Even a few years ago, when I'd mention the term "content marketing" to business owners, I got a lot of blank stares. It's amazing how far we've come in such a short time.
Now, 88 percent of B2B companies report using content marketing as part of their marketing strategy. In fact, CMOs at the largest tech companies reported that building out their content marketing as an organizational competency was their second-most important goal (right after measuring ROI). But despite the excitement businesses have about doing content marketing, there's much that can go wrong.
This post will look at 12 common content marketing mistakes your company may be making.
1. Your content isn't the right fit for your audience
The most amazing content served to the wrong audience will never achieve its purpose. You could be investing more than enough time and money into excellent content, but if it doesn't answer the questions your audience is asking, it's doomed to failure.
The key is to get to know your target audience, if you haven't already. Spend time reading blogs and blog comments. Hang out in industry forums and Facebook and LinkedIn groups. Figure out which questions and problems are coming up again and again.
Tailor your content so that it directly answers those questions. When I write a blog post, I usually have a specific person (or group of people) in mind as I write. I may not know their name, but I know their problem and I write specifically with that issue in mind.
2. You don't have a distribution plan
It has been suggested that marketers should spend approximately 20% of their time writing a piece of content, and 80% promoting and distributing it. Unfortunately, these percentages are usually reversed, with most time being spent on content creation.
According to research from Altimeter, marketers understand the importance of distribution: over half (53%) of marketers surveyed said they need to invest in distribution. However, only 25% say they actually do invest in it. Content that simply gets published on your blog is unlikely to gain traction and to help you achieve your goals. To ensure the best outcomes, have a plan in place for exactly how you'll promote and distribute each piece of content you create.
I personally like to push our blog to Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Linkedin, mention it in my other blog posts on places like this. I've also been having HUGE success with syndicating our blog content to Medium. We've become the 8th most followed publication on Medium due to our amazing content. Try it and find your distribution plan.
3. You're too focused on SEO
If the words "SEO content" are still in your vocabulary, you could be focusing too much on keywords and not enough on your audience. While SEO and keyword research should be a crucial part of your content marketing, they should never be a substitute for creating high-quality content driven by the needs and desires of your audience.
SEO is a necessary strategy for showing up for relevant words and phrases in search, but don't let it distract you from your primary purpose: to create amazing content that drives traffic, engagement and sales. For more on this, check out my post Why SEO is Sabotaging Your Content Marketing.
4. You're not focused enough on SEO
You may have heard content marketing being touted as the "new SEO." However, content marketing works best when used alongside SEO, not in place of it.
When coming up with new topics for your content, keyword research can be invaluable. It gives you insight into the words and phrases people use to find your products or services, allowing you to create content that's actually being looked for.
Add to this that organic search is still the #1 driver of traffic to business sites, and the importance of SEO can't be denied. For more guidance, see my newly-updated post The Beginner's Guide To SEO.
5. You're not documenting your content marketing strategy
At last count, only 32% of B2B companies had a documented content marketing strategy. B2C companies were slightly ahead of the game, with 37% saying they had a strategy. This means that the majority of companies are doing content marketing without a solid plan in place.
Not only is documenting your strategy important for maintaining consistency, it's actually been shown to increase overall content marketing effectiveness.
Don't think you have the time to document your strategy? It doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective. Check out Marketing Land's 1-Hour Documented Content Marketing Strategy.
6. You're not reusing content
Creating new content isn't cheap, but is a necessary part of the content marketing process. Fortunately, one way to minimize your costs while maximizing investment is to reuse and re-promote, and repurpose old content. There are a number of ways you can do this, including:
- Updating old content to make it more relevant
- Re-promoting older content on new platforms
- Sharing your content again (even on the same platform)
- Re-optimizing your content so it ranks in search
Reusing content can save you time and money, and should be a part of every business's content strategy. For more on this, see my post How To Repurpose Content So You Can Get More Done.
7. Your content doesn't hold enough value
The word gets thrown around a lot, but "value" is something that's missing from most content that gets published online. It can mean different things to different people, but the gist of it is this: your content either needs to say something new, or it needs to be new to your audience.
According to a recent study by BuzzSumo (shared on Moz), over 50% of blog posts get 2 or fewer Facebook interactions, and over 75% get zero external links. In other words, there's a whole lot of content getting posted that no one is reading, liking or linking to.
Don't just publish content for the sake of publishing content. Make sure it brings true value, either by adding something new to the conversation or by presenting it in a way that resonates with your audience.
8. You're not publishing to multiple platforms
In the early days of content marketing, businesses were told to publish content to their blog and then share it via a variety of channels (social media, email, etc.).
However, what many are finding now is that viewers and readers are increasingly reluctant to leave the platform they're on to view content on another site. In other words, they still want to consume your content, but they want to do so here and now. Contently has declared 2016 as "the start of the omni-channel publishing era." Rather than promoting content on multiple channels, businesses must actually be present on those channels, providing long-form content that can be enjoyed on those channels. Contently says it best: "The magazine of the future is no longer the one you print yourself; it's everywhere your audience hangs out."
9. You're not properly tracking ROI
Tracking the ROI of your content marketing is important, however according to the Content Marketing Institute, 52% of B2B businesses struggle with it.
If you want to get (and keep!) buy-in for your content marketing program, you'll need to regularly track and report your ROI. The Content Marketing Institute recommends addressing the following components as part of your calculations:
- Content cost: Including copyediting fees, design services, etc.
- Content utilization: Are you actually using all the content that gets created? If not, that content is 100% waste.
- Content performance: Look at engagement rates, not just traffic.
10. You're not respecting the buying cycle
Visitors will arrive at your site with a wide variety of goals and expectations. They could be in the initial stages of researching a problem or question, or they could be wallet-in-hand, ready to buy.
As a content marketer, it's your job to know how each segment of visitors arrives at your site, and to understand where they're at in the buying cycle.
Your content should then be tailored to speak to the specific concerns of that segment. One of the biggest mistakes you could make at this point is pushing sales too early. If visitors are at the early stages of the cycle, you could be alienating them and losing out on a sale that could have happened down the road. In the same way, not encouraging a sale when someone is ready to buy could also be costing you.
11. You're not learning from your analytics
In order to be as effective as possible, your analytics should constantly be informing your content strategy. Tracking relevant metrics ensures you're creating content that consistently drives results.
According to Jay Behr, there are 4 primary metrics that should inform your content strategy: consumption metrics, sharing metrics, lead generation metrics and sales metrics.
Each of these metrics can help you figure out whether your content is hitting its mark or not, helping you avoid creating and sharing content that will never help you achieve your goals.
12. Your content has no specific purpose
Some of the benefits of content marketing can be rather vague, and can therefore be difficult to quantify; take brand awareness and loyalty for example. Your content can help achieve these goals, even with little or no specific effort on your part.
However, this is not a great strategy if you have specific goals you want to accomplish: for instance, increased traffic, opt-ins or sales. The majority of your content should have a very specific, trackable goal, and should use a strong call-to-action (CTA) to help achieve this goal.
This will not only help you determine the effectiveness of your content, but will allow you to more accurately track ROI.
Making one or two of the mistakes above may not undermine your content marketing's effectiveness. However, given the amount of time and money you're likely investing in your content, anything you can do to increase effectiveness is a good thing.
What content marketing mistakes do you see businesses making? Are you making any of the mistakes above? Share below!