Seth Godin famously said “Content marketing is the only marketing left.”
This seems particularly true as we close in on another decade, and content marketing is more popular than ever. And for good reason. Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing and generates three times as many leads. HubSpot, meanwhile, determined that marketers who prioritize blogging efforts are 13x more likely to see positive ROI.
Content marketing mistakes that are completely avoidable
While content marketing can be powerful, that doesn’t mean it’s bulletproof. Seemingly simple errors can tank your efforts and render your content useless. Fortunately, these common content marketing mistakes are completely avoidable, which is why we’ve compiled this handy little guide to help you.
Let's dive into 10 content marketing mistakes to ditch in 2020.
10 content marketing mistakes
Writing for a single audience
Ignoring your customers' needs
Using too much jargon (or not enough)
Writing for search engines
Going with your gut
Putting all of your eggs in one basket
Setting and forgetting it
Attempting to be too many things to too many people
Posting for the sake of posting
Neglecting the ask
1. Writing for a single audience
It’s no secret that, in order for content to convert, it needs to be interesting, engaging and—perhaps most importantly—relevant to your audience. It’s a mistake, however, to believe that your audience is all the same, or that there’s only one conversation taking place around your product or service.
This is especially true in B2B marketing, where the decision making process is more complex. Rather than convincing an individual consumer to purchase your product or service, you may very well need to persuade an entire chain of command. You have buyers researching business solutions on one level, and executives approving their purchases at another.
To engage with C-Suite executives, thought leadership is the ticket. In fact, 55% of decision-makers read one or more hours of thought leadership content per week – the same number said they use thought leadership to vet organizations they may hire.
2. Ignoring your customers’ needs
The reason why good content marketing works is because it builds trust with your audience…so much trust that they might just turn into paying customers. This is hard to do if your entire blog is written from your company’s POV without considering the unique pain points of your readers.
For example, if your blog is just a place for you to sound off your latest company news, product features, or updates, it’s missing the point of content marketing entirely. Even if the content is technically about your business, product or service, you should always look for a way to make it more about your readers.
Let’s say, for instance, your team recently attended Salesforce’s annual conference, Dreamforce. You immediately identify the blog post potential, since Salesforce is a major brand and Dreamforce a massive conference. You already know that if your readers associate your business with Salesforce or Dreamforce, it can help build your authority and credibility, which in turn will drive more conversions.
You immediately blast out a blog post, sharing pictures of your team decked out in Dreamforce swag. You write about what an exciting opportunity it was, and include a few lines about your company’s commitment to excellence. Your readers are bound to be impressed. But when you check in with Google Analytics a few weeks later, you notice your blog post failed to move the dial. No traffic, no conversions. Where did you go wrong?
Consider, instead, an alternative approach. You decide to share your top 10 takeaways from the Dreamforce conference, broken down into actionable steps your readers can take to solve a particular problem. You know what this problem is because you’ve done your homework. You know who your audience is, and why they’re reading your blog in the first place.
Hint: it isn’t because they want to keep track of what conferences you’re attending.
No one is going to share a picture of your team mugging with Dreamforce passes on LinkedIn (unless they work for your company). They may, however, share an incredibly valuable action guide that addresses their industry-specific pain points (while simultaneously building upon your thought leadership).
That being said, it’s a lot easier to write from your own perspective instead of someone else’s. That’s why it’s a good idea to ask yourself whenever you’re putting out a new piece of content: “What problem does this help my audience solve?” If you’re unsure of the answer, it’s better to take a pass than to put out yet another blog post that doesn’t offer any value to its readers.
RELATED: Learn 10 of the best content marketing examples to emulate. From written blogs to infographics, there's something out there sure to please your specific audience's needs.
3. Using too much jargon (or not enough)
The purpose of your content should be to provide value to your readers, build trust and ultimately move them through the funnel. To do this, it’s important to not only consider their pain points (as related to your business), but also their level of familiarity with a particular topic.
For instance, using too many acronyms or industry-specific jargon in a blog post intended for beginners can cause confusion or distract them from the value of your offer. In this case, it’s always better to keep it simple.
On the other hand, explaining basic terms to a well-versed audience could not only insult their intelligence but inadvertently cause them to take your content less seriously. They may even lose confidence in your brand’s ability to help them solve a problem.
The key here is to know who you’re writing for and adjust your content accordingly.
4. Writing for search engines
Any content marketer worth their weight in salt knows the perils of ignoring Google. While SEO is a critical component of content marketing, and will remain so in 2020, you still need to remember who you’re writing for: humans. After all, Google may crawl your site and rank your blog posts, but it’s not going to pull out a credit card and make purchases from your company.
When creating new content, avoid keyword stuffing and other outdated techniques, which can result in penalization and seriously jeopardize your efforts. Keywords should be naturally incorporated into your content as much as possible–readers shouldn’t be able to tell which ones you’re targeting (unless they’re fellow marketers, of course).
5. Going with your gut
Jennifer Lopez once said: “I only do what my gut tells me to.” With all due respect to J.Lo, she isn’t a content marketer.
Whether you have a personal preference for longer headlines or an inclination that a particular post topic may go viral, neither holds much weight where your readers are concerned. You need to utilize data to learn everything you can about them and craft your content accordingly.
Keyword research is an easy way to validate an idea for a blog post, ebook or whitepaper topic (low monthly search volumes could mean there’s not enough interest). You can invest in robust tools like Ahrefs to help you, but if you’re on a tight budget, Keywords Everywhere and Google Keyword Planner should do the trick.
Even after you’ve published your content, you can continue to learn about your audience by measuring performance metrics. Google Analytics is your BFF here, since it can easily determine which blog posts are getting the most traction. Don’t just look at traffic, but also how long readers are sticking around, or how many pages they’re viewing in a single session.
You can also gage whether or not your audience is interested in your content by taking a look at email click-through rates. If these are low, it could mean your content is missing the mark. Landing page A/B testing will afford you additional insights on your audience’s preferences on everything from copy to text size and image placement.
None of these techniques should be used in isolation, but together they can afford you a deeper understanding of what your audience is looking for. Once you have this knowledge, there’s no need for guesswork.
6. Putting all of your eggs in one basket
Effective content marketing involves many moving parts: writing, SEO, outreach, promotion. Focusing too much on one aspect, and ignoring the others, can drastically hinder your content marketing efforts.
For instance, don’t spend so much time on link building that the quality of your content suffers. There’s no question that backlinks are important for SEO, but in order to appeal to quality websites (which have a high DA), your content has to actually be good. Otherwise, site owners and editors won’t want to link to it. Not only do they have their own readers and reputation to think about, but linking to spammy or otherwise subpar content can put their site at risk.
Similarly, if your content is lacklustre, readers will bolt, signalling to Google that your site isn’t providing valuable content. On the flip side, don’t spend all your time crafting incredible content and neglecting to promote it, since no one will see it.
7. Setting and forgetting it
There are enough abandoned blog posts collecting dust out there on the Internet as it is. Your content could be doomed to a similar fate if you fail to analyze its performance on a regular basis.
If a blog post is underperforming, it can drastically improve if properly optimized. In order to do this, however, you need to know that it’s underperforming in the first place. On the other hand, a post or video that’s pulling in a high value of traffic can help inform your decisions about future content.
You should know what you’re doing right, and what you’re doing wrong. In order to do that, you’ll need to keep tabs on how your content is performing.
This is where regular content reviews come in handy. Although opinions are divided on the particulars, it generally takes a few weeks to see results from link building and SEO efforts. Monthly content reviews are usually an appropriate frequency. It’s also a good idea to look at your best (and worst) performing content at the start of each quarter, to help establish benchmarks for future pieces.
8. Attempting to be too many things to too many people
Unless you’re Leonardo da Vinci, you’re probably not an expert on a vast range of topics. And that’s a good thing, at least according to Google.
Websites and blogs which focus on a particular topic are more likely to be successful at the SEO game, largely thanks to Google’s 2018 algorithm update. This update has become closely associated with the acronym E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
These are the factors which Google now considers when determining which content to show users. Thanks to E-A-T, a blog singularly focused on content marketing or SaaS will generally outrank a blog about content marketing, SaaS, canine nutrition, vanlife and pop culture.
9. Posting for the sake of posting
As the adage goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. This is especially true of content marketing. Too many companies come up with an arbitrary number of blog posts to churn out each week – without any plan, objective or goals in sight – and then sit back waiting for the traffic to roll in. This is not effective content marketing. Every single post you make should be purposeful, and that purpose shouldn’t just be to fill up an editorial calendar.
10. Neglecting the ask
No one wants to read (or write) content with a hard sell, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore the ask altogether. Even the most subtle content marketing needs a call to action (CTA) to help move the reader through the funnel. They should be able to figure out what you want them to do next. The quick and easy recipe for effective CTAs:
Define your goal: What do you want folks to do after reading your content? Sign up to your email list? Download your ebook? Share your content on social media?
Keep it short: It’s important to keep your CTAs clean and concise.
Make it actionable: Readers shouldn’t have to search for the next step, or think twice about what you want them to do.
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Back to you
With a new year fast approaching, now is the perfect time to revisit and revamp your content marketing strategy. Avoiding these common content marketing mistakes can help ensure your content effectively converts and yields major ROI for your business in 2020 and beyond.
As you revamp your content strategy for 2020, make sure you use the best content marketing software for your personal and company needs.