Content marketing efforts NOT paying off? Here are 11 silly mistakes you’re probably making.

Content marketing efforts NOT paying off? Here are 11 silly mistakes you’re probably making.

Content marketing is a funny thing. Every business wants to play the game – but very few ever get ahead.

In fact, some don’t even know what content marketing really is. 

If that includes you, I’m not here to shame you. I’m here to help you learn the rules of the game. And to guide you in the right direction – so that you can finally start seeing a return on your investment.

Because one thing we can all agree on is this: content marketing is indeed an investment. Of both time and money. 

But before I dive in, let’s define what we mean by content marketing: Content marketing is the creation and sharing of online material that [SPOILER ALERT] does not explicitly promote your brand – but aims to stimulate interest in your products or services.

Okay, let’s do this. 

1. You’re chaotic

Are you just ideating, writing and posting – as you go? Sorta making it up as you go along? 

You already know what I’m gonna say here, don’t you?

Good content marketing needs a good PLAN.

Specific and measurable goals. Customer personas. Content pillars. Publishing calendars. And a strict schedule for data tracking and analysis.

Yup, the whole damn shebang. 

Because without a strategy, you’ll only find yourself running in circles. Wasting time and resources. Confusing your audience with inconsistent messages. And confusing yourself with no idea on whether any of this work is even worth your while. 

And inevitably, you’ll lose faith… momentum… and become all too eager to give up after a few meagre blog posts. 

But please, don’t get scared off by the word ‘strategy’. Content strategies don’t have to be expensive. Or complex. 

They just have to be clear, considered – and practical. 

2. You’re just blogging 

I’ve got nothing against the humble blog.

In fact, I encourage my clients to get serious about blogging all the time. That’s because, businesses with blogs get 55% more website visitors than those without one. 

But any content marketing strategy must be holistic, varied and integrated. And that means diversifying into other forms of content, such as:

Of course, you can’t do it all – not if you want to do it all well, that is. Rather, consider what would appeal most to your target audience. And play to your strengths.

3. You’re all about the sales pitch

‘People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy!’ 

This is the trademark and mantra of America’s #1 sales authority, Jeffrey Gitomer. And, when it comes to content marketing, it needs to be your mantra. 

Because we can all smell a sales pitch a mile away. And we don’t want a bar of it. 

When businesses knock on my door after months (or even years) of poor content engagement, my advice is often this simple:

‘Stop with the sales messages!’

So, repeat after me – three times:

Content must be educational and genuinely valuable to my audience.
Content must be educational and genuinely valuable to my audience.
Content must be educational and genuinely valuable to my audience. 

Because unless it is, your content marketing strategy isn’t a strategy at all. It’s just a big boasty sales brochure dissected into random pieces.  

So go on, wow your audience with your expertise. Make it relevant. Solve their problems. And in time, you will build trust – and become the natural first port of call when your prospects are ready to buy.

4. You’re a copycat

Don’t get me wrong: you do need to keep a close eye on your competitors. It can inspire you, spur your creativity – and motivate you to push further.  

But, be careful: Are your ideal customers and their ideal customers really all that similar? 

Chances are, you’re not genuinely targeting the exact same people. And if you think you are, I encourage you to dig a little deeper – by asking: 

Why do our customers choose our business over the competition? [HINT: If you don’t know the answer, have a sneaky peek now at Mistake #9.]

Because there will be a specific reason. And that reason should form the basis of your own strategy – and the original content that flows from it.

After all, imitation negates your own uniqueness. You just add to the noises that are already out there. And, above all, you risk copying something that’s not even that great anyway.

So, tell your story. In your voice. Your way. That becomes your brand.

5. You’re not flaunting it

So, you’ve spent hours writing your blog article, case study, whitepaper, whatever.  

Now what? Publish it on your website and go home? No siree.

Your content shouldn’t exist in its own time-out corner of the internet. It deserves to be seen in as many places as possible. And by the right people.

As Nigel McHugh says, ‘Content is king but distribution is queen, and she wears the trousers’.

And that means spending just as much – or arguably, a helluva lot more – time promoting your content as you spend producing it. This includes:

  • Posting across social media platforms (multiple times) – tagging relevant people and brands
  • Offering it to relevant third-party platforms for republishing
  • Being active on community sites and sharing your content when it’s relevant 

It’s called content ‘marketing’ for a reason.

6. You’re not recycling it

Here at RM, some of our own most successful posts – in terms of both engagement and reach – were recycled or repurposed from content created many years earlier.

Why is that? Because it’s reaching people it never reached before. And even if it isn’t, people’s memories are not as sharp as you think they are. (Do YOU recognise every piece of content a particular brand promotes a year or two on?)

But, when I say ‘recycle’ or ‘repurpose’, I don’t mean promoting old content in the exact same way as you’ve done in the past. 

I mean reimagining it in other formats, for other platforms and channels. 

Turn a blog post into a bite-sized post. Turn a webinar transcript into an article. Turn a video into a LinkedIn carousel or Instagram slider. 

Heck, sometimes just changing a headline and image on an old favourite article and reposting it can suddenly make traction. 

And that’s the point. Content repurposing should be low effort

7. You don’t get SEO

Many marketers only do the most basic SEO and wonder why their content isn’t ranking.

Here’s the thing: SEO is about so much more than plastering keywords all over the place. 

For one, it’s about focusing on the right keywords. For example, you shouldn’t waste your time chasing keywords that are intensely competitive and dominated by much bigger players. But you also don’t want to chase keywords that don’t have sufficient search volume.

Beyond keywords though, SEO is also about inserting proper meta descriptions, title tags, slugs, alt tags and links into your content. 

And if you don’t know what these terms mean, I’d say it’s time to fill the gaps in your SEO knowledge – or engage a reputable provider who can guide you. 

Because when you combine sound SEO strategy with original, quality content, it’s a match made in content marketing heaven. 

8. Your content is blah

We all see thousands of posts from businesses every day – but how many could you truly classify as quality?

Regardless of your industry, there’s always going to be intense competition. So, if you want to stand out, your content has to be captivating and engaging. (And yes, it is possible to create captivating and engaging content with whatever topic you’re writing about.)

Like it or not, if you don’t invest in producing high-quality content, it won’t get much traction. Common mistakes include:

  • Crappy writing: If you’re not a writer, hire a freelance copywriter or copywriting agency who can make your writing shine. 

  • Keyword obsession: Stuffing your content with keywords will only work against you. Your readers will see right through it. So will Google.

  • Stock photo overkill: Thankfully, most stock libraries today have much better images than they used to. But still, try to use authentic photos wherever possible.

  • Poor design and layout: If you just throw some images into a document it will be amateur and boring. Instead, invest in proper design whenever budget allows. 

  • Quantity over quality: Instead of 25 blog posts full of drivel, try one with tonnes of value. (And make that single post work harder for you by turning it into different formats – as per Mistake #5.)

  • Too much geek-speak: Jargon-filled copy will bore and alienate your readers. You’ll impress more people if you can explain concepts in words they understand – in plain English

9. You’re not talking to your sales team

It never ceases to amaze me when I learn that the people coming up with content ideas in a business don’t consult with the very people who are speaking to customers every day.

Without question, the best content brainstorming sessions I’ve had over the years are those that include people from different areas of the business – especially salespeople. 

Think about it, your sales team is on the frontline, gathering powerful insights about your customers and prospects day after day. Insights like:

  • Their most frequently asked questions
  • The biggest objections and barriers to a sale
  • What they love most about your product or service
  • What your competitors are doing in the field 

All these insights should be inspiring your content marketing strategy, the topics you write about – and the types of pieces you produce. 

But here’s the clincher: connecting with your sales team will benefit them as much as it does you. While you’re getting inspiration and insights, they’re getting assets that are more relevant for their pipeline.

10. You’re stuffing up your CTAs

Just the other day, I stumbled across a (sponsored) post in my Instagram feed about a Women’s Entrepreneur Summit – in Melbourne. 

Relevant? Check. Interesting? Check. 

So, I stopped. Looked closely at the image and read the short caption.  

But then? I didn’t click. And here’s why: the single call-to-action (CTA) was ‘BOOK NOW!’

However, I didn’t want to book now. I wasn’t ready. I just wanted to learn more about the event. Dates, times, costs, etc. I felt like they were asking me to marry them – before we even had our first date.  

Lead? Lost. Sale? Lost. 

What a waste of an opportunity! Simply because the CTA was wrong. 

So, before you create any piece of content, ask yourself: What stage of the customer journey are my target readers at?

People at the very top of your sales funnel who barely even know your brand? Or people already considering buying your product or service?

Your answer will help you choose the right CTAs. 

But what’s arguably even worse than the wrong CTA is no CTA at all

If you’re creating content, but don’t tell the reader what to do next, that’s a missed opportunity to convert those readers into followers or subscribers – and to lead them down your sales funnel. Over time.

11. You’re impatient

Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. A slow, steady investment that pays dividends over time, not a get-rich-quick scheme. 

So don’t expect to publish a few blog posts and see a mounting audience and thousands of subscribers overnight. 

Of course we’ve all heard the stories of companies making millions from one viral post. It does happen, but it’s rare. Very rare. 

For now, you’ve got to let your content marketing efforts play out to see the payoff.

Sure, the data and metrics may tell you to change or tweak something along the way. But, as I said at the top of this post, if you have a sound strategy in place with realistic goals, you may just need a little patience.

To learn more about content marketing strategy for your business – or for original, quality content that connects and converts – get in touch with Refresh Marketing. 

Otherwise, follow us on LinkedIn. Or sign up to The Rough Draft.