There are lots of reasons you might want to find trending content, including:

  • Getting inspiration for your own content production
  • Finding interesting, relevant content to share with your audience (i.e. on social media)
  • Keeping up to speed on what sort of topics are (or are not) currently popular within your industry or niche

Staying on top of trending content gives you an edge. People are more likely to follow you and listen to what you have to say if you’re consistently sharing or producing quality content that your audience cares about. Bonus points for being among the first to share or comment on this content – you may be seen as a trend-setter or thought leader.

Of course, finding content is the easy part. Finding content that’s actually “trending” – and by that I mean content that’s being widely shared outside of its circle of creators – is a little trickier.

We all want to be seen as trendy and relevant. You want to ideally find the content with the most buzz, the content that is just taking off. Share it too late, and you’re just another marketer riding the coattails of the current “it” piece. It’s a fine line.

If you’ve ever gone looking for trending content, there’s one tool that stands out from the rest. You’ve likely used it at some point, and if not, you’ve probably at least heard of it.

BuzzSumo.

At its core, BuzzSumo is a content analysis tool that identifies trending content for any given search term or URL by tracking social shares.

It’s very useful and powerful, even in its limited free version, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of content discovery. Far from it. It’s just the most popular kid at school these days.

You could, of course, use BuzzSumo. Nothing wrong with it. But because of its popularity, you’re going to find the exact same trending content as every other digital marketer out there.

Instead, why not take the road less travelled? Here are 14 ways to find trending content that don’t involve using Buzzsumo.

Be trendy, relevant, and trailblazing.

1. Feedly

Feedly aggregates RSS feeds into one handy location that can be accessed via a browser or app. In other words, Feedly allows you to view content from all your favorite websites (provided they have an RSS feed) on one convenient dashboard.

If you’re not using Feedly (or something like it) on that basis alone, I strongly encourage you start. There is no better way to keep up to speed with relevant content that you’re actually interested in.

More to the point, it’s also an excellent tool for identifying trending content.

To get the most out of Feedly, you need to be following a healthy number of publications (or in this case, feeds). To start following feeds, click “Add Content.” You’ll find it at the bottom of the menu to the left of the page.

From here you can search for and add feeds by publications & blogs (RSS feeds), keywords, #topic, title, or a specific URL:

You can also browse popular feeds by category:

Or you can view “Shared Collections” – in other words, lists of favorite feeds from other community members. This feature is currently only available to Feedly Pro members, though.

The collections of community sources you see will be limited, but should vary each time you visit the page.

Once you’ve populated your Feedly, there are three predominant ways to browse through the content.

Selecting “All” under Feeds in the left-hand menu will show you all new content from all feeds you’re following, in all categories. They will be organized in simple chronological order.

Alternatively, you can select a particular category or a particular publication you want to read content from.

It’s these options that serve to make Feedly a great tool for finding trending content.

Whether you click on a topic or a specific publication, the top of the page will display the current three most popular articles for that topic or publication.


To see more popular content, either click the article (whether you read it or not is up to you) or click “mark as read and hide.” Then, refresh the page.

You can also use the Feedly Popularity Count to identify posts that are popular or trending upward. Look for the number beside a flame icon just beneath the title. The higher that figure, the more popular the piece.

You can also find the popularity count listed when you click All, category, or a particular feed from the menu. This allows for quick and easy comparison.

2. Reddit

Self-proclaimed or not, Reddit’s title as the “Front Page of the Internet” is very much deserved.

If you’ve never really gotten onboard with Reddit, I get it. It’s not the most user-friendly or intuitive of platforms, and getting the most out of it takes time and practice. You not only need to learn how the platform works, you also need to know where the active subreddits that align with your interests are hiding.

Once you’ve gotten past that hurdle, however, Reddit is a goldmine of content inspiration.

Unlike other platforms, content submitted to Reddit is prioritized based on two things:

  1. Freshness
  2. Score (up and down votes by Reddit users)

The homepage gives you quick access to popular and trending posts under tabs that include hot, new, and rising, with each filtered by individual country or everywhere and/or when it was submitted.

You can read a detailed explanation of how Reddit’s algorithm works here, but in short, the higher the score a submission has and the more recently it has been added to the site, the higher up on the page it will appear.

This simple combination makes Reddit the perfect platform for finding trending content since (at least on active subreddits) only content that is trending at that exact moment in time will be visible to you.

So how do you use Reddit properly?

When you first join Reddit, you won’t be subscribed to any subreddits until you manually add them. You will, however, see some of the most popular listed across the top of the page. Click “Edit” on the far right, and you’ll be able to quickly subscribe to those that appeal to and interest you.

Alternatively, you can view all the subs you’re subscribed to, unsubscribe from irrelevant ones much more quickly, and search for new ones on the subreddits page.

Bonus tip: It’s not only content submissions that are subjected to a voting system. Comments are voted on, too, and are organized by default in accordance with the results of this system (you can, of course, change the order to view the comments chronologically).

To find subreddits you want to subscribe to, you can use the site’s search function. Alternatively you can view “popular” or “new” subreddits on the “subreddits page,” or you can use external sites like Redditlist or Snoop Snoo to find suggestions for trending and growing subreddits.

Once you’ve populated your Reddit account with subreddits that are actually relevant to you and your business, the front page of the site will be packed with trending content suggestions.

Pick and share the best of the best.

3. Ruzzit

Ruzzit shares a lot of similarities with BuzzSumo’s more basic features. You enter a topic into the search bar, and Ruzzit works its magic to show you the top-performing content (based on social shares) for that term.

You can also modify your results according to filters, including categories, content type, social network, and time.

What really caught my eye with Ruzzit, however, was the time element of its search feature. You can actually drill your search down to as recent a time period as the previous 6 hours.

Beyond this, the site’s features are pretty limited. There is some capability for checking the virality of a specific post by pasting its URL, but even that is primarily “coming soon.” It does list social counts, but category, content, and timing stats are not yet available, as well as its viral prediction.

That said, what it lacks in features, it more than makes up for in value. It’s completely free.

The site also seems to struggle with longer-tail search terms. It has difficulty with any term longer than a single word.

Despite this, Ruzzit still has potential as a valuable addition to your arsenal (especially when you consider that BuzzSumo only lets you view the first 10 results of a search without a paid account). It just means that you need to keep your searches as broad as possible.

Bonus tip: Sites like Ruzzit and BuzzSumo suffer from what I’m going to call “big site bias.” Content that’s published to big sites is more likely to become successful – regardless of its quality – than content published to small sites. Always bear this in mind, especially when researching trending content for the purpose of influencing your own. Just because a piece of content has performed well for Buzzfeed, for example, doesn’t mean a similar topic will necessarily work well for you.

4. Ahrefs Content Explorer

Another offering that is similar to BuzzSumo in its functionality, Content Explorer by Ahrefs allows you to search for content by keyword and timeframe.

An Ahrefs paid account includes several powerful tools in addition to the Explorer, with plans starting at $99/month.

Enter your search term, and the tool lists the trending content based on social shares. But it goes a lot deeper than that, too. You can see organic traffic numbers, word counts, referring domains, and who’s tweeting.

The Ahrefs suite packs some excellent tools into its offering. The Content Explorer is just one of many. You’ll also get access to their Rank Tracker, Site Explorer, Alerts, Keyword Explorer, and more.

5. SmartBrief

SmartBrief collates, creates, and sends more than 200 niche email newsletters each day. It’s by no means unique in this endeavor, but it was one of the first – and is arguably one of the best – niche newsletter creators.

The competition in the niche newsletter sector means that to stand out and retain subscribers, you have to be very good at what you do. SmartBrief serves nearly 6 million individuals, working in partnership with professional societies, non-profits, corporations, and leading trade associations while curating from thousands of sources.

While talking to Digiday, Adam Rich – co-founder and editor-in-chief at Thrillist (which began life as a newsletter) – described the struggles involved in designing newsletters people actually want to read.

“Newsletters are a super hard game. A big part of the understanding my editors operated under was, it had to make sense to digitally tap someone on the shoulder. We were interrupting them, and it had to make sense.”

In order to live up to these standards, SmartBrief uses a mix of machine learning and human editing.

SmartBrief uses machines to pick 20 to 25 articles per day, then uses its human editors to cull the list to 10 to 12, which they then summarize for each newsletter. With its team of 26 engineers (of a staff of 140), it has been focusing on a/b testing of headlines and article summaries; learning about their subscriber life cycle; and improving its curation platform.” Lucia Moses, Senior Editor at Digiday

That’s a lot of work going into ensuring the content subscribers receive is precisely what they want and need to be reading.

To find and subscribe to newsletters that are going to be meaningful to you, click the blue “Get Newsletters” link on the homepage. On the next page, you can browse and select newsletters by top-level category.

I’m going to choose “Marketing & Advertising.”

From here you can browse the current top news within that industry, and choose specific newsletters under that umbrella. To subscribe to a newsletter, you’ll want to click on it, and then hit the green “Subscribe” button on the right or bottom of the page:

You can choose to either subscribe to all newsletters within a certain category, subcategory, or just those newsletters that are most relevant to you. If you’re unsure which ones you might actually care about, you can view a recent example by clicking on its title.

Once you’ve chosen what you want, you just need to enter your email address (you can also enter your company name and job title, but only an email address is necessary) and click “subscribe.”

You can also check out the most popular categories and stories on the website itself, as well as view their Trending list along the right-hand side of any subcategory page.

6. EpicBeat

EpicBeat is another BuzzSumo-esque tool that, according to Erica Kim of Pressly, “Blows BuzzSumo out of the water.”

EpicBeat’s data offers much deeper insight that goes beyond just ‘which topic gets shared.’ It dives right into the makeup of the content (word count, reading level, sentiment, etc.), the sharing behaviours of the community and channels you are after, as well as the influencers you should target (and what THEIR social behaviour is like).” Erica Kim, content marketer at Pressly, reviewing EpicBeat

Pricewise it stacks up favorably against BuzzSumo, too.

A free account allows unlimited searches for the “latest content” (which, if you want to be seen as an influencer, is all that really matters anyway). Better yet, a Plus account, which allows more comprehensive use of EpicBeat’s content tool and opens the door to a number of other features, is only $49 a month, or $490 per year (a savings of $98).

In comparison, BuzzSumo’s most basic paid account comes in at $79 a month.

If you’ve used Buzzsumo, the interface of EpicBeat’s content tool should feel pretty familiar. You enter a topic of interest and then tailor your search according to time frame, type of engagement, content type and format, and country.

The results will be organized in accordance with how you chose to sort them. A more detailed breakdown of engagement is accessible by clicking the blue arrow to the right of each result.

“Content Insights” is a really useful feature that can be found to the right of the “Content” button.

The feature essentially offers detailed insight into the type of content that performs well for your search term. This includes things like the best-performing content format, most popular word count, sentiment, and reading level. It’s essentially a how-to for producing the content that will be trending tomorrow.

7. Medium

You probably know of Medium as a blogging platform, which, essentially, it is. Developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams (initially as a Twitter-integrated tool that would enable users to expand on the 140-character tweet), Medium allows anyone to share ideas and information by writing and publishing content to the platform.

Medium allows users to write about virtually anything, and the platform is designed to reward content and its creators purely on merit, rather than the size of their audience.

The ethos of Medium is inherently democratic; it seeks to give a voice to people who have something interesting to say, even if they don’t have thousands of Twitter followers, an active blog or friends in the right places. Medium is built to reward content for its quality, not for the pedigree or popularity of the author.” Chloe Mason Gray, founder of One Hour Behind, writing for Kissmetrics

It also boasts an incredible user interface that works seamlessly across desktop, mobile, and app, and includes some nifty features like an estimated reading time:


Best yet, you don’t need to write unique content for Medium. You can cross-post to it, and many people do (including myself).

Of course, we’re not here to talk about Medium’s marvelous merits as a publishing platform. Let’s talk about how it can be used as a content discovery tool.

Discovering the most popular content across the entire platform is easy. Just click “Popular on Medium” from the homepage, or scroll down to “Today’s top stories.”

“Handpicked by Medium staff” is worth a look, too, if you want early dibs on content that might be trending soon.

Discovering trending niche content is also really easy on the platform – once you know what to do.

If you do what comes naturally and simply use the search bar, you will be presented with popular stories – from all time periods. For instance, when I searched for “Marketing,” the default shows me the most popular story ever on Medium for that subject – a post from March 2015. The article has over 7000 “likes” and 154 responses.

If, however, you search by tags – which are located to the right of the search results – recently trending content will be given priority.

To see what I mean, compare the results here (searching by keyword) with the results here (searching by tag).

Medium is a popular and trendy site in its own right, so the content that’s popular there is by definition “trending.” Find it. Share it. Use it.

8. Trend Watching and Trend Hunter

Sometimes, you need to see a specialist. There are several sites and services devoted to discovering trends as they happen. Trend Watching and Trend Hunter are two of the best.

While not exclusively tools for discovering content, both services provide a wealth of invaluable insight – for a price – into developing trends and consumer expectations across a wide spectrum of industries.

If you’re looking for a “big picture” report of what customers are looking for and interested in, and emerging trends in an industry as a whole, you’ll find plenty from either provider to keep you busy. These are premium services, but if you’re ready to invest in your business and your marketing, you’d be hard pressed to find a more informative tool.

9. ContentGems

ContentGems pulls in popular content for your choice of interests (which are automatically saved to your account). The free account doesn’t offer much to set it apart from similar tools like Lumanu; it only really comes into its own with a paid account (which lets you save multiple interests – free accounts only let you save one).

There’s also a “Individual Pro” plan that allows up to 3 interests for $9/month.

Both Lumanu and ContentGems are excellent alternatives to BuzzSumo. Which one you use (if either) really comes down to personal preference.

To get started, create your account from the homepage, and then create your first “interest” by entering a relevant search term on the subsequent page:

You’ll then be able to expand your search by entering additional keywords, or narrow it by using the “must not contain” (highlighted in red in the picture below) or the “must contain” box (highlighted in green).

With a paid plan, you can also filter by source, and create specific interest settings (including minimum word count, minimum popularity, and type of content).

Once created, you’ll automatically get articles delivered to your dashboard based on your settings.

Bonus tip: Although a free account will only let you save a single “interest,” you can update this interest as many times as you want.

10. Quora

Quora is essentially a Q&A community, but what makes it unique is how diverse and intriguing the questions are, and the level of detail users put into their answers.

Create your account, choose a few relevant topics, and optionally enter your personal areas of expertise to get started.

It’s a goldmine of inspiration if you’re ever stuck for content ideas, but it’s also a useful platform for finding out what topics are trending for a particular interest or industry right now. You can access that information on the left of the homepage by either clicking on individual interests, or the Top Stories, or even the New Questions links.

You can also tailor your Quora experience to ensure you’re alerted to trending topics you might care about by following topics of interest.

11. Google Trends

Google Trends is primarily used for monitoring trends in Google searches. It shows you the popularity of a keyword relative to overall search volume over time.

It also lists the most popular stories online, at any moment in time. To access this information, simply scroll down the page until you see the “Stories Trending Now” header. To view more, scroll right to the bottom of the page and additional stories will load automatically.

To the left of the page, you’ll see the title and/or keywords of the trending topic. To the right, you’ll see an image link that will take you through to the top source for that topic.

Another nifty feature of Google Trends is the ability to view not just the top article for a topic, but all relevant articles for a trending topic. To access that information, simply click on a title of interest.

You’ll be taken to a page that will show you the three “most relevant articles” for that trending topic. If you want to see more, just click the “More News Articles” link on the right and you’ll be shown all relevant articles (great for identifying a lesser-shared article on a trending topic that deserves more attention).

Instant trending content. Always fresh, always up-to-date.

12. Social Media

This tip doesn’t involve using content discovery tools, and there’s no need to worry about the value a paid account offers against the free version.

You simply need a little bit of time and patience.

Essentially all this involves is picking one of the big players in your industry, heading over to their Facebook and/or Twitter and/or LinkedIn page, and scanning through their recent posts.

At first, you’ll want to get a feel for the sort of engagement their posts receive on average. You’re then looking for posts with engagement that surpases these averages – those are the topics that are really resonating with the industry and people that are following it.

For example, within a couple of minutes I managed to figure out that Mashable’s tweets average well under 50 retweets and likes.

That tells me that people love this story about Duke the Pyrenees being elected for his third term as a mayor of a Minnesota town.


Quick tip: Watch out for updates that have been artificially inflated by using paid promotion on Twitter or Facebook.

You can also check out the “Trends for you” feature on the left-hand side of your Twitter homepage…

…and the “Trending” menu on the right-hand side of your Facebook feed. Both will provide a quick snapshot of the popular stories on those two platforms.

Play around with the settings on each to get a tailor-made delivery of the stories and content that matter to you and your audience.

13. NewsWhip’s Spike

A 360-degree social media monitoring service, NewsWhip includes Spike as a paid upgrade.

What separates Spike from some of the other tools listed here is that it’s primarily a predictive service. It tracks and monitors channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, analyzing data to identify pre-viral stories. With it, you can find the next big thing before everyone else.

You can also find trending content in real-time, giving you the best of trending now and trending tomorrow to share with your followers.

14. TrendSpottr

Yet another paid option, but one with an affordable $49/month price tag, TrendSpottr is both predictive and real-time.

TrendFeed is a content discovery and curation tool that allows you to find the trending content from hundreds of feeds. Signal handles the predictive side of things, tracking and analyzing the social web to find emerging trends and influencers. And Alerts lets you keep on top of brand mentions, breaking news, emerging trends, and hot content. Taken together, they’ve got you covered from every angle.

There are 14 solid methods for finding trending content that don’t include BuzzSumo. What would you add to the list? What tools or methods have you tried in your content marketing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below:

Comments
  1. Hey Sujan! Thanks so much for writing this post. You’ve offered some really practical and accessible options for finding awesome content. In your closing, you mentioned that if there are any other tools to feel free to submit a comment. I’d like to suggest you check out UpContent, a content discovery tool that allows you to take immediate action on content you care about to spark more meaningful conversations.

    While your emphasis in this post is on trending content, UpContent focuses more on finding the content written by the influencers who know the industry you’re searching for best, not necessarily just the most popular or viral sources. When you create a search topic, you can sort your results by unique filters like shareability or influence (in addition to relevance and recency), read the full-text inside the platform, and share to Buffer. UpContent is also a premiere content source inside of Hootsuite, for users who prefer an all-in-one solution. There’s both a free (one topic) and paid ($10/mo for unlimited topics) version, which makes a very cost-effective solution, especially for small businesses, which is why many users leave Buzzsumo for UpContent.

    Thanks for the opportunity to share a bit more! I’d love to hear your thoughts about UpContent.

  2. Thanks so much for this post. I’ve been using Feedly and monitoring LinkedIn Pulse, etc., but didn’t know about tools like Lamanu and EpicBeat. Checking them out for sure!

  3. I heard that Neil patel writes great stuff about content marketing. Now there is another Patel, who writes great content to. It’s great to read your blog post.

  4. Hi Sujan Patel,

    You always put the splendid posts for readers, sometimes I completely speechless while reading your in-depth posts. You terrific man and of course your post.

    Thanks,
    Rameez Ramzan

  5. I almost exclusive source my content from Buzzstream and Ahref content Explorer. First time I read about Buzzstream was here, so thanks Sujan 🙂

  6. Hey Sujan,

    These are great alternatives to Buzzsumo. Out of all of them I use Quora, mainly to anewer questions, but this is a great resource to find trendy topics. I never thought about using it for new blog posts but I’ll keep it in mind.

    Thanks for the share Sujan! Have a good one!

  7. Hey Sujan,

    There were quite a few here that I never heard of and I’m anxiously waiting to try them out. As much as I like BuzzSumo, i wouldn’t mind using alternatives from time to time.

    Thanks again for this. Off to share.

    – Andrew

  8. Hi Sujan,

    You’ve mentioned many important tools for finding trendy topics. I knew a few of them, but just came to know a lot of these types of tools.

    Thank you very much for accumulating all those tools & pushing into one nice crafted post.

    Regards,
    SM

  9. Hi Sujan,

    All tools are splendid in their work, but sometimes you can’t find out fresh content on some keywords so how can I discover those content with specific keywords??

    Thanks,
    Rameez

Comments are closed.