A Guide to Content & Distribution
“Content is king, but distribution is queen. And she wears the trousers.”
Jonathan Perelman, BuzzFeed
Okay, so Jonathan actually said ‘…she wears the pants,‘, but that’s lost in translation in Blighty.
To quote the ‘unshakeable optimist’, Simon Sinek, let’s start with why:
Why should you create content?
A great many business owners spend a fortune in time, energy, effort and money having their website designed to within an inch of its life. built to technical perfection and launched with all the pomp and ceremony of a celebrity divorce party, only to leave it alone and ignored for years thereafter, wondering why it doesn’t perform. Note: the developer usually gets the blame.
People and search engines are smart cookies who believe that when a website’s content is left unchanged and uncared for, that’s probably true of the business itself. Read that again.
What is content?
Content is whatever you want it to be; literally, anything you create and publish or post is content. But to be useful content there are some basics to understand. Oh, and for clarity, this refers primarily to online, digital content.
“Content is anything that adds value to the reader’s life.”
Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google
To many, the following will be blindingly obvious, whilst to others, it will be a revelation.
Rule number one; the content has to be readable, which means it has to be ‘live’ text, and it must be readable not only by humans but by search engines too. So, the content on the pages of your website is likely to be perfectly fine, but if you’re putting effort into creating great content as downloadable PDFs, well, that’s not so good. Humans will gorge themselves on your fabulous, life-enhancing content; search engines will ignore it.
TIP: Unless you’re creating PDFs as lead magnets designed to elicit the downloader’s contact details for future marketing campaigns, make your PDF content available elsewhere as live text too, such as on a ‘hidden’ web page that’s linked to only from within the body of text elsewhere on your website. That way search engines will find and index it, but your adoring public most likely won’t and will still download your PDF.
Equally, having text embedded in images is a big no-no if it’s anything other than a logo, info-graphic or banner/header. You may be surprised to know that websites still exist with swathes of beautifully crafted text-based content placed as full-page images. It looks nice, but as we know, looks aren’t everything.
So, if you’re already writing website pages, articles, blog posts and newsletters, and what you’re writing is worth reading, of course, you’re not only creating valuable content, but you’re on your way to content marketing too.
Is the content worth reading?
That’s a great question, isn’t it? But what does ’worth reading’ even mean?
Well, it depends on why you’re creating content in the first place, and who it’s for. If it’s for a niche group of existing customers, clients, supporters, members, etc., it need only meet their expectations. But if you’re hoping to engage a wider audience and educate them about the services or products you offer, the content will need to do far more to earn its keep.
To simplify what I mean, just think about all the questions an ideal customer might ask about a particular product or service you provide and craft your content to answer them, but as clear, full, descriptive text, not simple, direct answers.
“Content builds relationships. Relationships are built on trust. Trust drives revenue.”
Andrew Davis, Monumental Shift, Inc.
Is all good content text-based?
If attracting search engines is your goal, then yes; text-based content is king. It’s specifically what gets picked up by search engines, and it’s what people read to ascertain what you do, what you sell and how you can help them.
However, if human engagement on different levels and across multiple generations is your goal, then visual content plays an undeniably powerful role too. Often, a single, short video can deliver a more effective message that instantly engages an audience than any amount of text would ever do. In fact, their effectiveness is diametrically opposed against the volume of content required to achieve the same, or similar result. Imagine trying to describe a 30 second TV advert in meticulous detail and in a highly effective, descriptive way that paints a clear picture in the reader’s mind. You’d be writing pages and pages of content that nobody would want to read or would die of boredom doing so.
Hybrid content makes for a powerful combination – using text-based content to enable search engines to display results based on questions people search for, then quickly engaging them with uber-seductive video content.
What do I do with all this content?
Whilst your website is a great repository for most of your content and is a non-negotiable necessity, it rapidly becomes very limiting in its reach, hence the need to find more creative ways to reach a bigger audience through content distribution.
Put simply, content distribution is taking advantage of the vast array of channels and platforms that effectively host and share content, often at no cost to you, the publisher.
YouTube is a perfect example of this mutually beneficial arrangement, where you’re able to upload content for free to a platform with two billion users worldwide, whilst YouTube benefits from more people looking at more videos and clicking on advertisements. How else do you think YouTube generated $28.8 billion in revenue in 2021?
Granted, not everyone is into making videos for their business, and for multiple reasons. Sometimes it’s cost, sometimes video just doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate fit.
So what else can you create, and where/how can you distribute it?
Content distribution is Queen
The content distribution wheel below provides insight at multiple levels. It begins in the centre with ‘why’. What’s the reason you might want to create content in the first place? The big arrows show the type of content you might create, and the outer ring is a non-exhaustive list of the multiple channels and platforms through which the content can be distributed.
The key to successful content distribution is efficiency, and efficiency comes from creating one piece of content and reusing it multiple times across multiple channels. It’s like writing a book or making a record – do it once; sell it multiple times.
Let’s assume you’ve written an 800-word article that describes the particular benefits of electric cars, and you plan to publish the article on your website as a news post.
Doing so will add value to your business by giving your website visitors something new to read, and Google some fresh content to index which it shares with people searching for information on electric cars.
“Content marketing is like a first date. If you only talk about yourself, there won’t be a second one.”
But what about all the people who might enjoy your article, but don’t use Google [other search engines are available] to search for it?
Here are NINE additional ways you could give more exposure to a single article, and therefore your website and business too:
- Add a brief description of the article to your newsletter and send it to your subscribers, drawing them back to your website to read the article.
- Write a very brief teaser intro to the article and post it on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. These platforms allow you to create company pages as well as profile pages – use both.
- Create a graphic that illustrates the benefits described in your article and post that on Instagram.
- Create a short video selfie of you talking about the article whilst standing beside or driving an electric vehicle, and post that as an Instagram story, on YouTube and even TikTok (if you’re over 30 it’s nothing to do with time).
- Post the full article as a long-form article on LinkedIn (LinkedIn Pulse).
- Use LinkedIn’s latest Newsletter feature to send your article to each of your LinkedIn connections (it will send each connection an invitation to subscribe to your LinkedIn newsletter too).
- Post the article on writing platforms such as Medium, Vocal Media, Newsfeed, Substack and Tealfeed. Collectively these platforms reach tens, if not hundreds of millions of readers globally.
- Medium has its top-level content platform, but also hundreds of subject-specific/niche [digital] publications from heath to science, finance to technology. The range is vast.
- Use Google Ads to target key phrases that your product or services respond to, and drive traffic directly to the article to answer the searchers’ questions.
You can see now how one article can be repurposed across multiple platforms to give it far greater reach and with relatively little effort – and they’re potentially all things you can do yourself.
There are a few caveats to consider with this multi-platform approach, but nothing that’s insurmountable or that should prevent you from pursuing some, if not all of the options. They are simply challenges that are overcome with a little knowledge, not barriers to stop you in your tracks.
- Where platforms make it available (and not many do), you should consider using a ‘canonical link’ to tell search engines the article on your website is the original version. This helps with avoiding content duplication and even the risk of a platform believing the content is plagiarised. At the very least, end your article with “Originally published on [yourwebsite.com]” and include the full URL link to the post on your website.
- Some platforms may require a subscription fee.
- Some platforms allow only original content, not content that was previously published elsewhere. If you find, for example, you’re gaining traction in a Medium publication that only accepts original content, simply publish your new article there first, then post it on your website and elsewhere a week later. See? Challenges, not barriers.
Search Engine Optimisation
SEO specialists are a bit like builders; they all tell a good story and build your hopes, but only a small percentage deliver on their promise. Consequently, they are perceived to be untrustworthy before you’ve even spoken to them.
However, find a really good one (and I can recommend an excellent one) and they’ll confirm that without a continual flow of fresh, new content in the form of news/blog posts and articles, there’s little they can do beyond a certain level to increase your exposure online, as there’s simply not enough to work with.
“Great content is the currency of Search Engine Optimisation.”
There are many reasons for this, but suffice it to say here that a continual flow of new content enables you to target specific subjects and therefore introduce high-value keywords that target your particular audience. Also, if you’re not creating new content to reach new customers, your competitors are way ahead of you.
Understand that you cannot rely solely on the people who visit your website in order to find your next customer and the one after that.
If you can answer the question; “What do you do?” (and if you’re confused by the question, try reading this: https://www.clivewilson.com/are-you-selling-what-your-customers-are-buying/ or this: https://www.clivewilson.com/successful-marketing-the-secret-that-isnt-a-secret-at-all/) then think about how you can drill down into the individual elements that make your business unique – and write about them one at a time.
Once you understand what you really do and why your customers buy from you, it becomes easy to write new content.
And if finding the time to write really is a challenge; outsource it. The additional cost is likely to be rewarded ten-fold over time.
Take time to understand which of the many different channels and platforms suit your business and how you can use them to your advantage, as it’s within your gift to reach a far greater audience than only those who visit your website, and knowing this should encourage you to create more content.
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