Updated September 30, 2019
“This infographic looks great! But what should we do with it?
How many times have you uttered these words? How many times have your clients uttered these words?
Probably too many.
The sad fact is that if you have ever had that conversation, it came waaay too late.
Most content does not perform, and you can blame poor distribution.
To prove that point, Brian Dean recently found that 94% of all content generates zero backlinks. And just 1.3% of articles gobble up 75% of all social shares.
And that is a crazy thing to have to report in today’s day and age, considering the increasing amount of resources that need to go into creating each piece of quality content.
We are talking thousands of dollars flushed down the toilet with every poorly distributed blog post.
You wouldn’t paint a masterpiece and lock it away in a storage shed, would you?
Excuse me while I shoot myself in the foot, please.
A “content distribution strategy” is often discussed after the content comes out of the oven, rather than being the critical ingredient it ought to be.
This is a huge mistake.
But why does this happen?
This is mostly due to the fact that marketers assume topic ideation and content distribution are unrelated activities.
Marketers put a disproportionate amount of resources into ideation while assuming a uniform distribution strategy will be equally effective for every topic and type of content.
A content distribution strategy is as unique as the topic itself, and oftentimes should be used to determine if a topic should even be written.
But that begs the question: Which content distribution strategy should you use? Which platforms are the “best”? Which type of media perform best on each type of platform? How does each distribution plan fit into the overall marketing strategy you have set into action?
I have outlined 10 content distribution techniques, which are rated on a relative scale of 1-10 based on their long-term impact, short-term impact and how difficult it will be to implement each. I’ve also outlined every major content distribution network, and explained how they fit into your overall content strategy.
But first, here are a few quick definitions:
- Long-term exposure impact: Expected long-term (over 7 days) increase in article exposure.
- Short-term exposure impact: Expected short-term (fewer than 7 days) sustained article exposure.
- Ease: Relative ease of implementing solution.
With that, let’s crack into the list.
10 effective content distribution strategies:
- Making distribution part of the ideation process.
- Proper indexing.
- Influencer contributions.
- Paid distribution.
- Browser notifications.
- Email signatures.
- Guest blogging.
Consider this the foundation for every piece of content created.
It seems like a no-brainer, but it is constantly overlooked. And frankly, it’s probably because it’s damned hard work. It requires fastidious planning, creativity and timing. Hence the low short-term return and ease of implementation scores.
Why it’s important
Your topics need to be accompanied by an intelligent distribution strategy that will reach the right audience, in the right way, at the right time. You need to have a conversation that looks like this:
Me: “ ‘How to get 1,000 Instagram followers,’ what a great topic to write a blog about!”
Her: “The numbers look good, but it seems like these people are all looking for videos rather than articles for that topic. And they are all aspiring influencers rather than content marketers”
Me: “Oh, good point. We dodged a bullet there.”
But we didn’t, we wrote the article, and it drives tons of the wrong types of visitors. Ouch.
Assume every topic you write about has a unique audience who have a preferred set of channels through which they consume content.
Once you choose a topic for which you want to create content, do a quick Google Search to see which types of mediums show up in the top results and explore the related topics the community is discussing. You may notice the community prefers video over blogs, or infographics over video.
Let’s get really niche. What if we wanted to target the phrase “whittling wood”? Which types of content and channels are most relevant to that audience?
In this simple exercise, we now know that the audience (your searchers) have a high interest in how-to learning material, books for purchase, how-to videos and lots of imagery of techniques and finished products.
If I were to create and distribute content on this topic, I would incorporate each of these aspects within the post and for distribution among the strongest channels for each type of content.
The content could look like this:
I would write a blog that includes as many of the mediums that show up in SERPs as possible. This opens the door for distribution across each of those mediums:
- Images uploaded to Pinterest.
- Short videos uploaded to YouTube and embedded within the article.
- Links to a few top-rated products.
- Proper indexing for long-term organic presence.
This exercise will help you get an understanding of the audience’s preferred mediums, channels and things they talk about. Always consider these three questions when choosing a topic:
- Which medium does the audience prefer for this type of content? (Video, infographic, blog, audio, etc.).
- Which channels should we distribute this type of content on? (YouTube, Pinterest, email, podcast, etc.).
- Which day of the week is the best time to distribute content on that channel?
Tool to use: Google Search (free).
Yeah, organic search is a distribution strategy, and it’s potentially your most sustained and impactful one, at that.
Proper indexing of a strong content marketing plan results in brand awareness, period. Brand awareness results in opportunities to nurture top-of-funnel prospects into customers.
It’s on this list because indexing issues plague even the most astute of content marketers. And indexing issues are like Easter eggs; they can pop up just about anywhere, and for completely unforeseen reasons.
Why it’s important
If the pages on your site don’t index properly, your brand will be invisible online. You will not show up in searches for the products and services you offer, meaning your potential customers will find your competitors, instead of you.
This is bad.
You need to ensure two things are working properly:
- Your new content is indexing properly.
- Your old content is indexed and regularly crawled.
Fortunately, you can use Google Search and Google Search Console to help with this housekeeping.
Old content: Start with large blocks of content by searching how many pages are indexed in a subfolder.
1. Use the search operator: [site:www.xyz.com/subfolder]
If I wanted to see how many pages are indexed on Brafton’s blog, I would search [site:www.brafton.com/blog]
2. View the result number: I can see that there are 1,630 pages indexed on our blog. This seems about right. You will want to cross-reference against the number in your CMS.
3. Check last indexed: Open the indexed version of a few blogs to see how long ago they were last crawled. Long gaps in indexing mark a crawling problem, which can be caused by a number of issues. Click on the green arrow, then click “cached.”
4. Check the date: If the last crawl was more than 30 days ago, you may have indexing issues.
New or Old Content: Google Search Console will help you check the status, troubleshoot and force-index individual URLs on your domain.
1. Google Search Console: Use Google Search Console to inspect your indexing status.
2. Inspect Page: Use the “Inspect Page” tool (previously Fetch as Google) to ensure your page has been indexed.
3. Double-check in Google: Just to be sure, Google the exact title of the page and see if the page is indeed indexed.
4. Request Indexing: If your page is not indexed, click “Request Indexing” in GSC. Perform a Google Search a few minutes later and see if the latest version of your page is indexed. If that doesn’t work, you may have crawl issues and will need to troubleshoot.
Tools to use: Google Search Console, Google Search.
Email marketing is just now starting to get a fraction of the love it deserves in the content marketing community.
What other channel gives you the ability to control exactly when content is sent, its messaging and its custom marketing triggers?
It’s no surprise that email marketing generates the bulk of our inbound leads:
It’s likely that email marketing isn’t fully appreciated for a couple reasons. First, it’s very complicated to do properly, both from a technical and content creation standpoint. Second, marketers don’t know how to build lists of subscribers.
Build a newsletter list: The best time to start collecting email addresses is yesterday. If you haven’t built out a list of email subscribers, you need to start now.
1. Create a newsletter: It doesn’t even need to be formatted. Just make sure you have content ready to send at the same time every week. Here is what our newsletter looks like:
2. Collect email addresses: I know you hate popups, but popup newsletter subscriptions will increase your subscription rate by 300-500%. For us, it was 532%. I recommend ensuring that they only pop up when visitors land on the blog, and only show up a minimum of 10seconds after the visitor lands on the page.
Tools for popups: Sumo, Subscribers, Hubspot.
3. Send at the same time every week: B2B prospects will likely be most engaged between Tuesday and Thursday. Try to send at the very beginning of the workday, while they are enjoying coffee, or at the very end. You don’t want to send a newsletter in the middle of the day when people are busy. For us, our peak traffic is on Wednesdays:
Nurture Prospects: Mountains of content have been written on email nurture strategies. For the sake of brevity, I will limit my recommendations to a few simple strategies that you can research further.
1. Mid-funnel distribution: Send your subscribers your latest mid-funnel assets, including eBooks, guides, white papers, infographics and video. This will ensure that you are feeding your audience the latest high-quality content they are hungry for, and will keep you top of mind when they are ready to make a purchase.
2. Market yourself: Keep your audience up to date on your latest product offerings. Take caution to never take advantage of your email list. They agreed to receive emails from you; never compromise their trust by spamming products more often than sending useful content. Make it useful, and keep it to a minimum.
3. Segment your lists: The more you segment your lists, the more you can personalize your messaging. Segment your lists by important dimensions, such as: industry, activity level and/or company size.
You may be wondering why I marked such high scores for “short-term return” when it clearly takes time and patience to build out a substantial email list. This is true, so I must qualify myself. If you have an email list already built out, you can generate inbound leads in as much time as it takes to write copy for your email.
And as your list grows, your potential for generating leads grows with it.
No, I’m not talking Instagram influencers … no Fyre Festival strategies here.
What’s the most likely way you can get someone influential in your space to notice and share your content?
Include them in it.
Influential people are more likely to share content with their audience when they contributed to it in some way. And once you become someone they like to work with, the likelihood they will work with you in the future, or even share content they did not contribute to, is much higher.
Why it’s important
“Brand recognition” feels like an annoying vanity metric, doesn’t it? When represented as ROI, metrics like impressions, clicks and engagement are pure vanity. So don’t do that.
But … jumping forward waaaay downstream of a long-term friend-making, influence-building strategy, you will reap the benefits of brand affinity. Your brand name will come up in important industry circles. That means your content will get shared. It will get links. Your Domain Authority will rise. Your site will outrank your competitors for commercial keywords.
It sounds like a stretch, but it’s really not. Being popular turns into a virtuous circle of exposure and recognition. Just ask Kim Kardashian.
1. Use BuzzSumo: Use BuzzSumo to identify the highest shared authors for your topic. Looking through the top-shared results for “Keyword optimization,” we see a high-profile influencer named Ann Smarty who published a highly shared article just last year.
2. Get contact details: Most articles will have bylines or author links that provide contact details (email, Twitter handle, LinkedIn, etc.).
3. Break the ice: Send a note, complimenting them on the article, and ask them to contribute to your next article in some way. Below are a few templates you can steal.
- Get a quote or a few bullets (easiest): “Hi [name], we were a big fan of your article [title] and are writing something similar to our own. Would you be willing to provide a quote or a couple bullet points on key takeaways for this topic?”
- Ask for feedback (medium likelihood): “…Would you be willing to provide feedback on the finished piece before it goes live?”
- Get an interview for the writer (low likelihood): “…Would you be willing to spend 10 minutes on the phone discussing some of the major points you would want expressed in this piece?”
You would be surprised how quickly you can make friends and get your content in front of more eyeballs.
— Melanie Kinney (@melaniebeth_) February 13, 2019
A few notes on influencer marketing
Influencer marketing, as a content distribution strategy, has come under heavy fire over the past months. And rightfully so, as “influencers” have had their content promotion tactics and results called into question, and their responses have left a lot to desire.
For starters, their “content distribution strategy” generally is dictated by the highest bidder. This immediately creates a conflict of interest, making influencer marketing a race to the bottom of the integrity barrel. The “content promotion” strategy boils down to a holder of a social media account who may or may not have the attention of a number of followers, who may or may not have been bought from a “likes farm”, and a nearly unmeasurable return on investment.
The entire practice of creating ads with influencers has reached peak bubble, and the veil is being lifted.
Tools to use: BuzzSumo for identifying influencers, Twitter, LinkedIn and email for contact.
There is a misconception that paid traffic exists only for people or organizations who can’t get the reach they are looking for organically.
While this can be true, it’s also important to note that paid distribution can complement organic strategies and add an additional layer of exposure to your existing followers and to new prospective audiences. Paid strategies can create a compounding effect.
However, I advise exercising a good deal of caution when dumping spend into paid distribution, as you can spend a whole lot of money in a short period of time, for very little in return.
Why it’s important
You need to assume that the majority of your existing audience won’t see your content. It’s true. Even in the best case scenario, only 20-30% of your newsletter subscribers will open your newsletters. Further, only 5-30% of those will click on content within the email. With the sheer amount of noise on Facebook and Twitter, you can expect an even smaller portion of your social media audience will see your content, from a both a paid and organic perspective.
There is overwhelming evidence that social media platforms are generating less and less visibility on their respective platforms, and sending less traffic to websites.
Paid distribution can up the odds that your existing followers will see and engage with your content. It will also help your content get seen by a new audience.
Here’s the good news: Paid distribution is pretty easy. Each tool will walk you through the process step by step, and you will be up and running in an afternoon.
Here’s the bad news: You won’t see much commercial impact. The attention span and behavior of users on paid distribution channels isn’t matched with commercial intent.
So what should you expect? The types of paid distribution strategies vary wildly in cost and expected interaction. Take a look at the table below for rough guidance. (As a reminder, this is for content distribution, not PPC conversions.)
Smart Insights created a useful matrix to factor in ROI potential for each channel.
Before jumping into paid promotion options, consider the cost and the realistic return you can expect from each channel. Ask yourself: “Will this promotion channel drive large amounts of mindless clicking from an untargeted audience, or a few clicks from a highly targeted audience?”
Also, consider the long-term sustainability of boosting your content. Boosting content is very much like putting nitro fuel into your car: It’s going to burn fast and hard for a short period of time, then completely stop. (Unless you keep adding nitro fuel.)
Lastly a note on native advertising: use caution. While native advertising can certainly get your content in front of a lot of eyeballs, it will run the risk of looking like clickbait from 2012.
A few notes on organic social media distribution
It might seem odd that I didn’t give social media its own section, but I did that intentionally. To be completely clear, social media platforms have turned into a major bust for businesses. Not only are the platforms hiding B2B content, but they aren’t exciting anymore.
Facebook is losing and not replenishing its younger audience. Twitter is a terrible network for promoting content, rather than sharing ideas, LinkedIn has turned into a cesspool for salespeople, and Instagram is mainly successful with B2C products and solutions.
This was a logical ending for social platforms, however. Businesses thought (and rightfully so), that they could meet their audience where they spent time. But what they overlooked was the fact that people don’t want to think about business, or their job when killing time looking at pictures of babies, or arguing politics, or organizing a family vacation. It was a matter of using the wrong media in the wrong place, and it was always destined to work itself out naturally.
Tools to use: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, AdRoll, PR Newswire, Taboola, Outbrain.
A mature content marketing strategy reaches its audiences through as many channels on which its audience is active. You want to reach your audience where they like to consume content.
Podcasts and audio content in general have made massive strides, with 26% of U.S. citizens having listened to a podcast at least once per month. This number is more than double what it was six years ago.
Are you ready for me to really blow your mind? Take a look at search trends that include “+blog” versus those that include “+podcast.”
That’s not a trend, that’s a behavioral seachange.
Why it’s important
As we have seen, an increasing percentage of the population prefers to consume audio formats of content. And, a higher percentage of those people make more money and are more educated than average. These are your likely B2B prospective customers. This is a statistical fact.
From a qualitative standpoint, we can assert that podcasts introduce your audience to the human element of your brand. It allows your brand to be heard, as people, with their personalities exposed to the world. This level of transparency and connection (quite literally, your voice in their head) can endear you to your audience in a way no other medium can reach them.
Take a look at how people respond physiologically to an audio version of Game of Thrones versus video:
You can’t argue biology!
Get influencers on your show.
If you don’t have an audio component to your content marketing program, you need to get one ASAP. Doing otherwise is willfully ignoring an incredibly fast-growing market segment.
Once you have an audio segment, use market leaders’ published content as talking points within the podcast. Reference their material to help support your conversations, then send a note telling them that you have referenced their material in your podcast. You may get just get a share.
Once you have established working relationships with some of these market leaders, ask them if they would be interested in being interviewed on your podcast. In a little over six months of podcasting we landed four industry leaders, including Andy Crestodina, Cyrus Shepard, Shane Barker and Nadya Khoja.
Share your content
Once you have built a strong following, what better place to share content updates than straight into the eardrums of your audience? Reference important content that you want your audience to see, such as eBooks, market studies, white papers and infographics.
But that’s not enough! To ensure you make it as easy as possible for your audience to find your content, you need to distribute written content in tandem.
- Create show notes: Every episode should include written show notes that summarize the discussion and link to referenced material. This will give you a permanent location to send listeners, and it will reap the benefits of Google Search.
- Embed your episode: Most podcast distribution platforms will allow you to embed a player directly into a blog. Do this. You may gain additional listeners who found you through search.
- Distribute: Send your show notes to your newsletter subscribers and through browser notifications (more on that later).
What’s a browser notification?
You’ve run into them plenty of times before, probably even today, you just didn’t even realize it.
Have you ever seen an alert that looks like this?
When you click the “allow button,” Neil’s browser notification software allows him to “push” alerts directly to my browser. When he does, a similar notification will pop up on my browser, which I can dismiss or open. This gives Neil the ability to put the exact messages he wants right in front of my face with a link to the content he wants me to consume.
And the subscription process (clicking an innocuous button) is so mindless that you can build a substantial subscriber list in a short period of time.
It’s just like email marketing, but you get to put your message right in front of everyone else’s.
That’s the good news. The bad news is directly related to the good news. Go figure. The ease at which you build a subscriber list comes at a cost: genuine interest in receiving content from you.
Look how easy it is to mindlessly accept browser notifications from a website:
See how easy it is to mistakenly click on that? The “mindless” nature of subscribing means that you will build a large, but fickle, and audience.
With that, you will get a disproportionate amount of unsubscribes and a relatively low click-through rate.
Why it’s important
You can build a large list of subscribers in a short period of time for a very low cost. Consider it an opportunity to drive a lot of low-quality traffic.
Consider this tool tippy-top of funnel, and play for volume. But if you’re patient, you can grab a good chunk of cheap traffic.
That was 179 visitors for two minutes of my time creating a notification. For the investment, that’s not bad.
Sign up for a browser notification service and give it a test run. They are very inexpensive and only take a few minutes to install.
It won’t be a silver bullet, but it will be a useful tool in your arsenal.
Email signatures are the digital equivalent of business cards: obsolete. (Sorry, old school traditionalists.)
But, someone very clever realized that email signatures don’t need to exist for the sole purpose of telling the recipient your title and contact information. The valuable real estate below your message can be used for promoting your most important content. And this is doubly true for colleagues within your organization that email externally quite a bit.
Think about the increased exposure potential if every one of your BDEs shared content in their email signatures with 25 people per day. Some of those people are going to click on that article, and some are going to share it.
And all it takes you is two minutes to add a hyperlink.
Look what our clever friends at MarketMuse attach in their email signatures:
Sigstr takes an even more aggressive approach by marketing mid-funnel content in their signatures.
And finally, Crossware comes way over the top with a demo request CTA:
You probably don’t need to start out with a fully fledged email signature marketing SaaS, so I would start by simply dropping a link into a few prospect-facing employees’ email signatures. Make sure to use UTM markup to measure the effectiveness of the strategy in your web analytics tool.
Similar to browser notifications, don’t expect this to be a game-changing distribution strategy. But it’s definitely yet another tool that can help get your content out there.
Tools to use: Sigstr or Templafy if you decide to expand your efforts. But definitely start with simply dropping a link in your existing signature and tracking performance in Google Analytics Campaigns.
Guest blogging is a mutually beneficial partnership between marketers from two (or more) unique domains. The purpose is to exchange content for quality links back to your website.
This is mostly an SEO play, as guest blogs rarely drive impactful volumes of traffic.
Here’s a simple example: I’m a digital marketer who works for xyzwebsite.com, and I want to increase the quantity and quality of the inbound links pointing toward my site. I send a note to abcwebsite.com, a similar type of business, offering to write an article for their website, at no cost other than a followed link back to my website.
They get free content, I get a good link. Sounds good, right?
This is the way it should work. But the market for guest blogging exploded in 2012, resulting in:
Do NOT fall for these traps. They do not have a rolodex of high-quality websites. This is the SEO equivalent of a Nigerian prince trying to wire-transfer your grandmother $8 million in exchange for her bank account information.
“Guest blogging” became the hottest fad in digital marketing. Once blood was in the water, we started seeing “guest blog providers” who promised to find the highest quality websites to host your content, guaranteed. And those websites agreed to host these blogs (exclusive to the highest bidders, of course).
Why it’s important
Despite the stigma and black-hattery, guest blogging done for honest and genuine reasons is a mutually beneficial strategy. Guest blogs published on quality third-party sites can:
- Increase your brand exposure to new audiences.
- Create stronger backlinks to your site, raising your domain strength and likelihood of ranking for other keywords.
- Drive traffic through the link.
Below is an article we wrote for G2Crowd in exchange for a backlink. (Look, they just got another one for free, just because we work with them.)
Don’t make the mistake of cold emailing/Tweeting/Messenger-ing every website you want a link from. You will come off as needy and transparent.
Approach guest blogging the same way you would approach building a friendship; build a relationship before asking for things.
- Follow and read content produced by authors you respect.
- Meet professional peers at conferences.
- Comment on forums.
- Invite people to join your podcast, or contribute to a blog.
Once you have built a relationship, guest blogging may arise as a part of many opportunities borne of good relationships.
Tools to use: Twitter, Buzzsumo.
Webinars are the most versatile distribution channel I can think of. From a content standpoint, you can take just about any long-form blog post, eBook, white paper or original research and convert it into a webinar.
From an audience connection standpoint, it’s the only form of distribution in this list that allows you to speak directly to your audience live and directly accept and respond to questions. And you’re utilizing audio and visual mediums to do so.
Webinars demand the highest level of attention and engagement on this list. They also require an overwhelming amount of planning along with a steep learning curve with the software you choose.
And no room for error.
Why it’s important
Webinars undoubtedly offer the ability to distribute content to a highly engaged audience. Think about the level of attention compared to a person clicking on a browser notification.
You can assume the following about someone attending your webinar:
- They submitted contact information, which is generally highly guarded.
- They booked time on their calendar just for you.
- They are interested in the topic you are discussing.
- They will hear your voice and see the visuals you share.
- They can engage with you directly in the form of Q&A.
- You will send follow-up details to them.
Webinars offer an opportunity to connect with people in a manner very unique from any other medium. The audience hears your voice, a human, speaking directly to them. We respond to companies in a much different way when we are able to connect them with a relatable person, rather than a faceless, emotionless “institution.”
Associating a face and voice with a brand builds a sense of trust, human connection and empathy.
Find a topic that’s valuable to your audience and someone to present it.
- Identify a topic: Search through your web analytics tool to find the top-performing content over the last year.
- Check for relevance: Is the information current? Is it still relevant to your audience?
- Convert it into a presentation: Use Google Slides. It’s easy.
- Sign up for a webinar software: There are plenty of them out there. We use GoToWebinar.
- Distribute: Get the word out to your newsletter subscribers and social followers that you will be hosting a webinar. Get as many people to register as possible, as less than half of them will attend.
- Send reminder emails: People are going to forget. Send an alert one week before the presentation, the day before and the hour before.
- Crush your presentation: I know you can do it!
- Distribute it using any technique mentioned in this article: You’re using pre-existing content to create this webinar, repackaging it and distributing it in all the same ways you originally distributed it (email, social, browser notifications, podcast mentions, etc.).
Marketers always talk about repurposing and stretching the reach of their content. Can you think of any distribution technique that squeezes every drop out of a piece of content more effectively?
Did you make it this far? Good for you!
And if you’re wondering, the Brafton marketing team uses each of these strategies in one capacity or another, so feel free to ask us specifics on what to do (and what not to do!).
For the TL;DR crowd out there, here is a table that should help you sort through the strategies listed: