Mistakes are a part of life. Some we need to make on our own, in order to gain certain skills and improve our knowledge, while others (thankfully) have already been made by those who went before us. In the case of the latter, the lessons have already been learned, and the knowledge shared, leaving us to only apply what was discovered. Think of it in terms of the wheel having just been invented, what is left for us to do is find the best use for it and, more importantly, ways of improving on it.
Content marketing has radically changed the way companies use their website, blog, and social accounts. The focus has shifted from a me-centric approach, to one of sharing valuable information and building relationships. But some old habits are easier to let go of than others, resulting in many companies continuing to make the same mistakes.
In this article we will take a look at some of the worst content marketing mistakes still being made by companies of all sizes. We will also examine how to avoid these mistakes, hopefully without having to resort to calling an intervention.
Content That is Blind
Unless you’re quite egotistical, one of the first things you do when you meet someone new is get to know a bit more about them. Depending on when and how you meet this person, you’ll ask questions that help you understand:
- What they do. This could be both personally and professionally, as you ask about their career, hobbies, family, etc.
- What their interests are. This is where you try to find out more about their likes and dislikes, and what they do for fun (aside from actual hobbies).
- What they are looking for. Professionally this would include networking, new business partners, suppliers, etc.; while personally this may be a romantic interest, a new car, a holiday recommendation, etc.
In the process, the person you have just met learns a bit more about you too. Unless, again, you’re egotistical, in which case the other person has heard all about you, your triumphs and your goals, in between you trying to get them to buy whatever you are selling.
And you don’t even know their name!
The same principle applies to content marketing. You cannot build a relationship unless you know who you are talking to. Invest the time and effort to compile proper personas of your audience and your customers. Your content marketing efforts will only benefit from you knowing:
- Who you are talking to/with.
- What their problems/concerns (pains) are.
- What they are looking for.
Content That Only Wants to Sell
In a brick-and-mortar business it’s fairly easy to determine whether a customer is
- just browsing, but might buy something,
- only doing research, but might buy something in the future, or
- knows exactly what they want, and are going to buy it now.
On the Internet, you have almost no idea, so you have to find a balanced mix of content that caters to a variety of intentions. The Pareto principle, commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule, can be applied to many aspects of your business. In content marketing it is often said that 80% of your content should be valuable (to your audience), and 20% should be self-promotional.
There are various ways of interpreting this, but none of them require mathematical calculations. One of the simplest ways of looking at this principle is by assessing your website as a whole, instead of getting bogged down with specifics:
- 80 percent of your website should be focused on engaging and helping your audience. Most of this would be through your blog where you share articles that include tips, how-to guides and infographics. Also counting towards the 80 percent are any slideshows, video’s, white papers, e-books and FAQs you make available. Any content that your audience can turn to for help or advice.
- 20 percent of your website should be focused on directing your audience towards a sale. Actual product and/or service pages, and landing pages linked to sales or lead generation.
Content That is Unpredictable
Content marketing needs to be planned, and part of this involves knowing what content you are going to produce, and how often. The easiest way to plan is to use an editorial calendar, and to have a routine. Building a routine comes before plotting your editorial calendar because you first need to decide how often you are going to publish new content.
Focus on posting new content regularly, rather than frequently, especially if you don’t have a dedicated marketing department. Start by posting only once a week, but always on the same day, and gradually increase the frequency to what you can comfortably, and reliably, maintain. There is absolutely nothing wrong with only managing one or two updates a week, as long as you are consistent and always publish on the same day(s).
And unless you are a news site, there is very little reason for you to be publishing new content multiple times a day. Too much is as bad as too little.
Once you have worked out your routine - knowing how frequently you are going to publish - you can start populating your editorial calendar. There are several tools and plugins available for companies that need to manage a large editorial calendar, but for everybody else, a simple spreadsheet will work just as well. Your editorial calendar simply needs to have the following:
- Content type - is this going to be a blog article, a video, infographic, etc.
- Topic - this can be in the form of a possible headline, or just a few notes on what the content will focus on.
- Target Persona - which persona is this content going to be directed at.
- Publication date.
This allows you to align your content with your goals, while also being able to stick to a predictable publishing schedule.
Content That Isn’t Measured
Your business has goals. Some of these are outlined in your mission statement (and don’t change), while others are outlined in your performance goals (and change almost yearly). Does it not make sense then to have your content strategy aligned with these goals? After all these goals state what you are looking to achieve in both the short, and long term.
If you did not draw up your editorial content with your content strategy open next to you, now would be the time for you to open up both to see whether they match up. Once you are sure that your editorial calendar neatly aligns with your content strategy (which in turn should be designed to help you achieve your goals), you can then start measuring the performance of your content. Previously we wrote that in content marketing,
What metric you choose, and how often you use it, is determined by what you are trying to measure.
We can extend that by adding, what you measure depends on what you trying to achieve.
But measuring is essential; you are not producing content merely for fun.
There are many mistakes that can be made when it comes to content marketing, some minor, and others that are almost as serious as those outlined above. Being aware of these mistakes will help you, but not nearly as much as having a comprehensive content strategy.
Your time is better spent compiling a strategy, rather than researching what not to do, or worse yet, navigating through trial and error.
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