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The Sherlock Homeboy Technique: How To Reverse Engineer Your Content Marketing Strategy In 2022 & Beyond

Free Content

“Hey Ross, what’s the best content marketing strategy?”

Ahh yes, the age old question that graces my inbox (and the inboxes of content marketers around the globe) each and every year.

Founders, executives, marketing leaders breaking into content & more all want to know one thing—how should they approach the beast that is content marketing?

Well your answer has arrived.

The best content marketing strategy is what I call The Sherlock Homeboy Technique.

It’s a method that means finding and reverse engineering content marketing efforts that have worked in relevant industries.

This isn’t about copy and pasting content and adding your own spin to it. Instead, this is about uncovering content formats, title formulas, topic trends and distribution channels that worked in the past and can be utilized again in the future.

What Does the Sherlock Homeboy Technique Look Like in Action?

The first step to the Sherlock Homeboy technique is identifying metrics that will tell you which blog post, video, white paper, report or other content asset was successful. In some cases you might look at social shares; in other cases you’re going to look at the number of backlinks a piece generated or how many upvotes it received on Reddit.

Let’s say you’re looking to create a content asset that generates a lot of backlinks…

You could use a tool like Ahrefs or Moz to uncover what types of content generate the most high authority links within a specific industry. For this example, let’s pretend you’re targeting marketing executives.

First, we’ll identify a handful of content marketing leaders within the Martech space—I’d include brands like Buffer, HubSpot, CoSchedule, SEMRush, Venngage, etc.

Once the cream of the crop has been identified, it’s time to put on your Sherlock Homeboy hat and start digging into the data.

Remember, your goal is to create a piece of content that generates a lot of backlinks. You can easily find the most popular articles from these brands using an SEO tool called Ahrefs.

Just input the brand’s URL…

Then click on “Best By Links” in the left-hand sidebar…

This will show you the pages on that site with the most backlinks:

Once you have this information, export it to a spreadsheet so you can manipulate the data. We do this over and over and over again for brands generating content within the industry in order to spot trends.

In this case, we care about two things: the total number of backlinks a post is generating and the type of content that attracted those links. Identifying the type of content needs to be done qualitatively—it’s not something a tool can tell you. Thus, we sort the content by total backlinks and manually review the page titles to determine the content type.

We found that nine key types of content make up the most linkable assets on marketing blogs:

Once you determine the types of content that are generating backlinks, it’s time to revisit the data.

Let’s take a look at a few top backlink generating posts…

…and review which titles generated the most backlinks.

You’re looking for common themes here that indicate which words or post types are leading to the best results.

Look at this data, we can see that “free tools” are the most effective content assets in the marketing industry for generating backlinks.

A few examples of free tools generating a ton of links are FollowerWonk from Moz, Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest and CoSchedule’s headline/subject line analyzer.

Based on this particular search, the second most effective type of content for generating backlinks is industry definitions. I talk about this approach in depth in my guide to SEO Best Practices for B2B; I call it the keyword glossary strategy. This study that we’ve conducted including some of the top MarTech brands confirm that this approach has worked well for many.

Here’s a snapshot of the other types of content being published by MarTech brands and how many backlinks they generate, on average:

So what does this tell us about the type of content we should create?

It shows us that developing a tool could generate the most links—but developing a tool for marketing can be costly. The second most effective option would be creating a keyword glossary with a handful of definitions … which could also be costly.

The third option, however, is developing blog posts or landing pages that share compelling stats about a specific topic.

Here are two examples of stats posts that generated thousands of links:

How Do You Know the Sherlock Homeboy Strategy Works?

Sherlock Holmes is a genius. Sherlock Homeboy is a genius with swag.

You just read how we’d go about creating assets in the Martech space that would generate backlinks. But up until now…

That was all hypothetical.

So we’ve taken this hypothetical approach and tried it out.

Here are the results:

The Sherlock Homeboy Technique (For Backlinks)

In 2019, the team at Foundation published five blog posts dedicated to industry stats:

Our primary goal for these posts was to generate high quality backlinks from sites looking to source info about B2B marketing. At the time of writing this article, here’s a snapshot of how many unique websites each of these posts has generated backlinks from:

This LinkedIn post came home with the crown.

Generating more than 600 links from sites ranging from Harvard Business Review to Forbes to Entrepreneur to HubSpot, that post is the clear-cut winner.

In addition to these links, the post consistently attracts 15–20K visits a month. While the other posts haven’t stirred up as many links as we would have liked, they do show some promise and will likely provide more traffic with the right dose of content distribution and outreach.

This is the Sherlock Homeboy technique in action. 

It’s the best content marketing strategy for organizations looking to achieve a specific result.

As Picasso once said: “Great artists don’t copy—they steal.”

And to remix that quote a bit: “Great marketers don’t copy—they steal.”

Want more backlinks?

Find content that’s already generating them and create something better.

Want more social shares?

Find content that’s already being spread like butter and create something better.

And while I don’t think this is really stealing, it’s certainly an effective way to create content that you know for certain your audience wants. And at the end of the day, that’s the primary issue I see with most content strategies.

Wrapping up

Marketers are writing and creating things people don’t want.

So embrace the Sherlock Homeboy technique and let me know how it goes.

Keep in mind—you can find inspiration anywhere. Use a subreddit called /r/futurology or even BuzzFeed to help you understand what works. Sort the top posts in a community or forum where your audience hangs out to figure out what they want. Simply put…

You need to be willing to experiment. You need to be willing to tinker.

You need to be willing to do things that aren’t exactly elementary, my dear Watson…

Want more insights on how you can take your content to the next level? Sign up for the Foundation Marketing newsletter for content & SaaS marketing insights, strategies & teardowns in your inbox weekly.

PS: If you enjoyed this – Drop a comment below so I can know what you think or hit me up on Twitter @TheCoolestCool.

[Updated Dec 22, 2021]

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