years later.
So I thought it would make sense to re-run the numbers this year for all 1 million domains AND compare the functionality of the tools.
I’m also going to reveal how Majestic essential cheat on backlink counts (you won’t believe this one!)
Ahrefs vs. Majestic SEO – Huge New Update
Before we get to the experiment, let me talk about my data source.
For those that don’t know, the Majestic team publish what is called the Majestic Million.
The Majestic Million is a list of the top 1 million website in the world, based on the number of referring IP’s found for that domain in their Fresh index.
So with this, Majestic SEO are outright telling us these are the sites they know the most about in terms of backlinks.
You can download a copy for yourself free of charge and it will tell you the total number of linking subnets (RefSubNets) and the total number of linking IPs (RefIPs) for each domain in the top million.
To compare Majestic SEO with Ahrefs, I’m going to look up the total number of linking subnets and IP’s for all of the domains in the Majestic Million.
It’s important to realise that index size means nothing unless you’re able to extract actionable data and insights from it.
Both Majestic and Ahrefs do have an API for doing this at scale (this is what I used for this study), but most of us don’t pay for access to that.
So, let’s quickly compare the on-site backlink research features that exist in Ahrefs and Majestic.
Let’s start by plugging this same URL (the beginners guide to SEO from Moz) into both tools to see what kind of insights we can get from them.
NOTE. I’m using the “exact URL” setting, because I only want to analyze backlinks pointing directly at that URL.
A few comparable metrics right off the bat:
Backlinks: 628,437 (Majestic) vs. 111,000 (Ahrefs)
Referring domains: 1,840 (Majestic) vs. 11,300 (Ahrefs)
So Majestic reports more backlinks in total, but Ahrefs reports (a lot) more referring domains.
That’s a win for Majestic, right?
Not so fast.
(This is something I really feel the need to highlight!)
Majestic’s backlink stats are almost always inflated because of the absolutely absurd way they report backlinks.
Let me illustrate by going to the Referring Domains tab in Majestic.
Majestic is reporting 370K+ backlinks from just one referring domain.
That accounts for nearly 60% of all reported backlinks!
Let’s see how many backlinks Ahrefs reports from this domain-
So why does Majestic report 373,004 backlinks from that domain while Ahrefs only reports 4?
This happens because Majestic fail to strip URL parameters from URLs, which results in the same backlink being duplicated hundreds, sometimes even thousands of times.
This also happens when you export the data from Majestic.
Take a look at this backlink export from my blog and you’ll see that digitalphillipines.net is linking to me nearly 700,000 times-
But when we export the data and look at the links, you’ll see they are mostly duplicate links with different UTM parameters on the end-
For example Majestic counts the below as 4 separate backlinks-
But the reality is they are just one backlink – but Majestic is reporting them as 4.
In my opinion, this is total madness.
Especially when the vast majority of the 700,000 links coming from digitalphillipines.net are duplicates.
Ahref’s on the other hand, only counts 17 links-
Because Ahrefs understands that those additional URL parameters do not make them all unique links so filter them out accordingly.
Here’s Another Mad Thing!
If you go from the Summary page in Majestic to their Ref.Domains and Backlinks reports, you’ll notice that the total numbers of ref.domains and backlinks that you just saw on that “Summary” page now completely disappear.
That’s because these reports are limited to 30k rows of data – 600 pages, 50 results per page.
This makes every report in Majestic somewhat useless because you can only see a sample of the data!
Sure you can view the first 30,000 rows – but after that, they cut you off.
That is a huge limitation and I feel like it really goes against the grain of Majestic’s core mission.
What’s the point of building a huge database of links if you are going to limit access to it?
It’s the same when you try to export this data too – it defaults to a max of 30K rows.
However you can export more than 30k rows if you request an “advanced report” by clicking the tiny link highlighted in the screenshot below:
But even when you click this, you’re taken to quite a puzzling page where you seemingly have to tick a bunch of boxes in order to do what you want to do.
You can export more than 30K rows from Majestic – it’s just not a fun experience
All of Majestics reports are useless if you are working on a site that has more than 30,000 backlinks
And thats assuming the backlink numbers arent inflated, it could have 4 links but Majestic counts 370K+
In comparison, Ahrefs shows full data in both their Ref.Domains and Backlinks reports.
And exporting FULL DATA is super easy – just hit the “export” button.
However, one downside of this is that reports sometimes load slower in Ahrefs than Majestic, especially when analysing big sites.
This is because Ahrefs has to work to pull all data, whereas Majestic just has to show a cached sample of 30K pages/ref.domains.
To be honest:
Any further comparison here makes no sense because Majestic’s on-site tools only works with a sample of data whereas Ahrefs lets you work with FULL data.
However, I do want to compare and highlight a few things in these reports.
But first, I want to talk a bit about indexes.
Majestic Indexes vs Ahrefs Indexes – What Do They Mean?
So you may have noticed that Majestic has two different indexes for you to choose from, while Ahrefs has three.
Majestic: Fresh, Historic
Ahrefs: Live, Recent, and Historical
You may have noticed in the screenshots above that Majestic defaults to their Fresh index, whereas Ahrefs defaults to their Live index.
Let me try to explain the deal with all of these indexes.
Ahrefs Indexes Explained
So Ahrefs Live index is updated every 15 minutes, and I know they put a lot of effort into re-crawling all links in their Live index pretty regularly.
But as Ahrefs recrawls links, they naturally come across some that are no longer there.
Like, sometimes the page will still be live, but the link will be gone. Or maybe the actual linking page can no longer be found.
In this case, Ahrefs removes the link from their Live index, but it remains in their Recent index, where this backlink stays for 90 more days. Quite often the pages disappear because of server downtime, so when Ahrefs next re-crawls the page, they may see that the link is still there.
If this happens, it gets moved back to the Live index.
If Ahrefs don’t see the link going live again within 90 days of it being moved to the Recent Index, it gets moved to the Historical index. This is basically a graveyard for all backlinks that they’ve once seen as live, but the subsequent recrawls confirmed their death.
To summarise (for Ahrefs):
Live = All links that were live during the most recent re-crawl
Recent = Live + links that were “lost” within the past 90 days
Historical = Live + Recent + all links that were ever seen to be “live”
Majestic Indexes Explained
Unlike Ahrefs, they don’t maintain a Live index. They only have their Fresh index, which is kind of the same as Ahrefs’ Recent index as it contains all links that were seen live in the last 90 days, regardless of their status at the present moment.
They also have their Historic Index, which is comparable to Ahrefs Historical index. However, it is vastly bigger than Ahrefs’ Historic index because they started saving deleted links years before Ahrefs did.
To summarise (for Majestic):
Fresh = All links that were seen as live during the past 90 days
Historic = Fresh + all links that were ever seen to be live
Having used both tools on and off for a good few years, I know that Ahrefs only started adding links to their Historic index around mid-2015, whereas I’d say Majestic has been doing that for at least 5 years.
That’s exactly why Majestic’s is bigger right now.
Either way, these tools historic indexes are essentially graveyard of links, so most of the links in both Majestic and Ahrefs Historic indexes are no longer live.
But anyway, now we’ve tackled the technicalities, I can move on to some features.
Before I do that, I want to stress something:
I much prefer Ahrefs over Majestic.
So most of the stuff I discuss below will be reasons why that is the case.
But let’s start with a brief comparison of the summary/overview reports in Ahrefs and Majestic.
Summary / Overview Report Comparison
To start, I’ll highlight a couple of super useful graphs that I absolutely love on the Overview tab in Ahrefs Site Explorer: Referring Domains and Organic Traffic.
These show how the number of referring domains and amount of organic traffic has changed to a site (or URL) over time.
Here’s the referring domains graph:
Here’s the organic search traffic one:
Unfortunately, Majestic have no such graph for backlink data, and they don’t have any data on search traffic at all.
They do show you two graphs that they call “URL backlink history” and “Referring domains” – but these are entirely different.
In Majestic’s own words, these charts show “the number of Referring Domains [or backlinks] reviewed every day.”
So this graph mostly refers to how fast Majestic crawls the web, rather than showing how fast your target acquired backlinks.
As a result, these graphs don’t tell you anything about how a target’s backlink profile has changed over time, so I don’t really understand why they’re useful.
If anyone does happen to have a good use case, feel free to let me know in the comments!
And it’s also an image, it’s not an interactive graph. So I can’t hover my mouse over a specific date and get the precise number, like I can in Ahrefs.
As for the other numbers that you can see in Ahrefs “Overview” report and in Majestic “Summary” report, they’re more or less comparable.
Pretty standard stuff, no striking differences there.
I’d say the only major difference is the fact that each tool shows their proprietary metrics.
In Majestic’s case, these are TF/CF.
And in Ahrefs these are UR/DR.
Comparing them is a different story, so I’m not even going to attempt that but I do use both sets of metrics to evaluate expired domains.
Let’s move on to the referring domains reports.
Comparing Referring Domain Reports
Majestic has quite a few data points in their Ref.domains report, so they had to introduce a few different views.
Here’s the one they default to: Links.
For me, the most useful data points here are:
Trust Flow / Citation Flow
I think it’s really cool how they include the number of ref.domains and backlinks to each ref.domain – that’s something Ahrefs doesn’t do.
I also like their Geo report.
This shows things like the domain language(s), TLD, IP, IP location (cool!), TF/CF.
In fact, a lot of these reports are quite cool – I recommend playing around with them.
But what about filtering and sorting options?
Unfortunately, these don’t really exist (I guess their different reports kind of count of filters?) but they do have “Order by” and “Then” sorting options, which are quite confusing.
I think the biggest letdown here is that many of these reports end up being kind of pointless, simply due to the fact that Majestic only lets you work with sample data.
Sure, you have 30K rows to play with, which admittedly is plenty for most sites. But for some sites it just doesn’t cut it.
Here’s another thing:
Although Majestic have a column with a number showing the number backlinks, they don’t differentiate between dofollow and nofollow links.
This means it’s only possible to sort by the number of backlinks from a ref.domain – you can’t sort by the referring domains with the most dofollow backlinks, for example.
Ahrefs, on the other hand, absolutely shines when it comes to filtering and sorting.
For a start, there’s a column highlighting dofollow/nofollow links, and it’s easy to sort a list of referring domains by that metric.
And once again, Ahrefs will sort the entire list of ref.domains – not just a sample of the data like in Majestic.
Here’s another notable feature Ahrefs has in this report:
You can easily filter referring domains by the backlink type, and can instantly see how many referring domains of each type there is.
So if you want to export dofollow ref.domains only, simply filter and click export. Easy as that.
Back to Majestic, it looks like the domain with the most backlinks to this Moz guide is ryangum.com.
It has almost 378K backlinks. Let’s click on that number and see what they are.
Aaaannnndddd… I see only 10.
It’s a completely different story in Ahrefs, as they show everything – it’s even downloadable.
And again, I’ll reiterate the point I touched on earlier – some of the backlink numbers are absolutely crazy in Majestic thanks to the duplicated backlinks with URL parameters.
Case in point:
Majestic shows 376K backlinks
Ahrefs shows 4 backlinks
(I guess Majestic doesn’t care about URL parameters?)
But anyway… let’s move on.
Ahrefs vs Majestic Backlink Reports
Let’s start with Majestic.
In the Ref.domains report, there was at least some sorting options – here there are none.
All they give you is option to show/hide deleted links and display 1/3/10/all backlinks per domain.
I can see how one backlink per domain is useful, but three and ten… c’mon!
It almost feels like someone was desperate to come up with some kind of useful functionality here, but failed miserably.
Regardless, none of these restrictions matter anyway because this report (like the rest) only shows a sample of 30k rows out of almost 100k. That means Majestic are hiding 70% of the links they know about from you.
Luckily, things are more logical in Ahrefs.
First things first, their Backlinks report doesn’t show sampled data – it’s full data.
You can also choose to show either Similar links, One link per domain, or All links.
This report defaults to Group similar links. This makes sense, as it groups sitewide and duplicated links, but still shows unique links from unique pages of the same domain. Which is pretty cool.
Is this report perfect? No. I’ve seen a few bugs here and there, but the usability and convenience of this filter still beats Majestic’s useless “3/10 links per domain” filter by a wide margin.
You probably already spotted those other filters too – Link type, Platform, and Language.
I recommend playing around with these – they’re really cool!
There are also some sorting options, including:
Sort by DR
Sort by UR
Sort by number of external links on the page
Combining sorting AND filtering is when you really start to do some cool stuff.
For example, you could filter by dofollow links only, from English sites only, and then sort by DR.
Seriously, play around this this report – you can do TONS.
Here’s one final report I want to briefly highlight (this one is specific to Ahrefs):
The Best Report That Majestic Doesn’t Have…
Ahrefs is MUCH MORE than just a backlink checking tool. They have world-class search traffic data too.
Yes, there are other tools have one of the two (e.g., Majestic with their backlink data) but Ahrefs does an amazing job of merging backlink and search traffic data together.
I don’t think there’s a better example of this than in their Top Pages report.
This shows the “top pages” on a domain by search traffic.
But this report is super cool because it also shows:
The percentage of all search traffic that goes to that page
Top keyword (the keyword that drives the most search traffic to that page)
The search volume for the top keyword
The current ranking position for the top keyword
There’s also a keywords dropdown which unveils ALL the keywords each page is ranking for.
Majestic has nothing like this, so there’s nothing to compare here.
Where Else Do These Tools Shine?
I mentioned earlier that Ahrefs is much more than a backlink checking tool.
It’s actually a suite of SEO tools.
Content Explorer is one tool I want to highlight here – this is a database of almost a billion web pages complete with backlinks and traffic data.
Basically, you enter a keyword and it’ll return any content containing (in either the title or body of the article, depending on your selection).
Here are the results for “SEO”:
The highlighted region shows some of the cool data that Content Explorer shows for each and every results – there’s Domain Rating, referring domains, and organic traffic.
I’m not aware of any other tool that can do this and honestly, it’s super-useful! And let’s not forget the “who tweeted” button which is useful for any content marketers out there.
But what about Majestic? Where does that shine?
Well there are some cool things that I like, such as their Trust Flow and Citation Flow metrics.