Content Marketing

Content Distribution: How to Do It Right

Joshua Hardwick
Head of Content @ Ahrefs (or, in plain English, I'm the guy responsible for ensuring that every blog post we publish is EPIC).
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The number of websites linking to this post.

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    If you’ve spent time creating content, it makes sense to get as many valuable eyeballs on it as possible. That’s why you need a content distribution strategy.

    If we didn’t have one and just published and prayed, you probably wouldn’t be reading this now. 

    Nobody would. 

    Sounds like a familiar problem?

    Keep reading to learn how to create a winning content distribution strategy in 10 minutes.

    But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page…

    Content distribution is the process of getting your thoughts and ideas in front of potential customers. You do this by publishing and promoting them in various formats across multiple channels.

    For example, I recently had some thoughts about Google and AI content—which I published on our blog:

    My post about how Google doesn't care about AI content, via the Ahrefs Blog

    We then distributed this post to the 200K+ subscribers of our SEO newsletter, Ahrefs Digest

    My post featured in our newsletter that gets sent to over 200K people

    … our 141,172 followers on LinkedIn:

    My post shared by our official Ahrefs account on LinkedIn, which has over 141K followers

    … and I even turned the post into a Twitter thread (which got a fair bit of attention).

    https://twitter.com/JoshuaCHardwick/status/1628755385061609480

    Result? Eyeballs-a-plenty.

    But I know what you’re thinking… 

    If your content is truly amazing, people will find it, share it, and it’ll be going viral in no time, right?

    Sorry, but… no.

    People aren’t just sitting around refreshing your blog homepage waiting for you to publish something new. They’re hanging out on TikTok, Reddit, Instagram, LinkedIn—y’know, the places with algorithms designed to surface content they actually care about.

    If you want potential customers to actually find and consume your content, you need to distribute it in those places.

    Don’t wait for people to come to you. Go to them. 

    People consume content in so many places that marketers have done their usual trick of grouping them into buckets. 

    Let’s discuss the three main ones.

    Owned channels

    Owned channels are those you own and fully control. You can publish or distribute content here whenever you like. You don’t have to pay or ask permission (unless only your boss has the logins!).

    Examples

    • Blog
    • Twitter
    • TikTok
    • YouTube
    • Email list

    Earned channels

    Earned channels are those owned by others where you have to earn coverage. 

    For some channels, like Reddit, this is as straightforward as submitting useful content and hoping a moderator approves it. For others, like if you want to write a post for the Ahrefs Blog, the “gatekeeper” can be a bit more… stringent

    Examples

    • Podcasts
    • Reddit
    • Forums
    • Facebook groups
    • Blogs’ comments

    Paid channels

    Paid channels are those where you have to pay to distribute your content. 

    Examples

    • Google Ads
    • Twitter Ads
    • Outbrain
    • Sponsorships
    What about organic search? What type of channel is that?

    Good question. I’d say it falls into two groups: earned and owned. This is because you usually publish content on an owned channel, like a blog, then earn the content’s distribution in organic search using SEO.

    Given that content usually gets published on owned channels first, blog posts and videos tend to be the most common content formats. This is because most popular owned channels—blogs, YouTube, TikTok, etc.—are made for this kind of content.

    But it’s worth remembering you can create and distribute content in other formats too:

    • Interviews
    • Guest posts
    • Case studies
    • Whitepapers
    • Templates
    • Checklists
    • Ebooks
    • Guides
    • Newsletters
    • Infographics
    • Microsites

    You can even distribute non-digital content formats like books and leaflets. 

    This is an area we recently ventured into with our SEO Book for Beginners:

    Our stunning SEO Book for Beginners

    (Looking to get a copy? Read more about it here.)

    Let’s say you’ve chosen a type of content, created something, and published it somewhere. How do you distribute that content to as many people as possible?

    There are essentially two content distribution strategies you can use.

    The “pull” strategy

    This is where you use other channels to drive traffic to content on an owned channel. You’re trying to “pull” people away from platforms like Facebook, Google, and Twitter to the owned channel where your content lives.

    The "pull" content distribution strategy

    Here’s an example from my colleague, Patrick Stox: 

    https://twitter.com/patrickstox/status/1642912584893362177

    This tweet is basically a pitch for his post. He’s trying to get his followers to leave Twitter and consume the content he published on our blog.

    Here’s another example: 

    Google ads are a good example of a "pull" distribution strategy

    If you click this Google ad, it sends you to a free downloadable content calendar from HubSpot.

    The “push” strategy

    This is where you repurpose or republish content natively on other platforms. You’re “pushing” content to wherever people already hang out rather than trying to drive them off the platform to consume your content elsewhere.

    The "push" content distribution strategy

    Here’s an example:

    https://twitter.com/JoshuaCHardwick/status/1628755385061609480

    This Twitter thread is basically just a condensed version of my blog post about why Google doesn’t care about AI content. I just repurposed the main ideas as a Twitter thread using Typefully.

    Here’s another example: 

    My colleague, Tim, posted a shortened version of his blog post on keyword research on Reddit, which is a great example of a "push" distribution strategy

    My colleague, Tim Soulo, didn’t write this Reddit post from scratch. It’s just a short version of the keyword research guide he already published as part of our beginner’s guide to SEO

    OK, that’s the basics out of the way… but where do you actually start?

    Let’s go through this step by step.

    1. Research your target audience

    It’s impossible to distribute content effectively unless you first know the answers to these questions about your target audience:

    • Where do they hang out and consume content online?
    • Who do they trust in your industry?
    • What types of content do they like to consume?

    Let’s look at a few ways you can answer these questions.

    a) Go with your gut

    Let’s be real: If you work in a marketing leadership position, you should probably already have some idea how to answer these questions. 

    For example, many folks on our marketing team were Ahrefs customers before joining the company. Because of this, we know that people like us hang out and consume content on Twitter and Reddit:

    Members of the r/bigSEO subreddit

    And also in private communities, like our very own Ahrefs Insider:

    Our private community, Ahrefs Insider

    That said, I recommend relying on the collective opinion of your team instead of just yours. Otherwise, your biases may lead you to dumb conclusions…

    A fun conversation between myself and YouTube sensation, Sam Oh

    b) Ask them

    Despite being super obvious, few marketers seem to do this.

    This is a shame, as there’s really no better source of information than the horse’s mouth. It’s also super quick and easy to do. Just create a quick survey with multiple-choice answers to the questions above and send it over to your existing audience (e.g., subscribers). 

    c) Research popular blogs

    Most industries have a few popular blogs, and these are good seeds for audience research.

    Here’s a quick way to find popular blogs in your industry: 

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer
    2. Enter a few broad topics related to your niche separated by the “OR” operator
    3. Select “In title” from the dropdown and run the search
    4. Filter for websites with traffic <500K to exclude big brands
    5. Go to the Websites tab

    For example, let’s say we sell BBQs and want to create and distribute content about that. If we search for “bbq OR grill,” we see websites in that niche sorted by their estimated monthly organic traffic.

    How to find popular blogs in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

    Given that many of these websites get plenty of traffic, we can see right away that our audience is searching for answers on Google and consuming blog posts. 

    From here, we can also check the “Authors” tab to uncover prolific authors in the niche that our audience may like and trust:

    Popular authors in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

    It’s then just a case of digging a bit deeper to figure out where these bloggers are publishing and distributing content, and where they hang out online. 

    For example, let’s take Susie Bulloch, founder of heygrillhey.com.

    If we click through to her Twitter profile from Content Explorer, we can see that she only has a few thousand followers and hasn’t tweeted since May 2022:

    Susie Bulloch, founder of a popular grilling blog, clearly doesn't care much for distributing content to Twitter

    Given that she runs one of the biggest sites in the niche with an estimated 700K monthly search visits (according to Ahrefs), this is clearly not where she hangs out online or distributes content.

    If we search Google, we see that she’s much more active on Instagram:

    She cares more about distributing content on Instagram

    … Facebook: 

    She cares more about distributing content on Facebook

    … and TikTok (even though she hasn’t attracted a lot of followers there yet):

    She cares more about distributing content on TikTok

    There’s also a fairly active Hey Grill Hey YouTube Channel with ~170K subscribers:

    She cares more about distributing content on YouTube

    I also spotted that she runs a private community (“The Grill Squad”) on Facebook (which she sells access to via her website)…

    She even has a private paid community

    … as well as a free newsletter:

    She also has a free newsletter

    I repeated this process for a few niche blogs and authors and found that it’s a similar story for them all. They’re mostly distributing content to visual platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. 

    2. Distribute your content using the “pull” strategy

    Publishing content in any format takes a lot of time and effort, so it makes sense to drive as many eyeballs as possible there. This is where the “pull” distribution strategy comes in. 

    Here’s a quick reminder of how it works:

    The "pull" content distribution strategy

    For example, we try to “pull” our 136K Twitter followers to our blog posts:

    https://twitter.com/ahrefs/status/1491411604889559042

    And our 102K Facebook followers:

    Using the "pull" strategy on Facebook

    And our (now) 141K LinkedIn followers:

    Using the "pull" strategy on LinkedIn

    And our 200K+ newsletter subscribers:

    Using the "pull" strategy in our newsletter
    Sidenote.
    Your owned distribution channels may differ. It depends on who you’re targeting and where they hang out online. Our channels are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and email because they make sense for us. We don’t distribute content to Instagram, Snapchat, or TikTok because they are not really where our audience is.

    We also distribute our content via organic search using SEO.

    In fact, this is the bread and butter of our content distribution strategy because, unlike many other channels, traffic from organic search is passive and consistent.

    For example, here’s the estimated organic traffic to our affiliate marketing guide over the years:

    Estimated organic search traffic to our affiliate marketing post, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    Although there are some fluctuations, you can see that the page has been attracting between ~16K and ~60K monthly search visits since we published it almost three years ago.

    3. Distribute your content using the “push” strategy

    Not everyone is going to want to consume your content in its original format—especially if it’s published somewhere they don’t usually hang out online, like your blog.

    This is where the “push” distribution strategy comes in.

    Here’s a reminder how this works:

    The "push" content distribution strategy

    Instead of trying to pull people away from the platforms they’re already using, you repurpose and republish your content in a native format to get it in front of more people. 

    Let’s look at a few ways to do this.

    Twitter threads

    This is where you publish a “too long didn’t read” version of your content as a series of tweets.

    Here’s one I did about keyword cannibalization in 2021:

    https://twitter.com/JoshuaCHardwick/status/1468581163363188750

    This was quick to write and publish because it was just a condensed version of my guide to keyword cannibalization

    Reddit posts

    Here’s an example from Tim: 

    Example of the "push" strategy on Reddit

    He published this on the /r/bigSEO subreddit. As it’s basically just a condensed version of his beginner’s guide to link building, it didn’t take him long to write.

    Facebook groups

    Before joining Ahrefs, I made a video about how to find guest post opportunities. 

    I’m not going to share it here because it’s embarrassingly bad, but I published it natively on Facebook in my group. I then asked the owners of SEO Facebook groups whether I could post it in their groups. Most agreed. 

    Here’s one of those posts:

    Example of the "push" strategy on Facebook

    As you can see, I managed to drive quite a few views by doing this:

    The result of using the "push" strategy on Facebook

    Guest posts

    Guest blogging is where you write a post for another blog in your industry. It’s a great way to distribute content, especially if you can get published on a site with a large audience.

    Example: Back in the day, I wrote a post about video SEO for Kissmetrics:

    Example of the "push" strategy with guest posts

    This was a super popular blog at the time, so it got my thoughts and ideas in front of many people.

    But how do you find websites to write guest posts for?

    There are many ways, but one of the simplest is to pitch sites that have already published content about similar topics.

    Here’s how to find them:

    1. Go to Ahrefs’ Content Explorer
    2. Enter a similar topic to the one you want to write about
    3. Change the dropdown to “In title”
    4. Go to the Websites tab

    For example, if we wanted to distribute content about link building, we could look for sites that have published posts about keyword research. They’re likely to be receptive to a pitch for a post about a closely related topic.

    How to find guest post opportunities, via Ahrefs' Content Explorer

    4. Distribute content using paid channels

    Paid channels can be used to “pull” people toward content on another platform or to get more eyeballs on native content (“push” strategy). It depends on the channel and what you’re trying to achieve.

    For example, on Twitter, you can promote tweets that link to content on another platform…

    Use the promote button on Twitter to "pull" people to your content

    … or tweets with native content, like this thread:

    Use the promote button on Twitter to promote "pushed" content

    (I’m guessing Elon Musk doesn’t really care which you choose as long as you’re giving him $$$.)

    Here are a few more paid channels worth considering:

    Google search ads

    Google ads appear above organic search results. You just choose your keywords, decide how much you’re willing to pay for a click, and that’s it.

    For example, we distributed our free SEO tools this way in 2022:

    Example of us using Google Ads to promote our list of free SEO tools using the "pull" strategy

    Because you choose which keywords to bid on, Google Ads is a great way to reach people who are actually searching for your content.

    Not sure which keywords to bid on?

    See which keywords your competitors are running ads for. To do this, plug a competitor into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and go to the Paid keywords report.

    How to see your competitors' paid keywords in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

    Podcasts and newsletters

    You might have seen us sponsoring a fair few of these.

    In fact, in December 2021, we decided to move our entire paid advertising budget away from big players like Facebook and Google and, instead, use it to sponsor influential industry podcasts and newsletters.

    https://twitter.com/ahrefs/status/1463495813900820488

    Learn more about our results in this thread:

    https://twitter.com/timsoulo/status/1495681978347429889

    Native advertising

    Native ads are advertisements that look like regular content and appear on popular websites, e.g., USA Today, AOL, MSN, Weather.com, etc.

    Taboola and Outbrain are popular marketplaces for native ads.

    This coffee company converted 10K new customers in six months using native ads.

    Facebook ads

    Facebook allows you to boost your posts to more users on its platform. Just click the big “Boost post” button to do this.

    How to boost posts on Facebook to "pull" people to your content

    Given that the purpose of content distribution is to reach more people, it’s important to measure performance to see which channels and strategies are most effective at doing that.

    Below are a few tools that can help.

    Sidenote.
    Pretty much every social network has its own analytics. I didn’t think there was much point in listing them all, so I just listed the “big” ones like Twitter and LinkedIn.

    What next?

    Distribution is only one part of a successful content marketing strategy. Check out my favorite content marketing tools to help with everything from planning, to writing, to distribution.

    Article Performance
    • Organic traffic
      229
    • Linking websites
      77

    The number of websites linking to this post.

    This post's estimated monthly organic search traffic.