Content marketing can be extremely effective - except when it's not.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 88% of B2B marketers say they use content marketing. Yet, only 30% say it's effective.

This means that 70% of marketers are regularly investing in content marketing with very little (if any) payoff.

This is a big problem!

Fortunately, there are some common reasons why your content marketing may not be as effective as you'd like. This post will identify some of the most damaging mistakes you could be making, along with tips for how to avoid them in future.

Mistake #1: You don't have a plan for distribution and promotion

Content creation is only the first step in the content marketing process. Yet many business owners and marketers invest the lion's share of their time and effort into this initial step.

According to Altimeter, more than half (53%) of business owners know they need to invest in content distribution. Yet, only 26% actually do.

Altimeter chart: needs versus actual investments

This points to a serious disconnect; one that's costing companies a whole lot of money.

Fix: When developing your content marketing workflow, have a plan for exactly how, when and where you're going to distribute and promote each piece of content. This will ensure you don't spend time and money creating content that will never actually drive any sales or leads. Be sure to include a mix of owned, earned and paid distribution for maximum impact.

Mistake #2: You're too focused on SEO

Don't get me wrong, SEO is very important. In fact, search is the #1 driver of traffic to content sites (it beats out social media by about 300%).

A problem arises, however, when your primary goal in creating a piece of content lies in achieving high search rankings. When this happens, content can easily become all about targeting keywords, rather than focusing on what your readers actually want.

At its worst, SEO can even sabotage your entire content marketing strategy.

How to fix it: Instead of focusing first and foremost on keyword optimization, go back to the basics. Write comprehensive, long-form content that covers every angle of your subject; to do this, figure out which broad themes your audience wants to know about, then drill down to find related topics and keywords you can build into your content.

Mistake #3: You're creating content for content's sake

In an attempt to feed the content marketing machine, many business owners get caught up in creating content for content's sake. They can become almost frenetic, believing they need to constantly be putting out fresh new content in order to keep pace with their competitors.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 60% of B2B content marketers say one of their top challenges is producing engagement content. Nearly as many - 57% - say producing content consistently is an issue.

Content Marketing Institute top b2b marketing challenges

There's no doubt that it's important to continuously create new content. However, creating content simply to "keep up" is a big mistake. This attitude often leads to poor-quality content based on topics that have already been covered many times before.

How to fix it: If this sounds familiar to you, take a deep breath, step back and take a moment to re-focus on what's important: your audience. Instead of dragging your heels to create content that you don't really care about, spend time really listening to your audience. What questions are they asking you via email and on social media? What are their biggest struggles right now? How can you use your authority and knowledge to provide content they actually care about?

Mistake #4: You're not learning from your analytics

Your analytics can and should inform all of your decisions related to content creation and promotion. If this isn't happening, you're likely not getting all you can out of your content marketing.

According to Jay Baer, there are four primary content marketing metrics worth paying attention to: consumption metrics, sharing metrics, lead generation metrics and sales metrics.

Jay Baer analytics graphic

Unfortunately, many of us tend to get hung up on tracking just one or two of these important metrics. This can lead to some unfortunate consequences, including:

How to fix it: Consult your analytics throughout the entire content marketing process: from deciding which topics to pursue, to where content will be published and promoted, to how and when it will be re-purposed or re-promoted. Remember to consult not just your website analytics, but your email and social media metrics as well.

Mistake #5: You're not engaging in any content maintenance

Creating content can be expensive and time-consuming. If you're continually producing new content without any thought to your older, existing content, you're literally throwing money away.

There are many ways to re-use, revamp or re-optimize old content to give it a new life; and these strategies are usually much less expensive than creating new content from scratch.

How to fix it: In The SEOs Guide To Content Management, I offer some suggestions for giving new life to your old content. Some of the most important include:

Mistake #6: You're not publishing on multiple channels

A traditional content marketing funnel tends to look something like this:

Publish content on website -> Share link on various channels -> Send readers back to website where you can (hopefully) capture their emails.

However, this model doesn't take into account one important fact: many people now prefer to consume content without leaving the platform they're currently on.

How to fix it: Contently has declared 2016 "the start of the omni-channel publishing era". If you want to get in on the ground floor of this trend, regularly publish at least some long-form, full-length content on platforms other than your website.

Omni-channel content strategy contently

Start shifting your mindset away from simply driving traffic to your site, and ask how you can meet your goals directly on those other platforms. It may take a while to adapt to this new model, but the increase in views and engagement will be worth the effort.

Final thoughts

If you're going to be investing heavily in content marketing, you want to make sure you're doing it right. Run through the list above, and ask yourself if the mistakes above could be costing you time and money.

What content marketing mistakes do you see other businesses and marketers making? How do you avoid following the same path? Share below!