7 deadly sins of content marketing


Joe Hill

Senior Programmatic Account Manager

Content Marketing

For every good piece of content that is created, there are several pieces that lower the bar. From poorly planned pieces, to promotion-heavy copy, marketers often seem to forget the purpose of content marketing. As the industry continues to grow, I feel we have an obligation to provide quality, intelligent and interesting work that isn’t clouding, but enriching our online experience. Take a look at what I think are the top content pitfalls, and how to overcome them.

Sin 1: over advertising

The aim of all marketing is to increase sales, but as a CMI reader you will undoubtedly know, content marketing is designed to do it differently. Content marketing introduces your brand, gives it a voice, build relationships and grows your audience. Content marketing does not push products. As soon as you begin to over advertise, push prices and insert sales pitches into your content, you break that trust and lose attention.

Once you’ve built an audience through intelligent, useful and relevant content introduce carefully selected call-to-actions, but leave the sales pitch in the office.

Tip: Include natural links within your content to relevant pages on your website. If readers are impressed by your content and want to continue their customer journey, they will.

Sin 2: irrelevant topics

If you don’t have something good to say, they don’t say anything at all. Churning out articles that don’t match your brand values and touch on irrelevant topics is a cardinal sin when it comes to content marketing. In fact, committing them can actually harm your reputation so that when you have something you really want to say, your target audience won’t listen.

Tip: If you’re struggling for relevant content, look at what your main competitors are writing about, brainstorm what your customers may want to read and see what magazines and blogs cover in your niche. What better place to start than your company’s area of expertise?

Sin 3: focusing on monetary return

The talk of ROI is often met with sharp intakes of breath by content marketers, but this should no longer be the case. Whilst it should still be approached in a different way, due to its non-linearity, it does offer valuable metrics which can be tracked, measured and judged.

Traditional marketers often work out ROI by measuring what they have invested against what they have returned, in a monetary sense. Whilst this is an effective way of working out if an investment is worthwhile, it does not fit with content marketing as instead of increasing profit it focuses on increasing website traffic. Does website traffic have a dramatic increase on the amount of sales you achieve? Yes, undoubtedly. This makes content marketing a long term investment, which should be measured as such.

Tip: Track your website traffic and search rankings from the start of your campaign. If you raise positions in search results and your traffic goes up, this has most definitely been affected.

Sin 4: losing your audience’s attention

According to a recent study, you have less than 15 seconds to capture your audience’s attention, so you’d better do it quick. Users are now reliant on rich media and often turn away from long blocks of text, which makes your job to create content that reads brilliantly and stands out visually.

The study also found that people engage with newsworthy content much more than evergreen content, meaning that staying on-trend and reacting quickly could generate invaluable website traffic.

Tip: Use a snippet introduction and a click-worthy title that sums up your content in a nutshell. Once finished, always ask someone for feedback. Tell them to be brutally honest, if they wouldn’t read the entire article, you know you need to re-think.

Sin 5: creating, distributing and forgetting

Once you’ve created and published a piece of content, don’t forget that it exists. With well-worded tweets and personal outreach, your content can resurface whenever it may be relevant. The next step should be measuring your content’s engagement, traffic and comments. This allows you to analyse and improve every time.

Tip: Use Google’s Keyword Planner to see how many people are searching for content similar to yours. If it’s a popular search, continue to promote this piece every few weeks at peak social times.

Sin 6: lacking purpose

We are now in an environment where mediocre content is kicked to the curb and outstanding content is shared around the masses, so which one would you rather create? Though the answer is obvious, many marketers still create content to meet deadlines and maintain a regular output of articles, rather than focusing on creating something that provides a new perspective or educates an audience. Maybe it’s surprising, maybe it goes against the grain or maybe it brings a new perspective to a topic.

Tip: If your content is designed to spread to new audiences, it should probably be very light on branding. This avoids raising scepticism from potentially new customers.

Sin 7: ignoring search engines

According to a study by Pew Internet, 92% of internet users surf the web using search engines. However many content creators don’t take the small steps to optimise content, which can leave them missing out on a great heap of traffic to their content.

  • Add a title tag
  • Add a meta description
  • Add image alt tags
  • Use relevant keywords naturally
  • Add internal links to relevant and related content on your site
  • Add relevant external links if and when you think they’ll add value

These simple steps make it easier for Google to index your page and get it ranking for relevant search terms. Tracy Gold’s Ultimate SEO Checklist is a great place to start to ensure an SEO-optimised campaign.

Tip: Sharing content on Google+ can lead to your content being noticed and ranked by Google more quickly.

Whilst some of these sins will have been overlooked in the past, we have no excuse in this rapidly progressing industry to commit them moving forward. Create great content and make your industry, and customers, proud.