Beloved by advertisers of all stripes, content marketing has emerged as one of the most effective ways to build a brand's voice, establish trusting relationships with customers, and rank well in online search. And if you're an entrepreneur or you work in the digital space, then you're probably sick to death of hearing about it.

But it's important to learn as much as you can about content marketing if you're trying to grow a business, and here's why: In spite of the name, you can't reap content marketing's benefits simply by churning out content. To really benefit from this marketing strategy, you need to do it right--and that means avoiding classic mistakes like the ones described below.

1. Guessing about your audience instead of getting to know them.

It's not enough to assume you know what your audience is interested in or that if something is interesting to you, then it will also engage your audience. Instead, it's crucial to conduct customer research to understand the needs, wants, concerns, preferred content platforms, and buying triggers of the people you're trying to reach.

Using tools such as Google Trends and Google Keyword Planner is a good place to start; even better if you're able to connect directly with your customers via email surveys or personal interviews. Developing a comprehensive customer avatar is a goldmine when it comes to crafting content that resonates with your target audience.

2. Not allotting enough time for title generation.

This is one of the easiest traps to fall into. You've dedicated hours upon hours to crafting a piece of content, and your brain is pretty fried. So you slap a relevant-enough title on the copy and call it a day.

But here's the rub: Your content's headline is just as important (and perhaps even more so) than all of the body copy combined. That's because a lot of people may read the title--but significantly fewer people are going to click into the content and read it from start to finish if the title doesn't draw them in.

A good rule of thumb is to allocate around half as much time for generating a great title as it took you to write the piece. If that sounds like a ludicrous amount of time, that's a good sign that you need to devote more attention to titling.

3. Emphasizing quantity over quality.

This one's also easy to do: You get so caught up in generating SEO-optimized content (and lots of it) that you start designing your content around keywords instead of focusing on providing high-quality information to your target audience. This can backfire in a number of ways.

For starters, Google's algorithms increasingly prioritize high-quality content over copy that's stuffed with key words. Additionally, churning out low-quality content is going to degrade your audience's trust, thereby diminishing your content's conversions over time.

That's why it's critical to make sure all the content you publish is unique, accurate, and truly useful for your target audience. For examples, check out the blogs on Moz, SnoringHQ, and Lush Cosmetics and the video tutorials on BirchBox.

What each of these demonstrates is that content doesn't necessarily need to be jam-packed with fancy graphics and visuals (although it can be)--and you don't need to update your blog six times a day. What matters most is delivering information that is truly relevant and helpful to your specific audience. (Again, this is where it pays to really understand your customers.)

4. Failing to market your content.

The highest quality content in the world is unlikely to gain traction if you don't put as much (if not more) effort into marketing your content as you put into creating it in the first place.

That means leveraging strategies such as social media marketing, influencer shares, AdWords campaigns, email marketing, and native advertising. While you should be deliberate about the platforms you choose, odds are good that any marketing is better than none.

Not tracking your results.

You'll be much better equipped to make informed choices about how to market your content if you know which types of content resonate with our audience, which platforms generate the most attention for your content, and so on.

While it may feel tedious, tracking analytics such as click-through rates, unique visitors, time on page, bounce rate, and conversions--and then analyzing that data on a regular basis--is critical for learning what works (and what doesn't) and refining your marketing strategy over time.

Content marketing is not, in itself, a miracle cure for a struggling business. But it can be a great way to establish your brand and present your business as a trusted, helpful "friend" to your target customers. Avoid these common content marketing mistakes, and you'll be well on your way to developing content that effectively markets your business.

Published on: Jul 5, 2016