I see most things, and I emphasize most, on a spectrum rather than good/bad, right/wrong. But when it comes to content marketing strategy, as an individual from the Southern U.S., it’s hard not to have a “bless their heart” moment.
I say that despite the fact that, like most people, those three words make me cringe. But you get the picture.
I empathize with you. Businesses spend a ton of money on marketing. And they do so because they expect to get a return on investment. When I see some of the biggest content marketing mistakes holding people back from achieving a pay-off for their diligent content marketing efforts, it hurts my heart.
You may be surprised that there are over 25 common content marketing mistakes that even content marketers and content strategists make all the time. And these aren’t the kind of misconceptions you want to take time to learn from (if you can help it). They’ll cost you.
I can guarantee you that you’re not making all of them. But the ones you are making could cost you–an arm, and a leg, and probably your shirt too.
Fortunately, most of them have simple fixes you can apply immediately to improve your content marketing ROI. 👍🏽
Yes. You can turn this.
1. Not Having a Content Strategy in the First Place
The Content Marketing Institute found that as many as 63% of brands using content marketing have no strategy. These businesses apply an “if we publish, they will come” strategy.
They do it for a lot of reasons. They think, “We know our customers.” “We understand what they want.” “We’re experts in our industry.” “That should be enough.”
Except it isn’t. Like all marketing and most things in life, you need a plan.
If you need a carton of milk, you would need to think about how to get it. Which grocery store? When’s the best time to go? What mode of transportation should you choose? How will you pay for it? Do you need lactose-free? What will you do if they’re out?
Having a plan, but staying adaptable, helps you get that milk most efficiently. A well-planned content marketing strategy enables you to achieve your goals more efficiently. And efficiency translates to cost-savings and better results.
Learn more about building a content marketing strategy. If content strategy isn’t your strong suit, consider working with a content strategist who has experience evaluating your business, customers, goals, and competition to develop an effective strategy.
If you are a content strategist, there’s always more to learn, right?
2. Not Documenting That Content Strategy
In line with #1, one of the biggest content marketing mistakes is right here. Not getting it in writing.
A strategy in your head will be subject to change on a whim.
Oooh, I see pretty flowers over there. Let’s go that way.
It sounds nice to follow your instinct. But when there’s money on the line, you need something solid to work with.
Take some time to get it into a document. Start by outlining every aspect of the strategy you need to figure out. Then begin filling it out.
Some crucial elements include:
- Roles and responsibilities (in-house and freelance)
- SMART goals
- Customer personas
- Buying Journey and sales cycle
- Channels to focus on (Facebook, email, Instagram, Linkedin, etc.)
- Technology needs
- Content Marketing Budget
- Types of content
- Sales funnels (How will you convert people who visit your content?)
- Style guide and voice
I’ll expand on some of these as we continue exploring common content marketing mistakes.
3. Not Using Data to Create Your Content Marketing Strategy
Now, as you read the above list, you may have been thinking about what goes into each category.
It is all in your head, after all.
But content strategy requires research. And for that, my friend, you must have access to data, which happens to be one of my favorite parts of content marketing. Not because I see people as numbers. But because when you look at data, clear customer behavioral patterns emerge.
Research is not only vital for your strategy; it can help you create a better customer experience, my other favorite thing.
Take stock of the data you already collect. Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and each social media site’s analytics are free. Great places to start!
You may additionally find existing data in your:
- Email Management Software (MailChimp, Constant Contact, SalesForce, etc.)
- Reporting in your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software
- Sales data
If your data is still lacking, consider investing in SaaS (Software as a Service) tools based upon where the data gathering and analysis could improve.
4. Not Listening First
Many new to content marketing, and even those who’ve been doing it a while, make the mistake of thinking they know:
- How their target uses social media
- What kinds of content they consume
- What messages resonate
- What topics they search for online
But this assumption can come back to bite you.
For starters, start social listening. Follow some hashtags related to your industry. Make a note of which posts get the most shares and comments.
Do you notice commonalities?
Social listening is vital throughout strategy development and execution. So it’s essential to develop a system you can stick to for the long-term. Tools like Hootsuite and BuzzSumo can make your social listening more efficient.
And then there’s search. That requires keyword research. Google Search Console and Google AdWords offer free tools to begin this process.
5. Focusing Too Much on the Competition
It’s a mistake to get too hung up on what your competitor is doing.
While it’s important to keep an eye on the competitor, becoming obsessed with what your competitors are doing may cause you to abandon your content marketing strategy on a whim because something they did looked successful.
Doing everything the competition is doing is a big mistake because you don’t have all their data and some of their success could be pure, short-lived luck.
Don’t get side-tracked by momentary competitor successes.
Definitely, take a look at them. Maybe there are elements you want to incorporate. But don’t abandon the plan you’ve developed through data and research to chase their tails.
6. Ignoring the Competition
With that said, another common content marketing mistake is ignoring the competition altogether. To be successful, you need to know:
- How your competitors differentiate their brands
- Their style and voice
- Who they target
- Where they focus their efforts
- How they generate awareness
- Share of voice
It also really helps to look at how their website is performing.
Find out who your competitors are. And remember, your social media competitors may not be your search competitors or your local competitors. In digital marketing, a competitor is anyone who blocks you from meeting those KPIs.
But keep in mind, if they’re not a direct competitor, you may be able to turn them into an ally to expand your reach through influencer marketing.
Do a competitive analysis. Find out what’s working for them. Learn from their common content marketing mistakes. And use this data to build and improve your strategy over time. SaaS tools like SpyFu and AhRefs help you spy on the competition and track their movements online.
And, yes, sign up for your competitor’s emails. Yes, follow them on Instagram.
What do you want to bet they’re stalking you too?
7. Using Assumptions About Your Audience to Create Buyer Personas
Well, first of all, not having any Buyer Personas is one of the biggest content marketing mistakes. But you’ve heard that one before. So let’s think beyond that.
Your target customers are not an enormous blob on people with money to spend. And if you’re trying to speak to everyone who needs your widget, you’re not connecting with any of the many types of people who need what you sell.
Dig into the data. Survey customers if needed. Identify things like:
- Their challenges
- Their goals
- Their interests
- Places they hang out (online)
- Who they trust
- Why they chose you
- Typical age
- Typical role in a company (B2B)
And realize, your target audience is very likely several groupings of people. The better you understand each group, the more effectively you connect with each one.
8. Forgetting to Include Content Marketing Strategy Goals
Objectives and goals let you know when you’re on the right track. Without them, it’s impossible to understand what is working and what isn’t.
Beyond that, when you set content strategy goals, you can streamline your business over time to increase your ROI, improve customer perception, and stop wasting money on things that don’t work.
Impress your boss or clients? Yeah. There’s that too.
Create SMART goals. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timebound)
For example, when blogging, you may be looking at:
- X number of views within one month of publishing (SMART)
- Of views, X % convert (sign up, download exclusive content, etc.) monthly
- X% of people who convert become paying customers monthly
It’s important to note, some times you won’t be able to follow a single person through this set of goals. But you’ll see whether goals are being met by looking at it more holistically.
And then there’s the thorn in the side of all content marketers. Often, paid advertising makes the sale in the end.
Because average, a person will touch your brand 8-13 times before becoming a customer. Attribution tools like those from Facebook and Google can help you understand how those early touches in the awareness phase (where blogging generally falls) led to the sale.
Having those attribution numbers can be critical to proving content marketing ROI to your boss or clients.
9. Tracking KPIs That Don’t Make Sense
Getting likes, loves, and upvotes on social media–that’s exciting. But these vanity metrics rarely translate to social media success. Even the number of shares can lean toward vanity because a lot of sharing is bot activity. Sharing is important. But it’s not a good measure alone.
Whether it’s social media, your website, your blog, or another content marketing channel, you need to measure key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter and provide you with real insights into your content performance.
Consider what’s essential. What KPIs indicate real awareness, engagement, conversion, and ultimately revenues?
Here are a few examples of what you might look at for social media:
- Impressions (in conjunction with other measures)
- Shares (with other criteria)
- Share of voice and mentions
And here are a few you might consider tracking for website performance:
- Repeat visits
- Ranking in important searches
- Search engine traffic
The key to choosing the right KPIs is aligning your measurement with your content marketing goals.
10. Getting Behind on Tracking Performance
Indeed, some measures are best understood when you take a step back. However, committing a Saturday every month to fill out your KPI spreadsheet will not help you improve.
Hey, we’re all busy with other things. That’s why these are common mistakes.
Sadly, you’re missing opportunities to grow and not seeing the day-to-day interactions that make up those end-of-month numbers. Even worse, if you publish and then tune out, you may miss customer comments or competitor moves that you need to address quickly.
So stay informed. Decide what tools you’ll use for real-time tracking and remain involved in your strategy.
And remember! Time is money. Often, paying for tools that gather your content marketing data from multiple channels all in one place is totally worth it. You can analyze the raw data more quickly to make decisions.
11. Ignoring SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) is still critical to content marketing. Not only does SEO help you improve your chances of ranking on the search engine results page (SERP), but it also helps align the way you talk about your customers’ challenges and the value of your products and services with what your leads are actually searching for online.
Using the right keywords and phrases can also help you reach leads with high search intent. For instance, someone searching for “types of gloves” may just be wanting to learn more about gloves. But someone typing in “black leather driving gloves” is probably ready to buy them!
It’s not easy to get to the top of searches. And it does take some time. But in the long-term, focusing on organic traffic can help significantly cut costs over time. It’s a worthy endeavor to make SEO part of your content marketing strategy from the start.
SEO involves optimizing your website by focusing on things like:
- Visual appeal
- Publishing relevant, helpful content (blogging, case studies, videos, etc.) that people are searching for
- Repeat visitors
- Increasing pages viewed
It also involves researching, monitoring, and building authority for your site from the outside (guest posting, influencers, social media, etc.). But to do this, your website needs to be optimized first.
Ultimately, Google wants to see that you can attract visitors through other means and deliver the right experience before rewarding you with a higher ranking.
12. Thinking PPC Isn’t Part of a Robust Content Strategy
Wait a minute! What?! Yes, paid advertising does have its place in a content marketing strategy.
Content marketing puts the focus on helpful content, no doubt. But if people can’t find this helpful content, it’s useless.
It can take a year or more to scale the search engine results so that people find content organically. Adding in PPC ads and paid social ads can help you see quicker results while you’re waiting for your content to start ranking organically.
Use pay-per-click ad platforms like AdWords and social media paid ads like Facebook Ads Manager (which includes IG) to expand your reach more quickly, grow your brand awareness, and guide people back to your website. Then, you can use remarketing ads to bring people back to your website and social media page.
While Google has said that ad traffic doesn’t directly improve ranking, this will generate repeat visitors to improve your ranking over time as well as conversion and sales.
As your content marketing efforts improve your ranking in search and your social media engagement, ads may become less of a focus. But early on, they’re vital.
13. Inconsistently Publishing
Ghosting your audience–let’s not do that. People quickly lose interest if publishing is too infrequent or sporadic.
Plan out your calendar ahead of time and commit to creating and publishing that content on time. Have a mix of content you can create quickly plus more in-depth content. This will help you stay on track with publishing frequently.
If you struggle to keep up with your calendar, outsource it. You can outsource just the content creation if you want to publish yourself. But cloud-based SaaS like the WriterAccess Managed Services can handle selecting your perfect content creator, managing the production, and publishing for you.
14. Being Overly-promotional During the Awareness Phase
Is this what every page on your website looks like?
There’s a reason you have to work so hard to make a sale.
A door-to-door salesperson barges right into your home and tells you to hand over your debit card. You’re buying what they’re selling now. You don’t really know what they’re selling yet, if you need one, or if this is the one you want. But you need to fork over the money.
Selling before you’ve made a connection, built trust, or explained the benefits, doesn’t work for the door-to-door salesperson. And it definitely doesn’t work in a strategy that focuses on building trust through content.
Over-promotion during awareness can also send your customer return rate through the roof.
Except for products that are impulse buys, blogging is primarily an awareness activity, as is most social media.
Focus on content creation that is helpful to your target audience in the awareness and consideration phases. Add CTAs, sure. But don’t drive your reader to a sales page every time.
15. Not Having a Clear Conversion Path
It’s a common content marketing mistake to be overly promotional during awareness. But it’s equally troublesome if you’re just publishing content without understanding how it contributes to business goals.
Apply inbound marketing strategies to create a clear path from awareness > consideration > decision-making.
Add a CTA toward the bottom/end of your content. Tell people what the next step is.
Because a percentage of people will be ready to “do this thing” after reading one blog, viewing one video.
16. Failing to Diversify Your Content
Whether your revenue stream comes in through a paywall, ads, selling goods/services, or non-profit donations, your target audience appreciates multimedia content. Different types of content can help you along the buyer’s journey.
I thought I’d grab a few stats to make my case here.
Blogging increases your search engine indexed pages by 400%. So it’s phenomenal for SEO. Long-form blogs (2000+ words) generate 9X the leads of the average 1000 word post. While 59% of B2B content marketers say consistent blogging is the key to their success.
And for the B2B brands: 79% of business leaders share white papers with their bosses and co-workers.
Images get 300% more shares on Facebook than text-only updates. Images include things like photos, Infographics, graphics. I’d also include Gifs here.
Aberdeen Group found video can increase leads by 66%.
87% of content marketers say webinars are useful for generating leads, particularly for B2B.
Also, effective for B2B? Case studies. 57% of B2B buyers say that they will trade their information for a good case study.
93% say that interactive content is effective and plan to make more of it next year.
I’ll also note that 29% of content marketers repurpose their content into other forms to maximize their return on investment.
Diversify content to meet business goals at different stages of the buying journey. Publish content in several formats.
And don’t just let old content go to pasture. Update and re-work it. Add word count and useful information, improving the opening, etc. to get better results.
17. Not Creating Evergreen Content
Trendy content certainly has a place. But if that’s all you do, it’s hard to plan and you’re continually chasing “lead stories” that may not pan out. Evergreen content is content built around things that are relevant over a more extended period, sometimes timeless. Even in continually evolving industries like high tech, these topics do exist.
Follow Google Trends to see what’s trending over more extended periods. Focus mostly on evergreen topics to feed your target customer’s need for knowledge, how-to, entertainment, etc. Add some trendy items mixed in to show you’re relevant and informed in your industry.
18. Not Exploring Automation
When it comes to content distribution, monitoring, and even research, the more you can automate, the better.
These activities involve a lot of monotonous tasks that are not only time-consuming, but the pay-off for doing them manually often pales in comparison to the benefits of automation. Common content marketing mistakes like this one can really bite into your ROI.
Yes, automation costs money. And these tools can be expensive. So evaluate what you’re doing and consider where automation could best serve you.
For example, Hootsuite allows you to design and schedule social media posts across platforms. It also automates social listening and brings your social media analytics into one tool rather than looking at Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. separately.
There is also an effective way to “automate” your content creation and publishing of monthly deliverables through a service like WriterAccess Managed Services. Get great content approved by you published automatically.
19. Not Testing Formats & Layouts
Publishing layouts, CTA locations, visual styles, color scheme, fonts, readability, the actual type of content? Everyone’s got an opinion on what you should be doing. You know I do. 😉
But there are many different factors that can influence a lead generation, bounce rate, ad locations (from certain publishers), and revenues significantly. So testing different formats and layouts for yourself is crucial.
Be strategic. Test some different styles. Change one thing at a time and compare apple to apple as much as possible.
20. Skipping the Style Guide
Along the lines of formating and layouts, let’s talk about style guides for a minute.
Do you need one?
A Style Guide is a document that outlines elements like:
- Voice (Journalistic, Business Formal, Commonspeak, Humorous)
- Style (Strict AP or more casual application of grammar rules)
- Readability Range (6th-8th is ideal for most online and mobile content. For example, The American Medical Association advises medical providers to write in 6th-8th grade for a patient audience, but a study found that we continue to write it in 10th-College level)
- Basic SEO strategies
And yes, this is one of the biggest content marketing strategy mistakes that businesses can make – not having a style guide to guide their content. A style guide ensures that your content aligns with your brand and sounds like it’s coming from one, unified source.
Create a style guide that everyone uses to create content cohesively.
Hint: If you work with freelancers, pretty please do not give me the full 20-page document for a $50 order. To get the great content you want, put yourself in my shoes. If I read a lengthy guide for small orders, I lose money.
Instead, create an abbreviated version that hits only what a writer needs to know so that thorough creators like me don’t feel the need to cut corners (skim).
21. Aiming to Go Viral
Did you have a friend growing up who thought they were going to be a rock star or star athlete? Today influencers would fall into the category.
Fun Fact: People Magazine found that 86% of people 13-38 want to be a social media influencer.
There’s a reason people encourage you to stay in school while you pursue these kinds of dreams.
It’s a long-shot. So is virality.
Going viral is fantastic when it happens. But it’s also that proverbial “cold day in hell” when it happens. Brrr.
In hindsight, it always looked so easy. But virality is hard to replicate. That’s because there is no singular, time-tested formula for going viral.
Instead of trying to go viral, focus on creating consistently great content and having a robust content marketing strategy.
When you work hard to create great content and get it in front of the people who will find it most valuable, this is when you have the best chance of getting some traction (and yes, maybe virality).
22. Creating a Cadence You Can’t Maintain
It happens to the best of us.
In the beginning, you are so excited about content marketing that you’re putting everything into it. You’re working past closing time. You’re constantly publishing, sharing, and engaging.
You’re getting so much engagement. Your social shares are up 1000% and people are visiting your website.
Wow. This is unbelievable. Content marketing really works!
Then the high subsides. You find you don’t have 20 hours a day to engage people on Twitter or Quora. You slow down and so does the traffic. You now find you have nothing to show for it. You never set up a clear conversion path like adding people to an email list. So once you stop publishing, they’re gone.
I’m speaking from experience here. But I know I’m not the only one who’s been here.
Focus on creating a sustainable plan. And don’t start something you can’t maintain. Evaluate your resources and make sure you have a method to convert traffic and engagement into warm leads.
And get help when you need it. You don’t have to have a big in-house team to keep up with your content schedule. Opt for finding great freelancers that you can engage on an as-needed basis to help you fill in your content gaps.
23. Thinking a Writer Must Be an Industry Expert
In my experience, you may need an expert to create your content if you’re writing about complex topics like quantum physics, have an academic audience, or your B2B speaks to people in a highly technical field.
But the vast majority of web content is written from an expert (You) to non-experts (Your Audience). It’s better if you’re not using jargon and speaking over their heads.
Professional writers know how to research and learn about an industry quickly in order to write about it competently, even if they’ve never actually worked in the industry. WriterAccess’ small army of writers has professionals who have been writing in certain specialties from CBD to marketing to legal blogging to healthcare for many years.
Might they say something a little funny sometimes? Sure. But is that really a dealbreaker when you’re getting a well-written article that engages your audience?
Unless you need content in an advanced niche that would be hard for your average intelligent person to understand, give general writers who specialize in your industry a try. If you find you need more first-hand expertise, work your way up to people with actual industry experience. Or give the writer access to your subject matter experts so that they can get the information they need to write more informed pieces.
24. Thinking All Writers Understand Marketing and SEO
Many writers, especially the newer ones, may not yet fully understand the greater context of what they’re doing when it comes to content marketing. They may not be comfortable with the ins and outs of SEO just yet.
And having that big picture knowledge of SEO can be the difference between getting content that ranks on the first page of Google and getting just another post to gather dust on your blog.
As part of your content marketing strategy, build a WriterAccess Love List of people who understand critical concepts like:
- Target audience / Buyer persona
- Buying Journey
- Purpose of content marketing
- Content marketing goals
Also, consider what makes content great for your content marketing strategy:
- A turbo-charged hook
- Content for people that also performs well with search engines
Look for writers who have completed courses and obtained certifications in things like content marketing, marketing analytics, SEO, inbound marketing, social media.
Keep in mind, these will tend to be your 5-star and up in WriterAccess.
25. Content Marketing Half-heartedly
Content marketing isn’t something you can do a little here and there. And it isn’t something you can set and forget.
Many businesses make the mistake of focusing on content marketing when they have the time instead of making time for content marketing.
Make your content marketing strategy a priority. If you don’t have someone on your team who can focus on creating content, bring on an in-house content writer or hire a freelance writer to make sure that your content marketing doesn’t get left behind.
Content marketing works when you apply a system.
If you like what you hear about the benefits of content marketing, it’s time to go all in. Create a plan. Execute that content marketing strategy. Put the resources you need toward it to achieve success. Make sure you have a clear conversion path to turn engagement into paying customers. Focus on consistently publishing helpful, quality content.
Sure there are many silly mistakes you could make. But often, changing a small thing makes the difference, as I genuinely hope I conveyed in this article because I want to best for you.
And know that there’s a small army of writers working in the cloud at WriterAccess ready to help you reach your content marketing goals.
Start your 14-day free trial today to see for yourself.
Leigh M. is a full-time writer who specializes in Marketing, B2B, and Healthcare writing for businesses promoting their brands through engaging and informative books, articles and copy. She has an MBA level education, a strong medical management background as well as extensive marketing, SEO and analytics experience. Leigh leverages advanced content optimization tools like Yoast, Grammarly Pro, Moz, and more to deliver polished, goal-driven content.