“Content is king.”
Almost every digital marketer on the planet has referenced that phrase at least once in an article, seminar or interview. Those three little words have spurned on the content marketing revolution where every business and brand is churning out ‘content’ day after day in the hope of increased traffic, leads, conversions, fans/followers – you name it.
Content marketing has literally become the ‘holy grail’ of marketing.
But what does “content is king” actually mean?
This blog post was originally intended to be a myth-busting look at content marketing mistakes; the mistakes marketers make in the rush to push out ‘content’ during this content-marketing-gold-rush era.
I outreached to some of the most influential content marketing industry experts and asked them all the same question:
What is the most common content marketing mistake you see, and how could it be remedied?
I expected all of their answers to be fairly similar, which would then lead me to a nice round up of ‘what to avoid and what to do instead’ conclusion.
But what I got was a little bit more interesting than that. What I actually received in my inbox, was a bunch of answers that completely contradicted each other.
And when I say that, I don’t just mean that they failed to agree on the most common content marketing mistakes; they failed to agree on what content marketing is – and how/when to use it.
I’ll share their responses with you now so you can see what I mean.
What is the most common content marketing mistake you see, and how could it be remedied?
Thanks again to everyone who took the time to provide me with an answer to the above question, here are the responses (in no particular order, in case you were wondering):
CrazyEgg, KISSmetrics, Quicksprout
The biggest content marketing mistake companies are making is that they are writing content for traffic versus for conversions. It’s much better to have 1000 qualified leads than it is to have 100,000 non-qualified visitors.
So when you are writing content, make sure you write based on what will benefit your customers and potential customers.
The most common content marketing mistake I see is folks believing that content is supposed to directly convert visitors into buyers. In reality, most content is part of a long, multi-visit, hard-to-track funnel that increases brand awareness, slowly introduces an audience to the company, help earn engagement, trust, links, press, and search ranking, and almost never directly results in a conversion.
Marketers and teams that invest in content hoping for that direct conversion are almost universally disappointed, but those who understand the process can make smart choices and earn great ROI.
Lead Content Strategist
A lot of people will probably say producing content for content’s sake is the most common mistake. And while this is the case, a common thing I see is brands creating the wrong type of content. It either isn’t likely to engage with their demographic, isn’t very shareable, or is too sales-focused/product heavy.
Start with your end goal, think about what you want to get out of the piece and then work backwards. If you are planning to do outreach, identify who your audience influencers are and create content for them, and finally, make sure your content isn’t sales heavy. You are doing this to inform your audience and build brand awareness, so be useful and let a great piece of content do the selling for you.
Content Marketing Institute
The biggest indicator of success is actually having a written, documented content marketing strategy. Most organizations don’t have one, and most successful content marketers have one.
So the remedy is easy. Plan the strategy, and execute based on the plan. Share the plan with your team, and review and modify ongoing.
Digital & Content Strategist
One of the most common mistakes that I see individuals and businesses making within their content marketing campaigns is not doing thorough research.
I’ve been guilty of this at times in the past but I won’t make the same mistake twice! It’s very easy to get fixed on a ‘great idea’ that you may have for a piece of content. Unfortunately, if you can’t substantiate that your idea is in fact ‘great’, then you’ve simply got an idea.
There isn’t a piece of content that I’ve published that hasn’t been validated as a good idea based on quantitative and/or qualitative data beforehand. This could be something as simple as asking people on Reddit if they’d like to see something that I’m proposing (I did this for my SaaS growth hacking guide recently and it paid dividends in the long term). Alternatively, I will often search for similar content that’s currently out there to identify if there is significant interest around the topic. This could be in the form of social shares, blog comments or backlinks.
For me, validation is the most important stage of the content ideation process. Don’t underestimate its value!
Co-Founder - E2M & MoveoApps
There are two areas where I see content marketing mistakes being made:
1. Content creation without keeping target audience and their interest in mind. I’ve seen many companies who create content but the content goes opposite to what their target audience might be interested in. The eventual goal is to sell the product/services and not to publish the content just for the sake of it.
2. Content creation for only promotional purpose. Recently I saw many SAAS companies who create content only to promote their product and what it includes. This type of content is certainly beneficial for the users who are interested in learning more about the product, but not for those who are not aware of the product.
To avoid this, I believe the primary thing is to either learn more about content marketing and then implement the right strategies or take advice from experts about the type of content that needs to be created and distributed. Mistakes only happen when there’s some lack of knowledge on content marketing and how to make best use of it.
Head of Content
One mistake is using too much insider-y jargon, especially in the B2B space. Remember: No one will complain that you made something too simple to understand. I wrote about the downside of jargon here
Many content marketers focus more on creation and production than consistency, sustainability, and expiration. But as with the puppy that soon grows into a dog, content is a commitment. So plan for that lifelong commitment!
Who will maintain a current content audit? How often will they cull your site, print collateral, and social media for relevance? What is your governance plan for bringing new content and contributors in line with editorial style guidelines? How often will you update those guidelines? And what is the plan for removing content from your ecosystem when it no longer supports your communication goals?
Content is a commitment of time, creativity, and resources – so are you ready for it?
Content Marketing Lead
A lot of folks out there spew the “quality versus quantity” analogy all over the place, but fail to take their own advice. I’ve seen lots of great content (well, what I thought was great content) shared on Twitter, my fave social network.
What sucks is when I get really excited because the authors nailed their headlines – and really appeal to my emotions to create better content, save a ton of time, get more customers – but then their actual content just scratches on the surface without going into great detail.
We know that long-form content that hits at least 2,000 words – and sometimes a lot more – is the most linked-to kind of content and data-scienced to rank higher in search engines like Google. That said, this happens because those marketers who understand this go into great detail to explain a solution to a problem that people actually want to know.
Do you think someone would link back to 2,000 word post full of fluff? No. Would Google notice that? Yes. Going deep into the details beyond the information you can get on any other competitor’s blog out there will help you build a loyal audience, increase your social shares on every post, give you way more pageviews, grow your email subscribers, and eventually help you convert those readers into customers.
I’d have to say a key error/marketing oversight being seen revolves around a lack of content informed by consumer or buyer understanding.
From an Inbound marketing perspective at least, effective marketing practices are those that begin with a strong foundation of buyer understanding. After all, you can only attract the customers you want if you understand their problems and produce content that addresses them.
It seems like common sense, but really that message that can be hard to reflect across all branding, content and activity. But if you really understand your customers (don’t make the mistake of assuming, research!) it leads to quality content creation, interest, engagement, traffic – and better qualitative leads.
We should all aim to think about marketing like a healthy body – what you put into it affects the shape it takes. So think about content (focused around pain-point based persona research) as the nutrition and activity plan of campaigns – without it you’ll run out of energy and fall off track fast!
In terms of content marketing 'mistakes' there are a few things I see pretty regularly:
1. An obsession with formats, rather than ideas. It's very easy to get wrapped up in formats - I'll often hear people say things like 'guides get links - let's do loads of guides'; but a guide is a format, not an idea. Similarly an infographic or data visualisation is a format, not an idea. People don't share formats, they share ideas. You need to think about whether or not anyone will care about what you've created - is there a story, a hook, something that will provoke some sort of emotional reaction? If not, don't do it.
2. Related to the point above, I think sometimes people fail to consider whether or not anyone will 'look good' sharing whatever content they've created. Knowingly or otherwise, when people share things via social media, they do so to shape other people's impressions of them. For example, an interactive guide to curing fungal nail infection might well be useful, but no one is going to look good sharing that! If they do share it, they'll just be telling the world that they have nasty looking toenails (most people like to keep that sort of thing on the down-low).
3. Limited creative scope. Your brand is not what you sell, it's how you sell it. Just because you sell blue widgets doesn't mean that the sole focus of your content needs to be blue widgets - your content doesn't have to be just about what you sell. The most obvious example is Red Bull, they sell soft drinks, but their content is about extreme sports. Why? Because that's what their target audience love and share.
Content Marketing, Social Media Consultant & CEO
One of the biggest content marketing mistakes I see is businesses chasing vanity metrics, like followers, web traffic and views, when they are creating content to reach their audience.
Vanity metrics can still help indicate success of your content marketing efforts, but in a vacuum, they can be very misleading. For example, if your content generates lots of traffic to your website, but none of that traffic converts or engages with your business, then it’s not of value.
Whereas paying attention to actionable metrics like engagement and conversions, can help better align your approach to content marketing since they are often a far better measure of success since they refer to impact on your bottomline.
The most common mistake I see is that people put “more content” before “content people actually care about”. We need to stop assuming that people are sitting around, waiting for our content and focus more on how we can actually deliver the things they want…which may very well be LESS content!
The most common content marketing mistake I see is that companies talk about quality content but then produce mediocre content. It’s the thing that matters the most, but through either corporate water-down or lack of creativity content marketers end up with a whole lot of ‘Top 10 Tips For [Generic Industry Thing]’ and not a lot of attention.
The question to constantly be asking is, What can we introduce to the world that’s new?
Social Media Marketing Strategist
One of the biggest mistakes I see is ‘not optimizing your content for search engines’. This should be done from day one. Done correctly it will lead to 50% plus of your traffic coming from search engines ‘for free’.
It is often not acted on because it takes time to see the results and a lot of people are after a quick traffic fix.
SOCIAL MEDIA EXAMINER
Biggest mistake: not tracking conversions and only looking at views. People come and go but content that converts is what matters.
As you can see from these responses, different marketers use content marketing for different results, which changes what they perceive as a 'mistake' by others.
However, it is clear that knowing who your content is for, and what sort of content your target audience actually wants, is a vital factor in content marketing.
The key takeaway here is that content comes in many shapes and sizes, and can serve different audiences and different purposes. This makes it very difficult to pinpoint the 'right' way to do content marketing.
What do you think? Get involved by commenting below or tweeting us at @AptitudeTeam