[Case Study] Content marketing - 10 months of creating content

VladislavRay

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ivladislav.com
I build my first website when I was 16.

okay-thumbs-up.gif

Back then, it was enough to spam your keyword in the content, and you would rank on the first page.


10 years later, the SEO game changed a lot. Now everyone is talking about backlinks and quality content.


It's time to put this myth on a test and see if you really need backlinks to rank or quality content is enough?


And that's what I did with a fresh domain for 10 months straight.


In this content marketing study case, I will share everything I learned from this experiment and some interesting results.


So stay till the end!
Let's start!




Content Marketing study case

The idea behind this experiment is simple: produce 100.000 words of content in 10 months and see what happens :)


It's been 10 months since I started this journey, and today I completed 100.000 words for this website. Which is an equivalent of 6 hours and 51 minutes of reading time.

picture with how many words I wrote in 12 months

I believe this is something that anyone can achieve! It's not something extreme, I've seen people who write 100k in a month.




The website

This experiment was done on a fresh domain with 0 history, 0 DA, 0 PA to see conclusive results and data. I had 0 authority and no backlinks.


The CMS I used was WordPress and a paid theme that my team and I customized a bit to fit my needs.

wordpress-inside.png

The plugins I used are:


  • Akismet anti-spam,
  • Asset CleanUp Pro: Page Speed Booster,
  • WPBakery, Read Meter,
  • MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress,
  • Contact Form 7,
  • Updraft,
  • WP Fastest Cache,
  • WP Word Count,
  • Yoast SEO Premium.
The content

The average length for an article is 1081 words. I wrote articles with 4100 words and articles with 700 words.


If I can't produce at least 500 words on a topic I don't do it.


The overall subject I choose is easy to write about. Because it is my expertise, and that's what I recommend, don't write about something you have no idea about.
The research part will take a lot of time, plus it won't be fun.




Process and tools

Before writing any words you have to research the keywords you plan to rank for. If no one is searching for that topic, you write for ghosts, no one will read your stories. (trust me, the blog era is dead)


To research keywords and ranking difficulty I used: Ahrefs and whatsmyserp (free version extension on chrome).

ahrefs homepage

If you don't have 99$ per month you can use the free trial, 7 days is more than enough to create a content list for an entire year.


My criteria to find long tail keywords that I can rank was:


  • Minimum search volume 50
  • Maximum 10 backlinks (position 1-3)
  • An irrelevant subject for the keyword intent
  • old/outdated article ranking in 1-3 position

If one or better all the conditions are met I add that keyword to the list. Then, I added titles/subjects to my content planner.

The most productive period of the year for me was during the lockdown when I wrote like a monster :)

Screenshot-2020-10-10-at-11.47.06-1024x539.png

You can see in 4 months I wrote 49.915 words.


50k in 4 months, and keep in mind that I have 6 more websites to manage, but for those, I have writers to take care of my content :D.


To collect emails I used MailChimp, but I am thinking to switch to ActiveCampaign because I heard so many good things about it.


Now let's talk about On Page SEO.




On Page Optimization

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing content for search engines and users. Common on-page SEO practices include optimizing title tags, content, internal links and URLs.


All the content is optimized for:


  • User experience
  • Bounce Rate and Dwell Time
  • Search Intent
  • Page loading speed

The content structure is very well optimized (H1, H2, and H3). Every blog post has a good keyword frequency and external links to help Google figure out the page’s topic.


I optimized URL structure (something I neglected in the past). It's very easy to do it:


  1. Make your URLs short.
  2. Include a keyword in every URL.

Seriously. That’s it.


I used unique, keyword-rich meta descriptions.


Last but not least, optimize your images. You want to give every image on your site a descriptive filename and alt text.


To rank you want to make sure that the content :


  • Satisfies Search Intent
  • Is Valuable
  • and easy to read (use lists, images, and supporting material as much as possible)

In terms of speed I managed to hit these marks:


  • Page Size < 800KB
  • Fully loaded time < 2.4 Seconds
  • 40 total requests or less
  • 400 ms response time from the server or less

You can test your page for free using Google PageSpeed Inshights.


Last but not least, Author Biography. This section helps your website to build trust and authority in your content and brand.


Make sure you have one on your website! Include achievements that build credibility or are interesting to the reader.




Results

Here is the interesting part :) After all that hard work, we want to see the results, right?


Well here you have it.

Organic Traffic

Here is a screenshot from Google Analytics:

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-13.08.19-1024x450.png

Organic traffic grew from 0 (December) per month to 472 (September) per month.


That's 35.75% of the total traffic.

giphy.gif

We are only in the tenth month, and I know from Ahrefs that it takes 1-3 years for an article to rank in the top 10 results on average.

02-age-buckets-2.png

And that means we will see the real results of this experiment in 24 months. I will make sure to update this study case every 2 months.


Bear in mind that this growth was made with 0 manually created backlinks!!!



What's even crazier, some of the pages ranked on positions 2 and 3, and we got some natural backlinks.


The domain rating raised from 0 to 21 according to Ahrefs.

domain rating of the website from ahrefs

Google Search Console

Let's take a look at Google Search Console now.

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-13.20.57-1024x525.png
screenshot google search console
Ohhh yeah, that's what I am talking about, 2500+ highly targeted people ready to consume, inform and buy. Over 320.000 impressions with an average position of 45.2.


If I manage to raise the average CTR to 6%, the estimated traffic will be around 19.200 (I expect this to happen when the articles start to position themselves in the SERP)


Yes, you can achieve higher numbers in a general niche like Lifestyle, Fashion, Pet, etc., but then the message would be harder to communicate on such diverse traffic.


Google indexed 113 and excluded 276 pages.


The index rate is not that great, I am looking to improve it in the future.

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-15.50.48-1024x526.png

Ohh, and after the announcement of Google releasing the Page experience update, make sure you have this in your GSC:

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-15.52.14-1024x452.png

All URLs are good for mobile and desktop. You will find this option under the Core Web Vitals menu.

Email Marketing and Revenue

What interests us at the end of the day are conversions.
How many people actually care about us? Did they interact with our content? How many bought from us?


Here is a screenshot of my audience from Mailchimp:

email subscribers to my list

Out of 2500 people who visited my website from search engines, 120 subscribed to my newsletter, which is a 4.8 % conversion rate. (keep in mind that I didn't collect emails from the start :( )


Sure, this conversion rate can be a lot higher if I offered them something in return for their email. (and that's what I plan to do next :)


And I am not talking about the generic "here, give me your email I will send you a newsletter every week".


No.


I am talking about really offering something valuable, it could be:


  • a 10.000 words free ebook full of informations,
  • a video tutorial on how to ...

Things like this make your visitor interact with your content and ultimately buy from you.


Moving on, here are the interaction after my first email campaign.

here are the metrics after my first email campaign.

That's 10 people who clicked on my link, 3 people who bought a product, and one instant call :)




What could be done better

My first and biggest mistake was: I didn't count all the leads coming from this website.


There is an old saying "you can't improve what you don't measure".


This means I don't know my conversion rate, didn't have any KPIs.


When you do things randomly you just float around hoping to catch something.


More than that I wasn't collecting emails from the start, and I didn't have a funnel.


Make sure you set up all these things before you starting your journey :)

What's next

Here is how I plan to scale the website and make more money.


I am working on understanding better what's my customer journey. This will lead to creating an effective sales funnel.

representation of a sales funnel

The only way to improve your online revenue without hiring 100 sales guys is by setting up a sales funnel.


Once I have that in place, I will unify my traffic sources into the sales funnel and scale.


If you manage to customize the visitor experience as much as possible you will have success, and that leads me to another thing I am looking to implement : chat bots.

example of a chat bot

Live Chat bots with logical jumps that create your experience based on your choices. It's a sales funnel, but instant :)


After implementing these I will check Google Search Console, get a list of top 5 article that brings the most traffic and put a custom banner on each page.

My conclusion from the content marketing study case

What I learned from this content marketing study case is that you can rank and have success with less than 100$ to invest. (ahrefs free trial, hosting and domain)


Of course, this takes time and effort, but eventually, good content will always win. Content created for humans, not search engine bots.


I am not saying you shouldn't use backlinks (you will need them eventually), they are very good if you want to scale or you want to achieve results faster. But just so you know, you can start without them. Just be patient and produce epic content.


Another important thing is to measure everything. If you have metrics, you will know your next step and where to improve.


I am planning to update this study case with new results once we hit 12 months, 18 and 36 :)


Now, it's your turn.
Tell me what did you find interesting from this content marketing study case? What would you like to know more about?
 

Beerioz

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Inspiring journey good luck brother..
Another important thing is to measure everything. If you have metrics, you will know your next step and where to improve
What are all the tools you are using to measure /plan your daily contents? This would help me to be more productive. One more thing, for long tail keywords how you are managing to keep url short? Thanks in advance :)
 

praetserge

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Ohhh yeah, that's what I am talking about, 2500+ highly targeted people ready to consume, inform and buy. Over 320.000 impressions with an average position of 45.2.


If I manage to raise the average CTR to 6%, the estimated traffic will be around 19.200 (I expect this to happen when the articles start to position themselves in the SERP)

It was a very good read, you actually gave me a few ideas.

But I would like to point out 1 major mistake in your estimates. You can't just take 6%/0.8% CRT and get 19.2k visitors.
Average possiion is 45.2 and to reach 6% CTR you need to be around position 5... position 45 gets the same amount of impressions as position 5? No, position 5 will get like 10 times more views (probably much more) so instead of current 320k views, you'll have 3.2m views and 6% of 3.2m views is 192k visitors.
 

VladislavRay

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ivladislav.com
Great work, keep on writing .. =)

Thanks!

Inspiring journey good luck brother..

What are all the tools you are using to measure /plan your daily contents? This would help me to be more productive. One more thing, for long tail keywords how you are managing to keep url short? Thanks in advance :)

Thanks a lot for the support!

"What are all the tools you are using to measure /plan your daily contents?"
I am using a physical agenda actually:anyway: It will sound strange but ...here it goes.. I gamified my work, so everytime I complete a task I checkmark the task and get 10XP.
100 xp will get me to another level.
There are different tiers for each level.
It sound's sad, but it makes me happy and productive hahahaa, lol.

"for long tail keywords how you are managing to keep url short?"
I am inspiring from my competitors, the first 3 ranking articles. And I try to use maximum 3 words in my URL. If they are too long try to remove unnecessary words. (google will know what's about :)


Nice work there and it was fun to read. Congrats!

Thank you for your support :)
It was a very good read, you actually gave me a few ideas.

But I would like to point out 1 major mistake in your estimates. You can't just take 6%/0.8% CRT and get 19.2k visitors.
Average possiion is 45.2 and to reach 6% CTR you need to be around position 5... position 45 gets the same amount of impressions as position 5? No, position 5 will get like 10 times more views (probably much more) so instead of current 320k views, you'll have 3.2m views and 6% of 3.2m views is 192k visitors.
You are right! that was stupid of me, I was too excited while writing :D
Thank you for reading carefully and for the correction.

That a lot of patience dude. Hats off to you

Yeahhh..I couldn't wait to post this actually.
if I had waited at least 4-6 months longer I would have come up with even better results..
 

indeed97

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Great post. I've been slowly getting in to content marketing myself. This is the approach I currently use, I was wondering if you have any tips or advice on improving the strategy.

1. I usually create a unique piece of content and put it on my blog
2. I then post about it on IG/FB/Twitter, and link to it.
3. I then create the same article on my linkedin and medium page, and link them back to my blog post from my site.

Does the linkedin and medium articles look like "duplicate content"? Is it a good strategy to use? Any advice on what you would change?

Thanks
 

Mukiwa

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Very interesting case study.
I have often wondered how to really get traction without pumping back-links and it seems that this is exactly what you are doing.
The measuring of the matrix must be done as a necessary evil, but the devil is always in the detail.

Good thread to follow and take inspiration from.
Good luck on your journey and thanks for taking us with you.
 

VladislavRay

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Messages
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ivladislav.com
Great post. I've been slowly getting into content marketing myself. This is the approach I currently use, I was wondering if you have any tips or advice on improving the strategy.

1. I usually create a unique piece of content and put it on my blog
2. I then post about it on IG/FB/Twitter, and link to it.
3. I then create the same article on my linkedin and medium page, and link them back to my blog post from my site.

Does the linkedin and medium articles look like "duplicate content"? Is it a good strategy to use? Any advice on what you would change?

Thanks
Great! I am doing the same thing that you are doing. The only thing that I do differently is I wait for google to index my page/article (usually 24 hours max) before I share it on Linkedin, medium etc. This way, you avoid the "duplicate content" problem since the content appeared first on your website :)
Quality stuff here!
Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment on this :D
Very interesting case study.
I have often wondered how to really get traction without pumping back-links and it seems that this is exactly what you are doing.
The measuring of the matrix must be done as a necessary evil, but the devil is always in the detail.

Good thread to follow and take inspiration from.
Good luck on your journey and thanks for taking us with you.

You are absolutely right!
I hope you are already working on your journey because I can tell you have writing skills hehe :D
Another great case study and immense details shared!
Thanks a lot for taking the time to comment on this :D
Thanks for the quality post!
More to come :)
 

WillamK

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I build my first website when I was 16.

okay-thumbs-up.gif

Back then, it was enough to spam your keyword in the content, and you would rank on the first page.


10 years later, the SEO game changed a lot. Now everyone is talking about backlinks and quality content.


It's time to put this myth on a test and see if you really need backlinks to rank or quality content is enough?


And that's what I did with a fresh domain for 10 months straight.


In this content marketing study case, I will share everything I learned from this experiment and some interesting results.


So stay till the end!
Let's start!




Content Marketing study case

The idea behind this experiment is simple: produce 100.000 words of content in 10 months and see what happens :)


It's been 10 months since I started this journey, and today I completed 100.000 words for this website. Which is an equivalent of 6 hours and 51 minutes of reading time.

picture with how many words I wrote in 12 months

I believe this is something that anyone can achieve! It's not something extreme, I've seen people who write 100k in a month.




The website

This experiment was done on a fresh domain with 0 history, 0 DA, 0 PA to see conclusive results and data. I had 0 authority and no backlinks.


The CMS I used was WordPress and a paid theme that my team and I customized a bit to fit my needs.

wordpress-inside.png

The plugins I used are:


  • Akismet anti-spam,
  • Asset CleanUp Pro: Page Speed Booster,
  • WPBakery, Read Meter,
  • MC4WP: Mailchimp for WordPress,
  • Contact Form 7,
  • Updraft,
  • WP Fastest Cache,
  • WP Word Count,
  • Yoast SEO Premium.
The content

The average length for an article is 1081 words. I wrote articles with 4100 words and articles with 700 words.


If I can't produce at least 500 words on a topic I don't do it.


The overall subject I choose is easy to write about. Because it is my expertise, and that's what I recommend, don't write about something you have no idea about.
The research part will take a lot of time, plus it won't be fun.




Process and tools

Before writing any words you have to research the keywords you plan to rank for. If no one is searching for that topic, you write for ghosts, no one will read your stories. (trust me, the blog era is dead)


To research keywords and ranking difficulty I used: Ahrefs and whatsmyserp (free version extension on chrome).

ahrefs homepage

If you don't have 99$ per month you can use the free trial, 7 days is more than enough to create a content list for an entire year.


My criteria to find long tail keywords that I can rank was:


  • Minimum search volume 50
  • Maximum 10 backlinks (position 1-3)
  • An irrelevant subject for the keyword intent
  • old/outdated article ranking in 1-3 position

If one or better all the conditions are met I add that keyword to the list. Then, I added titles/subjects to my content planner.

The most productive period of the year for me was during the lockdown when I wrote like a monster :)

Screenshot-2020-10-10-at-11.47.06-1024x539.png

You can see in 4 months I wrote 49.915 words.


50k in 4 months, and keep in mind that I have 6 more websites to manage, but for those, I have writers to take care of my content :D.


To collect emails I used MailChimp, but I am thinking to switch to ActiveCampaign because I heard so many good things about it.


Now let's talk about On Page SEO.




On Page Optimization

On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing content for search engines and users. Common on-page SEO practices include optimizing title tags, content, internal links and URLs.


All the content is optimized for:


  • User experience
  • Bounce Rate and Dwell Time
  • Search Intent
  • Page loading speed

The content structure is very well optimized (H1, H2, and H3). Every blog post has a good keyword frequency and external links to help Google figure out the page’s topic.


I optimized URL structure (something I neglected in the past). It's very easy to do it:


  1. Make your URLs short.
  2. Include a keyword in every URL.

Seriously. That’s it.


I used unique, keyword-rich meta descriptions.


Last but not least, optimize your images. You want to give every image on your site a descriptive filename and alt text.


To rank you want to make sure that the content :


  • Satisfies Search Intent
  • Is Valuable
  • and easy to read (use lists, images, and supporting material as much as possible)

In terms of speed I managed to hit these marks:


  • Page Size < 800KB
  • Fully loaded time < 2.4 Seconds
  • 40 total requests or less
  • 400 ms response time from the server or less

You can test your page for free using Google PageSpeed Inshights.


Last but not least, Author Biography. This section helps your website to build trust and authority in your content and brand.


Make sure you have one on your website! Include achievements that build credibility or are interesting to the reader.




Results

Here is the interesting part :) After all that hard work, we want to see the results, right?


Well here you have it.

Organic Traffic

Here is a screenshot from Google Analytics:

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-13.08.19-1024x450.png

Organic traffic grew from 0 (December) per month to 472 (September) per month.


That's 35.75% of the total traffic.

giphy.gif

We are only in the tenth month, and I know from https://ahrefs.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-to-rank/ that it takes 1-3 years for an article to rank in the top 10 results on average.

02-age-buckets-2.png

And that means we will see the real results of this experiment in 24 months. I will make sure to update this study case every 2 months.


Bear in mind that this growth was made with 0 manually created backlinks!!!



What's even crazier, some of the pages ranked on positions 2 and 3, and we got some natural backlinks.


The domain rating raised from 0 to 21 according to Ahrefs.

domain rating of the website from ahrefs

Google Search Console

Let's take a look at Google Search Console now.

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-13.20.57-1024x525.png
screenshot google search console
Ohhh yeah, that's what I am talking about, 2500+ highly targeted people ready to consume, inform and buy. Over 320.000 impressions with an average position of 45.2.


If I manage to raise the average CTR to 6%, the estimated traffic will be around 19.200 (I expect this to happen when the articles start to position themselves in the SERP)


Yes, you can achieve higher numbers in a general niche like Lifestyle, Fashion, Pet, etc., but then the message would be harder to communicate on such diverse traffic.


Google indexed 113 and excluded 276 pages.


The index rate is not that great, I am looking to improve it in the future.

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-15.50.48-1024x526.png

Ohh, and after the announcement of Google releasing thehttps://webmasters.googleblog.com/2020/05/evaluating-page-experience.html, make sure you have this in your GSC:

Screenshot-2020-10-15-at-15.52.14-1024x452.png

All URLs are good for mobile and desktop. You will find this option under the Core Web Vitals menu.

Email Marketing and Revenue

What interests us at the end of the day are conversions.
How many people actually care about us? Did they interact with our content? How many bought from us?


Here is a screenshot of my audience from Mailchimp:

email subscribers to my list

Out of 2500 people who visited my website from search engines, 120 subscribed to my newsletter, which is a 4.8 % conversion rate. (keep in mind that I didn't collect emails from the start :( )


Sure, this conversion rate can be a lot higher if I offered them something in return for their email. (and that's what I plan to do next :)


And I am not talking about the generic "here, give me your email I will send you a newsletter every week".


No.


I am talking about really offering something valuable, it could be:


  • a 10.000 words free ebook full of informations,
  • a video tutorial on how to ...

Things like this make your visitor interact with your content and ultimately buy from you.


Moving on, here are the interaction after my first email campaign.

here are the metrics after my first email campaign.

That's 10 people who clicked on my link, 3 people who bought a product, and one instant call :)




What could be done better

My first and biggest mistake was: I didn't count all the leads coming from this website.


There is an old saying "you can't improve what you don't measure".


This means I don't know my conversion rate, didn't have any KPIs.


When you do things randomly you just float around hoping to catch something.


More than that I wasn't collecting emails from the start, and I didn't have a funnel.


Make sure you set up all these things before you starting your journey :)

What's next

Here is how I plan to scale the website and make more money.


I am working on understanding better what's my customer journey. This will lead to creating an effective sales funnel.

representation of a sales funnel

The only way to improve your online revenue without hiring 100 sales guys is by setting up a sales funnel.


Once I have that in place, I will unify my traffic sources into the sales funnel and scale.


If you manage to customize the visitor experience as much as possible you will have success, and that leads me to another thing I am looking to implement : chat bots.

example of a chat bot

Live Chat bots with logical jumps that create your experience based on your choices. It's a sales funnel, but instant :)


After implementing these I will check Google Search Console, get a list of top 5 article that brings the most traffic and put a custom banner on each page.

My conclusion from the content marketing study case

What I learned from this content marketing study case is that you can rank and have success with less than 100$ to invest. (ahrefs free trial, hosting and domain)


Of course, this takes time and effort, but eventually, good content will always win. Content created for humans, not search engine bots.


I am not saying you shouldn't use backlinks (you will need them eventually), they are very good if you want to scale or you want to achieve results faster. But just so you know, you can start without them. Just be patient and produce epic content.


Another important thing is to measure everything. If you have metrics, you will know your next step and where to improve.


I am planning to update this study case with new results once we hit 12 months, 18 and 36 :)


Now, it's your turn.
Tell me what did you find interesting from this content marketing study case? What would you like to know more about?
This is great. Am in a very competitive niche. I hope it works for me. Do you have social media pages for the website?
Do you get signals/shares on social media?
 

RayChand

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Damn, this is great! For real, content is king! And it seems it will remain the king for a very long time. I am soon embarking on a similar journey with a new niche.

On on-page SEO, how did you optimize your images? What do you use to compress them or something? Plus, where do you source for your photos?
 

VladislavRay

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Joined
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Messages
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Website
ivladislav.com
Thanks

awesome, this is great insight for me. thanks alot man!
My pleasure :)

This is great. Am in a very competitive niche. I hope it works for me. Do you have social media pages for the website?
Do you get signals/shares on social media?

Not yet! I heard they are good for diversification, but I don't think they have a lot of power for ranking.
On the other hand, they are great sources for additional traffic if you know what you are doing :)
Damn, this is great! For real, content is king! And it seems it will remain the king for a very long time. I am soon embarking on a similar journey with a new niche.

On on-page SEO, how did you optimize your images? What do you use to compress them or something? Plus, where do you source for your photos?
Trueeeee!!
For images I just describe what is in the image, no keyword stuffing no nothing, just honest description. To compress the images I use TinyPng. The best is to use original photos, if I can't provide an original picture I use unsplash.

I wish you good luck on your new journey, send me the link to encourage you :) hehe
 

anglikan

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Joined
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Messages
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Great post. I've been slowly getting in to content marketing myself. This is the approach I currently use, I was wondering if you have any tips or advice on improving the strategy.

1. I usually create a unique piece of content and put it on my blog
2. I then post about it on IG/FB/Twitter, and link to it.
3. I then create the same article on my linkedin and medium page, and link them back to my blog post from my site.

Does the linkedin and medium articles look like "duplicate content"? Is it a good strategy to use? Any advice on what you would change?

Thanks
Never ever use duplicate content.
 
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