12:49 pm How to determine which content distribution channels to focus on
Note: This post is part of our 10X Media Guide to creating content that builds your audience and your business. Click here to start at the beginning.
With everyone currently rushing to produce online content, it’s easy to think you should simply be creating and publishing lots of content too and then expect your audience to magically appear.
But the reality is, it just doesn’t work out like this.
Today, due to the increasing competition for your audiences’ attention, you need to be a lot more strategic and have a clear plan in place for attracting your audience to your content.
This means you should be thinking about the distribution channels that you’ll be looking to distribute your content on first, before investing time, money and effort into creating your content.
What are content distribution channels?
Your content distribution channels are the relevant sites and publications where your audience is currently engaged online and which also allow you to submit your content for publication.
Identifying these channels will allow you to research important factors that inform your content creation and therefore significantly increase your chances of appealing to your target audience.
These factors include taking note of the “type” of content they are consuming right now on those channels, the topics they’re interested in on those channels, and identifying how you can get in front of your audience on those channels.
At the end of the day, your content distribution channels are your primary means for attracting your target audience back to your website.
Start by preparing your CDC Document
The first step is to create a simple Content Distribution Channel spreadsheet (in Microsoft Excel or Google docs) with the following columns listed below.
This is the information you will need when it comes time to producing and submitting content to your target channels:
- Name of Publication
- Type of Publication (i.e. Large News Site, Roundup, Digital Magazine, Blog or Syndicator – please see definitions of each of these below)
- Primary Niche (e.g. Tech News)
- Sub-Niche (i.e. this is the target niche that you will look to target. Larger sites often post content across many sectors so in this column you will want to list only the sub-niche that you will be looking to get your content published under – e.g. Startups)
- Site URL
- Sub-niche URL (e.g. home page where you will be looking to get featured)
- Type of content (e.g. Video, Audio, Written Text, Image based or combination of these)
- Content Submissions URL
- Content Terms & Conditions URL (or “Submissions Guidelines” URL)
- Editorial Contact (e.g. email address, phone number and/or URL to list of editors, if available)
- Original or Republished Content? (e.g. does the site only allow original content not published elsewhere, or does it allow republished unmodified versions of your existing content?)
Here are the definitions for the ‘Type of Publication’ categories mentioned above:
- Large News Site – these sites have very large audiences across a broad spectrum of topics and often get a lot of social media shares and views (e.g. Mashable.com, DailyMail.co.uk, HuffingtonPost.com, Forbes.com)
- Roundup – these sites curate smart content for a specific industry or niche audience (e.g. theSkimm, Bloomberg View, NextDraft)
- Digital Magazine – these are niche online magazines such as iPad Newsstand publications, Issuu publications, etc.
- Blog – these are large niche blogs that often require lots of content to feed their audiences (e.g. Techcrunch.com, Lifehacker.com, BusinessInsider.com, etc)
- Syndicator – these are large sites where you can self republish your articles too (e.g. Medium.com, Quora.com, BuzzFeed.com, Reddit.com, LinkedIn.com)
With this information at hand, you’re now ready to proceed with the following exercises.
Identify “Current Audience Engagement”
Now, if you already know where your audience is currently engaged online, start by plotting the relevant information mentioned above into the spreadsheet you have created for each of the sites/channels that you feel are worth targeting.
If you don’t know where your audience is currently engaged, or you need to identify additional channels, here is what I do to locate potential niche websites and channels relevant to my audience.
Start with a few simple free tools, as follows, which include; Google, Google Display Planner and Alexa.com.
1. First – Run a Google.com News search (or .com.au, .co.nz, .co.uk – or which ever is relevant to your target audience)
Type in a broad niche or topic that’s relevant to your product or service.
In the example below, I’ve used “horticulture” which is relevant to a fertilizer product we’re currently promoting.
Then click the “News” tab to see if there are any news portals that are currently publishing content relating to our niche.
As you can see, there are a couple of big name publishers including Farm Weekly, The Guardian and ABC Online who are publishing content relevant for our niche. This means they will likely have an audience that we’re wanting to get in front of.
I would add each of the ones that are relevant to my list. (Later in this series, I’ll look at targeting these sites to generate online PR and distribute editorial to.)
Obviously, try to exclude any sites that are not relevant. For example, ‘The Weed Blog’ is probably not our audience – even though at first glance you might think it is. Best to visit the site if you’re unsure.
Continue on with a normal Google web search (select “All” search results) and list any other relevant sites that you can find which you feel have a large audience and who are regularly publishing content.
This is key, if you’ve come across a blog that hasn’t published content for a few months, it’s unlikely they have a highly engaged audience and unlikely you will reap any benefit from reaching out to them. So don’t waste your time with these.
2. Second – Run a Google Display Planner search
Continue to build your list of target sites with the Google Display Planner.
Although the Google Display Planner is traditionally used for identifying targeting ideas and CPC (cost per click) estimates for running paid ads across the Google Display Network, it’s also very useful for finding relevant sites with lots of traffic.
It can be a little hit and miss at times, but it will help uncover niche portals that you might not have picked up in your Google Search Results exercise above.
Start by entering in your broad niche topic and then click “Get placement ideas”, as shown below:
After clicking ‘Get placement ideas’ you will see a page like this one below:
As you can see, the top 5 results are highly targeted and by the looks of it, they’re all publishing regular content. So I’ll add these to the list.
Some of the others in this list however are not quite relevant, so I’ll exclude those for now.
At this point you should have a pretty good list of targeted sites where your audience is currently engaged online.
You also have an idea of the kind of content these popular sites are currently publishing which is great information to hold as a benchmark for the kind of content you should be creating too.
3. Third – Take a look at the sites (and apps) that you currently consume
An often overlooked method of finding relevant sites that are currently engaging your audience is to take a look at the sites and apps that you are interested in and frequent often.
The chances are, if you’re in a business you’re interested in, you’re already consuming content on a whole list of portals related to your niche industry.
Do some self analysis and add in all those sites and apps that you consume and visit regularly.
It’s also a good idea to take a look at your email inbox. Which newsletters of publishers do you subscribe to and open? If they republish and curate content other than their own, add them to the list.
4. Fourth – Browse Alexa.com Top Sites lists
Finally, take a look at Alexa.com Top Sites lists to see if there are any relevant portals, magazines, e-zines, blogs or social networks that you haven’t yet added to your list.
However, note that Alexa.com ranks their Top Sites Lists by Category for all sites across the globe and although you may not find a local site, often some of these larger global sites do have significant audiences in your target country.
With closer inspection, you may come across 1 or 2 juggernauts that have a segment of their audience that is highly relevant. And quite often, the bigger the publisher the more content resources they need to keep up with their audience demands for consuming regular content. This means you have an opportunity to help them fill the void by providing a couple of really good editorial pieces for their audience.
Identify relevant Social Networks
Now that you have a solid list of potential target portals, it’s time to define the Social Networks where your audience are most likely to engage with your content.
Too often do we see companies wasting time and money on networks that just aren’t going to generate much in the way of quality traffic or engagement.
If you’re in the hairdryer market for instance, it’s unlikely that audiences on LinkedIn are going to want to consume your how-to tutorial on blow drying your hair wavy.
LinkedIn audiences are typically interested in professional networking, career advancement, business development, etc.
On the other hand, publishing that video on Youtube would be a worthwhile channel for you as there are literally millions of consumers watching hair blow drying videos on YouTube everyday.
How do you know which networks to focus on?
It comes down to who your target audience is, your available marketing budget and resources, and a bit of common sense.
It’s good to have a presence on most relevant platforms, but only if you have the time and resources to really make them worth your while. Otherwise, better to stick with just one or two in the beginning.
You also need to take into consideration the kind of content you will be producing. If you’re producing a lot of video, then Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and now SnapChat (hot right now if you’re targeting Millennials) will all be valuable distribution channels worth testing.
On the other hand, if you’re producing a lot of image based content, then Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr will be good networks to focus on.
And, of course, if you’re producing quality thought-leadership content for business or corporate professionals, then LinkedIn and Twitter are likely to be the networks where you should spend your time and money on.
There’s no exact science behind which network to choose and it does also come down to your individual situation. If you already have a large network of contacts on Facebook for instance, then maybe it would be worth your while to devise a strategy where you can successfully leverage that existing network.
Keep in mind, there are a lot more social networks out there to choose from besides the usual big 6 (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linkedin, Google+ and Instagram).
Other types of networks that are coming on strong include Medium.com, Quora.com and messaging apps such as SnapChat, WhatsApp, WeChat and Slack. Keep an eye on these this year and next as they start to roll out their own content distribution platforms.
You should now have a list of target sites and social networks that you’re looking to focus your content distribution on and an understanding of the kind of content your audience is consuming on each of these platforms. There’s one more area yet to be addressed and that is, Paid Content Distribution channels.
Consider these Paid Content Distribution Channels
Paid content distribution is a great way to kick-start your content marketing and website traffic. It’s what you do when you don’t have a lot of email subscribers or followers behind you from which you can launch your content to and thus help it spread.
We’ll be going onto more detail in the coming weeks on how to fully leverage the various Paid Content Distribution channels. But for now, lets take a quick look at the options you have.
A lot of content discovery networks have come and gone over the years, but Outbrain has well and truly solidified itself as one of the leading paid content discovery networks.
If you’ve ever noticed those “You might also like..” or “Promoted Stories” content widgets at the bottom of articles on large publisher sites such as The Daily Telegraph, Mashable.com or Forbes.com – that’s content delivered by Outbrain.
If you’re looking to jump-start traffic to your content, Outbrain allows you to get in front of audiences on these and many other big publisher sites quickly and relatively cheaply.
The only downside is it’s a little difficult to accurately track ROI and target very specific interests or demographics. That’s where platforms such as Facebook really excel.
Regardless, Outbrain is certainly not one to look past. I highly recommend testing it out.
Very similar to Outbrain.com. The only real difference is the different network of publishers they reach. Keep this in mind as one network might be better suited to you over another, depending on which publishers your target audience is currently engaged on?
Facebook Boosted Posts
Facebook is an obvious one for many businesses. The Facebook content advertising platform is without a doubt one of the most powerful and in my opinion it offers the best, most comprehensive, targeting capabilities due to the massive amount of data they have on their users.
LinkedIn Sponsored Updates
If you’re looking to target someone with a specific Job Title, then Linkedin will help you do that. Facebook and other channels don’t quite have this capability, yet.
And although the CPC (cost per clicks) on LinkedIn are quite expensive (around $4-7 per click), for many companies the quality of those clicks are very high.
Twitter Promoted Tweets
Promoted tweets are also a great way to drive traffic to your content, particularly if you’re in the media or tech industries. Otherwise, I would tread with caution if your in other niche markets such as consumer retail. Test small before scaling out any campaigns on Twitter.
YouTube Video Ads
If you’re producing a lot of video content, then YouTube video ads combined with Facebook video ads will make sense for you. Both YouTube and Facebook offer excellent video advertising platforms that you must consider if you are looking to quickly kick-start traffic to your newly published video content.
Facebook, who now owns Instagram, recently rolled out their mobile advertising platform on Instagram. If you’re producing a lot of image based content and have a strategic method of capturing leads from this audience, Instagram can be extremely powerful.
We’re currently seeing a number companies utilising Instagram to great effect and it’s now no longer a platform you can ignore. Watch this space.
Don’t forget your Blog and Email Newsletter
Lastly, be sure to add your own blog and email newsletter as your primary distribution channels. These should be front and center to everything you do and the first places to publish your content on.
So there you have it, everything you need to build your list of target content distribution channels. Set this aside once completed as we’ll be coming back to this list in a later post.
We’ll also be discussing how you can get your content featured on the target sites on your list, plus how you can promote your content across the various content discovery networks, and more.
It’s now time to start setting your KPIs.
Hit next to continue to Step 5.