What are the most common content marketing mistakes?
So went the question posted on social question-and-answer network, Quora. The site is well known for its high quality responses from expert and non-experts alike, and its no surprise that for many people information from Quora can be just as valuable and reliable as that gleamed from more established sources like Wikipedia or the mainstream press.
We’ve written a lot about how to get content marketing right before. We’ve explained what sort of tools we find useful for creating content and we’ve offered list of what to check before you press publish on a blog post. We’ve explained about free riding and ambush content marketing and we’ve explained how to curate the best content to grow your business.
Those posts are all about what to get right – think of them as a sort of content marketing to-do list.
Today, via Quora, we’re giving you a not-to-do list – the ten most common content marketing mistakes you must avoid.
1. Not Writing For A Single, Specific Reader
Heading the list is spending your time trying to write for everybody. It’s an easy mistake to make because, in this age of Google, because everybody can find your website and because everybody can read what’s on it, it becomes very tempting to write for this entire audience. Visakan Veerasamy explains why that’s a bad idea:
“You see, people aren’t interested in everybody. ‘Everybody’ is an abstraction. Everybody is nobody. If you really want to get somebody’s attention, you’d address them by name. Or you’d talk about somebody else that they’re interested in…We’re more interested in what Obama has to say about Kanye West than what Obama has to say to America. That’s just how people are. People are persons. Everybody is nobody.”
2. Not Having a Strategy
What do we want? Success.
When do we want it? Now.
How do we get it? **crickets**
Trying to achieve content goals without having a strategy is like taking a long road trip in an unfamiliar location without a map – or even the ability to read the road signs. Jake Ludington explains why a strategy is absolutely essential:
“You need to know how you plan to achieve success. For instance, maybe you need 10 articles about 10 related topics to get 100 new customers (or maybe you only need one great article published in the right place). Set realistic milestones to measure success and get execs to sign off on those milestones so that they understand your efforts won’t produce instant results.”
Ludington follows up with an additional piece of advice on content strategies to keep in mind:
“Be prepared to revise strategy. If your strategy is under way and it doesn’t seem to be working as you cross milestones, revisit the strategy.”
3. Forgetting that Content is Really Advertising
Content isn’t created just to exist or to pad out a website. Content forms a real and important part of the branding that a business engages in and often takes a large part of the company’s marketing budget. Content can be created without an end use in mind, but advertising needs to be created with an end user firmly in mind – and deliver what they want. As Rachel Honoway explains:
“The content that consumers are going to find most valuable is the kind that they are already looking for…Creating content based on existing demand means you’ll have an audience waiting and can get a foot in the door to introduce yourself, your product and show your expertise in the space.”
4. Not Defining Clear Goals
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland the main character enjoys – or at least has – a short conversation with a Cheshire Cat:
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
One mistake that a lot of content creators make is not setting clear goals about the reason they are creating the content or the end result they envisage for their business from building a content creation strategy. Clear goals – qualitative and quantitative – are required in order to succeed, as Sarah Nagel explained:
“Work with your team to set goals that match up to our organization. Give sufficient time, but also don’t be lax. Real numbers are great for sales purposes, but don’t forget quantitative measurements like engaged users and an interested audience.”
5. Not Considering the Narrative
With a certain number of blog posts, videos, and podcasts to put out each month, it is easy for beginners to fall into the trap of seeing each piece of content as a stand alone item. This is an error because, to your readers, each piece is a part of a larger, longer narrative. Forgetting that you are producing related works is a problem to be avoided, as Shelly Lucas explains:
“Beginners often (mistakenly) think of content marketing in terms of campaigns, not as an continuous narrative/dialogue. It’s not a one-and-done, stop-and-start pursuit. Content is not content marketing until it changes behavior (Joe Pulizzi)…and that takes time.”
6. Not Knowing Your Audience
You’re hoping to attract readers – but do you know anything about the readers you attract? Of course, the first advice that any writer is given is ‘write what you know’, but the first advice given to professional content creators should be ‘what for who you know will read it’. It’s a critical difference, and Tabitha Naylor explains why:
“One big mistake is not knowing your audience. Most content out there does not contain what the target reader needs to know. It is mostly self-serving – which defeats the purpose of content marketing. Content marketing should be able to provide beneficial information about the product or service for the target market.”
7. Thinking That Anyone Can Write
Five dollars is all that it will cost you to get a 500 word article from a vendor on Fiverr. You could really move up and pay $10 for 800 words to a non-native English writer in the developing world. You might even try and write something yourself, eschewing the editing and peer-review because you took an freshman English Literature class like everyone else.
And then you’d sit back and wonder why your content strategy is not playing out the way you had hoped.
Writers are like any other professionals: they have specific skills, specific experience, and they know how to make the words work for you. It costs money to produce good written content, but it’s worth it for the quality dividend says Lauren Fairbanks:
“If you’re a terrible writer, your content isn’t going to be hugely successful. And that plays into a lot of other areas of content marketing because part of being a good writer is being able to do things like: create a strong voice that people identify with, and create engaging and compelling content that gets people talking or acting.”
8. Forgetting to Be a Curator
Good content marketers know how to find the best material online and offline. In other words, they know how to curate material, and its a much misunderstood skill. Malcolm Pinto argues:
“…curation is the most important skill that you as a content marketer should posses. You need to have a pulse on the web. You need to be following the top websites in content within your domain. You need to be reading constantly and consistently. You need to see trends before they emerge and capitalize on them. That’s what successful writers do and the more mistakes you make the better you will learn.”
9. Underestimating the Time Commitment
A good writer can estimate how many words they can produce an hour. A good researcher can estimate how long they’ll need to research a general topic, or a more specific niche. And a content marketer needs the ability to correctly estimate how long it will take to develop a content strategy and deliver on that strategy. Simply put, a content creation strategy will require a significant investment of time, not only in the time devoted to creating the content, but also to the time spent strategizing, measuring, and revising that strategy. Justin Lambert explains:
“Some of the most common beginner mistakes involve underestimating the time and effort commitment a solid content marketing strategy is going to require, and allowing it to fizzle out when immediate results are not evident. Content marketing, done right, requires a slow, steady, consistent build up of high quality content, strategically targeted at the right people and in the right way. Overnight success is not going to happen.”
10. Not Promoting the Content Effectively
A lot of content created for business is not used in an effective way. Oh, sure, it is posted on the company blog and maybe even on the company Facebook site, too. But there is more to using and promoting the content that a business produces than just a ‘once and forget it’ approach. Social media comes into its own here, as do internet forums, repurposing content for different media, and revisions of old content for use in new ways. Philip Cardwell commentary:
“If you’re a marketer or a PR professional, you can’t afford to just write something good and say, “Here you go, Google.” What you need to do is to optimize in a post-SEO world. So how are search engines determining whether or not content is quality? The answer lies in “social signals”. Social signals are the number of likes, comments, forwards, +1’s; tweets and so on a particular piece of copy receives. In the eyes of the search engine, this is essentially a third-party validation that says, “I like this content enough to share it with my peers”.”
Is there a mistake that we missed? What are the most common content marketing mistakes in your opinion? Tell us on Twitter or in comments below.