20 content marketing mistakes to avoid

It’s more than a trend; it’s a terrific way to raise your brand’s profile. It’s fraught with pitfalls, though, so heed these warnings as you navigate the often treacherous online terrain.

Halloween is right around the corner, but in today’s marketing world there are many things more horrifying than ghosts and goblins.

As you read this, bad content marketing is lurking around every corner, ready to frighten you with its horrible messages, scary grammar, and chilling lack of strategy. There are, however, ways to keep the bad content marketing demons at bay—no garlic or wooden stakes required.

Here are the top 20 content marketing mistakes identified by content leaders, plus the magic ways to make them disappear:

1. Not setting clear goals. “Attempting any type of content marketing without having clear goals in mind is pointless. Your content will not be able to achieve what you want if you don’t even know what you want. Take the time to develop goals that support your overall business strategy.”-Anita Loomba via Social Media Today

2. Setting the bar too low. “Your content marketing should be the best in your industry—better than all your competition, and better than the media and the other publishers in your space. How can you be the most trusted expert in your industry if your content marketing doesn’t reflect these high standards?”-Joe Pulizzi via Content Marketing Institute

3. Calling sales materials content marketing. “The biggest mistake is thinking that ‘content’ is just newfangled sales materials. Most content marketing fails on the utility scale. Content that is inherently useful is inherently successful.”-Jay Baer via Content Marketing Institute

4. Being afraid to reveal too much. “Many companies are still taking the cold, corporate approach and not humanizing their brand. People want to connect not just with companies, but the people who run them. They also expect to hear from you if something goes wrong and want to know what it’s like behind the scenes. It’s time to be real.”-Debbie Williams via Sprout Content

5. Creating content in silos. “Content marketing needs to have support and engagement across all departments. However, this can cause problems if people don’t work together. If too many people are ‘in charge’ of content and they aren’t working together on the editorial and publishing calendar, your marketing could lack cohesion. This means multiple (and different) brand voices, too much or too little publishing or mixed messages. Editorial calendars work best when the people running them work together.”-Clayton Stobbs via Compendium

6. Underestimating consumers. “The consumer of today does not want to be inundated with sales pitches just so you can feed your lead gen beast, Mr. and Mrs. Marketer. And if you don’t know that by now, you may want to consider a career change.”-Steve Olenski via Forbes

7. Blogging only when you can squeeze it in. “Imagine subscribing to a monthly magazine and getting a few pages at a time. If you create a blog and rarely update it you won’t gain momentum and will surely lose interest from those you did reach.”-Debbie Williams via Sprout Content

8. Putting too much focus on one particular channel. “ Stop thinking ’email newsletter’ or ‘Facebook.’ Think about the problem you are solving for your customer. Then tell that story in different ways-and tell it everywhere your customers go to seek authoritative information.”-Joe Pulizzi via Content Marketing Institute

9. Thinking ‘viral’ is a strategy. “For some companies, ‘viral’ is a big part of the content marketing strategy. The assumption: Social channels like Facebook and Twitter will be used to great effect, delivering substantial eyeballs to your content. While social can play an important role in your company’s content marketing efforts, don’t fall victim to the belief that social is the strategy. Social channels can be difficult to stand out in and, depending on your target market, may not provide the audience you’re after.”-Patricio Robles via Econsultancy

10. Overlooking internal marketing goals. “In what may be the single greatest content marketing sin companies commit, many such programs are still launched without any knowledge or input from the sales team (or other employees). Before your next launch, gather input from all your employees, and make sure that they are as involved as possible in your content creation program from the outset.”-Dave Kerpen via Inc

11. Being inconsistent. “Once you’ve captured your audience’s attention, you need to hold it by posting content consistently. Whether it’s once a day or once a week, your audience should know when to look for your latest updates.”-Matt Wesson via Salesforce Pardot

12. Being unprofessional. “Businesses sometimes forget to make sure their content writing is professional. Content writing does need to be grammatically correct, clear, and valid. Your content should be interesting, engaging, and meaningful to your readers. Hiring an ad agency or PR firm is not always a good way to solve this problem unless they have specific training in content writing. Invest in a service or writer who will be worth your time and money.”-Tara Horner via Jeff Bullas

13. Focusing too much on your competition. “Don’t take potshots at the competition. Nobody wants to hear it. If your business is so much better, you’ll win out over time. Because you are competitors, you have no credibility in criticizing them. All you’re really doing is undermining your own credibility for other more important communications.”-John Miller via Scribewise

14. Failing to target. “No one has time or patience for general content. If you’re trying to write an e-book to please everyone, you’ll ultimately satisfy no one. Forty-seven percent of consumers believe that a lack of targeted content is one of the worst content marketing mistakes.”-Tatiana Liubarets via Writtent

15. Creating content in only one media format. “Bandwidth is cheap, and text and images aren’t the only way to get your message across. We have video, podcasting, graphic slideshows, live streaming, and a host of other new media formats that can spread your message. When you find the format that best suits your voice, also find another format that complements it.”- Tommy Walker via MarketingProfs

16. Not including calls to action. “Every piece of content should have a call to action. If it doesn’t, at least recognize this, and consider the real purpose behind why you developed the content.”-Joe Pulizzi via Content Marketing Institute

17. Not going beyond owned media for distribution. “Great content doesn’t distribute itself, and distribution is a crucial part of any successful content marketing strategy. Unfortunately, many companies make the mistake of focusing on owned media because, well, it’s easy. From opportunities to provide guest posts on third-party sites to content distribution services, there are plenty of ways to ensure that your content is seen by more people, and the right people.”-Patricio Robles via Econsultancy

18. Focusing on the wrong metrics. “The problem arises when your metrics don’t evolve with your business and mature as your content marketing schedule develops. Over time, it’s important that you look at other indications of whether you’re getting a real return on your investment. Creating tons of content-even great content-without a focus can hurt your efforts in the long run.”-Jayson DeMers via Search Engine Journal

19. Only considering bottom-line results. “Some CMOs heard that everything is measurable in digital. Therefore, the only key performance indication (KPI) that the VP of Digital is now tasked with is bottom-line, tangible results. But what results should CMOs measure? Tying the true impact of online advertising to offline purchase patterns is a daunting task that is more often qualitative (based on feedback) than quantitative (based on data). This means that (surprise, surprise) the digital team will focus on short-term gains that are directly tied to measurable results, such as online sales.”-Gilad de Vries via Outbrain

20. Losing momentum. “It’s common for brands to start out fast and furious in their content efforts but then lose steam over time. One reason brands lose momentum is because they are trying to bite off more than they can chew—when the pace gets overwhelming, they back off. If this sounds like you, return to your specific goals, break those goals down, and tackle one step at a time.”-Shanna Mallon via Online Marketing Institute

A version of this article first appeared on Cursive Content.


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