What happens when you put a wrong foot forward?
You start doubting yourself and become circumspect. You swear to yourself never to make the same mistake again.
That is what content marketing mistakes can do to you. But, that does not mean you stop trying. Instead, you become wiser and become wary of repeating it.
We asked our community of marketers about the biggest content marketing mistakes that they'd made in their careers. They responded with their experiences, some of which have become life lessons for them.
Okay, let us now dive right into it then:
1. Not Knowing Your Audience
We will begin with the big daddy of all mistakes - Audience Profile. Not knowing your audience profile, their demographics, aspirations can prove costly in the long run. It enables you to maximize the potential of your content and get better results.
Polly Kay, Marketing Manager, at English Blinds states, "During a marketing campaign, I essentially damaged our brand image because I was trying to highlight the USP of 'affordable luxury' for a younger more aspirational generation, when our actual buyers were older, richer, and seeking luxury, and not a bargain. I alienated a large segment of our existing buyers as a result.
I figured it was a mistake when the campaign didn't generate any meaningful revenue streams. Moreover, we began losing our mailing list subscribers and repeat customers at a steady rate. If you don't know your prospect pools and buyer demographics inside out, it is unlikely that you'll increase your target audience. You might even end up losing existing ones as well."
2. Not Knowing Your Goals
If you're starting on your content marketing journey, then this one is for you. Know your goals and objectives before you begin creating content. A lot of times, you might be writing awesome blogs, but they may fail to cut through the clutter.
Roman Zhyvitski says, "I attracted a lot of traffic for my first website, but people visited it to glean information, and not for planning a trip. To fix my mistake, I wrote new blogs but, didn't delete the old ones. The existing popularity of my website helped me rank well for more competitive keywords faster. Your main goal is probably to generate profit, but by what means? Is it your product or service, affiliate links, ads, sponsored posts, or something else? Remember, traffic is not the goal but just one of the metrics of your website."
3. Not Writing for Your Audience
Always create content for your audience. If you are not doing it, your audience will soon disown you. Know what your audience desires, their pain points, and what they need to solve their biggest problems. Talk to them, or use surveys if you have to learn this information. But, creating content without this information is setting yourself up for disaster.
It also means that you must draw a line between what you want to create and what your audience wants to know. You could be a Michelin-star rated chef who wants to create videos for your favorite recipes. But, your audience may be looking for answers to simple queries.
"Content is king, but it's nothing if it's not the content your readers want to consume!" says Lauren Mcmanus, co-founder of CreateandGo.
Tonya Davis from ThoughtLab elaborates further on this point. She explains, "It's likely that if someone has a clogged drain, they'd want to try and unclog it on their own before resorting to calling a plumber. They may also just be looking for ways to prevent clogs in the future or recommendations on the best drain clog remover on the market. So, if your target audience is looking for DIY posts about how to fix a clogged drain, you need to provide that content to them.
Brett Downes from HQSEO adds, "Not writing for our target audience was a huge mistake on our behalf in the early days of our content marketing. We published good content on a weekly basis, across a diverse range of topics. It covered all bases and was quite technical and included a lot of SEO jargon. However, it was too technical and way too advanced for our target market - business owners.
We were getting the wrong type of traffic and nearly no conversions or leads, and as a result, our sales took a hit. We analyzed it and realized that our traffic was coming from fellow SEO companies or digital freelancers. Our visitors were men under 30 years, but our target audience was business owners, i.e., men and women above 35 years.
We got down to simplify all our content to be more novice-friendly in terms of the language that we used so that our target market would understand easily. We learnt that bridging the gap and explaining our business in clear terms would help attract and convert our preferred audience."
"Content is king, but it's nothing if it's not the content your readers want to consume!"
4. Know What Your Business is Known For
It is vital to know how your visitors are landing on your webpage. It means narrowing down on the niches that you'd like your business to be known. Aiming to rank on too many keywords and spreading too thin can hurt your chances of not being recognized in your niche.
Zima Media's Chief Growth Officer, Olia explains, "It's easy to be bewildered by clicks coming from Google and continuing to double down on every subject. The more focused and narrow your content strategy is, the more robust your content marketing will become. We ended up eliminating content that was off-brand for our goals."
Adam Hempenstall from Better Proposals quips, "Look for the searcher's intent. A keyword with 100 searches per month could convert better than that with 10,000 queries if the searcher's intent matches with the marketing collateral on your website. What's more, the one with 100 searches will be significantly easier to rank for."
"A keyword with 100 searches per month could convert better than that with 10,000 queries."
5. Tapping the Wrong Distribution Channel
Know how your target audience is finding your business and visiting your website. Use tools like Google Analytics to see the traffic source and medium for your online marketing collateral.
Jimmy McMillan from Heart Life Insurance, says one of the biggest mistakes was investing on the Reddit platform. "From the outside, it looks like a great, untapped niche for smaller businesses. It has a lot of traffic, have recently revamped their ad platform, and have a loyal reader base.
However, we did not anticipate the backlash that was in store for us because people perceived us as a 'corporate.' We are a small company, but we were treated with disdain like we were a big bank or similar.
We ran a 60-day experiment to supplement ads with helpful content and engaged Reddit readers to answer questions. We monitored the comments, adjusted the ad copy, and invested multiple person-hours, but in the end, we had to pull the plug on it. The responses were few, and the ones we did receive were angry or bogus.
This 'learning opportunity' revealed that we need to research the audience more before we invest in a new marketing channel. Reddit might be great for a startup, but if you are in a legacy industry like insurance, it is best to avoid this channel for now," he says.
6. Quality Over Quantity
When it comes to content marketing, the thumb rule is ‘Quality over Quantity,’ and there is no compromising here. If you are aiming to produce too much content, it can result in keyword cannibalization.
James Watkins, Digital Marketing Manager, at PHS Group clarifies, “We had an action-packed content calendar for the whole year, with two posts a week minimum. We wanted to cover all the keywords we were ranking for, plus the ones we were targeting.
However, it resulted in many blogs being similar to the others and overlapping content. Keyword cannibalization caused the articles to fight against each other, rather than other websites. This translated to less traffic and fewer customers.
We then changed coursed and merged similar articles that targeted similar keywords and topics into one piece, combining, instead of splitting the power. We learned that more planning was needed and not to overkill, and aim for quality over quantity. Also, being nimble is more important - you don’t have to stick to the original plan if it is not working."
7. Changing Content Too Frequently
Google is making constant changes to its search algorithms, so marketers need to stay on top of it. But, changing content too frequently can spoil your chances of ranking on Google. Staying the course for an original long-tailed keyword will reap you rewards in the long run.
Jakub Kliszczak from CrazyCall, says, "For a blog that we had outsourced, we noticed that it ranked on the first page of Google for a long-tailed keyword that 7,000 search queries a month. However, we wanted to chase other keywords around it and so changed the titles, meta-titles, slugs, and redirects, and eventually, we failed to rank for the original keyword also."
8. Using Clickbait Links
Clickbait links are a good tactic, but they may not be for businesses that are trying to build trust with their customers. You may achieve good click-through rates initially, but your website bounce rates will go up, and visitors will trust your content less.
William from MintResume recalls an experience in his earlier gig that affected the company's reputation and credibility. "Eventually, we hired dedicated SEO specialists who worked with the content creation team to come up with headlines that were interesting yet true to the content. All this was done after thorough A/B testing and monitoring our metrics," he says.
9. Using Tools Wisely
As a content marketer, you tend to use several tools to get your job done efficiently. But, what people content marketing is for humans by humans. Tools and platforms have their limitations, and so, they must be used wisely to get the best ROI.
Here's what Carsten Schaefer, founder, and CEO at crowdy.ai, says, "When I was just starting with my website, I made the mistake of buying a 'content spinning' software. I would feed it 4-5 different articles on the same topic and it would 'spin' a unique piece of content, free of plagiarism. Needless to say, it didn’t work well. While the content was unique, it was not readable and didn't engage my website visitors.
It caused a tank in my organic traffic, about 20% in the first two months since I began using the app along with a steep decrease in the number of email subscribers. Page session length was abominably short, and the bounce rate was through the roof. To rectify the situation, I deleted all of the pages and put 301 redirects to them. I slowly started putting up new content, written by a native English writer. It costs more, but it brings in results."
10. Not Lining Up Your Images Correctly
If you are a content marketer, you've probably learned this the hard way. Getting your on-page SEO strategy wrong can cause a lot of heartburn. For example, using high-res images or misnaming them can push you down in search engine rankings.
Syed Ali from FJackets says, "I always thought high-resolution images would work great, but, it was not a good idea. I believe using images is essential, but it also needs to be optimized as per the reader. After using high-res images, I realized my website visits were decreasing, and bounce rates were going up."
Jared Cohen, Product Development Specialist, Falcon Marketing, adds, "You can add more keywords to a web page through metadata within images and elements of a webpage. As an SEO expert at Falcon Marketing, my first assignment was to handle the on-page content for a client. I quickly got to work adding all kinds of on-page SEO metadata to the client's webpage, including all of their images.
A week later, when I checked back, the website still wasn't ranking for the new keywords I had added. When I analyzed it, I realized that I had been using 'underscores' on the images instead of 'dashes.' The result was that Google's algorithm thought the words in the metadata were all conjoined, so instead of using a string like content-marketing-experts I was writing it content_marketing_experts.
The way Google reads the underscores is as a conjoined string. So, Google is reading it as: contentmarketingexperts, which any sane person would recognize is not a real keyword. I was quickly able to fix the problem by redoing the work with a coworker's guidance, and voila! The next week, the website was ranking for all the right terms."
11. Not Using Content to Retarget
Retargeting is a simple technique of online advertising that urges past visitors to your website to take action, e.g., signup or download an ebook. For most websites, only 2% of their traffic converts in the first instance. However, retargeting one-timers with contextual content can help convince the rest 98% to take a favorable action.
Téa Tiarokapi, a content writer at Moosend, says, "We didn't focus on retargeting, and tried to capture new leads and turn them into 'fly-buys.' It was a mistake because we could've modified the original offer to turn prospects into repeaters, instead of constantly coming up with new ways to find new leads.
It is much more expensive to get new customers, as opposed to retaining old ones. It is better to nurture one-time visitors further down the funnel with useful content than going after new leads."
"It is much more expensive to get new customers, as opposed to retaining old ones."
12. Hiring the Right Talent
Are you hiring the right talent for your content marketing initiatives? Like any other profession, it is a specialist skill that requires the right people on the job.
Mack Dudayev from InsureChance cautions content marketers saying, "I run a digital insurance agency, and 80% of our marketing is through blogs. I hired a content marketer based on a friend’s recommendation and let her take care of the blogging part. In the beginning, everything seemed great as she was putting out a high volume of quality content. I trusted her, so I didn’t feel the need to check for duplicate content.
After two months of her being there, our traffic tanked by more than half and so did our revenue. I couldn’t put the finger on what caused it, but after running Copyscape for our site, I realized she was copying content from our competitors!
After letting her go, we focused on rewriting all her posts which took a while for us to bounce back. This incident taught me always to do quality assurance on my employee's work or have those processes in place. Had I done that in the first place, the company wouldn’t lose any money or almost get bankrupted."
13. Sales! Sales! Sales!
Content marketing fetches dollars, and nobody denies that. But, if you are trying to sell every time you put great content out, then you are making a blunder. For example, if you force your ads on your target audience without being helpful, it may annoy them. Instead, embedding yourself into the community by being helpful to questions, but linking back to your website, will get you better leads and build trust around your product.
John Frigo, SEO Lead at MySupplementStore, says, "Too many businesses want to keep selling, which in turn, creates content that provides little value. It is essential to maintain a good ratio between educative/informative and sales-related content in your content marketing strategy.
This way, people are less guarded, and they'll consider you as an expert and trust you. Content that doesn't sell at all can be a great way to drive traffic from your target audience to your site."
14. Not optimizing older content
Every business has aging content. But, even aging content can continue to rank well - only if you optimize it. It is never a bad idea to revisit old content and make it relevant to your brand. (Be careful that you do not overcook it though!).
Cristina Maria, Marketing Executive at Commusoft, says, "Our biggest mistake was not going back to older blog posts and re-optimizing them at the right time. We waited until we had so much content that re-optimizing became a daunting task that we kept putting it off even more. It takes a lot longer to write new content than to update old content, so we made things harder for ourselves.
We've learned that our audience appreciates 'throwback' posts with more information than a constant stream of new information. If we provide valuable insights, we will not only gain new traffic, but our older readers will keep coming back."
What are your biggest content marketing mistakes? What would you do if you had the opportunity to have another go at it? Send us your thoughts at email@example.com, and we will feature them in here.