Despite it being a core part of smart marketing for over a decade, some people still think content marketing is some kind of myth. For the most part, that's because so many people still do content marketing wrong.
Whether you're running a small business, a non-profit, or an enterprise-level corporation, content marketing is one of the best ways to get the most out of every dollar of your marketing budget. This article discusses seven of the most common mistakes people make when trying to do so.
But first, we need to discuss...
The Golden Rule of Content Marketing
That rule is to always provide massive value. If your content doesn't provide something to motivate reading, sharing, and engagement, it will not work. Everything you put out on your content channels must be something of direct interest and use to your core customers. If you don't do that, leads won't be motivated to interact with your content. If they don't interact, they will never pass through your sales funnel.
Provide massive value. Every time. Without that, fixing all seven of the mistakes below overnight still won't get you the kind of sales good content marketing can.
Some All-Too-Common Content Marketing Mistakes
1. Stealing Content
Or even borrowing it. Plagiarizing content is unethical and bad karma, and Google will spank you for it. Duplicate content (even stolen from yourself) gets downgraded via Google and other search engines, making it perform worse on searches—it makes you a lot less visible to the public than you might want. Even unique content based on an superficial internet research does poorly, since all the pages that were posted before yours have some statistical advantage over yours.
Instead, make each page you produce unique and uniquely valuable. Post deep insights about timely, evergreen, and trending topics until your content is the gold standard from which all of your competition steals. That's how you'll capture more than your fair share of the available audience.
2. Not Doing Your Research
The whole point of content marketing is to demonstrate to potential leads that you know what you're talking about. Never just write a blog post or social media content "off the top of your head." Make certain your statistics are correct, your sources are reputable, and your information is up-to-date. Every piece of content you provide either builds or erodes trust with the public. Spotty research is one of the fastest ways to erode your audience's trust.
But don't just stop at researching the information in your content. Make sure to take time to do meta-research like:
- Learning which keywords are trending hottest for your industry
- Checking the calendar to schedule your posts the most effectively possible
- Completing customer profiles so you know what topics will draw the most people
The better you prepare, the more perfect your execution will be...and research is the most important element of excellent preparation.
3. Getting Political
It used to be that a little political involvement could be good for a business. It showed that you cared about your community, and helped establish commonalities with potential clients. Today, the political landscape is simply too fractured and contentious. The risks far outweigh the rewards.
Instead, demonstrate your public involvement via causes and topics everybody can get behind. Support local education. Donate to food banks. Post hard news stories about industry trends. That sort of political post can still benefit you, without dragging your content through the mud that is modern political "discussion."
4. Going Off-Brand
This mistake takes two forms:
- Producing content that doesn't conform to the look, feel, and message you've chosen for your brand.
- Producing content that's not directly relevant to informing and engaging readers with what you do and sell.
Using a content calendar to plan your posts beats both of these mistakes. Once a quarter, plan what you'll post in a single, cohesive session. Then write those posts over the course of the quarter (making corrections for new trends and similar revelations). Doing that helps you keep all of your content on-brand, on-point, and on-message.
5. Not Reviewing Data
One of the most powerful aspects of content marketing is its data trail. You can know how many people open, read, and respond to each piece in real time. Ideally, you would track all available information about the performance of each piece, and let that data inform how you update content, and how you write upcoming components of your content marketing plan.
Most businesses lack ideal execution in this zone. They review data too infrequently, or not at all, and fail to compare how pieces perform. If you make this review part of your content marketing plan (instead of relegating it to something you do "when you have the time") it will supercharge the performance of your entire portfolio. Make time for this at all costs.
6. No Call-to-Action
You've seen this kind of content marketing too many times. It's topical. It's interesting. You learned valuable information from it. And when you finished, you were done. You might have shared it on social media, or told a coworker about it, but your relationship with the content (and the brand) stopped there.
That was because the writer failed to put a call to action in that piece of content. There was no indication to you where you could get more and even better information from the same source that had impressed you.
Avoid that mistake. Near the beginning and near the end of every piece of content you create should be a targeted link to more information. That could be the next blog post in a series, or a detailed report on the general topic, or a new tutorial, or the next stage in your content funnel. Whatever it is, make it attractive and impossible to miss.
7. Not Following the 90/10 Rule
This is the most common mistake made by rookie content marketers, but that doesn't make it less of an issue. The 90/10 Rule is as follows:
90% of what you post should be about something other than yourself or your brand
It should all be related to your brand, your industry, your products, and yourself...but it should not be about your company, or trying to make a hard sell, or otherwise overtly self-serving. Nine-tenths of your content should exist as a way to educate and inform potential leads and customers, establishing you in the role of a mentor and expert. If you do that, the 10% of your content that actually pushes for a sale will be more effective and taken far more seriously.
The goal of content marketing is to escape the dynamic of salesperson and lead. Modern consumers, whether they're B2B or B2C, are jaded toward that relationship. They're suspicious, well-informed, and overly-opinionated.
Instead, your content marketing should develop a mentor-student relationship where you become a trusted expert in your field, providing the education and training a lead requires to make an informed decision about their needs. The more your content marketing does that, the better it will perform...and the better it performs, the more your company will thrive.
About the Author: Jaye Putnam is a content marketing guru who’s practiced everything she preaches when it comes to content marketing.