How To Develop an Effective Content Distribution Strategy

March 15, 2024

mark gillespie director of content

Written by
Mark Gillespie

woman with laptop and tablet at desk

A headline is more than just a catchy concept to get you to read more. It’s a promise that will provide you with precisely what it says. Let’s parse this article headline: How to Develop an Effective Content Distribution Strategy.

With this headline, we’ve promised you that you’ll know what a content distribution strategy is by the end of this article. You’ll also learn what goals to set in your strategy and how to measure whether you’ve used content to help you successfully meet them. The article will provide practical advice for creating a content distribution strategy that suits your situation.

Delivering on such promises matters when building authority with your content. It helps your readers learn to trust you as an expert in your field and signals to search engines that your content is well structured. That helps boost your search engine optimization (SEO).

But we’ll get into SEO later. First, let’s look at the strategies themselves.

What Is a Content Distribution Strategy?

A content distribution strategy is crucial in how you will promote and share your content across your choice of channels and platforms.

A content distribution channel is a channel to distribute, share, or promote your content. We tend to speak of content channels in broad terms, such as social media, blogs, podcasts, or even traditional media like TV, radio, and magazines.

We also think of channels in one of three categories:

  • Owned Media: Media you control, such as your website, blogs, or podcasts.
  • Earned Media: Media that rewards your hard work with exposure. Earned media includes public relations placements, mentions, shares, reviews, and other external audience actions.
  • Rented Media: This is where you control the content, but you don’t own the channel. For example, paid advertising, social media, sponsored content, or influencer partnerships.
retro style image with different forms of media laid out on a desk
Owned Earned and Rented Media

A content platform is a specific communications product, like Facebook, YouTube, or LinkedIn. Platforms often have creation and editing tools like text, image, and video editors. They also give your audience interactive engagement tools to reach you and interact with one another. That share button or five-star review is solid gold!

Your strategy will also identify your target audience, the people most likely to see and respond to your message. At each stage of your audience journey, your plan should identify specific ways of distributing content to reward your audience’s level of interest.

How Do You Know If Your Strategy Is Effective?

Content strategists are all about KPIs. Key Performance Indicators are the measurements you monitor as people find your content, read it, interact with it, and share it with others.

Common KPIs include website traffic metrics, social media engagement rates, and email metrics, such as open rates, conversion rates, and subscribers.

You can supercharge your KPI tracking by adding UTM parameters to links in content that drive traffic to your website, such as links in newsletters, emails, social posts, press releases, and paid advertisements.

A UTM parameter is a text code added to the end of a URL that tracks the performance of these types of campaigns and delivers metrics around the traffic source and the specific campaign. You can build UTM parameters using Google’s handy campaign tools and track them in Google Analytics.

key performance indicators with bar charts and a laptop

Leveraging SEO in Content Distribution

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, improves your website’s visibility and ranking within search engines such as Google. One central area of focus within SEO is content optimization.

If one of your goals is to attract a wider audience, you could research topics around your area of expertise and do keyword research to understand the volume of people searching for those topics and what terms they’re using to search. Then, you can create content to target those specific topics and keywords.

You can monitor organic search results in Google Analytics and watch which pieces drive the most traffic, engagement, and conversions to help refine the topics and distribution tactics you’ll use next. You can also use Google Search Console to track the performance of specific URLs you own.

SEO analysts and content producers use tools like SEMRush, Ahrefs, or Answer the Public to discover the spot between high-traffic and low-competition keyphrases to achieve the best organic results.

Different Content Channels, Different Results

Your content distribution channels are like the instruments in a band. They each have distinct qualities and appeal to different audiences. A successful content distribution strategy will combine all these notes into a coherent, harmonious message.

Here are the strengths and best practices of the five main channels:

Email Marketing
Email connects you directly with people interested in your content. You can segment your list to your target audiences for more tailored experiences.

Start with an attractive branded template that identifies you to your subscribers. Use a mix of original writing and curated links so your subscribers depend on your expertise.

Include clear calls to action, or CTAs, to drive more traffic to your website. Test your emails and optimize their subject lines and CTAs for the best open and click-through rates. Email platforms like Mailchimp and Constant Contact provide tools to assist you in many of these steps.

Social Media
With social media, you pick the platforms that help promote your content to the right audiences at the right time. As a rule of thumb, LinkedIn is for your work colleagues and other professional connections.

Instagram is great for images and short videos. Facebook is more personal; it runs on social and local connections. TikTok is great for quick-hit videos aimed at younger audiences, although some audiences are prohibited from using it due to security concerns.
Each of these platforms has rich analytics tools. Facebook and Instagram are part of the Meta Business Suite, with powerful authoring, hashtag research, scheduling, and performance tools.

An influential blog is your opportunity to put content in front of people looking for answers to their questions. You can use SEO keyword research and track organic search results to understand the success of your content. Your blog can also be a landing destination for other content types, such as when you add links to your social media posts or email newsletters.

Paid Content
You may need to consider a paid content strategy to expand your visibility beyond those who already know you or consume your content. One more efficient and cost-effective paid content strategy involves pay-per-click (PPC) ads in search engines or social media.

These ads can target specific audience characteristics, such as demographics, location, or interests, or you can use the predictive technology inherent in many of these platforms and allow their algorithms to serve ads to audiences based on the success metrics you select.

You might also consider paying to have sponsored content published with a respected media organization. This content seamlessly integrates with the host platform’s content and puts your message in front of larger audiences. You might also turn to influencer marketing, where your message gets amplified by other thought leaders in your niche who promote your content to their many followers.

Earned Media
When invited to be a guest on a podcast or get interviewed by an industry blogger, you’ve just earned a media placement. Your message gains exposure with large, focused audiences who may not have known about you any other way.

Your existing body of content can help lead toward more earned media placements. This is especially true if you engage with PR specialists and networks of producers, editors, and other contacts interested in learning more about you.

By the way, when you get invited to lecture or participate in a panel discussion, that’s earned media, too—but be sure to post about it in your owned media spaces.

Let’s Build Your Content Distribution Strategy

We’ve looked at the what and why of content distribution strategies, and now we’re at the “how to” part. This is where you’ll take a notepad or a blank spreadsheet and begin taking inventory of all the channels you plan to use. You’ll also develop a firm idea of the people you want to reach and what you want to say.

Your strategy should serve as a roadmap and source of truth for everyone you involve in your project.

Here are five steps to get you started:

1. Set Up Your Sections

Create more content here, explaining why choosing the right type is essential to your distribution strategy. Create a document with the following headers:

  • Audience
  • Content Types
  • Platforms
  • Channels: Owned, Earned, and Rented
  • Goals
  • KPIs

2. Define Your Audience

In the Audience section, create a few (not more than six) audience personas that help define who you’re trying to reach. Imagine their ages, cultural backgrounds, income, ease with technology, spending habits, and personal interests. This will help you visualize the online behavior of the people you want to reach. You’ll be even better if you can back these assumptions with actual marketing data.

man on stage standing above large crowd pointing into crowd

3. Choose Your Platforms

There are two parts to picking content channels: where are people most likely to find your content, and which medium are you most comfortable using?

Depending on its channel, your content can reach different sectors of your target audience and provide you with KPIs you most value. SEO efforts applied to a collection of blog posts can help drive additional traffic to your website. Infographics offer engaging content for social media. Email newsletters push messages to subscriber inboxes.

But keep in mind those audience personas. A busy corporate executive might not have time to read an email newsletter or Instagram post, but they might respond to a LinkedIn post shared by a respected colleague. Likewise, an email might be just the right tool if a sector of your audience is already connected to you personally or to your business. This is why it’s essential to use a variety of channels at the same time.

When choosing content types, consider what content you are most comfortable using yourself and are most likely to maintain. If you’re always on LinkedIn to see what your colleagues are up to, it might feel natural to post there. If you love to have rousing conversations with people, think about podcasting.

3. Define Your Channels

Let’s zoom out to content channels, the broad owned, earned, and rented media categories that help you understand the effort and resources needed to reach your audiences.

Be consistent with your owned channels. You’re setting a brand expectation when you commit to a content strategy on an owned channel like your blog, email, or podcast. Your followers will look for fresh, regular content creation.

For owned media, create a content calendar that shows when you’ll create, review, and post each piece of content. Because life doesn’t always operate on a schedule, keep a healthy stock of evergreen, non-dated content “in the can” when you miss a production day.

Budget for rented channels. Consistency may be critical for paid media in some channels regarding time and money. If you’re selecting a channel that benefits from an “always on” approach, such as paid search, be sure you have the funds to support the campaign over a period of time—and not just a quick launch announcement.

Also, think about small experiments as part of a larger plan. Certain kinds of paid content may work better in some channels than others, and your content distribution strategy should be flexible enough to allow you to change your course.

Be prepared for earned media. When asked to appear or contribute to an established media platform to share your expertise, you’re invited into a conversation. Show up prepared to contribute and represent your brand well on camera or the keyboard.

4. Set Your Goals

Each content type should have goals attached, and it’s best if those goals connect. Lead generation concepts in sales are valuable ways to think about these goals, even if what you’re selling is your expertise.

A typical sales funnel separates the audience journey into three phases: awareness, consideration, and purchase. A content strategy might rephrase this as discovery, engagement, and following.

When you know your goals, you can tailor content and activity to people at each stage of the journey. You can also define KPIs to reflect the behaviors you want your audience to perform.

5. Know Your KPIs

Your KPI results will come from the analytics tools each of your content channels offers. You’ll use tools like Google Analytics, social media engagement dashboards, and email marketing reports to understand who’s seeing and acting on your hard work. You’ll probably need a spreadsheet or professional platform to combine your many data streams.

Typical KPIs might include:

  • Web traffic. Visitor counts, page views, and traffic sources show which content and channels drive the most activity to your site.
  • Engagement rates. Social media data such as shares, comments, and time-on-page gauges how much activity your content receives or produces.
  • Conversions. Decide on a successful endpoint: a sale, a form fill, or a subscription. Use the performance of that piece of target content to understand how well your strategy serves your goals.

Emerging Trends in Content Distribution

The way we discover and experience content has come a long way in the last ten years, and we expect it to continue evolving. Here are four trends that you need to watch harness now or sometime soon:

  • Personalization and AI. Artificial intelligence can help make content more relevant to narrow audience segments or individual consumers. When done correctly, your engagements and conversions can skyrocket when people see themselves in your content.
  • SEO and AI. AI-driven web search results often merge information from several sources and strip away authorship. As people use AI queries to answer their questions more often, there is an expected impact on SEO techniques.
  • Video and live streaming. There’s already so much of this now, but video-driven platforms will become even more critical, top-of-mind tools for reaching audiences. With webinars and self-guided learning, they can also become valuable sales conversion points.
  • Voice search optimization. Does your content show up when someone asks Siri or Alexa for information? By optimizing your content for voice searches, you open a new channel for content discovery.

Final Thoughts

Advantage Media can help you create an effective content distribution strategy to delight and engage your target audience. Contact us today for a free consultation.

mark gillespie director of content

Mark Gillespie

Director of Content

Mark leads a team of full-time content developers and ghostwriters who amplify our Member voices through all available communications channels.

Mark’s background includes two degrees in English and more than 30 years of professional e...

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