The good news about content marketing is it can be the most cost-effective and powerful advertising you do for your company. According to Aberdeen, the leading companies in content marketing experience 7.8 times as much growth in unique site traffic as those with less or no content marketing mojo.
That’s if you do it right. If you do it wrong, you can waste resources creating, posting, and advertising content nobody sees or that doesn’t convert into fans, followers, or sales.
Every product and business is different, so there’s no one set way to create content marketing. There are, however, universal ways to do it wrong. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes to avoid.
10 All-Too Common Content Marketing Mistakes
1. Never Refreshing Your Content
Content marketing and SEO produce relevant, quality content that gives the reader so much value for free that they can’t wait to see the products you sell. High-quality content must be current. Anything outdated loses value and engagement with each passing week.
That’s not to say a few pieces of evergreen foundational content aren’t a good idea. Include robust treatment of the never-changing basics of what you do and what your client base wants to know. Just don’t rely on that as the only part of your offering.
- Produce short pieces of content linked to news and events in real time.
- Go through your evergreen content periodically and make small changes to update each piece.
- Check which pieces get the most engagement. This is a sure sign they’re covering topics that remain or have become hot.
- Create a suite of holiday-themed content you can put forward at specific times each year.
- Update the look of some pieces so they feel fresh even if you’ve had them on hand for months or years.
2. Insufficient Research
Your content must be valuable for your core client base. It needs to provide essential insights, helpful information, actionable solutions, or emotional engagement. You don’t want to create beautiful content that completely misses the mark.
This happens when you fail to sufficiently research your customer base, industry trends, and the specifics for your product. You have to know what your audience will care about in order to create this content. It’s not enough to rest on the conventional wisdom of your trade.
- Look at what your most successful competition is doing.
- Create customer profiles for your core audience, complete with likes, dislikes, and habits.
- Subscribe to industry magazines and read their analysis of customer trends.
- Join industry associations and read their research and analysis.
- Test different kinds of content on social media for early insights into what grabs the most attention.
3. Not Going All In
A decade ago, having any kind of content marketing funnel was enough to bring in a trickle of new clients. Now, your content is competing with countless others.
Going all in doesn’t have to do with your financial commitment to content marketing. Instead, it represents a devotion to making your content one level better than your competitors’. Make your content the gold standard against which your industry compares itself, and customers will notice.
- Make it bigger. If your competitors are producing 2,000-word reports, make yours 3,000 words long. If their videos provide five tips, make yours deliver six.
- Add more data to your content. It lends authority and credibility.
- Make it wider. Produce blog posts, newsletter content, videos, audio, worksheets, infographics, and white papers. Each type will better engage one kind of audience, so having lots of options casts a broader net.
- Make it prettier. Substance always trumps style, but attractive images and smart layout makes for a powerful tie-breaker between your content and good stuff by a close competitor.
- Double down by reproducing content similar to the pieces that perform best. Give your audience what they want.
4. Not Identifying KPIs
KPIs (key performance indicators) are the numbers that gauge the success of your content marketing. They help you produce and distribute content focused on its job, thus helping your business and your audience.
KPIs help your audience by enabling you to narrow your focus to the content that serves them best. You know that’s true because KIPs show you they interact most with that content.
KPIs help your business in two ways. First, you spend more resources in the right places instead of producing well-written content your audience doesn’t want. Second, the tighter your focus, the more leads it converts into clients.
- Identify in detail what you want your content funnel to achieve.
- Identify in even greater detail what you want each step in the funnel to achieve.
- Find out how your audience most avidly engages with content.
- Define your intended outcomes for each type of content you produce.
- Use the details above to identify the KPIs for your content and how to gauge performance on each.
5. No CTAs
People only do what you ask them to do, especially if they have to pay money or take action to do it. Every piece of content you produce must include a clearly defined next step. That next step should be easy to locate on the page and easy to understand.
At the end of your content funnel, your CTA (call to action) leads people to make a purchase and become your clients. Before that point, a CTA could be something as simple as sharing on social media or clicking a link to related content. Whatever the purpose, you have to make the trail clear and easy to follow.
- Map out your content funnel from start to finish to know where each piece of content sits and the ultimate goal for the content.
- Clearly define what’s in it for the lead to follow your CTA. Don’t just tell them what to do but also why they want to do it.
- Get creative with different kinds of CTAs so various leads have something attractive to do next.
- Look at each piece of content for two seconds. If you don’t know what to do next, neither will your average reader.
- A/B test your CTAs to find out what kind works best with your client base.
6. Ignoring SEO
More than one content marketing team has chosen to ignore SEO (search engine optimization). They cite the fact that your content optimizes itself by guiding the lead from one piece to the next. They suggest social media sharing will do the job for you. Or they offer a similar, smart-sounding observation about why they shouldn’t do that part of their job.
They’re wrong. The overwhelming majority of your content will be on the web. Each piece that isn’t optimized is a missed opportunity to get attention from new leads who recently searched the web for precisely what you offer.
- Make keyword research an integral part of planning every piece of content.
- Know the best keywords for each of your customer profiles.
- For web content, upload a keyword analysis widget like SEMRush or Yoast to help fine-tune your efforts.
- Include hashtags in your content to catch social media searchers.
- Interlink your content to improve traffic and performance.
7. All Content, No Promotion
Isn’t your content marketing promotion? Why should you do all the work to create and populate your content funnel if it’s not going to do the heavy promotional lifting? Isn’t that its job?
Sadly, no. It’s more accurate to view your content marketing as a replacement for part of your sales team. Once the initial promotion has turned a disinterested stranger into at least a casual lead, it comes into play.
That means you need a marketing and promotion plan to bring those strangers into contact with your content funnel’s entry points. We mentioned SEO as one strategy for this, but there are countless more.
- Encourage social media sharing both in your content and about your content to increase organic traffic.
- Create and A/B test simple pay-per-click ads for Google, Facebook, and other large platforms for cost-effective outreach.
- Promote content within your content, both with CTAs and with links to related pieces.
- Hold contests and giveaways to gather attention in short, intense bursts.
- Incorporate your content marketing material into your overall promotion and advertising plans.
8. No Master Plan
You can consider each piece of content in your funnel a tactic for turning leads into dedicated, loyal clients. That’s good, and each piece can do that job — but that’s not its entire job. You also need an overall strategy that determines how each piece of content interacts with the others.
A good content marketing strategy maps out readers’ progress from one piece to the next to the one after that. Sketched out on a whiteboard, it looks like a flowchart of options for leads that move inexorably toward buying the most appropriate product.
A master plan without content can’t do its job. Content without a master plan has no clearly defined job to do. You need both.
- Sketch out a diagram of your existing content with lines linking them where CTAs already exist.
- Identify which products are the best first purchase for each of your customer profiles.
- Create a piece of content built to make the sale for the best first purchase for each customer.
- Sketch out the path from initial interest to that piece of content, noting any gaps in the process.
- Create content to fill those gaps.
9. No Interviews
Even with KPIs firmly in place, you can’t have a full picture of why content worked or didn’t work until you speak directly with your leads and clients. You have to go deep into your customer profiles’ likes, dislikes, fears, challenges, motivations, and needs. The only way to do that is to talk with them.
Until you’ve spoken with the people who navigated your content funnel, you don’t understand how useful, confusing, amusing, helpful, or frustrating it was. Until you’ve spoken to people who left the funnel early, you don’t know why they got off.
- Have a follow-up survey that automatically sends when people unsubscribe from your mailing list and similar subscription-based content.
- Set up a random web survey option leads can take while in the middle of the content funnel.
- Create an exit questionnaire to send to people who abandon your content funnel at strategic points.
- Engage in in-person interviews via phone, text, or social media to get to know your newest customers.
- Offer incentives to encourage participation. Discounts are a great option because they also promote a purchase.
10. Giving Up Too Early
Content marketing is a long-term game, but many businesses expect instant gratification and hope a single piece will go viral and turn their venture into an overnight success. While that is possible, the most likely outcome is your content funnel, once fully realized, will provide a steady stream of growth over time. Don’t make the mistake of expecting or relying on things to be different for you.
The best way to fight this is to set metrics-based goals with aggressive but doable benchmarks. You won’t see massive results in the first weeks, but you can watch the needle move enough to indicate progress.
- Give yourself a month for your content marketing to begin creating engagement.
- Identify the best markers for early growth, usually tied to shares and views rather than sales and sign-ups.
- Set weekly goals for those markers that are reasonable for short-term expectations.
- Know what markers you’ll use for the next stage of growth and how the markers you’re tracking now will feed into those.
Final Thought: Cleanup and Execution
There’s a lot here — enough to be intimidating. So consider this course of action: Over the next year, work on one of these mistakes each month. Assess how badly you’re making it, build a plan for correction, then make it happen before the 30th of that month. Once that’s in place, repeat the process for another point the following month.
Even if you take two months off from this, you’ll still have corrected all 10 mistakes by this time next year. Like content marketing in general, this kind of systematic, slow, and steady approach will win the race.
Alexander Carlson provides content marketing for small and mid-sized firms on the West Coast.