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Content distribution 101: What it is and how to use it

an image of author Ross Simmonds, accompanied by various search-related iconography

I’m sure that, right now, you have a story that is worth sharing.


It might be a story about your business. It might be an update around one of your new sales. It might be a how-to blog post that you spent hours writing but haven’t promoted for more than five minutes.


This is the reality for many, often leading to an unsustainable cycle of creating new content just to achieve similar performance as an effective distribution strategy. To boot, new content is generally more resource intensive to produce, making it less cost effective than distributing your existing content.


Over the last decade, I’ve helped brands that have been stuck on the “content creation hamster wheel” see 10x more traffic on their content simply by distributing it. In this blog post, I’m going to help you learn the ins and outs of content distribution as a way for you to get better ROI out of the content marketing assets that you’re already creating on a regular basis. Let’s dive in.


Table of contents:



What is content distribution?


Content distribution is the act of amplifying, repurposing, resharing and promoting your content online.

Content distribution is an often overlooked yet ridiculously valuable part of content marketing. It’s not just about putting your content out there; it’s about strategically placing it across a variety of platforms—be it social media, blogs, email newsletters, or even podcasts—to ensure that it reaches your target audience, engages them, and, most importantly, prompts them to take action.


Why content distribution matters


A text graphic that says: Content distribution by the numbers. 147,000+ images are estimated to be shared on Facebook every minute. 340,000+ stories are shared on Instagram every single minute. And 7.5M blog posts are published every single day. Sources: Social Media Today, Hootsuite, EarthWeb.

Content distribution matters because, amidst all the content that makes its way to your audience on a daily basis, it helps your content get seen and heard by potential users or customers via the channels that they prefer. 


It’s not enough to press publish on a piece of content and share it once or twice on social media. Every business that is looking to generate ROI from their content marketing should invest time and energy into distributing their content after it goes live.



The key to getting better value and performance from your content lies in matching the right content formats and distribution channels. Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the latter.


The types of content distribution


Although there are many platforms and methods you can use to distribute content, they typically fall within these categories:


  • Owned distribution channels — As the name implies, these are channels that you can control directly.

  • Earned distribution channels — This refers to unpaid content distribution that you typically have to earn.

  • Paid distribution channels — This involves payment for distribution on third-party platforms. It can include, but isn’t limited to PPC, social media ads, influencer marketing, display ads, etc.


For this guide, I’ll focus on organic methods: owned and earned distribution channels.


Owned distribution channels


Owned distribution channels are platforms and assets you control, such as your website, blog, email newsletters, and social media profiles. You can distribute your content on these owned channels by promoting it to your followers or subscribers.


Here are a few examples:


Email list distribution

Email lists are a staple in content distribution.


Building an email list of your target customers and using that list to share your content is a powerful tactic. Email marketing gives you a direct line to your audience’s inbox.



This personal connection allows for you to break through the clutter and drive these individuals back to your content on a regular basis. 


So, if you write a blog post about your latest deal, share it over email. If you write an update about a new feature, share it over email. If you record your very first YouTube series, share it over email. The ability to communicate with your audience over email in a 1:1 way is incredibly valuable and a major leverage point as a content distribution play.


Imagine being able to tailor your content to meet the specific interests of individual email subscribers, or segmenting your audience to deliver highly relevant articles, updates, and offers directly to them. 


Here’s a tactical example: 


Imagine you run a short term rental bed-and-breakfast business and send an email to 100 of your past guests. In most scenarios, a lot of these people will unsubscribe immediately because they only stayed at your rental because they happened to be in town at that time. But here’s how email personalization can be a super power: Let’s say that when these individuals signed up to receive emails from you, they self-identified their current address. You can now send 40 emails instead of 100 to only the people who stayed at your venue as a staycation. This increases the likelihood of tailoring your message to the right people with the right story. 


Social media distribution

Social media distribution is one of the most effective ways to get your story out there to the masses. Unlike email, distributing your content on social media isn’t isolated exclusively to those who opted into your messaging. 


Social media offers a viral network that gives your content a lot more chances to break out and spread from one person to many (or, ideally, many to many).

Imagine you're scrolling through a social media channel, like X, and come across this:


A tweet from Wix that reads “How far along are we in the AI revolution? The answer varies from field to field—what’s your take?” with a link to a blog post.

It’s a post from Wix that lives on their blog getting amplified to their social following. This post on X has more than 48K views, pushing the audience to read the blog post on Wix’s domain.


This is the power of distribution. With growth-focused blog distribution tactics, one blog post can reach thousands simply because they took the time to share it on social media.


With social media, you can share your content and engage with your audience in real-time. From X (Twitter) to LinkedIn to Instagram, each platform offers its unique benefits, audiences, and opportunities for content distribution. Take advantage of them by creating compelling content and amplifying it.


A screenshot of the social sharing interface for blog posts in Wix, showing a field to write a caption, schedule the publication date, and an option to generate the caption via AI. There’s also an image preview of what the social share will look like on Twitter.
Many CMSs, like Wix, offer built-in social sharing capabilities.

Website content distribution

Your brand’s website acts as the central hub for your content distribution, offering a plethora of avenues to engage visitors and share your vibrant content landscape. 


By integrating features like pop-ups, chat boxes, and strategic calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout your site, you can leverage new dimensions of interaction and content promotion.


Below is an example of website content distribution from the team at Gong. If you visit their homepage, you will see that halfway through the site is a collection of blog posts, eBooks and resources that they showcase to visitors.


Gong Resources Blog Screenshot

Placing content that you have created on different sections of your site is a form of owned channel content distribution. It’s especially successful when these pages are already generating a significant amount of traffic from people who may not know that these assets exist.


The related posts section of a blog post on the Wix SEO Learning Hub, showing articles related to content marketing.
Even simple features, like adding related posts at the end of your content, can help move potential customers to the next touchpoint.

Other on-site distribution tactics include things like pop-ups. The team at Briogeo has a pop-up on their site asking people to fill out a hair quiz:


Pop Up Quiz Briogeo CTA

Pop ups like this can grab a visitor's attention at just the right moment, offering them valuable content such as a quiz (that can also double as a method of lead generation). You can do this with eBooks, white papers, or even a subscription to your email newsletter allowing for future distribution directly to their inbox.


Earned distribution channels

Distribution through these channels is gained through your efforts and are not paid for. Some examples of earned content distribution are: 


  • Customer reviews

  • Organic search (AKA SEO)

  • Media mentions, press mentions, and social media shares

  • Word of mouth


These channels tend to be highly trusted by consumers and offer a sense of validation and social proof for your brand, making them invaluable assets for content distribution. 


Customer review sites

Customer review sites are pillars of earned content distribution, and for good reason: People trust reviews. The majority of people trust independent review sites more than any other source, according to a consumer online survey from Software Advice:


A bar graph titled “Which of the following do you trust the most for online reviews?” Independent reviews are at the top, followed by marketplaces, search engines, industry specific rating platforms, manufacturer/vendor websites, forums, and social media.

Consumers consistently rely on these platforms to understand what brands/products others trust and also to voice their experiences and opinions on products and services. This presents you with a unique opportunity to harness the power of organic testimonials.


Platforms like Yelp, Google Business Profile, and industry-specific review sites provide you with valuable feedback from users and serve to amplify your brand’s visibility and credibility. Encouraging happy customers to share their positive experiences can significantly enhance your reputation, driving more traffic to your content and, ultimately, your offerings.


Engaging with reviews, both positive and negative, demonstrates your brand’s commitment to customer satisfaction and continuous improvement, fostering a trustworthy and relatable image in your industry.


Organic search (SEO)

Owning a top position in the search results when someone looks for your brand or offering on Google is a huge opportunity.


Search engine optimization (SEO) provides you with the ability to show up in organic search rankings without paying Google for your spot. The search engine results page (SERP) is the page that Google serves up after you type in a query, like [Best Spas in Georgia]:


The Google search results for [best spas in georgia]. ExploreGeorgia.org is the top result.

In the SERP above, three spas have earned top placements when someone goes to Google to type in this phrase. You may notice that what is actually ranking here is their GBP account, with star ratings, links to their respective websites, and directions—this is why customer reviews are so important.


At the top of the SERP (above the map) is an article from the Exploring Georgia tourism website. This website likely generates a ton of traffic from searchers and the benefactors of this are the spas that happen to be listed on that page. 


This same basic principle applies for all types of businesses with an online presence. For example, eCommerce businesses can create how-to or buying guides to educate audiences about their industry and how to use their products, and make that content available on-demand via search engines.


Media coverage & press mentions

When your content or brand stories catch the eye of journalists and news outlets, the articles talking about your brand can increase your content’s reach. Coverage not only brings your content to a broader audience, it also has the ability to send referral traffic directly to your site.


Engaging with the press, journalists, writers, and media creators (whether through press releases or direct outreach) opens up a distribution channel for your brand/content to get highlighted on platforms where you traditionally may need to pay big bucks to get a little bit of ad space.


In addition, organic media coverage carries an element of trust that you just can’t buy with paid ads, even when those ads appear in the same publication.


Word of mouth

Word of mouth has always been incredibly persuasive for audiences, and with the rise of social media, it has become even more influential. Positive word of mouth can have an exponential effect on your brand’s reach and credibility, making it one of the most cost-effective ways to spread your messaging as it relies heavily on satisfied customers and engaged brand advocates.


Encouraging word-of-mouth recommendations through reviews, referrals, and social media mentions and shares can help you reach audiences that you may not have been able to connect with otherwise. On social media, one of the most effective ways to increase word of mouth is to include a CTA in the original content asset you’re distributing. For example:


  • Tell people on X to retweet

  • Tell people on YouTube to hit share

  • Tell people in their inbox to FWD the email

  • Tell people on LinkedIn to leave a comment


All of these little CTAs can drive meaningful returns.


Bookmark this guide and reference the table below for a quick overview of the content distribution channels mentioned above:


Content distribution channel

Suitable for

Metrics to monitor

Email newsletter

  • A range of businesses (eCommerce, B2B, D2C, publications, etc.)

  • Various types of content, including informational posts, new products, etc.

  • Open, subscribe, and unsubscribe rates

  • The types of content that get clicked on

Social media

  • Engaging with a broad audience in real time

  • Sharing timely content to reach a large consumer base

  • Engagement rates

  • Follower growth

  • Social referral traffic

Website

  • Every brand (both small and large businesses)

  • Capturing leads from your ideal customers

  • Building and establishing brand excellence

  • Website traffic

  • Bounce rates

  • Conversion rates

Customer review sites

  • Brands where decision making includes customer research

  • Building social proof and trust

  • Review referral traffic

  • Total number of reviews

  • Ratings

SEO

  • Increasing organic visibility in search

  • Attracting your target audience at various stages of the marketing funnel

Media coverage

  • Brands looking to reach a broader audience

  • Establishing brand credibility

  • Number of quality mentions

  • Sentiment of coverage

Word of mouth

  • Service-based businesses

  • Leveraging customer advocacy amongst your ideal customers

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)

  • Referral rates

  • Customer lifetime value


Paid distribution channels

Paid distribution channels involve paying to promote or distribute your content on third-party platforms. These distribution channels are not limited to Facebook, Instagram, and Google though. Paid distribution channels also include opportunities for amplification like paid influencer partnerships, podcast ads, or even newsletter sponsorships.


We would be here for hours if we tried to describe all of the ways in which paid distribution can happen. The channels are plentiful, the formats are extensive, and the ways in which you can run your paid media campaigns are diverse. From PPC to fixed rates, the world of paid distribution is one that is vast and significant.


Content distribution strategies


You can approach content distribution by:


  • Repurposing your existing content

  • Resharing your existing content

  • Syndicating your content on third-party platforms

Content repurposing


A flow chart showing the content creation process for a blog post, with branches that represent repurposing for twitter threads, linkedin decks, social videos, email newsletters, etc.

Content repurposing is the practice of reshaping existing content into different formats or fresh pieces to expand its reach and lifespan (i.e., performance). It’s about taking the core ideas or data from your content—be it a blog post, video, podcast episode, webinar, infographic, etc.—and adapting it for various platforms and audiences. 


For example, you could transform a comprehensive research report into: 


  • A series of blog posts

  • Infographics

  • Short videos

  • Social media posts


This strategy maximizes the value of your original content investments while allowing you to engage with different segments of your audience (via the different distribution channels), catering to their unique preferences and consumption habits. 


By repurposing content, you enhance its visibility and effectiveness, ensuring your message resonates across multiple channels and touchpoints.

To repurpose your content effectively, you need to understand your target audience and how they consume content. Once you identify this, consider adapting your existing content into different formats that align with those preferences. 


For example, if you find that your audience prefers visual content, consider repurposing written pieces into infographics or videos. Additionally, think about ways in which you can make your content more interactive and engaging, such as hosting live Q&A sessions or creating polls and quizzes.


Content resharing


Content Resharing On LinkedIn Example

Content resharing is taking something that you created in the past and sharing it over and over and over again. This method is popular with marketers who use it to improve the performance of evergreen content


Resharing evergreen content allows you to reach new audiences and drive ongoing traffic to your website or blog without having to invest the level of time and resources required to create entirely fresh content. 


It’s also a great way to repurpose content, as you can share it on different platforms and revamp its formatting from time to time. For example, if you wrote a comprehensive guide on how to start a business last year, you can reshare the blog post for months to come.


To effectively reshare your content, consider scheduling posts in advance using a social media management tool like Buffer or Hootsuite. Keep in mind different time zones when you're scheduling your content especially if you have a global presence.


Now beware: Don’t use this message as permission to reshare the same thing every day. I’ve seen some brands and people make the mistake of thinking that just because they can reshare content that this is the only thing they should do—that’s a mistake.


Resharing is one of the many distribution strategies that you can embrace. Find a mix of repurposing and resharing to maximize the power of organic distribution. For example, if you have a social media calendar the ideal mix might look like this: 



Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Week 1

New content

New content

Repurposed content

New content

Reshare from Monday

New content

Week 2

Reshare from last Tuesday

New content

Repurposed content

Reshare from last Thursday

New content

Repurposed content


Content syndication

Content syndication is the strategy of republishing your original content on third-party platforms or websites to reach a wider audience. This could mean taking an article that first appeared on your blog and having it published on a larger publication’s site, or sharing your infographic with a partner website that serves a similar target audience.


An example of content syndication, showing an article about three orphaned mountain lion cubs in san diego originally published on PR Newswire, syndicated on Yahoo Finance, Business Insider, etc.

The beauty of content syndication lies in its ability to expand your brand’s reach beyond your immediate followers or subscribers to include the syndication platform’s audience as well, introducing your content (and thereby your brand) to new eyes. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement; your website gains additional exposure and potential traffic, while the host site enriches its content offerings without producing new content firsthand.


If you do decide to embrace content syndication, it’s important to understand best practices. Ensure that your syndicated content hosted on other sites canonicalizes back to your original content (on your domain). This helps search engines understand which version they should send searchers to.


How to distribute your content effectively


Like other digital marketing strategies, you’ll need to research your audience, plan your execution, and report on progress in order for content distribution to yield consistent results.


Step 1: Content distribution research

Understanding who you’re trying to reach—their interests, pain points, and where they spend their time online—informs not only the type of content you create but also the channels through which you share it.


Start by analyzing your customer data and social media habits to build audience personas. These personas should include: 


  • Demographic information

  • Professional info

  • Content preferences

  • Etc.


A screenshot of Facebook audience insights, showing demographics data from ads.

Once you define personas for your audience, you will have a clear picture of the channels they spend time on and the types of content they want on those channels. This research is crucial for developing a content distribution engine that drives consistent and meaningful results.


Here are a few ways to conduct this research:


  • Audience research tools: Leverage software like Sparktoro or Audiense to conduct research that gives insight into the exact channels your audience spends time on. You can learn who they follow, what they talk about, and even what podcasts they listen to.

  • Content research tools: Use content research tools like BuzzSumo to better understand what content your audience shares and engages with online.

  • Native social research: Deep-dive directly into the channels your audience is spending time on and look at how they’re behaving, what content they’re interacting with, and how they’re amplifying (sharing) content in these channels.


Step 2: Content distribution planning

Now that you understand your audience and where they spend their time, you need to plan how you will distribute your content.


Start by identifying the channels you want to target and determine which types of content will resonate best on each platform. For example, visual platforms like Instagram and Pinterest may be better suited to infographics or images, while LinkedIn may be a better fit for long-form articles or thought leadership pieces.


Next, create a content distribution schedule that lists when and where you will share your content on each channel. This can include both organic and paid distribution efforts. Consider utilizing social media management tools to schedule posts in advance and track performance across channels.


An infographic titled “The distribution power of one single video” showing how the video can be repurposed/redistributed as shorter videos for social media, a blog post or social thread, or a podcast.

Step 3: Execute and report on progress

Great content distribution is not just about spreading your content for the sake of it. It’s about driving impact.


Here are some key metrics to track and analyze to gauge the effectiveness of your content distribution strategy:


  • Reach and engagement: Evaluate your content’s audience reach and interaction levels, such as likes, comments, and shares. High engagement rates often signal content relevance.

  • Referral traffic: This refers to the visitors directed to your site from shared content. Assess both traffic volume and visitor behavior to gauge traffic quality and relevance.

  • Leads/Contact generation: While not always applicable, monitoring lead generation from distribution efforts can be crucial. This encompasses actions like form submissions, newsletter sign-ups, or any engagement indicating potential customer interest.

  • Audience growth: Quantifies the expansion of your audience across platforms. A growing audience signifies effective content distribution and brand connection.

By tracking these metrics, you can paint a picture of your content's performance, make informed decisions, and continually refine your content distribution strategy for optimal results.


Channels may change, but the value of content distribution is constant


Distribution changes regularly. It’s not realistic to assume that the channels we’re distributing content on today are the channels that we will use in 5–10 years. The channels always change.


But one thing that doesn’t change is the value of distribution.


Great distribution is the key to a successful content initiative. This is why I wrote an entire book dedicated to distribution called Create Once, Distribute Forever. It’s a complete guide to how to embrace not just the tactical elements of content distribution, but also the theory and strategy behind why distribution is one of the most powerful forces in the digital world.


I hope you check it out.


I hope you also send this along to your team, colleagues, or friends. I’m confident that someone out there you know would benefit from reading it. Let’s get more people off the “content creation hamster wheel” and get more people to realize the importance of distributing their work.


 

Ross Simmonds

Ross Simmonds is the founder of Foundation Marketing, a B2B SaaS Marketing agency that works with some of the worlds most successful brands. He's also the author of Create Once. Distribute Forever: How Great Creators Spread Their Ideas and How You Can Too. Twitter | Linkedin


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