When it comes to content marketing, very few—if any—marketers get it right 100% of the time. We’re all only human, no marketing deities here. But that’s not to say we can’t aspire to be as on top of our game as possible by learning from other people’s mistakes as well as our own.
Mistakes can provide useful insight into how you can do things differently to drive more traffic to your site, generate more leads, and increase your conversion rates. Mistakes are how you learn and how you gain wisdom. Plus, you can take preemptive measures by reading up on the missteps that other marketers have made so you can sidestep at least a few of the more common errors and shortcut your path to success.
8 Content Marketing Mistakes And How To Fix Them
1. You Fly By The Seat Of Your Pants Without An Editorial Calendar
Pamella Neely on Web Marketing Today: “Content marketing is not an isolated event. It takes months to build up a following and get followers into the habit of consuming and sharing your content. There are a lot of moving parts to even a small content marketing program, and they all have to fit together. This becomes especially true when you’ve got more than one person doing your content marketing. Even coordinating a writer, a designer, and a marketing manager can take some planning.
Editorial calendars can make everything go smoothly (or at least smoother), and will also give you a way to capture and incorporate your best ideas. For example, this free plugin, aptly named ‘Editorial Calendar,’ works well for WordPress platforms.”
All an editorial calendar is essentially is a plan with deadlines assigned to it. And it definitely wouldn’t be wise to implement a content marketing strategy without planning it out and documenting those plans. In fact, research shows that you are “5X more likely” to achieve your content marketing goals if you write them down along with your strategy and plans for achieving them.
The Importance Of Written Goals
There’s a study from either Yale or Harvard that’s often cited in business circles in which only 3% of a group of MBA graduates wrote down specific goals for their futures. Then, a decade or so later, the same group of graduates was interviewed, and it was discovered that the 3% who had documented their goals were earning 10X as much as the graduates who hadn’t put their clearly defined goals to paper.
As it turns out, extensive reviews of the aforementioned research done by experts like Steven Kraus, a social psychologist from Harvard, in addition to investigative reporting conducted by the Fast Company magazine has revealed that the study is nothing more than an “urban myth.”
That is, however, until a university psychology professor stepped up to the plate and took the idea to the non-existent study and used it as the impetus for her research concerning “how goal achievement is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and being accountable for those actions.”
Nancy Anderson of Forbes.com reports below.
Nancy Anderson: “Dr. Gail Matthews from Dominican University did her own study and found three key elements to successful goal setting—accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals. To do that she randomly assigned participants to five groups:
- Group 1 – deeply analyzed their goals and the resources they had to accomplish them.
- Groups 2 – wrote down their goals after the deep analysis.
- Group 3 – set action commitments after writing down their goals.
- Group 4 – did all of the above and shared them with a friend.
- Group 5 – did all of the above and sent a weekly progress report to their friend.
At the end, Dr. Matthews interviewed the participants and as you can imagine, Group 5 did the best. An average of 76% of participants in group five completed their stated goals versus 43% in Group 1. (Click here for information on the study.) So with the success of Group 5 in mind, implement the following suggestions in your goal setting plan:
Put your goal in writing. Whether you go old school and post your goal on a piece of paper and tape it to your bathroom mirror or you go high tech and use an online journal such as Penzu, write down your goal and post it where you will review it and re-engage on a regular basis.”
2. You Don’t Publish Enough Content
To fully reap the rewards of increased web traffic and leads, you need to publish fresh content on a regular basis—probably more often than what you’re currently doing. Research from Hubspot showed that “companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.”
The research also showed some pretty interesting results when the impact of monthly blog posts on inbound traffic was segmented by company size.
Notice how much traffic spikes for companies publishing 11 or more blog posts a month, especially those that have 201+ employees.
Tyler Ellison, the Advertising Manager at Conversion Fanatics, weighs in below about why your site needs to have a continual stream of fresh content and how to evaluate the strength of your site’s content in terms of its potential to go viral.
3. You Ignore Questions From Your Customers
According to NewsCred, “The basic principle of content marketing is to simply answer your customers’ questions. If you’re not doing that, you’re not doing content marketing properly.” You might think you know what your customers want, but companies are often way off target.
NewsCred: “For example, a health insurance company may think providing healthy recipes would be something their audience would find of interest. It’s possible, but it’s unlikely that a large number of people are looking for their next summer salad recipe from their insurance company. The type of questions they’d be asking their insurance company would be more along the lines of, ‘How do I choose between an HMO or PPO plan?’ or ‘I’m getting married in a few months, how will my insurance change?'”
If you have any doubts about what your customers really want, the solution is simple: just ask! Leverage social media and email campaigns to informally interview your customers about their primary concerns and pain points, and the kinds of content they’d like to see more of.
Even though this strategy is astonishingly easy, it’s amazing how many marketers don’t do it. When you take the time to ask your customers what they want, you can eliminate any doubt about whether your customers find value in the content you publish.
4. You Focus On Yourself, Not Your Customers
Act-On.com shares insights from a variety of notable experts, including Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions, Marcus Sheridan of The Sales Lion, and Carmen Hill of Babcock & Jenkins, about why making it all about you and your company is a big mistake when it comes to content marketing.
Act-On: “I’d argue that marketers who do not build buyer insights or develop personas will forever revert to content oriented that’s around products, because that’s what they know best. Focusing on buyers is a shift to skill sets that takes applied effort.” (Albee)
“Think like the end user, not like a business owner. Too many business owners and marketers are writing more for ‘their’ way of seeing the world. They talk too much about themselves; I always like to say it’s a blog, not a brag. Great content marketing is about education. It’s about teaching. And it’s about good old-fashioned communication. To be great at content marketing, the focus has to be about the reader, and not the company/writer.” (Sheridan)
“Try as we might, we tend to see things through the lens of our company, our product, our need to get a bunch of leads in the pipeline by the end of the quarter, etc. Nobody else cares that much about us. Our content needs a lot less ‘we’ and a lot more ‘you.'” (Hill)
In that same vein, you don’t want to pitch your product or service in every piece of content you produce.
Promotional copy has its place in the sales cycle. But if you’re constantly highlighting new and improved features and benefits, or hyping about your company’s milestones, then you’re going to come across as overly “sales-y.” You want to provide your customers with content that “independently provides value,” says Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing.
5. You Don’t Perform Keyword Research
Content marketing and SEO are two peas in a pod—or they should be. They complement each other, with each one informing the other. SEO used to be all about “tricks and tactics” and “optimization and opportunism.” But times have changed, and now SEO is all about content, making SEO-driven techniques more relevant than ever for content marketers.
Garrett Moon of CoSchedule: “When outlining an SEO strategy for content marketing, we take a slightly different approach than what we were used to. It is probably best to begin understanding how (and why) Google is rewarding longer-form content and other content that is visually focused. Google has started to see these elements as symbols of quality, and is doing a better job of connecting search users to quality content.
Again, that’s a good thing, but it doesn’t mean that some of the tried and true techniques of old SEO aren’t still viable. That’s where keywords come in.
One of the most important aspects of search engine optimization has always been the keywords, those words that people use to find our content in search.”
You have several tools at your disposal to find the keywords that are most applicable to your content, the most notable of which is the Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool, which is free to use with any Adwords account.
To learn more in-depth information about how to take an SEO-driven approach with your content marketing, check out Garrett Moon’s complete guide here.
6. You Don’t Include A Call-To-Action
When thinking about calls-to-action, what might spring to mind are “Buy now!” or “Sign up here” type messages. But calls-to-action can be more subtle, serving to build pathways and connect readers with additional information that will help steer them through the conversion pipeline.
In this sense, the call-to-action is simply a means to arrive at the next step, and every content marketing asset you produce should have one. Ask yourself, what would your customers most likely be interested in learning more about given the content they just consumed? Then, direct them to that logical next step.
7. You Stick To Only One Type Of Content Or Platform
The beauty of new media is that it has provided us with a variety of ways to consume content, from blogs and videos to tweets and infographics. If we want to interact with information, our consumption options are not limited to merely reading. We can look at images, watch videos, listen to podcasts, and so on. But if you’re leveraging only one type of content—blog posts, for example—or only one type of platform, then you are seriously missing out on reaching a much wider audience base. Remember, people learn in a variety of ways.
Pamella Neely: “Internet users want more than words. Blog posts are helpful, but infographics get shared more often. Tweets with images get shared twice as much as tweets without images.
To leverage new formats, make creating videos a habit. And always ask yourself if you could add an image. And don’t forget SlideShares, animated gifs, and podcasts. Want to make all this easier? Here’s a great app for creating social media images on the go: WordSwag, available on iTunes for $2.99. Canva is an excellent desktop alternative.”
8. You Underestimate The Importance Of Your Headlines
“Clickbait” is something we’ve all experienced, when a riveting headline pulls us in like a magnet only for us to then be greeted by a sub-par or unrelated article. We’ve also all had the experience of a ho-hum title leading to a sensational blog post, only we never clicked the link so we didn’t actually read the content.
Such is the value of a headline. Your content’s headline has the ability to either draw people in or make them completely gloss over your work.
According to Brian Clark of Copyblogger, “On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” Your headline is prime real estate for attracting readers and compelling them to click through to read more.
There’s a specific term that’s used to describe the process of continual improvement; it’s called kaizen. And when it’s applied in a business sense, kaizen “refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees from the CEO to the assembly line workers.”
Kaizen is a good word/mentality to keep in mind regarding your content marketing endeavors. But don’t stop there; the concept of kaizen can be applied to all areas of your business, driving you to create ever more fortified foundations and processes to help your business grow and become more efficient.
To recap, here are the most common content marketing mistakes, as discussed above:
Checklist of things NOT to do with your content marketing
- Don’t forget to use an editorial calendar
- Don’t post new content only once or twice a month
- Don’t ignore questions from your customers
- Don’t put the focus all on you or your company
- Don’t neglect your keyword research
- Don’t omit your calls-to-action
- Don’t limit your options when it comes to content format and platforms
- Don’t create lackluster headlines
And the final, biggest mistake you can make with your content marketing is to not continue trying, to give up. It may sound cheesy or hackneyed, but it’s true. Content marketing success is not going to happen overnight.
There are going to be hiccoughs and setbacks. Just go into it as prepared as possible, but if something doesn’t work out, don’t derail the entire operation: get advice, make adjustments, split-test, and keep at it.
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