Although content is a core element of any inbound marketing strategy, there’s no denying that it takes a lot of time and effort to consistently publish enough compelling content to attract new customers and keep existing ones engaged with your brand. As such, many novice marketers hope to take shortcuts to the extent that they often fall into the trap of equating the number of visitors to their website to the number of potential customers. While making the occasional mistake is inevitable for any new marketing strategy, it pays to actively avoid some of the more common blunders, such as the following:
Not Targeting a Specific Audience
Take a look at your spam email folder, and you’ll no doubt find a bunch of utterly irrelevant email newsletters among the more obvious spam emails. Perhaps the most common content marketing mistake of all is not defining a specific audience before sending out your correspondence and trying to attract customers. Targeting broad key phrases for the purposes of SEO is also a big mistake, since it does nothing to attract relevant traffic. Not only should you be targeting a specific audience; you should also segment your target audience, since most brands cater to multiple demographics and need to personalize their content delivery for each group.
Not Committing to a Strategy
As any veteran content marketer will tell you, having a strategy in place is essential for success, not least because content marketing requires dedication and a consistent publishing schedule. Your strategy should also be scalable, meaning that it has plenty of breathing space to grow with the needs of your business and its target audience. A content marketing strategy should also be an integral part of your wider inbound marketing schedule, since it’s inseparable from the social media and email aspects of your marketing. By committing to a strategy, you’ll be much less likely to be led astray, thus alienating your audience and losing your brand’s voice.
Not Having a Purpose
No marketing strategy of any kind is complete without having a clearly defined purpose from the outset. Just as each area of your inbound marketing strategy should have its own goal, so should every individual piece of content. Novice marketers might make the mistake of thinking only about the ultimate goal which is, of course, to increase revenue. However, there are many steps during the customer journey, and dissecting each stage of the process is important for tailoring your marketing strategy accordingly. For example, one piece of content might be designed to increase website traffic, while another might be to reach out to previous customers who have been dormant for a while.
Being Too Promotional
In contrast to outbound marketing tactics, such as cold-calling and buying attention by interrupting people with advertisements, inbound marketing is not actually meant to be directly promotional in nature. Unlike outbound marketing, which relies on interrupting people, inbound marketing is intended to pique people’s interest by offering them something genuinely useful or entertaining. For example, a popular and highly effective content format is the video demonstration of a product or a virtual walk-through in the case of a physical venue, such as a hotel or restaurant. Anything that helps people better understand and relate to the industry can also be effective. Genuinely value-adding content also helps to build authority and recognition, and it ultimately gives your target audience a reason to appreciate you.
Neglecting Your Brand’s Voice
Since content marketing is meant to help a brand build up its reputation and become a recognizable authority as well as a distinct voice in its industry, it’s vital that you take a consistent approach. Many brands fail to establish a unique voice, making it difficult for consumers to set them apart from the rest. Every successful brand can be identified by a wide range of distinguishing factors from the tone of voice it uses in its promotional content to the colors and typefaces it favors in its logos and official correspondence. There’s nothing wrong with adapting your brand over time, as many successful companies have indeed done, multiple times before, but consistence is what helps people to remember you in the longer term. As such, you should always think of your distinct branding as a long-term investment.
Thinking Anyone Can Write
Although visual content is undoubtedly important, most content is usually of the written type, such as blog posts, whitepapers, social media posts and e-books. A lot of brands make the mistake of thinking anyone can write content for the Internet, while others think it’s perfectly acceptable to simply rehash what someone else has written. However, in order to preserve your credibility, enhance your reach and remain consistent with your brand’s voice, you need to have the right people working for you. With regards to content marketing, you have a choice between hiring an in-house team or outsourcing your content creation. The former requires a big budget but, in the case of the latter, you should never be tempted to underpay. After all, if you’re only willing to pay 4-5 cents per word, you cannot expect quality.
Not Repurposing Old Content
Since content of any format costs time and money to create and promote, it obviously makes sense to get as much out of it as possible. While it’s even more important to regularly publish completely fresh content, there’s nothing wrong with auditing your existing content portfolio on occasion to reach a new audience or achieve a variety of other goals. While some content, particularly newsworthy content, cannot really be re-purposed, almost anything that’s evergreen, popular and in need of updating can do well given a new lease of life. For example, you can re-purpose internal content in the form of a case study, create a Pinterest board out of your old visual content or repackage an old series of blog posts in the form of an e-book or whitepaper.
Failing to Promote Content
It doesn’t matter how great your content is; your efforts are for nothing if it fails to reach the right audience. Just as your content is supposed to promote your brand, albeit indirectly in most cases, you also need to promote your content in order to increase its visibility in the search engines and on social media. Some marketers make the mistake of littering their written content with key phrases, in the hopes that it will do better in the search engines, but this is a mistake given that’s not how the search engines really work these days. While good content should promote itself to a degree, you can give it a flying start by linking to influencers, sharing it on your social media brand pages, mentioning it in your email newsletters and submitting it to content communities, such as Blog Engage or Tribe Pro.
Not Diversifying Your Efforts
Content marketing is far more than just starting a blog and posting a couple of articles per week, although that’s certainly not to say that blogging isn’t important. However, many brands fail to diversify their efforts enough to satisfy the demand, and this mistake inevitably leads to your strategy going stale. With so many content formats at your disposal, such as social media posts, blog posts, videos, infographics, photo slideshows, e-books, case studies and more, there’s certainly plenty to choose from. Nonetheless, just as there’s no point in marketing on the wrong channels, there’s no point in using formats that your audience aren’t likely to be interested in. For example, while whitepapers are often ideal in the B2B world, they’re not usually of much interest to consumers.
Given that most Web traffic still comes from the search engines, particularly Google, it’s understandable that brands want to take every possible step to maximize their visibility in the results pages. However, if SEO is your first priority when you’re crafting a particular piece of content, then what happens to your readers? They will inevitably start thinking that you’re not interested in them enough to offer genuinely value-adding and compelling content. If your content prioritizes SEO over everything else, then it will end up looking like what it is: spam. Many companies, for example, are still so obsessed with keyword targeting to the extent that they’ll tell their content creators to plaster their articles with keywords. In reality, however, while keyword targeting certainly isn’t completely irrelevant, over-optimized content will serve only to hurt your brand.
Any of the above mistakes can quickly poison your inbound marketing strategy and render it an expensive disaster. In the worst case scenario, your reputation could also take an enormous hit. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of CMOs consider personalized content to be the future of marketing, so it’s undoubtedly worth investing in. Once you can overcome the challenges involved and learn how to stay clear of the common mistakes like those mentioned above, you’ll be well on the road to success.
Justin Soenke is a trend-based serial entrepreneur and thought leader in the areas of cyber-security, web design, SEO, social media, eCommerce and managed IT. Justin has overseen the creation and success of over a dozen companies in the technology, security and media sectors, and is the contributing source for his SB Design Blog, SB Tech Blog and SB SEO Blog among regular contributions to many outside blogs and websites, all for our clients.
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