Most people think content promotion is something you do after you’re done creating it. But the reality is that you need to plan how you will promote content right from the beginning.
Seasoned entrepreneurs don’t build a product until they know how they plan to sell/market it.
“Seasoned content marketers shouldn’t build an epic piece of content unless they know how it will reach a wide audience.”
I decided to ask 13 content marketing experts to share their strategies for promoting content. I also got them to reveal their biggest challenge with promoting content. Read on for their insightful responses.
Several themes emerged in the advice from these experts. Here’s a quick summary:
Certainly it depends on the goals and the type of content, but one of the most common ways is to leverage Snip.ly to promote content.
We plan out PR influencer outreach, sharing wireframes and ideas before a piece of content is launched. We want to get buy-in and convince people to link to or share the piece even before it’s done. Additionally, we identify similar content types and the people who shared them using BuzzSumo and a number of other social listening tools.
It’s never a question of buy-in from clients for us because we wouldn’t be able to create something if it they hadn’t bought into it. Boring industries represent opportunities to me since there’s not much cool stuff already in existence in that space. Typically the biggest challenge is lack of budget. Clients see content marketing as a largely organic function, and they are leery of putting paid media into it. Therefore we have to do all of the leg work through outreach of some kind. Launching content works a lot better when you have a Paid, Owned and Earned strategy to support it.
We do a huge amount of work in the planning phase. That starts with audience research to understand, in real detail, the likes, loves, hates, and interests of the people we want to build a relationship with (the audience). We do that by pulling lots of data from existing marketing channels within the business we are working with and then adding to that with search and social data.
The result of this work is the creation of 1-4 personas. We design our content strategy around them. This info then rolls into our content ideas process: a structured way of surfacing consistently great content ideas.
Those ideas are then approved by the client and come back to a content strategist, whose job it is to pull it together into a cohesive content calendar that conforms to our rules around content flow. The final calendar is then approved and the creation process begins.
The biggest challenge is education. We need to fully convince the client that content is not a short-term investment. Committing to that investment can be tricky in a digital world that has traditionally delivered fast results. That time has, thankfully, gone for good and we must now work hard every day to achieve that success through the process of real marketing and brand building. We know it does work but the brand must have a long enough runway to allow it to work.
That buy-in also includes giving the agency the ‘power’ to create content that will appeal to journalists. Often that process will cross teams so we have to work hard to gain the trust of all of those stakeholders to ensure they are comfortable with us and comfortable with us creating content they haven’t necessarily worked with in the past. Creating something with a sales message simply doesn’t work and getting over that can be tricky.
I plan around product launches, holidays, and keyword cycles. If a number of competitive websites are blogging about a certain topic, I will research different topics and/or keyword sets so the client stands out and isn’t lost in the content crowd.
If the client is getting ready to launch a new service, we’ll create content to pitch to the media and source to key bloggers for low-key viral impact. I rarely recommend creating content unless there is a promotional tie-in. Things like product launches, coupons, updates, etc., really help make a piece of content linkable and shareable.
Features Editor for Search Engine Land
“Unless informational content is new or answering something not previously known, its success rate tends to stall without a promotion.”
Lack of budget. With competition increasing, you have to step up your game which usually means adding elements (video mostly) which makes the campaign cost more.
That’s a loaded question! It all depends on what kind of content I want to produce. If it’s an article or blog post I want to promote, I may not even publish it on one of my owned websites. Instead, I may publish it on HuffPo, The Guardian, Moz, HubSpot, Social Media Today or Business2Community.
These websites have way more audience than I do so getting an article on them exposes my content to way more folks. I just make sure I include a strong call to action in the copy to download something on one of my sites. That way I’m driving leads or subscribers. After a week or so I may syndicate that content back on my site for my audience to consume.
If I publish exclusively on one of my own sites, I might give a couple industry friends a sneak peek at the content before it’s published to solicit their feedback.
VP of Marketing, InPowered
“Soliciting feedback is a soft way to pitch influencers.”
Once you have their feedback and agreement on the content piece they’re much more likely to share it once you ask them to. In addition, I have my RSS feed tapped into over 10 different native paid networks. That means I have the full distribution logistics infrastructure in place to ensure my content is amplified before I hit publish.
If the content is something more advanced, like a study, survey, guide, ebook, etc., I’ll likely take a different approach. I’ll put the research in and figure out who I want to write for, where they hang out online, what content is most popular on those sites, who the influencers are around that topic, and which keywords they are searching for. This information is critical in the creation and promotion of the content piece.
Ultimately, what I’m going to try and do is get some influencers involved in the content production (interviews, quotes, etc.), identify the problems my target audience is trying to solve and solve them, and uncover the media outlets and trade publications they read in order to pitch them later for content coverage. Any coverage I earn I’ll put some native paid amplification behind. Earned media coverage of this nature is validation that the advanced content is indeed valuable. That usually comes in the form of higher conversion rates.
The biggest conundrum I’m facing is when to quit promotion on any one particular content piece.
I guess that’s a good problem to have because most marketers aren’t even doing content promotion yet. On native paid channels I’ve capped promotion at $200 per article. However, for advanced content I spend the entire budget I’m allocated (usually between $500 to $2k). I have to request budget up the chain for each advanced content piece. There’s really no rhyme or reason other than budgetary constraints that I use caps on native paid channels.
On the other hand, earned media for content coverage really doesn’t have an expiration. If we have an ebook that was written two years ago and it’s still relevant today we’ll drop a link to the ebook in a byline, guest post, or syndication if that ebook is prudent to the topic of the article written. Some of the bylines we’ve done on HubSpot are perfect examples of this. However, middle or bottom of the funnel content rarely gets promoted because it’s value is typically appreciated by folks in our sales funnel. The paid and earned channels we use aren’t typically littered with folks in our sales process.
Our email and social media broadcasting for content promotion really never stops either. As long as the content is still prudent we’ll continue to include it in our lead nurturing workflows and scheduled social posts.
There are many things we do to plan for content promotion before we hit publish, including some of the tips already mentioned here—we use CoSchedule for editorial calendar planning and social media scheduling, we have a pretty robust and strict editorial process, and we use our monster blog checklist.
But one thing we’ve started doing this year that’s new for us, and seems to be different than others, is we use BuzzSumo to see what old content could use a nice refresh. For instance, if I type spinsucks.com into the search bar on the homepage right now and then click on the past five years, I can see the most popular content during that time.
The most popular is an article on what to include in your social media policy…and it’s four years old. In fact, the first seven listed are four years old. That gives us enough motivation to refresh that content with new tips and updated tools and get it some additional exposure.
The question of “how do I promote my content?” should be asked before content is even created or ideated.
That said, creating great content is harder than ever just because of the amount of content out there and how many top publications hold the top spots in a Google search for topics. In my agency, we answer this question pre-creation stage by goal-bucketing: our three goals are sales, brand awareness, or SEO.
A keyword search will generate some low-competition, long-tail keywords that we can rank for after creating a comprehensive blog on the topic. Brand awareness might include a blog about a product launch, new offering, or writer/team member interview. A sales-oriented piece might be a client testimonial video, whitepaper, or case study.
Founder, Express Writers
“Great content is so much easier to promote than mediocre content.”
Starting with goals at the creation stage means promotion literally gets 1000x easier. We do not even have to push paid ads on an SEO piece: generally, these pieces now rank within 30-60 days and start earning organic traffic and leads consistently over time. Another avenue we do is guest blogging, another non-paid, high-traffic content format. If we’re not publishing on our own site (90% of our content goes to our site), we’ll depend on the guest platform to do their own promotion, which also makes it super easy on us.
It’s harder than ever to have your voice/content heard and read in a world where 2 million blogs go out daily. My stance for getting the word out, again, comes down to the quality and goals of your content. Why should I read your new blog post? What original research, thoughts, features does it contain? If you can answer this for your reader, and create content that you’re so proud of, you want to tell everyone about it – you’re on the right track. Promotion will be far easier and a more organic effort if your content is truly awesome instead of just adding to the noise by creating the same content on old topics.
I strongly believe that content promotion is the key to content marketing.
For each piece of content you need a content promotion strategy.
The main way that people find content these days is a search engine. Thus you have to think about SEO as part of your content creation process. You need to think about factors such as topics and keywords, you need to assess the level of competition and how your content improves upon what is already out there.
To rank you will need links. Which sites will link to your content and why. In my experience many high ranking sites will link to your article if it is authoritative, for example backed by a large scale survey or data. Many people also find content via social media. Thus you can think about who is interested in the content you are writing and who will share the content? You can discuss the content with other interested people and involve them in the content creation process and even quote them as part of the content. You can also discuss it with people in your own business or circle of friends and ask them to share the content when it is published.
If no one is waiting for your content to be published you have not seriously engaged in content promotion. Also consider which content you will put some paid promotion behind as this can help give you some initial traction and engagement. One of the best ways we promote content at BuzzSumo is by emailing our subscriber list, one thing you need above all others to promote content is an email subscriber list.
“You can no longer publish content and expect people to find it.”
We live in a world where it is very hard to gain audience attention, particularly for a small blog or a new blog. You are unlikely to have a large readership or thousands of email subscribers. I have a very small personal blog Brighton cafe where I write about political data and I have found it useful to engage with a small number of influencers and involve them in what I am doing. For example, I wrote a post on 10 insights from the UK General Election backed by data and promoted this to a small number of influencers that I knew would be interested. A number of these shared the post and effectively enabled me to leverage their audience for my content.
A detailed content calendar is crucial for me when it comes to promoting content. Ensuring new content aligns with other ongoing marketing efforts is essential in creating a clear path for visitors. Building buzz about a topic we are already planning for creates a need for our resources. The weeks leading up to a new content launch are just as important as promotions afterward.
The biggest challenge I face in promoting content is getting it in front of the right audience. It is easy to publish content on your own site; guest posts, links, and mentions by industry influencers are a different, more difficult matter. However, these provide very valuable results for content promotion. Researching areas where you want your content to be promoted, and creating a plan to appear in these places, should be a big part of any content promotion strategy.
In fact, once we have a great idea for content we do some research and make sure there is a market for the content we are about to create. Once you prove your content has a receptive audience that you can easily define/target, you can move into production.
While your content is being created you need to be building custom outreach lists with tools like BuzzSumo and Followerwonk.
Gherich & Co.
“I start thinking about promotion as soon as the idea is formed. If you wait until it’s time to market to start to think about promo you are setting yourself up for a disaster. ”
You should also start to reach out to high-end journalists and try to find one who will collaborate on the piece with you. If you get their feedback along the way, and offer them first dibs on the content, you already have a great launch partner lined up!
You should also have your paid social media campaigns queued up and ready to go with customized targeted lists. Also, make sure you/your client have emails ready to be sent to their audience/newsletter.
On launch day you and your team should personally reach out to “friends” and influencers you know who would be interested in the content in addition to your outreach campaign.
I am over-simplifying this a lot but hopefully you get the idea that promotion goes hand in hand with and throughout production.
I think scale is something we all struggle with. It’s not that hard to produce a great piece of content here and there and promote it. However, it is much harder to do that X times per month for yourself or clients month after month.
You really have to plan out your promotion so you don’t overwhelm your outreach contacts. This why I like to set up content schedules to hit different sectors of niches each month so I can skip certain sectors for a few months before circling back.
You don’t want to promote 5 pieces of Social Media Marketing content at the same time.
Content is planned through a combination of research and reflection. The research is what’s tangible: what are people discussing today in your industry, and can you measure the popularity of those discussions? The reflection is what’s intangible, and perhaps more potent than research. What do you find interesting that others may connect with? Where do you see the discussion headed? Original, creative observations will generate content that resonates with people.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced in promoting content is motivating clients to adhere to a schedule and stay organized. Processes and strategies have been created, but cooperation is needed for them to actualize. You must respectfully convey expectations, but more importantly, continually revisit why expectations are in place. What are the goals and projected results? Ultimately, the why is the common purpose between you and your client.
The nice thing about writing content for ourselves and/or our clients is we have a solid understanding of who the target is and where those people are. That means that before we even start writing the post, when we are simply creating the topics, we’re already thinking about who we want to get that content in front of.
For example, we have a client who targets those in the HR industry. When an HR related post is set to publish, we’ve already identified which groups we may want to promote it in, which hashtags to use on Twitter, and if we are paying to promote it, which segments we want to hit in which network.
The idea is you aren’t reacting when your content goes live. You have written a piece of content with a specific audience in mind, and now your job is to get that content it in front of that audience.
I’d say it’s time. Many of our clients just don’t have time to go and promote it in the right places. They don’t have to time to go and build up their presence in social networks or build out the relationships that are required to successfully promote a piece a piece of content.
Often, it’s publish and simply promote everywhere, without regard for whether or not they’re reaching the right audience.
Before publishing content our Social Team at Search Engine People likes to create editorial calendars to plan content for the months ahead. Editorial calendars allow us to plan content around promotions, events, and holidays, and they help us plan to find outside content that will support our client content. They also allow the client to give us feedback and support materials ahead of time. A big benefit is this allows to get approval and buy-in from the client before content is written and it gives us the opportunity to do some trend spotting and take advantage of seasonal search trends.
We also create snackable bits of information around a piece of content that we can use to promote one piece of content in multiple ways. If the client has a blog, our team pulls any tips, facts, and stats from it and creates graphic tips. This allows us to post on several platforms multiple times without looking repetitive.
BUDGET! It can be very hard to convince some clients that there is strong ROI in social media. Often they don’t understand the effort and costs involved. There are many working parts: you have to create the main content, create content to support the main content, pay for promotion and have someone manage it. Many clients don’t see the benefits or need for a paid promotional budget on platforms like Facebook; they believe just creating the content should be enough even when we tell them that the average organic reach of content on a Facebook brand page is only around 6%.
Another reason for the gap in understanding how much time and resources it takes is that clients typically don’t understand that using social media as a selling tool is different from the effort they put into posting on their personal social media profiles.
I actually go through an entire checklist before I hit publish to make sure I’m setting my content up for good promotion, but my biggest tip by far is to use CoSchedule. This handy tool allows you to get your social promotion lined up before you even hit publish and you can see the entire editorial calendar to make sure you have a comprehensive content publishing and social schedule ready to go.
The other monster promotion tip I have is this: when planning content, think about topic “hubs” you can create. Whenever you publish a massive blog post, guide, or other long-form content, make sure you have several shorter, detailed posts set up to support it. I think of them like spokes on a wheel, with the huge resource being the center hub.
It’s great when other people promote your content, but set yourself up to be your own best promoter with robust internal linking. As a bonus, these shorter, detailed posts make great guest posts. Most bloggers link to their blog home page in a guest post bio, but you’re often better served linking to an individual post directly related to the topic at hand.
Content Marketing Consultant
“Great promotion takes time, and it’s always a challenge to help clients understand that.”
First, you need to actually devote time to doing the promotion. Often, I’m hired to just do the writing part of a project, and when a client comes back to me unhappy about the results after publishing, 99% of the time it is because they didn’t do any promotion of the piece beyond an auto-tweet when it first went live. The “if we have great content, readers will find us” model doesn’t work.
Second, you need to give content time to perform well. Sometimes content takes off right away, but these initial traffic spikes rarely lead to conversions. It’s the long-term traffic you need to watch. Is the post still getting social love three months later? Have the backlinks to the post brought in a ton of search engine traffic once it was indexed? Can older posts be revived through internal linking and repurposing? Clients often don’t have a plan for long-term content promotion, they just want new content created. Changing that way of thinking, so people see how their content can work for them over the course of months or even years, is my biggest challenge. We all love immediate gratification. But with smart planning, I’ve seen a single blog post bring in MILLIONS of new readers for relatively small niche blogs.
Reddit is an extremely insightful polling platform. Before I push content, I want to know if it will stick. So part of my planning usually involves me checking out different subreddits to find upvoted questions and other stuff. It helps me gauge what is popular in a client’s niche and steers me in the right direction when brainstorming content ideas. If you can bear the distraction of surfing the front page of the web, you can always find some inspiration there.
BuzzSumo’s Question Analyzer provides an easy way to identify questions asked on Reddit, or in individual subreddits.
In this example, you can see the most asked about topics in the r/SEO subreddit.
My biggest challenge with content is making it sticky.
It requires wit, humor, creative genius, imagery, utility, good timing, and client approval. None come easy. It’s when these elements all come together that the content promotes itself!
We have a structured template for promoting one off pieces. More importantly though we plan things in advance so that the pieces of content complement each other and allow anyone to access the content in a few ways.
Another crucial element in the preparations is the pre-outreach, I will talk to people and ask what they think about an idea, and then about the first draft/mockup of a piece of content and ensure there is interest. Then at a later stage I’ll make my ‘ask’ and see what actual help on the day of launch I can count on.
The biggest challenge is definitely breaking through the noise.
“There is so much content produced at the moment that having buy-in from the audience in advance of publishing anything is crucial.”
Also the attention to detail: content has to have the right design, headline, concept, data, outreach, budget–everything, in order to succeed. In the old days it was a lot easier and you could get away with less detailed proposals.
Have your social promotion content ready to go before you publish. You need to think about the imagery/videos/text that will be needed when you publish the content. Imagery is great for content promotion because you can create multiple images that target a different part of the blog post which entices a different audience. One image for one blog post is never enough!
Do some pre-promotion. Last year I created a post which outlines all the areas of social media analytics that you need to be concerned with. But, before I published it, I reached out to some key influencers to get feedback on the ‘Social Media Analytics Compass’. When I published the post I mentioned everyone that contributed to the ‘compass’ and then reached out to tell them about it.
The more you can involve your audience in your content the more likely they are to buy into the content and share it!
Ask yourself: is your post Is the best article on this topic? When you do outreach to promote your content, if it’s not a super high quality article then it’s going to be difficult to get attention to it.
Do your research up front to figure out what is the best article related to this topic and create a better one. If you’re confident it’s the best piece of content it will make it easier to promote it.
The biggest challenge is the time required. It’s so easy to create a piece of content and move onto the next one. However, less content with more promotion typically works a lot better. When you start to see the results from your promotion, then it’s worth the effort.
We should also never forget about older content. We need to revisit, update and re-promote the good content.
I’d recommend having a detailed content promotion plan before any content is created. Use an editorial calendar to ensure your content follows trends and that there is a relevant audience available for when it is published. This way you’ll also be able to take advantage of specific dates, events, and news stories to aid your promotion process.
Whilst a client’s budget may stop you from promoting content on a larger scale, the restrictions also help you become more creative in the way in which you push it to your users. Free promotional techniques such as news jacking and social media updates are often very successful in their own right.
We always think through the entire distribution model and plan before creating content. First and foremost, design your content so that it’s optimized for different channels and audiences from the beginning. For example, if it’s going to end up on Twitter make sure your content is short form, visually eye catching and dynamic so it stands out. Once you have your content plan, think about all the audiences and channels you can leverage.
Think bigger than just your organic channels–how can you leverage influencers, employee advocates, and paid social to maximize visibility? Create a distribution map that clearly articulates what content should go where and why. Last step (and this one is important): get buy-in from the stakeholders you need to make this successful. Without their help your hands are tied, so start the conversation early on so you have their support when it’s time to launch!
Getting the right content in front of the right audiences. It’s not just about targeting anymore, it’s about personalization. The days of creating content and generically pushing it out are over. Content needs to be tailored so it speaks directly to your customers in their language, not marketing speak. Tap into your sales teams, gather their feedback/insights from sales meetings, and infuse those learnings into your content (pain point = solution). Then use paid targeting to deliver that unique content experience to the right people. Using a precision-based approach will help you cut through the noise and generate real business results.
As a team we’ll often work together on a promotion strategy when we have a big release. This will include bringing in the PR team to reach out to journalists, our campaign managers to organize emails, and the social team to deal with promotion on that side of things. We’ll also reach out to influencers in our space or in the space we’re writing about and make sure our sales team is aware of what’s coming out so they can reach out to prospects with the content. For smaller scale operations like blog posts, I’ll often take a look at subreddits that relate to my subject content to see what does well on them and whether I can tailor my blog or parts of it to appeal to that audience.
With so many different ways to promote content and so many pieces of content coming out, making sure communication is clear between our teams is really important. As we’ve grown as a company, we’ve managed to scale up the way we communicate by using content organization assistants like Wrike.
From a personal point of view, I’ve learned that in creating content there’s often a mix of data-driven decision making and gut feeling, so being unable to predict exactly how one piece of content might do over another is always difficult and things can change over time. It’s important to adapt to changes in different channels–you can’t get complacent and just rely on one source of traffic because if that dries up your numbers will suffer.
There’s one critical step that every publisher must take before hitting publish. Making sure that you have the right strategy and targeting the right audience are important “big picture” considerations, but for each individual post, there’s one thing you have to do: Create great images.
As Mark Schaefer puts it, the economic value of content that isn’t shared or read is zero. And on social media, content that has a great image associated with it is more likely to be shared! Depending on your target audience and social channels, you may need to create multiple images – landscape for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, portrait for Pinterest, and square for Instagram. (And don’t forget the potential for Stories!)
Canva and Relay are great tools for creating a batch of images quickly and easily, so do not let the idea of making multiple images stop you.
Don’t overthink it! There’s a tremendous amount of great advice here and elsewhere–important concepts to consider and steps to take to make sure that your content strategy and execution is spot on. But all of that should guide you towards execution, not stand in the way.
You must find a balance between planning and execution so that you can continue to move your plans forward and find out for yourself what really works.
One of the golden rules as a writer is to always keep the audience in mind. Nowhere else is this more important than in content marketing.
Identifying the audience is step number one. This can be done through buyer persona development and asking yourself questions like “what is my audience looking for?”, “how can I catch their attention?”, and “where will they see this post?”.
When generating a topic, I work very closely with the social media team to get their input on what sorts of things are buzzing across networks within the target industry and to identify the “styles” of posts that seem to drive the most social interaction. The most successful posts are set up to be easily shared on social media. One of the things I like to include when writing are little “nuggets” of information that can be turned into quick and easy social updates.
“A successful content promotion strategy needs to be a team effort that’s planned well ahead of clicking “publish.””
With all of this being said, let’s not overlook the importance of promotion in the classic sense (after the product has been created). Once again, working with the social media team is very important here. When pushing out content through social channels, it’s critical to have a strong presence and strong relationships. While communities like LinkedIn Groups present prime opportunities for highly-targeted exposure to content, being a first-timer that enters a group simply to self-promote will do more harm than good.
Lastly, learn from the past! This may seem like a no-brainer, but don’t be afraid to model future posts after others that have seen success.
For me, I usually try to mention some popular blogs or website owners in my posts. For example, when I’m writing about SEO or social media, I can mention some quote of Brian Dean from Backlinko and then inform him via social networks that I included him in my recent post. People like Brian have very good and active social profiles, so I’m sure that my post will get more social activity.
You may also try to include your post in the “Best posts of the week/month” series. It is not difficult to find a site/blog that regularly publish a roundup of the best articles in a single niche. Get in touch with the website owner and bring your post to their attention. I usually review the niche before my post is published and then try to make my content more relevant for those niche sites.
Even if you write good content, if you do not pay enough attention to promotion then it does not matter how good your content is. There are millions of sites online and each niche is competitive so you should work on promotion even more than on content creation.
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