What you don’t know really can hurt you. I can’t think of any content marketers out there who are knowingly sabotaging their own work by intentionally disobeying best practices, yet bad content and seemingly obvious mistakes abound in both onsite and offsite material. The only conclusion I can form is that these writers and creators don’t know what they’re doing wrong—and this effect is made greater by the likelihood that they’re seeing a handful of positive effects from their work.
The more you learn about content marketing, and the more aware you are of your own mistakes, the better your content can become. Even if it’s just a tweak here or a tweak there, these adjustments can eventually mean a much higher traffic volume and a much greater reputation in your community.
As you continue to advance your content marketing campaign, stay wary of these seven common content mistakes:
If you aren’t careful, it’s easy to slip into a “general audience” mentality. When you delve into a certain topic and you’re writing by yourself, you naturally tend to think about the topic in broad terms. For example, if you’re writing about applying to college, you might be tempted to describe the process as objectively as possible. This leads to thorough, but not necessarily appealing content. If your target audience is teenagers close to graduating high school, you might take a moment to talk about the fears and anxieties surrounding the application process. Doing so makes your content more relatable and more appealing to a central target audience—otherwise, its excessive generality might turn people away.
You’ll face a similar dilemma if you try to stick with a “middle ground” approach to a complex and controversial issue in your industry. As a professional, you’re naturally inclined to take sides as rarely as possible, sticking to the safe neutral ground that won’t rile anybody up. However, it’s better to pick a side and stick to it—even though you might turn off a small portion of your audience, the rest of your audience will like you better for it, and you won’t fade into the white noise of fence-sitters that inevitably arises.
Generally, content marketers are specialists in their respective subject matter. Because of this, you’re already well-versed in topics that your target audience may know nothing about. For example, if you’re blog writing about SEO, you might assume that your audience already knows how link building works and start writing about advanced techniques. This is bad because it can make people feel like they aren’t advanced or knowledgeable enough to appreciate your content. Instead, make it a point to cover sufficient background information—even if it’s just a note and a link to another, more basic post you’ve written in the past.
When you’re writing a post, you have to think about your own perspective. It’s unavoidable. But if you write the entire article about what you think is important, you’ll end up doing more harm than good. You need to think about what your customers’ needs are. For example, you could write a detailed post about a new technology that’s going to change the way you do business. This could be a great topic, but only if you write about how that technology is going to affect your customers directly.
Content marketing is a perfect opportunity to express the value of your products and services, but only when done so subtly. Any overt pitch of your own business (or your own products) will instantly register as advertising to anyone reading it, and most readers at that point will abandon the effort in favor of something more objective. Remember, your primary goal is to bring value to your users. Making pitches and encouraging conversions can only come after you’ve established that groundwork, and must be done sparingly and subtly.
Feedback comes in many forms, and ignoring any of them is bad for your campaign’s potential. Review user comments and social sharing metrics regularly to see how your content is being welcomed in the community. If certain topics, certain formats, or certain approaches are met with criticism or worse, indifference, you’ll need to act quickly to get your content program back on pace. Even if your users aren’t giving you direct feedback, you can use their behavior (such as tracking site visits) to measure their interest levels.
There are dozens of different types of content available, and it’s in your best interest to take advantage of them. There is no target audience in the world who prefers only one type of content, yet so many content marketers settle into a rhythm with one particular format (such as written or video content). Incorporate as many formats as you can reasonably handle to keep things fresh, and while you’re at it, get involved on multiple different social platforms too.
Making one or more of these mistakes doesn’t make you a bad content marketer; in fact, most of us have made at least one of these mistakes in the past. Nobody’s content is perfect, but if you can learn to avoid some of the most common pitfalls, you can ratchet your content up to the next level.
These are seven of the most common roadblocks I see in the content marketing world:
The first pain point usually comes before you’ve even written an article. A great article must start with a great topic, so if you can’t think of any great topic ideas, you can find yourself in a difficult position. The same can be said if the topics you do come up with fail to have an impact on your target audience—you can measure this based on how many clicks your headlines are getting. In either scenario, the solution is to look in new places for topic inspiration. Start with industry news sources to stay up-to-date and discover new information about your niche, then move onto the blogs and websites of your competitors. Learn from what they’re doing—what do their customers like to read about?—just don’t copy their strategy exactly.
Many content marketers underestimate the importance of brand voice consistency. Your entire company’s identity is represented by its brand, and it’s up to you to showcase that brand accurately. If you deviate from the characteristics that define your brand, or publish blogs with inconsistent tones, your audience can quickly become alienated. However, diagnosing these problems can be difficult even for experienced content marketers. Address the problem by gathering all your writers together and doing collective exercises that highlight what is and what is not appropriate for the brand. Make sure everyone is on the same page by the end of the meeting, and use one focal editor to do a final review of all subsequent articles before they’re published.
Too many business owners and marketers think that content marketing is about writing articles whenever you have time and publishing them whenever you think about it. This approach almost instantly vanquishes the possibility of building a loyal audience. If you want people to keep coming back to you for more, you have to have a reliable, predictable schedule. Create an editorial calendar with clear and consistent publication dates—if you’re just getting started, one post a week may be enough for your purposes—then assign responsible parties to ensure that those deadlines are always met, no matter what.
One of the most important stages of content marketing is distributing your material so the greatest number of new people can see it. Typically, that means shopping your content around to different offsite publishers and syndicating your content through various social media channels. If you’re having trouble getting your work published offsite, do an audit of the types of sources you’re pursuing. Start off with local and industry-specific sources to build your reputation, and make sure your topics fit in with their respective niches. Then, work your way up to more authoritative sources. If you’re having trouble syndicating your content consistently, try scheduling your posts in advance, and use the time you save to engage with your audience in one-on-one interactions. Communities can only develop through engagement.
Content marketing is a demanding strategy. Two posts a week doesn’t sound like a lot until you’re in the thick of things, scrambling to get your posts published while juggling all your other responsibilities. Hiring a staff writer is one option, and hiring a freelancer is another, but one of the most valuable solutions is hiring a content agency to handle the work for you. Because content agencies are specialists, they’ll be able to do the work faster, quicker, and more reliably than someone off the street—even if they have an impressive resume.
At its foundation, marketing is all about gathering, analyzing, and applying data in meaningful ways. When that data shows major hiccups or other anomalies, with no apparent explanation, it can be worrisome. Let’s say each of your posts gets 100 shares, then one day, your posts start getting around 20 shares. These anomalies could be the result of any number of factors, from your search engine rankings to topics to random seasonal changes that are simply unpredictable. Instead of trying to figure out what the problem is, adjust your line of thinking and start figuring out what the problem isn’t. Eliminate possibilities one by one until you’ve exhausted your resources or have found the problem.
Stagnation is another problem that most content marketers face at one point or another. Obviously, you want your audience and your traffic to grow steadily, for months and years after your initial strategy development. Unfortunately, you’ll likely hit a plateau at some point, generating interest but little further growth. When this happens, inject your campaign with new life by adding an additional content channel, seeking new types of publishers to host your content, or simply stepping up the quantity and quality of the articles you produce.
When you hit one of these roadblocks as a content marketer, as you invariably will, don’t panic. It’s a normal part of the ebb and flow of the strategy. All you can do is analyze the situation, respond accordingly, and continue to make adjustments to perfect your approach.