7 Classic Content Marketing Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them
When you boil it down, content, in its purest and simplest form, is the stuff that makes people want to come to you. It’s one of the single biggest drivers of traffic in the digital marketing world, with the potential to be absolutely the most effective and useful item in your successful marketing strategy toolkit.
We’ve all heard that tired cliche – “content is king.” Yes, content is super powerful, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Done right, exceptional content yields an uptick in conversions and generates new leads; plants seeds of trust among your people and grows relationships with a whole demographic; establishes your brand name as one worth listening to and positions you as a thought leader, spearheading movements in your industry. Want to see digital marketing miracles? Aim to create content that resonates with your target audience.
But – there’s always a ‘but’, isn’t there? – there is one, giant, tire-screeching catch to all this. Like whipping up blueberry pie, creating exceptional content sounds simple enough but it’s a tricky thing to execute. To make your content marketing efforts work, you’ve got to get it right, and that means sidestepping potential pitfalls and dodging some common content marketing mistakes.
Sadly, we see many marketers come a-cropper through doing their content marketing strategy, well… badly. At best, content marketing mistakes can lead to ineffective advertising and a painful waste of time; at worst, it’ll damage your ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend), scare away potential customers, negatively impact your position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and make a bad impression with the very people you want to connect with.
Why You Need an Effective Content Marketing Strategy
Imagine it like this: you’re the proud owner of a beautiful cinema. Not one of the soulless, multiplex, shopping mall kind – a real, rustic, old-timey theatre cinema. You display ‘now showing’ titles in black letters on a marquee sign that you put up with a ladder; the red carpets smell like toffee and popcorn; people say they’re “going to the pictures”. This cinema is your business and, like all businesses, its goal is to make money. You need people through the door. It’s no good parting the red curtains to an empty auditorium.
But the movie business is a crowded market – how do you get people to come? By showing good films. Your business lifeblood is in the quality of what you show the world; failure to engage, educate and excite people leads to low traffic, and that’ll be just one of your pain points when it comes to generating revenue. You need to ensure you’re continually providing a viewing experience that your target market wants to have. Keep it up and you’ll become front-of-mind, known as the go-to destination to find the latest and greatest films.
That said, it’s not enough though to simply run the best films – promoting content is a vital ingredient to success. You need to invest in memorable movie posters, for example, and put them in the right places around town. Your audience needs to be aware of you and know what you do.
Marketing experts can leverage a specific tactic – SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), PPC (Pay-per-Click advertising) or SMM (Social Media Marketing), for instance – to increase awareness, drive traffic and complement the outstanding content you have available.
According to Hubspot, a whopping 82% of digital marketers are actively engaged in creating content, with 40% of all advertisers declaring their content strategy to be a “very important” asset in their overall work. In a report by LinkedIn and Edelman, it was found that 54% of decision makers currently spend more than one hour every week reading and reviewing thought leadership content. Clearly, good content is a valuable card to have up your sleeve.
Hannah Else, our content production lead and a master of turning storytelling into revenue-plated results, had this to say:
“It’s not always easy to craft content that sounds great and hits all of Google’s key quality pillars, and why would it be? The approach to copy has to be adapted depending on the goals or the overall strategy, just like tone and style needs to shift to suit specific audiences. Keeping the bigger picture in mind is vital, and will help make every piece of writing go that little bit further.”
For more insight and expert advice from The Brains, explore our Brainy Academy now! It’s packed full of pro tips, best practices and insider knowledge to help turn your marketing team into a robust content marketing institute that continually delivers success. We also facilitate training and consultation in SEO, PPC, Paid Social and more.
Read on and learn about the biggest content marketing mistakes we see across the industry – and how to avoid them, to get your content marketing journey off on the right foot.
7 Common Content Marketing Mistakes
Across the industry, content marketers ply their trade to varying degrees of success; while some do it well and are at the wheel of a killer content strategy, others slip up, and fall foul of common mistakes in content marketing. The most successful content marketers are alive to the risks posed by the biggest mistakes those less-experienced operators might walk into – you don’t know what you don’t know, after all.
With a bird’s eye view of the entire process, we’ve put together a guide of the 7 deadly content marketing sins: these are the biggest content marketing mistakes to avoid.
Failing to hit the target audience
All too often, content creators simply repurpose ranking content without giving any thought to whether it’s appropriate for the target audience they’re trying to capture; the equivalent of giving a caravan a new lick of paint and trying to sell it to people shopping for a shed. When it wasn’t even your caravan in the first place!
Analysing competitor output is fine for background and research, and it always helps to know what is ranking well on the search engines, but it could be that the competition is going after a different audience to the one you are – or that they themselves are shooting wide of the mark. Instead of rehashing old rope, use competitor content to inform your own strategy, and aim to put out original material at a better standard.
On a similar note, many marketers structure their content strategy around the themes and topics they want to produce – and that doesn’t necessarily jive with what the audience is looking to consume. If you’re an apple farmer, you might find it the most interesting thing in the world to write a 3,000 word blog post detailing the various root vs soil combinations; but, chances are, it won’t help you move many apples.
95% of customers take action to avoid seeing ads – of those, 55% cite uninteresting or irrelevant content as their reason. It’s essential to give people what they’re looking for, and not what you think or want them to be interested in. Posting blog content about electric scooters won’t garner the attention of offroad mountain cyclists, no matter how well it’s optimised.
The way to do this is to conduct thorough customer research; really nail down who your ideal buyer is, what their motivations are, their aspirations and deep fears, and aim to push those buttons. Work with your marketing manager or team and develop some in-depth customer personas – by the end of the process, you should feel like you know these target audience members personally, and working out what they want to see or hear will be a piece of cake.
Overlooking SEO in your content strategy
Over 13 billion searches are conducted every day just through Google, and 86% of all online activity begins with a search engine. Every in-the-know content marketer knows that, while there’s no such thing as bad traffic, some traffic is better than others. Of all the lanes on the marketing channels motorway, organic traffic packs the biggest punch.
The key to attracting your customer base to your site through natural – that is, non-paid advertising – means is through SEO. The simple fact is not many internet users ever look past page 1 of Google. As reported in Forbes, the first page of Google captures up to 92% of all its search engine traffic, and the percentage of users who venture into the uncharted waters of page 2 is below 6%. Ultimately, the pay-off for climbing the search engines is monumental.
Optimising your content so that it scales the big search engine mountain can be a trial-and-error, attritional war, but in today’s digital landscape it’s essential. If you really want to get serious, set your sights on the top 5 or even 3 search engine positions; getting to that lofty summit, though, is no mean feat, and you’ll probably want to look at taking on board some professional SEO services.
If you do choose to go it alone, here are a few notes to get you started:
- Conduct keyword research and highlight targets
- Make sure you’re not missing any optimisation opportunities in your titles, metadata and tags
- Research TF-IDF (Term Frequency – Inverse Document Frequency) metrics to establish longer-form relevancy
If you’re interested in finding some handy tools to help you embark on the SEO journey, have a look at our blog post, The Best Free SEO Tools.
Not taking advantage of link building
This one runs as a partner point to the above. There’s certainly more to SEO than link building, but link building is a high-traction element of SEO; if you’re trying to paint a perfect picturesque landscape, good quality links are the marshmallow-white clouds and soaring birds. Taken in isolation they seem small, but together, they elevate the overall effect.
Nowadays, part of the content creation process includes achieving the conditions for a large number of other websites to carry a link to your content. According to Search Engine Land, high quality backlinks and engaging content take positions 1 and 2 in the list of importance for Google’s search algorithm.
Any self-respecting full-service agency will be able to offer clients a robust plan for building a high value backlink profile, and integrate it with the existing content editorial calendar. Or, if you’re up for the long haul, a large part of link building is all about networking and developing relationships. Consider doing some guest blogging, spend some time promoting, or appear on a few podcasts, to get your name and your message out; collaborate with others (but not competitors) who move in the same space as you, and request that they post some links to your stuff on their platform. You’ll be surprised how quickly it’ll accelerate.
Creating content in a single format
It’s every advertiser’s worst nightmare – a long old blog post, and not an image, video or splash of colour in sight. In content terms, a hefty block of text with nothing to break it up is a major turn-off for most users; they’ll probably give it only the speediest of glancing scans, if they don’t scroll straight past it. In an industry survey by Venngage, 41% of marketers reported that original graphics, such as infographics and illustrations, are significantly helpful in landing their marketing goals.
Any content strategist will tell you that part of crafting a full-bodied, effective strategy is not only about creating great content, it’s about creating new content. That means posting content regularly and, crucially, switching your marketing channel lane. Aim to play the whole field – you’ll want lots of irons in the fire. Try your hand at video, ebooks or infographics, instead of focusing solely on blogging.
Making all of that content doesn’t need to be as much work as it sounds. A pro tip to get increased mileage and more leads out of essentially the same piece of content is to repurpose what you already have; you don’t need to start each new piece from scratch.
Consider transposing your long-form written content into a punchy infographic, for instance, or hiring a voiceover artist to transform an ebook into an audiobook. You’d be surprised how far you can stretch a single blog post – just make sure that the stuff you put out is of good quality and always on brand. It must represent value to the consumer.
Misuse of CTAs
This is a content marketing mistake that tends to happen with less-experienced marketers – in a sense, it’s something of a rite-of-passage. A clear and direct CTA (Call to Action) is non-negotiable, and an absolute must-have for practically every piece of content you produce. This could be a ‘buy now’, ‘download here’ or ‘browse shop’ button – the important thing is that it leaves website visitors in no doubt as to what will happen if they click on it. You have to give people a clear path to the next step along the marketing funnel.
It can be tempting to decline the use of CTAs, thinking that they’re too pushy or ‘salesy’. Lots of creators are cautious of coming across as a hard seller, or of duping the audience into something they didn’t sign up for. That makes sense, to a point, since you want to build trust with your demographic. But by the same token, why work hard driving inbound traffic if you’re not prepared to gently steer that traffic toward your desired action? Get into the mindset that every piece of content needs a strong and unmistakable CTA.
Equally though, it can be too easy to go the other way and slap CTAs all over the place. We’ve seen some blog posts with more buttons than content! Going too far in this direction will do damage, and come over as shouty and potentially even duplicitous. When it comes to your CTAs, be smart in how you use them; clarity, precision and timing are what you’re looking for.
Neglecting evergreen quality content
All brands should aim to stay across industry trends and latest developments – you want to be known as modern and on-the-pulse. However, on-trend content, like a ripe avocado, expires fast. If you focus your attention only on what’s hot right now, your online content may be here today, gone tomorrow. In this digital age things move fast, and trying to keep up with making a comment, analysis or having a hot take on every single update can be a major burden on your workload.
We’re not saying avoid current content, necessarily, but balance it out with evergreen content. In the same way that evergreen trees keep their leaves all year round, evergreen content is always relevant, and it doesn’t become tired or old-hat – at least, not for a much longer time, driving traffic for years to come.
Play around with Google Trends to mine for your next evergreen blog topic idea; instead of exploring current viral trends, do some digging on specific keywords, and pick out those with a steady and high search volume.
Not reviewing content marketing performance with data
You’d be surprised how many marketers spend a lot of time painstakingly researching a blog, doing a ton of background and writing it up in 3 drafts, and yet have no idea of how well it’s doing, or whether it’s even being read. With the level of insight into your own content afforded by modern analytics packages, this is a cardinal sin.
The golden rule for success is to regularly review content marketing performance, and the best way of doing that with optimal accuracy is by leveraging marketing data. You’ll want to conduct thorough competitor and keyword research before you start to produce content, and nail down what kind of things drive more traffic – and, therefore, generate more ROI.
That’s a good place to start; from there, in terms of your own content, keep tabs on what is doing well, and look for patterns of success between the stuff you put out. Is there one topic which customers are paying attention to more closely, or an ideal blog length that brings you closer to your business goals? Do users on mobile devices tend to favour one form of content over another?
Clearly, this is a potent but informationally technical area. That’s part of the reason why we’d recommend taking on full digital marketing services, where the agency will have an in-house expert dedicated to crunching the numbers and working piles of data into an actionable pathway to success. Seeking the assistance of professional analytics maestros is the most cost-effective, time-efficient way of turning data into a competitive marketing advantage.
Content Marketing: More than Just a Blog Post
The world of content production is an exciting one, allowing you – or your company – to express yourself in your own way, communicating about the stuff that matters and forging a valuable relationship with your ideal audience. Be aware though that while content marketing is powerful, it’s not at all easy, and there are some red flags you’ll do yourself a major favour by skirting around. Avoiding pain points is the secret to effective content creation and profitable, high-traffic success.
In general we’d advise creators to take advantage of the full suite of utilities at your disposal – that includes the potentially arcane stuff, like link building and SEO. It’s also a good practice to keep your long term business goals front-of-mind throughout the stages of concepting and production, to really hone in on what you want your content to do.
Doing so can be difficult, and while there is some great user generated content out there, nine times out of ten the very best content in the business is born when a company works in collaboration with a full-service digital agency. Partnering with professional marketing creatives not only helps reach your audience and position yourself as a thought leader, it also drives conversions and increases revenue through the Brain-fuelled application of some seriously powerful industry insight.
To find out how your content marketing strategy could benefit by getting some creative Brains on board, get in touch with Brainy HQ today.