When BuzzSumo and Moz teamed up to analyze more than a million articles published online, you had to know their findings would be huge.

While there is a lot to digest, with many of the finer details discussed below, here is what you really want to know, and it's something I've been saying for a while now:

Most of the content published online goes nowhere--it's just ignored, as far as backlinks and social shares.

For companies spending time, money, and other resources on content marketing, this is bad news. Unless, of course, you're one of the few zigging while everyone else zags.

Shares and Links are Hard to Come By

Here's what the study turned up after reviewing 100,000 randomly selected posts:

  • More than 50 percent had two or less Facebook interactions.
  • More than 75 percent had zero external links.

In other words, a large majority of content is not being discussed on Facebook or linked to by others. This suggests two possibilities:

  • Content quality is low.
  • Publishers are poor at marketing their content to the appropriate audience.

When expanding to a sample size of 750,000 well-shared posts, another problem became apparent: more than 50 percent of these posts had no external links. Even  when a post is popular on social media, it doesn't mean that other websites/blogs are going to link to the content.

Shares and Links: What's the Correlation

Content marketers often believe social shares and links go hand in hand and that if you get shares, the links will follow. Or, if people link to your content, they will also share socially.

This thinking is flawed. The study showed that there is no correlation between shares and links: the correlation of total shares and referring domain links across 750,000 articles was just 0.021!

Just because you receive shares does not mean links will follow, or vice versa.

Image: BuzzSumo & Moz

Yes, Long Form Content is King

With 85 percent of content checking in at less than 1,000 words, it's easy to see that content marketers continue to underestimate the power of long form content. Content of 1,000 or more words consistently performs better than shorter content in terms of the number of shares and links. Even though it's simple to ignore this data and difficult to create long form content, it's a must if you want to achieve success in terms of social shares and backlinks.

As content length increases, so do the number of shares and links. Even above 3,000 words, the number of average shares and links continues to increase, as long as the quality remains on point.

Let's all thank BuzzSumo and Moz for this study, as it goes a long way in showing what it takes to not only create killer content, but to increasing the number of social shares and referring domain links! Download the full study and check out Steve Rayson's in-depth data analysis at Moz.com.