Can Content Be Great If It's Never Read?
Updated: Feb 7
by Neal Taparia
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one’s around to hear it…does it make a sound?
I know, you’re bored of this age-old saying, which seems to be applicable to everything. But it perfectly sums up the story of content marketing. It’s a two-ingredient formula: content creation and content distribution, and you can’t be successful with just one. If a story is written but nobody reads it, it may as well have never been written at all (believe me, we’ve had our fair share of flops as we navigated this process).
So in order to make your content marketing efforts are worth their while, make sure you’re spending just as much time distributing as you are creating!
Pick a Pathway
There are three methods for content distribution - owned, earned, and paid.
Owned distribution includes newsletters, RSS subscribers, and followers on social networks. These paths generally require quite a bit of work to get off the ground, but once you’ve built a solid foundation, they’re invaluable. With owned media you can reach out to people who are already interested and invested in your product and your brand, and the continued content updates will keep them in the loop.
Social media is both important and superficial - you have to do it because it’s a great mass marketing platform, but conversions can be pretty challenging. The average lifespan of a Twitter post is 18 minutes, which means you’ll need to be sharing constantly. Emails and newsletters can be remarkably effective, contrary to popular belief, but require careful management so that your audience isn’t inundated with material. We’re big fans of MailChimp and Hubspot, but there are a bunch of great email services out there. Do your research and pick one that works well for your company.
Earned distribution methods include forums (like Growthhackers.com, reddit, Inbound.org), communities, podcasts, and guest posts. These are much easier to utilize and generate a wider reach, perhaps speaking to people outside your usual customer base. It’s important to first clarify your goal for each piece before selecting a forum or other blog to post on. Are you trying to reach your own audience or new ones? Do you care more about signups, shares, visits, awareness, conversions, or something else entirely? Is the post super technical or can it be adapted to different industries altogether?
We’ve created numerous content marketing articles that relate to our TrackBat document tracking product. We’ll often post them in the relevant linkedin groups and GrowthHackers. We’ve even done guest posts with Content Marketing Institute with decent success.
And if you’re aiming for guest posts, remember that relationships are the key. Relationships take investment, so make sure to do your research before you reach out and to be kind, casual, and transparent in your email or Twitter message.
Paid services, especially advertising space, are also important. Just make sure that you’re picking places that are going to get you the most relevant bang for your buck. We’ve run Google adwords campaigns on numerous occasions, and it takes time to see traction. Be patient, and do your research.
Make Sure to Optimize for search engines
Search engine optimization, as ubiquitous as the term may be, is vital to a successful content distribution strategy. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) ran a study of one million websites, almost all of which were in the top 1% of active websites in existence, and found that a mere 9.6% had all three of their basic web page elements (title tag, H1 tag, and meta-description tag) correctly covered. Of those, the meta-description tag in particular is seriously underutilized. This means that if you pay attention to those categories, you can jump past your competitors.
We changed one of our websites which was poorly structured for SEO to follow best practices, and it significantly improved traffic within a week.
So, what about the best ways to find keywords? First, make sure to familiarize yourself with optimization trends by understanding Google’s SEO algorithm, consumption, and industry standards. Then, when you’re trying to actually come up with good keywords for a particular piece of content, start by brainstorming with a few coworkers. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in industry jargon or stick to the same keywords every time. There are also a bunch of tools out there to monitor social media for keyword trends (and of course you can do it manually as well, especially via Twitter).
Use Your People
Each company’s business and social network is unbelievably big. I have a ton of separate networks (alumni networks, entreprenuerial networks, groups of friends, tennis players…), as do each of my coworkers, from my co-CEO to our head of business development to each of our interns. If you leverage coworkers and various networks, whether in person, email, or through LinkedIn, you’ll find a bunch of distribution paths you’d never even considered. Always ask the right people in your network to share your content, especially if the people they know can benefit form it!
You can also build relationships from scratch and amplify your reach by syndicating content with other outlets. In either case, remember that relationships depend on reciprocation, so be sure to provide value every time you pitch something and be open to allowing the other person’s or company’s content on your blog. Pitch regularly, and make sure that your contacts and coworkers know how important your work is.
Have a Plan
A strategy document will work wonders for effective and efficient content distribution. Follow the path you’ve set for yourself and dedicate at least a full hour to just working on distribution. This template, provided by CMI, is a great stepping off point. Take the time to eventually create a template that is right for your company, your content, and your audience. Moreover, be sure to measure what works and doesn’t.
You’ll be amazed the difference it makes.