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Blogging for business is hard work. Now that you’ve made the savvy yet time-consuming decision to churn out content, what should you do next?
Unfortunately, you can’t simply push “publish” on your blog post and reap immediate benefits. Content production is only the first step of blogging for business. You’ll need to blast your content onto the Web if you want your brand to sail through the cybersphere like a boss.
Photograph by Phoo Chan, Media Drum World
In this blog post, we’re talking digital content distribution. We’ll outline what you should ALWAYS do when you publish a blog post, what you should do when you can, and what you should do every once in a while.
Some content distribution methods are crucial. Others are more optional. While the Internet offers a multitude of options, we will highlight the distribution channels we feel are most important: social media, content distribution networks, Medium, backlinks, and guest blogging.
But first, let’s ask the question on everyone’s mind:
Why Is Content Distribution Important?
Content is nothing without distribution. Distribute – or don’t bother to publish.
Think about the vital role distribution has and always will play in the newspaper industry. It started with a young man yelling, “Extra, extra!” on the street corner in the 1950s. Now, you can have the paper delivered to your house, or you can subscribe digitally.
Either way, newspapers have always had readers squarely on their radar. A newspaper cannot simply publish a paper every day, let it sit on the counter, and hope people will come and get it. Newspapers go to great lengths to distribute their news far and wide.
Your business must follow suit. When you click publish, your blog post will only be read by a few of your coworkers (if you’re lucky)–that is, unless you feed it into a network of readers/potential customers. Here is what you can accomplish with a good digital content distribution strategy.
Reach Mass Audiences
The Internet has endless potential for content marketing.
Going back to the newspaper analogy–rewind 50 years. Distributing content to a massive audience was definitely possible. But it was limited to people or companies with significant resources. Publications like Time Magazine and The New York Times had tremendous financial resources and enormous clout, publishing and distributing content that was read by audiences around the U.S.
Times have changed. Any person with an Internet connection can have a blog up and running within five minutes. A really smart person could start a blog and eventually reach hundreds of thousands of online readers using nothing more than a brilliant marketing strategy. Pete Cashmore started the world-famous blog Mashable from his bedroom in Scotland when he was only 19 years old and is now one of the richest bloggers in the world.
Rising up in the publishing industry with little to no resources or startup capital, as Cashmore did, simply wasn’t possible in the 1950s. It is now. But not without a digital content distribution strategy.
Increase Brand Awareness
A successful business blog–one that is well-written and widely distributed–will bring attention to your brand. When done correctly, blogging for business is essentially free advertising.
Read through these examples provided by Amy Porterfield to see how clever branding and style brought attention to 10 successful businesses. One example from the list is Southwest Airlines, whose Nuts About Southwest blog is popular amongst air travelers.
“Their secret to success is they understand their loyal flyers’ needs and interests and capitalize on that throughout their blog,” says Porterfield. “The blog is designed to build a relationship between the brand and their consumers.”
With 1.9 million Twitter followers, Southwest Airlines has leveraged content into an advertising juggernaut. Check out their Twitter feed and see their personalized content marketing that features live video streams, engaging photos, and other information targeted directly to airline customers. Without a blog, Southwest Airlines would have lost out on hundreds of thousands of followers, many of whom are undoubtedly devotees and brand evangelists.
Blogs like Buzzfeed and Mashable have created a new type of business model: using a blog to increase brand awareness for a blogging business. This is a little different than Southwest Airlines, which added a blog to increase awareness of an already thriving and well-known business.
Unless you are an independent blogger, you’ll fall in the Southwest Airlines category. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of tactics Buzzfeed used to dominate the Internet.
Crack Google’s Top 10 SERP: Go All Buzzfeed on the Internet
Blogging improves SEO (search engine optimization), regardless of whether your post goes “viral.” SEO is a strategy for increasing your visibility on the Internet by using commonly searched terms to increase your ranking in search engines like Google. You have limited opportunity to use these phrases on your website, but a blog is a whole different ballgame. You can establish entire posts around certain keywords.
Since each blog post counts as an indexed page, Google will reward you with a better ranking for blogging with pertinent keywords. But distribution is where you can really make your content become highly visible and crack the holy grail of the digital world: the top 10 of the Google SERP (search engine results page).
Rand Fishkin of Moz is an SEO expert. At 9 Clouds, we read his Whiteboard Fridays religously. You should do the same. He consistently provides advice on how to crack that all-important top 10.
Why Do You Want Your Content Read?
Before you distribute your content, think about who you want to reach with your content marketing. Why do you want people to read your content? What will they get out of it? And what will you get out of them having read it?
Who Do You Want To Read Your Content?
Consider your “buyer persona,” or typical customer. What do they like? Where can you find them online?
Let’s say you open a latex paint business in Queens, New York. You want to find out what kind of person is searching for latex paint in Queens. So you create a fictitious character. We’ll call him Art Vandelay. Art is an architect in his mid-50s who remodels old courthouses. He is looking to buy mass quantities of high-quality, long-lasting latex paint. Art checks his email regularly, but he doesn’t hang out much on social media. Your digital content distribution strategy for Art’s buyer persona would be geared especially for email.
Before you begin distributing content, research buyer personas for your business. You can download this handy free template from our partner Hubspot, which also has some excellent guidelines on researching buyer personas:
- Look through your contacts database for trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
- When creating website forms, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on your forms.
- Take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they’re interacting with most. What generalizations can they make about the types of customers you serve best?
- Interview customers and prospects, in person or over the phone, to discover what they like about your product or service.
What Is the Mindset of Your Buyers; Where Are They Hanging Out Online?
Now that you know who you want to read your content, you’ll need to pinpoint the current mindset of the customer you are targeting. Are you looking to create awareness for your business by attracting “top of the funnel” leads? Or are you looking for people who are aware of your product but haven’t yet bought anything from you?
Adjust your content, and subsequently your digital content distribution methods, according to the “buyer’s journey” stage (see below) you are targeting. Making these adjustments at the content production stage will carry over to distribution.
Hubspot employs a “buyer’s journey” to guide customers through the sales process, and it recommends certain content for each stage. This is something you’ll want to think about as you distribute content:
- Awareness stage (eBooks, white papers, editorial content): Prospect is experiencing and expressing symptoms of a problem or opportunity and is doing research to more clearly understand or frame their problem.
- Consideration stage (webcasts, expert editorial guides, podcasts, videos): Prospect has clearly defined the problem and is dedicated to researching solutions.
- Decision stage (case studies, vendor/product comparisons, product literature): Prospect has decided on a solution or strategy, has compiled a list of vendors, and is researching them to prepare for making a final decision.
Next, ask yourself where your customers are hanging out online. Look through Google Analytics and find out how your customers are reaching your website: social media? Organic search? Other sources?
To find this data, log into Google Analytics, click the “Acquisition” tab, then click “All Traffic,” and finally click “Source/Medium,” which will show you where your visitors are coming from. If you need more help in this area, take our full course on analytics.
Now that we’ve explained what content distribution can do for your business, let’s get down to the details. We’ll explain the steps you should always take when publishing a blog post, the steps that are nice to do, and the steps to do once in a while.
What Definitely to Do
1. Distribute via Email
Did you know that 56% of email subscribers unsubscribe from a business or nonprofit email subscription because of content that is no longer relevant?. For 70% of Internet users, email is the preferred method of communication with businesses.
Email is the first and most important method for distributing your blog content. Use an automated email campaign to ensure your blog posts are read.
Each one of your blog posts should be emailed to a group of subscribers who have filled out a form to receive such alerts. Don’t overwhelm your leads, though. At 9 Clouds, we email a weekly roundup of blog posts instead of sending a separate email for each post.
Your email distribution process depends entirely on what kind of software you are using.
If you have a WordPress blog, you can use an RSS plugin. RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is an automated system that emails blog entries to subscribers.
Another popular email option is Mailchimp, which will allow you to set up an RSS-driven system that will email blog entries to your subscribers as often as you’d like. (If you’ve never used Mailchimp, here is an effective and simple tutorial.)
2. Post to Social Media
Your content distribution strategy will involve social media to some degree. Some social media channels are must-posts, while others are okay to post on as you get time.
Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all necessary blog promotion tools, as you can see by the chart below. Instagram is a valuable social network for business as well, although it’s not as friendly for bloggers.
Here is our go-to template for promoting a blog post on social media using these crucial networks. You may want to tweak it depending on any information you can dig out of Google Analytics (as we mentioned earlier) regarding your own traffic sources.
- Schedule two Google+ posts first for optimized SEO
- Schedule two Facebook posts
- Schedule five Twitter posts
- Schedule one LinkedIn post
This basic schedule will keep you on track and ensure your content reaches social media. Research the best times of day for posting. Some publishing tools will recommend optimal times. We try to promote posts two times on the day we publish, two more times throughout the week, and twice throughout the month.
Now, let’s go into more detail about how to use these networks and why they are in our “What Definitely to Do” category.
- Facebook: You’ve seen the stats. You may have even seen the movie. Facebook is king. People who don’t have a Facebook account are outliers. So the question isn’t whether you should post to Facebook, but how often you should and what should you say. If you Google, “When should I post to Facebook?” you will get endless results. There are a few general guidelines, but the best way to find out when to post is to dig into your own Insights. Go into your business’s Facebook page and click the “Insights” tab at the top. Navigate to the tab shown in the example below. By looking at “When Your Fans Are Online,” you can discover the best times for you to post. Schedule each blog post at least twice, based on what your insights tell you. For better results, pay to advertise your post. As we’ll discuss shortly, Facebook is making it increasingly difficult to show up on news feeds organically. You may have success using contests to increase your reach and “likes” (such as “like or comment on this post to win a prize”). You can find many examples on Facebook for inspiration. However, these contests take time. If you have the budget, you are better off purchasing Facebook ads.
- Google+: Google+ remains somewhat of a mystery. While widely used, although largely due to Google+ profiles being forced upon users, it has not been embraced as fully as Facebook. That said, posting on Google+ is a boon to your SEO. Because Google owns Google+, Google wants you to share on Google+. Find a captivating image, use an attention-grabbing headline, and craft a strong first sentence to engage the reader. When it comes to sharing, the nice thing about Google+ is that you can create your own circles for people with specific interests. So share your posts to the general public, but also target specific circles. Google+ will generate hashtag suggestions for you, so you don’t have to establish them yourself.
- Twitter: Keep things short and sweet, post often, use images. Incorporate hashtags related to your industry. Reply to others’ tweets to get your brand name out, and follow accounts related to your industry. Stick to these rules, and you will get what you need out of Twitter.
- LinkedIn: You will probably be surprised to find out that LinkedIn sends nearly four times more people to your corporate home page than Facebook or Twitter. According to Kevan Lee of Buffer, industry insights are in demand on LinkedIn. So, when possible, use your insider knowledge to write long-form posts about your particular industry. Still, share all of your blog posts to LinkedIn. Lee suggests posting during business hours and posting at least 20 times per month.
Other Social Media Networks
Pinterest and Instagram are also fantastic social media resources, but they aren’t necessarily blog friendly, nor are they vital to your business. You can pick up more tips on how to use these social networks by reading our Instagram eBook and our Pinterest eBook.
General Best Practices for Social Media Posting
- Use a photo whenever possible. Photos almost always increase visibility of social media posts.
- Say what you want to say in as few words as possible. People won’t read long posts on social media.
- Use a headline that will grab attention. Draw extra attention with hashtags.
- Use a mass-scheduler. Posting to multiple networks can be daunting. The options are plentiful, but two good services are Hootsuite and Buffer.
3. Advertise on Facebook
We will add a slight caveat to this must-do: if you’re budget is extremely limited, you might allow yourself to skip this step. However, if you have any kind of advertising budget, and we imagine you do, it’s difficult to argue against paying for social media content distribution–on one social network in particular. That’s right, folks: Facebook ads are simply without peer when it comes to reaching audiences. With pinpoint targeting available, you simply cannot lose with a Facebook ad, which can draw viewers to any type of content you desire. Blog posts featuring written, infographic or video content make a great Facebook ad that is sure to draw clicks and more readers.
You’ve seen those irresistible advertised posts on Facebook that implore you to click and like the page. Including an offer is especially effective (see the example above). Advertising your blog content has different benefits. It exposes your blog to a large audience that is tailored to your specific business, increases likes on your Facebook page (which will then provide a bigger audience for links you share on Facebook), and ultimately draws more traffic to your website. Facebook has trended more and more toward advertising in recent years. So while it’s still necessary to post organically, you will receive many, many more views with an advertised post.
4. Give Sales Reps and Marketers the Leads
Ultimately, it’s why you are blogging. Whenever you get an email or webinar signup, or just a request for more information in response to a blog post or eBook, pass these leads along to your sales and marketing teams for proper follow-up.
Time for the seventh-inning stretch. We are throwing a lot of information at you. Hopefully you are finding it both educational and entertaining. Take a deep breath…and read on.
What’s Nice to Do
Now, our list of content distribution methods that would be nice to do. In other words, do these things as time allows.
1. Find and Reach Out to Influencers
This type of outreach can be time-consuming but valuable it if done correctly. Buzzsumo is a great tool for outreach, although some of its best features require a paid account. This article will provide more detail, but Buzzsumo essentially shows you which blog posts on a particular topic have been the most popular (based on social media shares). You can find a list of people who shared a certain blog or article and take a look at the other articles they have shared, which will give you a good idea of whether the influencer is interested in your particular blog item. Then you can reach out to that person on Twitter or another social network. Another easy way to find influencers is to simply search your topic on Twitter.
2. Find Similar Blogs and Websites for Backlinks and Guest Blogging Opportunities
Look for other websites that share your business’s interests. If you are a latex paint company, Google some of your focus keywords and see what else is out there. Many blogs have a list of other suggested websites. Scroll to the bottom of the Huffington Post and find a large list of blogs, including Action America, Americablog, BagNewsNotes, and many others.
There is nothing wrong with simply asking another site to list your blog. You can tell them that you will link their blog on your site as well. If you Google “latex paint experts” and find an extremely popular blog like “Art Vandelay Dishes on Latex,” ask Art if you can be listed as a related site. Backlinks are still a very important part of SEO. The more you have, the more your SEO will improve.
Guest blogging seems intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are an expert in latex paint, why not leverage that status to draw more people to your business? Reach out to the publisher of a latex paint blog and offer to write a monthly blog feature, with your only payment being a link back to your own blog. Online publishers can always use more content, and an entry from an expert is probably going to be especially welcome. As this Kissmetrics article shows, guest blogging is a great way to gain followers.
3. Buy Advertising with Outbrain or Taboola
Content distribution networks Outbrain and Taboola sell ad space below news articles for other news articles. Tabloid fodder can prominently be found in these content marketing ads, but they can be effective for any business as they are cleverly placed, grab your attention, and implore you to click.
Taboola‘s mission is to “help publishers monetize their content and drive higher engagement” and “enable brands to surface their content to the right audience at-scale.” Outbrain, which calls itself the “world’s largest content discovery platform,” seeks to “delight readers, create revenue, drive engagement and breed consumer insight.”
You can pay Taboola to distribute your digital content through a network that features 550 million unique monthly visitors across hundreds of publisher sites, including NBC News, Business Insider, and others. Outbrain, which is featured on CNN.com, Slate, and more, touts monthly global traffic of 561 million. These networks drive visitors to your website by placing your content in highly trafficked areas.
These channels are a luxury for content producers. 9 Clouds ran a month-long test campaign with Outbrain (we wrote an eBook about the experience). It was a cheap way to shotgun our blog content across the Internet. Outbrain didn’t offer the refined targeting features of Facebook, but we received more than a million impressions for approximately $300, which is a good ROI. Outbrain is also working on more targeting features.
Unlike print or broadcast advertising, these types of services offer concrete analytical information, so you know what you are getting for your money. The networks will also display related content items from your site, using algorithmic formulas to decipher where to display them.
Taboola is expensive–at least $5,000 per month. Outbrain is much cheaper–the minimum is $10/day. These services excel at creating brand awareness at a reasonably low cost and should be used mostly for “top of the funnel” leads, unless getting people to your website is all you need to make a conversion.
4. Republish on Medium
Another “luxury” distribution method is Medium. This free website is a perfect place to experiment with your content distribution strategy. If you have topics to write about that would generally be considered exciting by the general public, Medium is a good forum. Since the site pulls the most popular content to the top, the most highly read pieces receive the most real estate. So the public relations rep for Evil Knievel might have better luck than someone diving deep into the weeds about the finer points of city ordinances. But don’t be afraid to experiment–you never know if your content will catch on until you try. We are so excited about Medium that we wrote an entire eBook about it.
The easiest way to use Medium for digital content distribution is to repost your current content on the site to attract new followers. You can also write new content, creating individual posts tagged under various topics or creating your own “collection” to represent your brand in a more cohesive way. Either way, if you are posting on Medium, you need to lead readers back to your website with linked call-to-actions (at least one at the end).
What to Do Once in A While
Here are some things that you’ll want to check in on once in a while–perhaps every two weeks or so.
1. Look at Analytics to see What’s Working
Find out where your blog traffic is coming from. Did you start an Outbrain campaign but aren’t seeing the results you’d like in Google Analytics? Shift more money to Facebook ads. Is your blog seeing a high bounce rate? Add a “related articles” feature, and find other ways to keep people on your website. To find these stats, log in to Google Analytics, scroll down to “Acquisition” on the left side, click “All Traffic,” then click “Source/Medium,” and you’ll find out where people are coming from.
2. Use Data to Find future Topics
You will be able to tell which of your posts are most popular by again looking through Google Analytics and monitoring social media activity. A car dealer might discover that a Ford Mustang post was popular. That’s a good sign that future posts about that car will be successful. Also, ask your sales reps about the most common questions they receive. People love informative blog posts and will be much more likely to read them than a post that comes across as an advertisement. In the end, blogging for business–and distributing those blog posts–is about finding and offering what your customers want to read.
Content Distribution Summary
That wraps up our blogging for business content distribution process. We hope this guide will help you on your content distribution journey.
Here’s a summary of the content distribution process for easy reference:
Use an automated email campaign for your blog entries, post them on social media, and pay for advertising on Facebook.Stay in touch with your sales reps and the rest of your marketing team to share leads and discover ideas for future blog posts. As time allows, look for a larger voice for your product by reaching out to influencers, using digital content distribution services such as Outbrain or Taboola, republishing on Medium, and finding similar blogs and websites to seek backlinks or guest blogging opportunities. Occasionally, take time to look at your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not, which will help you develop your content strategy for the future.
If you need more help, we have plenty of resources to help you develop your business plan. 9 Clouds offers full content distribution strategies for businesses who don’t have the time or personnel to take on the tasks themselves. Take our brief assessment to see if working with 9 Clouds would benefit your business–and take the load off when it comes to content distribution processes like these.