This is part 4 in a 7-part series on the seven pillars of a strong content market strategy. The first pillar in creating a strong foundation for a content marketing strategy was knowing the objective. Pillar #2 was “Be on brand” (and know when it’s okay to be off-brand). Pillar #3 was picking the right content type. In this post, I will cover content distribution—what to take into consideration and my platform recommendations for the three main forms of content you might create: blogging, videos, and audio podcasts.
It goes without saying that a strong foundation for any content marketing strategy has to include content distribution—the process by which you will distribute that content. There are a plethora of parameters and principles of which you need to aware when making platform decisions. Many of those will be based on the first two pillars: knowing your objective and being on-brand. But other considerations include:
- Devices used by your audience. Is your audience primarily on laptops, desktops, smartphone, or iPads (and their equivalent)? Which operating system does it use and how does that affect the content quality. Some operating systems create slight game shifts in visual content, so that may affect how you light a vide0.
- The percentage of your audience on mobile. Chances are a majority of your audience will view your content on some kind of mobile device. Also, Google’s search ranking algorithms will penalize your content and rank it lower if it is not mobile-ready. You will, therefore, want to select a platform that will make your content mobile-ready. That means when viewed on mobile devices, the way the audience interacts with the content will adjust accordingly to optimize the view experience. Blog pages adjust so that words are larger and images adjust. Video and podcast controls will be easily accessible. If you’ve ever visited a website on your mobile device where you had to pinch and zoom in order to read or view the content, that site is not mobile-ready.
- The ease with which others can share the content. If you want that video to go viral, you need to make it easy for viewers to share it. By the same token, you want the viewing experience to be a good one (see above). If it’s a video, can they expand it to fill the screen? Is there closed captioning? At the end of the video, what options are presented to the viewer? How many clicks does it take the user to share, and do they have the option to easily share it across multiple social media platforms?
- Quality of your content after distributed (e.g. compression, audio, streaming, etc.) What kind of compression is used? Is the original file preserved and available for download? What kind of quality is streamed?
- Costs. The financial investment required will be based on a number of issues. The size of the audience, the amount of content you need to manage, the number of features you’ll need, etc. The costs associated with blogging, video, and podcasting can literally range from free to hundreds of dollars per month. As in most services, you get what you pay for.
My Content Distribution Recommendations
I’ve been doing some form of content marketing even before they called it “content marketing.” As early as 2004, I’ve been using videos, blogs, and/or podcasts to market my business or personal brand. In all that time, I’ve seen different platforms come and go, and I’ve studied the pros and cons of the main resources. Below are my recommendations for each of the main forms of content: blogs (writing), videos, and audio podcasts. Some of them you will recognize, others may be new to you. All are solid choices, but not the only choices. Based on the first three pillars I’ve discussed, do your homework to determine which of these is best for you.
Video Content Distribution
This is undoubtedly the area where most of you will have the most interest. I also suspect it’s the area where you probably have the most personal and professional experience. I trust most of you know the key differences between Vimeo and YouTube, or Wistia and Vidyard, etc. So I want to take this time to address an issue that is a personal soapbox of mine: when and how businesses should use YouTube vs. a service like Wistia, Brightcove, Vidyard, etc.
Pro Hosting Service vs. YouTube
I don’t doubt that most of you reading this have a YouTube channel and/or create and manage them for clients. When you consider the millions of videos per hour added to the service, I would be remiss not to address its value as a valid video distribution method. (There’s almost no point giving you a figure of how many videos are added each hour because by the time you read it, it’ll probably be updated to something else.) YouTube is a great resource for education and entertainment. The overwhelming majority of people who use it are looking for something that falls into one of those two categories. Whether it’s tutorials on how to use the latest camera and NLE release, Trevor Noah’s latest biting political critique, or an excerpt from The View, YouTube is where you’ll find it.
The mistake that I see so many companies and organizations make (besides trying to make a “viral” video purposefully), is using YouTube as their primary video distribution channel, even going so far as putting a YouTube version of their promo video on their website. Every time I see this it’s like nails on a chalkboard. I just want to reach out to them and say “Fools! Fools!”
The age-old argument I hear is that “YouTube is the #2 search engine. Everyone is on YouTube. We need to have a presence on YouTube.” These are all true. The problem is that YouTube is designed to keep people ON YOUTUBE. And if you share a YouTube video separate from YouTube.com, it’s designed to get people BACK to their site (i.e. LEAVE your site). So what do you see at the end of a YouTube player: links to other videos that will take you to YouTube when you click them. Bye, bye your website. Then, once you’re on YouTube, you become like my son in a Lego Store: facing hundreds of distractions to keep you on their site for as long as they can.
When determining which video distribution platform to use, keep this in mind: unless you are a professional YouTuber making money from your channel, the objective of any videos you put on YouTube should ultimately be to drive traffic to your site. The titles, tags, and descriptions you use on YouTube should be designed to capture as much traffic already on YouTube, then divert that traffic to your site. If they are already on your site, ti makes no sense to send them back to YouTube.
That’s where services like Wistia, Vidyard, Vimeo Business, and Brightcove come in. They allow you to distribute videos in such a way where your brand is promoted and more importantly, drive traffic to your site. They all have varying feature sets, but the features you want to look out for include:
- The ability to decide where end screens link
- The ability to capture email addresses directly within the player
- Custom branding
- Video sitemapping (a video sitemap is a small file on your website that gives search engines information about the videos on your site, making them easier to index and rank)
- Detailed statistics
- Sharing links
- Easily embeddable players
I still think it’s a good idea to have YouTube versions of your videos, but my recommendation is to have such videos on your site first, then once they’ve ranked (in 3-4 weeks’ time), add them to YouTube. This is specifically for promotional or similar videos that are not specifically educational or entertaining in nature. Assuming you have the budget, I would even post pro-hosted versions of educational and entertainment on your site first.
I’m going to assume I don’t need to extol the benefits and virtues of podcasting. Podcasting was already growing in popularity when “Serial” exploded on the scene five years ago. Since then, it has become so huge, Spotify has made it a core part of its growth strategy, aiming squarely for Apple’s current hegemony. As with all of these content marketing channels, there is a plethora of choices for how to distribute a podcast. Many of you may already have the audio equipment you need to produce one, but even if you don’t, you can literally create one using your smartphone audio note feature and a service like Anchor.fm (which has the added benefit of being free, and it allows you to monetize your show).
When selecting a podcast platform, you want to look for similar features as a video platform:
- Easily embeddable player
- Ability to add your branding and imagery
- A player with sharing controls
- Ability to automatically distribute to all the major podcast networks (e.g. Apple, Spotify, Google, etc.)
Some additional features not necessarily mandatory, but might be worthwhile depending on your content marketing objectives:
- Ability to monetize your podcast (either by sharing in commercial and sponsorship revenue and/or the ability to have listeners pay for premium content)
- oEmbed players (this is the ability to paste just a single link to an episode or player, and the full player will appear (e.g. the YouTube videos on this page are oEmbeds).
Perhaps the biggest player in the game is Libsyn. They’ve been in it almost since the beginning and have a full suite of features. Other strong recommendations I have (besides Anchor and Libsyn) include, Simplecast, Pinecast, and Soundcloud. I currently use Pinecast for my Radio Film School podcast because of the suite of services you get (including unlimited storage) for only $10/month (as of this writing).
Last but not least, is blogging. In fact, in many ways, blogging is still the most effective way to build a strong content marketing strategy. And that makes sense, right. It’s words that the search engines are predominantly searching for, so it stands to reason that the more words your site has, the better your SEO ranking.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time covering a topic I’m sure many of you are aware. You are most likely aware of the most popular blogging platform on the plane: WordPress. You probably already know there are two “flavors” of WordPress:
- WordPress.com—where you can register a free WordPress.com site, e.g. yoursite.wordress.com.
- A hosted WordPress site—where your hosting provider creates a WordPress database for you, you pick a theme, and log in to create pages and posts (Pro Video Coalition is a WordPress site).
There are other popular all-in-one web hosting platforms that include blogs: namely sites like Squarespace, Wix, and Webflow. All of these services have the basic, core set of features: SEO tools, relative ease of use, and support for multiple themes.
One blogging platform I’d like to recommend is Medium. Think of it as “YouTube for writers.” There are “channels” called publications. You can earn money through the Medium Partner Program. And you can grow followers. Like YouTube, Medium is its own ecosystem, with approximately 200 million monthly visitors. It has an Alexa domain ranking of 81, It was co-founded by Ev Williams (co-founder of both Blogger and Twitter—geeze, talk about lighting striking three times!) and has over 130M in venture funding. All that to see, it’s not going anywhere.
Because of Medium’s large ecosystem, it’s an excellent source to find additional audience members. The beauty of it as a platform is that if you already have a blog, there is still much value in cross-posting to Medium. The site allows you to make your original blog post the canonical URL. In short, that means when a search engine comes across your original post and the Medium version, it will see the original post as the one that should rank higher, thereby eliminating the drawbacks of duplicate content.
Share your experience
It goes without saying that for all of these distribution channels, there are many options, all with relative pluses and minuses. We’d like to hear from you. What has been your experience with these, or other channels. Share in the comments below, or tweet at us on Twitter.