Content Promotion: PPC or Link Building?

Lately I’ve been coming across and being pitched a bevvy of platforms that promise to amplify content to millions of users across millions of pages for all kinds of unique visits, engagement, and new audiences. The name of the service has varied from “content promotion” to “search advertising for content” to “content syndication networks” to “content discovery” to “related content” and it goes on.

Everyone’s got an angle and a slightly different take on what it is they do and why their network is better. That’s all fine and good, but the question still remains, when you go to purchase those eyeballs, is it pay-per-click (PPC) or is it something else entirely like link building or brand awareness? You’re buying “clicks” in a sense: A cost-per-click (CPC) will be calculated, there will be a click-through rate (CTR), and you’re going to want to review the quality of the visits to the content via site behavior, so it sure seems like PPC.

For right now I’d actually say it’s link building. You’re most likely using it to push a unique piece of content to garner attention, links, and virality. You know you won’t get that return on investment in sales or fill the lead pipeline the same way you would with search, and positioning it as so just digs a hole that you’ll never get out of. Link builders care about a lot of the same metrics that PPC practitioners do and pushing content through large networks that might garner links, well, that’s just good link building.

Now, if you really wanted to blend the two, you’d set up a remarketing pool for the content promotion push, create segments based on user behavior on your site for how they engaged, and bring them back again.

So what are these platforms that are specializing in content promotion, riding a very close line to what “PPC” is?

Here’s a quick rundown of some programs that I’ve been playing with:

Outbrain: “Amplify your content.” Links to content on major publisher sites appear in related article areas and the like that bring users to your site. You select a daily budget and CPC and rack up clicks until your budget is reached. Outbrain has an easy-to-use self-service platform and is the most approachable place to start on this list.

Taboola: “Distribute your content.” Become either a publisher or an advertiser and it works similarly to Outbrain. Your content appears on larger publisher sites in the related articles area based on user behavior using their proprietary algorithm called “EngageRank.” You’ll need to drop them a note to get started.

Swoop: “Search Advertising, Any Content, Any Device.” Swoop has options to be either a publisher or advertiser and is the closest to ads for content promotion. On Swoop, you can use your AdWords campaigns, where they’ll create ads in text and image formats, provide a CPC quote, keyword recommendations, publishers, and provide reporting – as well as try and hit assigned ROI targets. This platform is a lot more robust, but that also means no self-service and you’ll need a healthy budget, to which their fees are included in the ad spend.

nRelate: “Get Found.” nRelate is looking for both publishers and advertisers and also focuses on the “related articles” space on publisher sites – but at different levels. For example, a related article, most popular, or flyout based on your technical capabilities, like being able to add their pixel or utilize the WordPress plugin. No self-service, either; you’ll have to contact them to get started.

There are more. Many more. If you want to do a quick case study rundown across multiple platforms, including Outbrain, nRelate, and Taboola, I highly recommend Wil Reynolds’ “The $10,000 Paid Content + Paid Linking Test that is 100% Google Safe” on Slideshare.

Learn from his $10,000 and promote on!