One of the most common mistakes I see leaders and content marketers make is slipping in product and service mentions, humble bragging, and just generally being overly promotional in their content.

The promotion itself isn't the problem. Digital PR is promotional, as it should be, and the content you create for sales should probably mention your company in there somewhere. The problem comes when you try to sneak your self-promotion into a thought leadership article that's actually supposed to engage your audience and build your industry influence.

Your audience doesn't want to hear you talk about how great your own company is, and publication editors won't accept that kind of content. They're looking to provide value to their audiences -- something all leaders should be doing -- and if audiences don't want to read your promotional material, editors won't want anything to do with it.

Still, according to Influence & Co.'s latest research report, "The State of Digital Media," 71 percent of publication editors say the content they receive is too promotional.

Publication editors have made it clear: There isn't a damn thing they can do with a piece of promotional digital content. So why do marketers and leaders continue pitching it?

Defining What It Means to Be 'Too Promotional'

I think maybe the definition of "too promotional" is too open, and that kind of vagueness makes it hard for you and your content team to contribute engaging content that drives ROI. To get to the bottom of the situation, my team asked editors what makes content too promotional. The complete findings are in "The State of Digital Media," but here are three common problems that cross the too-promotional line:

1. Forced company or product mentions:

Here's the thing: Editors read and examine digital content all day, every day, so they're experts at spotting forced mentions, unnatural inclusions, and other out-of-place elements that disrupt the flow of an article to promote your company.

If a mention of your company is natural and makes it easier for your audience to understand takeaways and find value in your content, include it. But don't try to shamelessly plug your company, products, services, or even one of your clients over and over in your content.

2. Linking without thinking:

Adding links to your content is smart. Not only can it help boost your search rankings, but following trends in SEO and putting the latest practices to work can benefit your audience and publications, too

While smart, strategic linking is a good idea, adding in a bunch of links to your homepage or other content that doesn't truly add to your audience's understanding of a topic or experience with an article is spammy.

Think about it: Editors are responsible for their readers' experience on their respective sites. If you send them an article filled with links that direct readers to your homepage, product pages, and other random promotional junk when it doesn't make sense, they're not going to accept it.

3. Presenting your company as the only solution:

Obviously you want members of your audience to look at you and your company as a resource and solution to a problem they're having. But you can't get away with only talking about yourself as a vendor or partner in all your guest content. That kind of message comes across more like an ad than a piece of thought leadership, which won't serve your company well or get anyone excited about what you have to say.

Instead of only talking directly about a problem that your company solves, try talking about something happening in the industry and the knowledge your company can share on it. That can position you as an expert and influencer in your space much better than an ad, and your audience will be more impressed by that expertise anyway.

Contributing content to online publications can be a key part of your content marketing strategy if you know how to do it right. Staying clear of promotion will help you keep your commitment to content marketing, build your earned media on a solid foundation, and help you reach your business goals.