How to Develop a Distribution Strategy to Optimize Content Marketing

How to develop a distribution strategy to optimize content marketing

According to News Cred, “90% of organizations market with content. 86% of B2C marketers and 91% of B2B marketers use content marketing.”

With an oversaturation of brands playing in the content space, differentiating your content strategy with distribution will make the critical difference between winning sales and losing customers.

After decades of technological evolution, the current digital ecosystem is designed (and exists) to support the development and sharing of quality content. The Internet is naturally a social structure due to humans and human relationships governing communication and interaction. Thus any strategy must keep the human, or end user element as a focus.

Many businesses and advertisers operate content strategies that lack distribution direction. As advertisers, we toil away creating the perfect piece, but then watch in horror as our content is thrown out into the metaphorical Internet Lake,
quickly sinking to the bottom without a glance.

Proving content marketing should not be played like Battleship, randomly guessing until you hit something. Rather we should accurately research and map the board until we know the best plan of attack.

The amount of content produced by brands increased by 78% in 2014, but engagement with each piece decreased by 60% according to Track Maven.

Production of content has gone through the roof over the past 5 years. Companies litter the SERP’s with every imaginable article, infographic or post hoping to ring the bell at the top of Google, but still can’t seem to engage consistently.

It’s time we take a step back and analyze how we distribute content to more effectively engage our audience.

First, let’s remember content marketing is not a one size fits all solution. Great strategies identify overall themes, audit the competitor landscape, and expose the best categories to create content. The final piece of content strategy should show the road map to achieve goals by generally dividing media into 3 channels: Paid, Earned, and Owned. How you blend these three types is up to you, but striking the right balance with media channels can pay huge dividends in cost
savings and raised awareness.


The traditional advertising element where brands pay to leverage sponsorships, partnerships, search, or display ads. This includes publications, associations, groups, organizations, and now even native advertising. Research the industry and competitors with tools such as SEMRush or Moz’s Open Site Explorer to see which industry outlet has the strongest authority and backlink referrals. Contact the organization for a media kit to compare rates, targeting, and estimated reach metrics.


In the past “Earned Media” meant that a brand got free exposure without having to pay for the service. Today in digital it means your content was shared or linked to from another place. It’s the primary Google recommended strategy for building links, which genuinely promotes a site as relevant, trustworthy, and authoritative. Social media is a critical channel to use in getting people to see your content and“earn” links and brand mentions.


This is the channel you control. Brand websites, mobile site, apps, blog, or social media accounts. Building long-term relationships with existing and potential customers through owned platforms. Any content created that tells your brand story the customer wants to read.

Content Integration Chart

Integrating Media

Each media channel helps the other. They do not exist in a vacuum. They are not mutually exclusive. Content performs better in the long run when you analyze performance (landing pages, social) within the spectrum of media and adapt with it. A well-received piece of content in a specific channel could reveal an interest of your audiences that may have been created recently or was overlooked.

Benefits of Integrating Media:

  • Earned may not start out that way. Many pieces of content start on the blog as Owned, and then once they gain links they become Earned. Planning for a piece to be Earned from the start helps measure whether it was successful or not.
  • Paid media can grow an audience more likely to engage. Paid advertising lets you reach a very specific audience through a publications email list, website visitors, or social media demographic. These visitors are likely to not know about your brand yet, but are qualified to be interested in your product or service.
  • Earned media can increase interaction with paid media. If a brand’s community responds well to a piece of content, it follows that it would be an excellent piece of content to include in paid media.
  • Paid media can increase the visibility of Earned or Owned content. Maybe your audience doesn’t know that you launched an app, or you’re running a seasonal sale. Paid media can promote the message while engagement and action can create a cycle of discovery, interaction, and sharing with friends.

Insights from Research that Inform Distribution

During Research. Identify these things:

  • Best time of day and week to reach a user. When does your content get the most traction?
  • Types of content that your customers and visitors engage with. Is it infographics, articles, white papers, reports? A company might discover that their Twitter followers share recipes, which would work as a great Promoted Tweet.
  • What does the industry and community like to talk about? Use topic clouds, mind maps, and keyword research to help inspire content ideas based around the fundamentals of a brand’s value prop and the subjects most discussed by industry members.

Putting it All Together

What does this entire thing look like? We can talk all day about what you’re supposed to do, but when the rubber hits the road, what is all this work supposed to look like?

Content marketing demands strategy, focus, research, people, development, targeting, creativity, communication, media and distribution and more; all aligned to actively achieve content goals. Media is just one part of the overall strategy but it’s one that can save wasted spend and get the right people interested in your product.

When developing your content distribution strategy… Have 2 Documents

Media Research

The planning should lay out each silo similar to any media plan but with reach, cost, timeline, and domain authority. Some crossover of categories is likely since you could pay for Social Media ads and also earn media through Social.

Editorial Calendar

Incorporate a monthly timeline layout with grouping such as Theme/Category, description, due date, publish date, status, content type, target audience, primary and secondary channel, promotion, keywords, performance, and KPI’s.