content strategy mistakes

Content Strategy Mistakes: How to Avoid the 7 Deadly Sins of Content Strategy

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Your concept is brilliant, your writing clever, so why is your content failing to perform? Perhaps you are making one (or more) of the most common content strategy mistakes that can hold content marketers back from success.

According to the 2019 Content Management & Strategy Survey, 44% of organizations see content as a valuable business asset. However, only 26% are able to draw valuable insights from analytics and data, while just 10% feel that their content reaches the right person at the right time. This could very well be due to the fact that many businesses dive right into content marketing without first developing a solid strategy.

I’ve put together a list of what I like to call “The Seven Deadly Sins of Content Strategy.” See if you are committing any of these common content marketing mistakes. And then work on fixing them.

Deadly Sin 1: You failed to plan.

Have you ever heard the adage, “Fail to plan and you plan to fail”? Well, this is just as true of content marketing strategy as it is with anything else.

Before you start creating content, you need to identify your goals, the tactics and channels you will use, and a plan for how you will implement these tactics in a written document. Why? Because you need to be able to assess your content’s performance, make adjustments where necessary, and change or add to your content goals over time. Keeping it all in your head may seem like the easy way to go, but in truth that is just asking for trouble. It is hard to keep it all straight and make the necessary changes if you don’t have something tangible to work with.

Solution: You need a written, defined plan to guide your content creation. But this plan also needs to be fluid so that it can grow and evolve as your business and the market does.

Deadly Sin 2: You’re focusing on quantity instead of quality.

There was a time when shallow content and keywords splattered across a page were enough to secure your website a tidy little spot at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). That is no longer the case. Customers want content that is useful, and the search engines are responding by changing their algorithms to reflect that. What once worked to propel you to the top of the SERP can now land you at the bottom of the rankings. Keywords are still important, and you still need to produce content regularly. However, priorities have changed, and if your content isn’t great then it won’t be too useful to your brand.

Solution: Every piece of content you create should add some type of value for the reader. The higher the quality, the better your content will perform. You should still aim to publish content regularly on your blog, website, and social media channels. However, you should aim for quality over quantity when developing your content strategy.

Deadly Sin 3: Your audience is not defined.

Not defining your audience is one of the most common content strategy mistakes. The scattershot approach of trying to reach everyone with your content really doesn’t work. Sure, you might get lucky a few times, but when you don’t have a clear idea of who your audience is, it’s nearly impossible to reach them effectively. Great content is refined and tailored to speak to a specific audience.

Solution: Clearly define your audience and create buyer personas, or fictional representations of your ideal customers and clients. Every time you create a piece of content, you need to make sure that you are communicating to those personas in a way that they can relate to and understand.

Deadly Sin 4: You’re using outdated SEO practices.

While keyword research is still an important part of SEO, the truth is that the days of using a single, broad keyword are long gone. SEO has evolved and you need to evolve with it if you want to remain relevant in the online marketplace. Search engines like Google reward digital marketing content that focuses on responding to user intent – or fulfilling the search engine user’s needs. Often, the keywords that signal customer intent are long-tail keywords and phrases that are specific.

Solution: Before doing any keyword research or developing SEO content, you should brush up on current SEO practices. Search engine algorithms are always updating, which means you’ll need to stay in-the-know to ensure that you are using best practices. If you don’t have time to stay up-to-date with SEO, you may want to hire a freelancer who can help.

Deadly Sin 5: You’ve forgotten your customer.

Sometimes when you are in a mad rush to churn out content it is easy to focus on the copy instead of who will be reading and responding to it. For instance, have you ever gotten so caught up in a tiny detail of your industry that you find fascinating only to find out that your customers don’t care about it? When you forget who is reading your blog posts, tweets or LinkedIn content, it’s easy to get off track and veer off onto topics your customers and leads just don’t care about.

Solution: If you haven’t already, identify who your best customers are. What do they like/dislike? What do they care about? What would they like to learn more about? Once you know who your target customers are, you should aim to write your content directly to those people. If you find yourself writing about something your customers and leads won’t care about, it may be time to move on.

Deadly Sin 6: You are not measuring content performance (or not measuring effectively).

If you have content out there you better have some way of measuring its performance and effectiveness. You need to know if your content is doing what you want it to do, if people are clicking on your internal links, and if it plays a part in customer conversion. Good analytics not only allow you to see if your content is performing among your target audience, but they can also help you identify which marketing efforts work and which don’t.

Solution: Set content marketing goals that align with your overall business objectives. Assign key performance indicators (KPIs) to these goals so that you have a way to measure success. Then, you’ll need to get in the habit of regularly analyzing your content. When content doesn’t perform as you expected, it may be time to tweak your strategy a bit. When a piece of content is performing well, take a look at what might be driving its success and replicate it in future content marketing efforts.

Deadly Sin 7: You’re ignoring the value of tangential content.

If you aren’t familiar with the term tangential content, it is content that is not directly about your brand, services, or products. For instance, let’s say that your business manages beach rental properties. There’s a good chance that you already focus your content creation on topics that pertain to beach rental properties, such as “how to find the perfect beach rental” or “5 beach rentals you’ll drool over.” But you also need to include additional content that relates to your target market but may not directly relate to your specific rentals.

In this case, you might write a piece of content on “things to do at the beach” or “best fishing spots in Florida.” While this content is not directly related to the products you are selling, it is still relevant to your target audience, and it’s on a topic that your potential customers may be searching for on Google at the same time they are looking for beach rentals.

When you leave out this type of content, you are missing out on the opportunity to reach customers during the research phase of their buyer’s journey, which is an important time to connect and build authority.

Solution: The solution to this is simple – create more tangential content! Continue to include blog and social media posts about your company, products, and services, but also add some new content as well. Consider what types of topics your buyers are looking for when they’re also researching your product or service. Then, create quality content around these topics.

Final Thoughts

If you are spending the time and money to create content, you obviously want it to provide some return on investment. If you find that your content just isn’t performing as well as it should, then it may be time to identify what content strategy mistakes you are making. Correcting the deadly sins of content strategy mentioned above is a good place to start in getting your content back on track.

Need help with your content strategy? Whether you are stuck on choosing topics for blogging or your podcast or you’re just looking for ways to incorporate content like case studies, webinars, and infographics into your editorial calendar, WriterAccess can help. We’ve got a great group of content strategists who specialize in helping businesses like yours avoid making common mistakes by providing a quality content strategy.

Stephanie M.’s works with businesses to create web content that leaps off the page (or screen) to inform, educate, and engage, leading to social sharing, conversion, and return visits. She does it: blog posts, articles, social media management, website content, press releases – you get the idea. Her work as an analyst/disaster response specialist with FEMA in Washington, D.C. gave her a unique insight into disaster prep, response, and recovery. She helped individuals and businesses recovering from major disasters (including hurricanes Katrina and Sandy) and provided educational material for disaster prep.


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