What is Content Distribution? The Strategic Guide for 2021

Jonas Sickler SEO Manager
Key Points
  • Content distribution is the process of promoting your content to your audience in a variety of formats across multiple channels and media platforms.
  • Content distribution falls into three categories: owned, earned, and paid distribution.
  • Before you publish any content, create a well-defined distribution strategy to ensure higher ROI.

Brands invest billions of dollars each year in content that nobody sees. In fact, Ahrefs estimates that 90.63% of all web pages get no traffic from Google. Why? Because content marketers generally prioritize production and leave content distribution up to the broader marketing team.

This mindset is amplified by the explosion of new content creation tools that turbocharge productivity.

But, more content doesn’t mean more brand visibility. To capture your audience’s attention, you need a content distribution framework that works cohesively with your entire marketing mix.

Read on for a deep dive into the best content distribution channels, platforms and tools to get in front of the right audience at the right time.

What is content distribution?

Content Distribution

Definition

Content distribution is the process of promoting your content to your audience in a variety of formats across multiple channels and media platforms.

Why is content distribution important?

Content distribution is a critical component of your overall digital marketing strategy. It can increase brand awareness, solidify your brand as an authority, and help build a loyal community of followers.

Gaining access to a wider audience also increases your chances of earning media mentions, backlinks, and social media shares as well as growing your website traffic.

More importantly, a comprehensive content distribution plan unlocks greater content marketing ROI for your brand by amplifying visibility.

getting content in front of your audience

Content distribution channels

There are three primary content marketing distribution channels. Which ones you utilize will depend on your audience, your content formats, and the tools available to you.

Owned content distribution channels

Owned content distribution is controlled by your company. In other words, you are responsible for publishing everything across these channels. Examples include websites, social media profiles, blogs, email newsletters, videos on YouTube, etc.

It’s important to note that with some owned channels, you don’t own the platform on which the channel is hosted.

For example, you control the platform of your website and can publish your own content whatever you want. You don’t own the LinkedIn platform, you only own your company pages. You have to abide by the rules of the platform and the reach of your content is determined by the LinkedIn algorithm.

Why does this matter?

Because if you invest all your time growing a channel on a platform you don’t own, changes in the platform can dramatically change how effectively you can distribute your content.

On the other hand, if you focus first on growing branded content distribution platforms, such as your website, you have much more control over the distribution process.

Earned content distribution channels

Earned distribution is when someone else shares your content. This type of content promotion might be the result of marketing efforts such as public relations and direct media outreach, or organic amplification.

For example, if you publish an article on LinkedIn that goes viral and is seen by thousands of people, you earned that distribution. You didn’t pay anything for the additional exposure. Rather, you earned it through the quality of the content you published.

Earned channels include things like Reddit, Quora, social media shares, online communities, online product reviews, mentions in articles, word of mouth (WOM), and search engine optimization (SEO).

Paid content distribution channels

Paid distribution channels are where you pay to get your content in front of your target audience. Options for paid distribution include:

  • Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Social media advertising
  • Paid influencers
  • Sponsored content
  • Display ads
  • Native ads
  • Press releases via wire service
  • Retargeting social ads

The amount you pay and the distribution you receive depends heavily on the channel you choose. 

For example, if you promote your content through Facebook ads, you can set your budget and have a relatively accurate estimate of how many people will see your content and click on it. You can also closely track the performance of the campaign in real time.

With influencer marketing, it can be more difficult to estimate up front what your results will be since they depend on how the influencer promotes the content, how the audience responds, etc.

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Types and formats for content marketing distribution

Everyone prefers to consume media in different ways, and on different platforms. So, to reach the widest audience possible, it’s important to mix up your content formats.

Articles and blog posts

Articles you publish on your website can be an effective way to reach a new audience. If you consistently publish high-quality content that’s optimized for relevant keywords and adds value to your audience, you’ll be rewarded with increased organic traffic.

Long-form articles give you an especially good opportunity to incorporate long-tail keywords into your content. As a result, you’ll rank on more queries in the Google SERPs.

One important caveat to note, if your goal is to drive traffic to your own website, don’t syndicate it.

While it may give you a broader audience, there’s the possibility that Google will rank the syndicated piece rather than the one that’s on your website, especially if the syndication website has a higher authority.

Here’s what Google has to say about it:

If your goal is that only your site ranks for those queries, then syndicating / republishing is a bad idea. Pick your goals & select the work that helps you reach them.

Ebooks

Ebooks are an excellent way to distribute in-depth content on a subject to your audience. They’re also a powerful growth marketing strategy to expand your email list. 

Create a free ebook and use it as an opt-in offer to build your list. The opt-in form could be on multiple locations across your website, including a dedicated landing page, at the end of blog posts, or in a pop-up.

Podcasts

Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the last few years. They can be an incredibly effective way to give your audience audio content that they can listen to on the go.

They’re particularly useful for distributing longer-form interviews with experts, employees, customers, or influencers in your industry. Furthermore, if you already create videos, you can easily convert them into podcasts. As a result, you’ll be able to distribute your content to those who wouldn’t normally watch something on YouTube.

41%

41% of U.S adults have listened to a podcast within the last month.

Statista

White papers

A white paper is an authoritative report that is used to highlight a specific problem and then present a solution to that problem. They tend to be more technical than articles or ebooks and they’re often geared toward a very specific type of person, like a Chief Marketing Officer or Director of Human Resources.

Like ebooks, they can be used to build your email list via an opt-in form, or you can make them available without any gating for the purpose of facilitating access and demonstrating your expertise. As an example, the CTA below takes you to one of Terakeet’s white papers.

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Video content distribution

Videos are one of the best ways to distribute content on multiple channels. YouTube is the 2nd most visited website in the world, with approximately 2.3 billion active users globally.

Billions of people consume billions of hours of video monthly on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and TikTok, as well. You can easily create a longer video to post on YouTube and then post smaller, standalone clips from the videos on other platforms.

Data from Wistia shows that just from 2019 to 2020 alone, the minutes of videos watched on the Wistia platform increased by 84.8%. Their 2021 State of Video report also shows significant growth in various areas of video production and consumption .

Infographics and data visualizations

Infographics and data visualizations are a great way to distill a significant amount of information into something that’s easy to digest and visually appealing.

Visual content like these tend to get shared a lot on social networks, which can drive traffic to your website. Additionally, you can create a snippet of HTML code that allows the image to be embedded on other websites with a link back to your website, which gives your SEO a boost.

Case studies

Case studies provide in-depth details about specific customers you’ve worked with, the challenges they faced, and how you were able to help them achieve greater results. They can be highly effective at demonstrating your ability to solve problems for your target audience, which instills trust in prospects considering whether to work with you.

Usually, case studies have their own page on a website, with one or more highlighted on the home page or in contextually relevant locations on the website.

Webinars

Webinars allow you to demonstrate your expertise on a particular topic and provide significant value to your audience at the same time. If the webinar is live, it also allows you to interact with viewers in real-time, answering questions, conducting polls, making clarifications, etc.

You can reuse a recording of the webinar in a variety of ways, from being posted to YouTube to functioning as an evergreen webinar on your website. Placing smaller clips from the webinar on social media channels or placed within relevant blog posts can offer additional benefits.

Surveys

Surveys allow you to gather a large amount of data from your audience, providing you with valuable insight. Repurposing survey data in different ways helps you get more ROI out of your digital content distribution program.

For example, if you offer an email marketing platform, you could survey 100 of the top email marketers about best practices, compile the responses into an easily understandable format, and then distribute it to your audience as a blog post, SlideShare, infographic, and a deep-dive webinar.

One recent survey comes from a work management software company called Wrike. Over 1,400 office workers responded to the survey on work management. 

One of the highlights of the survey was the section on “swearing in the workplace”, which has resulted in authority backlinks from news outlets like The Washington Post, Entrepreneur, and Fast Company. 

Presentations

man distributing content at a conference

Presentations are a particularly versatile type of content that can be created and distributed in several different ways. They can be done live, such as at a conference, or they can be pre-recorded using a screen sharing tool like Loom. The recording and slides can then be made available across multiple channels, such as YouTube, SlideShare, etc.

If you’re not comfortable presenting live or recording a presentation, even just creating a SlideShare deck and sharing that with your audience can be valuable.

Email Newsletters

Email newsletters have seen a resurgence in recent years, with companies like The Hustle demonstrating that email is still a powerful distribution channel. In fact, email is so important that HubSpot acquired The Hustle for approximately $30 million after it grew its email subscriber list to more than one million people.

Newsletters are particularly good for curating content around a specific topic that’s relevant both to your brand and your audience. For example, if you sell cloud-based productivity tools, your email newsletter could include links to blog posts on your website, as well as other helpful productivity-related content around the web.

Content distribution platforms, software and tools

There are so many content distribution platforms, tools, and software to consider, so I grouped them into categories below. These lists aren’t exhaustive, but they give you a sense of what’s available.

Social media platforms

13.2%

The number of social media users increased by 13.2% from 2019 to 2020

Hootsuite
53.6%

53.6% of the global population uses social media

Hootsuite
15.5

There are 15.5 new social media users every second

Hootsuite

Social networks continue to boast impressive growth rates, so it’s no surprise that these are among the top content marketing distribution platforms available to you.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Snapchat
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • Quora

Video platforms

Video allows you to reach users with more immersive content. You can create bitesize ads, longer, informational webinars, and everything in between. The top platforms to share video include YouTube, Vimeo, Wistia, Instagram, Facebook, and Watch.

Article content distribution platforms

Your company blog is the most obvious place to publish long-form articles. However, there are plenty of other options, including bylines on industry websites, self publishing platforms like Medium, or leveraging the article feature on LinkedIn.

Ebook platforms

Prefer to take a more formal approach than blogging? Ebooks can be a fun way to stretch your creative writing skills with more polish than a typical blog post. They also give you a bit more street cred as an author. The best platforms to distribute ebooks are your company website, Amazon, Scribd, and Issuu.

Infographic distribution platforms

Infographics may not be as popular as they were five years ago, but they’re still a great way to earn visibility. They just require more effort to produce, and a smart distribution strategy to gain traction. Some of the best platforms to promote them include your website, social media, forums such as Reddit and Quora, and third-party blogs.

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Content distribution tools and software

  • HubSpot.com – All-in-one content management platform for social media, blog posts, SEO, and more
  • CoSchedule.com – Content management and social media scheduler
  • Quuu.co – Connect with influencers to promote your content
  • Taboola.com – Content discovery platform that recommends your content at the end of relevant articles on other websites
  • MailShake.com – Send personalized outreach emails and social media posts
  • WiseStamp.com – Personalized email signature where you can place links to relevant content, social media profiles, etc.
  • MeetCortex.com – AI analysis of content to determine what is working and why
  • Goodbits.io – Easily curate content and put it into an email newsletter
  • LinkedIn.com Publishing – Write articles directly in LinkedIn
  • SocialLocker.org – Require readers to share a piece of content before they can access it
  • Outbrain – Paid tool to amplify your content in articles on major publication
  • NinjaOutreach.com – Find relevant influencers and create cold outreach campaigns
  • Zapier.com – Automate distribution tasks like sharing articles on social media platforms as soon as they’re published

How to create content distribution strategy

In order to support scale, you need a repeatable process that works like a template. If you randomly share content on different channels, your results will be significantly lower than if you take the time to create an effective content distribution system.

Let’s look at the key elements you need to get started.

1. Conduct audience research

a colorful painted puzzle

The starting point for a great content distribution strategy is audience research. The point is to get your content in front of the right audience rather than everyone on the internet.

Research your target audience to piece together the puzzle of who they are, including which content types they prefer, and where they spend their time online. Creating a buyer persona is one way to determine your ideal customer and audience, and mapping the customer journey helps you to identify the different types of content to produce for the different spots on the path to purchase.

You can then also analyze who comes to your website, follows you on social media, subscribes to your email list, etc. Google Analytics can help you get data on your website visitors, and almost every social media platform provides insights regarding your followers.

Next, analyze any existing content you have published. 

Are there any types of content or distribution channels that have worked particularly well? As an example, was there a particular blog post that got more social shares or reactions than other posts you have shared?

This can provide clarity regarding the topics your audience cares about.

It can also be helpful to do some competitive research by looking at the websites and social media accounts of similar brands to see what content formats they share. This can give you additional insights into what your audience wants in terms of content.

2. Establish goals and KPIs

Before you create anything, determine the goals and KPIs of your content distribution marketing. For example, if your goal is to increase website traffic, an important KPI would be how many visits your website gets within a specific period of time. 

You also might want to track which pieces of content generate organic traffic that leads to conversions.

If your goal is lead generation, you would want to track the overall number of leads, which pieces of content generated leads, and the percentage of leads that were qualified.

The key to outlining your business goals is to make it as specific as possible. Some examples of effective KPIs include:

  • Brand Awareness – Grow new user visits to the website by 25% in a 6 month period
  • Leads – Increase sales qualified leads by 10% over 3 months
  • Marketing – Lower pay-per-click ad spend by 10% by better evaluating what content performs better with audience

3. Build a content calendar

A content calendar is a necessary part of your overall content marketing strategy. This ensures you have an up-to-date list of all the content you plan to publish, when it will be published and what distribution channels will be used.

It can also include who is responsible for each step in the content creation process as well as the due date. This ensures that everything continues running smoothly and on time.

4. Measure and optimize for better results

After you’ve published a piece of content, you’ll want to measure the results and then use that information to optimize existing content and shape future plans.

Your goals and KPIs should determine the metrics you measure.

If a particular piece of content or channel underperforms, you need to determine whether it’s the content, the channel, or a combination of both.

You can then either improve the content to make it more valuable to your audience or modify your strategy.

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