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Generating the content you need for your business and your SEO efforts can be intensive and expensive. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it – but it does mean that it’s important to make smart choices about how to spend your time. Mistakes are easy to make, and can cost you valuable resources in terms of both time and money.
The good news is that with a bit of advanced planning, it’s easy to avoid the most common content marketing mistakes. With these issues in mind, you’ll be well on your way to creating content that’ll attract new visitors and convert them into customers.
1. You’re writing for the wrong audience
Every effective piece of copy or content that you develop needs to begin with the question: “Who are you writing for?” Understanding your audience helps you choose topics, structure arguments, find compelling back up data and graphics, and helps you set the appropriate tone. Without a clear audience profile, you’re adrift in the sea of content without a compass.
This translates in a very direct way into content marketing mistakes. Many professionals are really excited by their work – that’s a great thing. We read blogs, follow accounts on social media, subscribe to trade journals, and look forward to conferences and events where we can geek out over the next big thing with our colleagues. The challenge happens when we realize that much of what we consume is geared at other professionals in the industry. It’s too technical, business focused, or industry specific to be of interest to a potential customer.
If your pieces are failing to resonate with your prospects, it’s time to ask yourself if you’re writing for your customers or for your peers. Let me give you an example. Recently, a software firm that sells accounting packages for small businesses decided to take their marketing efforts into the content marketing space. They created a number of articles focused on the advanced technological capabilities of their software. For the CPAs and developers behind the software, this was fascinating. For the casual bookkeeper, office manager or entrepreneur balancing the books, it was unnecessary information. Worse, it was confusing and irrelevant.
Unfortunately, the company found that their expensive efforts weren’t converting. After doing a reassessment, they developed a strategy that was more appropriately targeted at their audience. They focused on topics like How to Choose an Accounting Package, How an Accounting Package Simplifies Tax Time, and Why An Accounting Package is Necessary for Top Customer Service. These topics were directly relevant to their prospects and quickly got traction. By simply refocusing on topics that directly related to their customer’s most urgent concerns, it was possible to turn their content marketing efforts into a resounding success.
2. You’re focused on the wrong metrics
Developing a content marketing strategy is a time-intensive effort. It’s important to measure how effective your efforts are. But knowing the right metrics for your business can initially seem like a challenge.
Early in a content marketing campaign, many businesses focus on metrics that measure outputs rather than results. This makes sense because committing to a content marketing effort and following through can be difficult. Content marketing often falls into the “important but not urgent” category in the day of an entrepreneur who’s constantly working to put out fires. Tracking the number of words you write, comments gathered, or articles posted is a great way to make sure you’re on target with your engagement and content goals.
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.
Let me explain. For example, what search terms are critical to your business? Consider each new piece of content that you create like a lottery ticket you enter in the SEO raffle. By using a variety of terms to focus your content, you increase your site’s chances of getting found. It’s important to get an understanding of your current keyword landscape, and measure how that evolves over time.
Another factor is conversions. If you have existing content that’s exceptionally popular (check Google Webmaster Tools for quick insights into your content’s performance) and aren’t doing your best to use that content to move people to the next stage of the relationship, you’re missing a big opportunity. Does all of your content feature clear, compelling calls to action? If you do have calls to action, are they featured prominently and with incentives (where needed) to move people to action? Focusing on this one point will help ensure that you’re converting customers. For more information about calls to action and increasing conversion rates, see my article “The Definitive Guide to Crafting Winning Calls to Action in Your Content.”
3. You’re failing to focus on branding
Evergreen content refers to the idea of creating content that’s timeless. Because these pieces address key questions that most of your audience is interested in and that don’t change over time, these pieces can be major draws to your site. They can help build your authority and get people through the gate to your more branded content. But this still raises an important question: does your content support your brand development?
The focus of your brand development can be threefold. You can be focused on building your company’s brand as a leader in your space. You can be focused on building the reputation of a specific product or service as a trusted solution in your market. Your branding efforts can also focus on improving your personal brand and positioning as a thought leader in your industry. Any of these are valuable and viable goals, depending on how they tie to your company objectives and your personal development plans.
In my experience, as the head of the company, you’re uniquely positioned to represent your business. For entrepreneurs and CEOs, your personal and professional branding goals may be inextricably interlinked. Writing a great article under your own byline that references the experience of your company can help push your agenda forward on multiple fronts. The key thing is to make sure that you’re taking the opportunity to frame your efforts in a professional way.
I will make one important caveat. Branded content shouldn’t be a hard sell. Your goal is still to educate, inform, entertain, or inspire your readers. But a strong branded element can help package your content and build recognition among your readers for your expertise. Don’t be afraid to offer case studies from your work, and to couch your personal opinion within the context of your broader professional experience. For more information on how to focus on branding within your content marketing strategy, see my article “How to Become a Great Brand Journalist to Augment Your Content Marketing Strategy.”
4. You’re only developing content for your own channels and not leveraging guest blogging
There’s been a great deal of conversation about the importance of content strategy to help your site’s link profile. Fundamentally, your content can be broken into 3 spheres. These include:
- the content on your own site;
- your social media content, and;
- the content you create for other channels.
Many site owners make the mistake of only creating content for their own website.
In the wake of Google’s Panda updates, many site owners realized that the quality and frequency of the content that they created and published to their site was critical. Indeed, the whole focus of the update was to improve users’ experience as much as possible. Regular high quality content not only helps your site to rank well in the SERPs, but it also gives your readers a tangible reason to come back and visit your site again.
But your onsite content development should not cause the exclusion of developing content for other websites. While some feel that the term and tactic of “guest blogging” is being overused and abused, I disagree. Guest blogging, when done right, is still a fantastic way to build links and build your audience.
Guest posting is simple in principle: it relies on your ability to find sites in your niche accepting content and to create articles that these publishers want to post. In reality, it requires tenacity. You need to research opportunities, evaluate sites, and then pitch them. If your post does get accepted, it’s time to write something fantastic. The quality needs to be top-notch, and it needs to be well-targeted toward the site’s audience. A good guest post requires a significant amount of work.
Yet the benefits are largely unparalleled by other mediums. It’s an effective way to build links. The places where you post essentially lend you their brand approval. It also helps you get your materials in front of a new audience, and helps you build relationships with leaders and colleagues in your space.
For my step-by-step method to running a successful guest blogging campaign, see my article “The Ultimate-Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.”
5. You’re missing trends and chances for influence
The term newsjacking refers to taking a trending topic or hot news event and using that as an angle for a post you write or other piece of content that you create. Newsjacking is smart because hot trends generate search traffic. By having a timely post or other piece of content, you can capture a piece of that search pie.
There are several ways to tune into this issue. The first is to simply develop a nose for what topics are popping up time and again in the publications that you read. Staying on top of social media trends using tools such as Twitter search can help you quickly identify topics that you should be talking about. Google Trends lets you see the current hottest searches, as well as helps to understand a term’s performance over time.
It’s critical when you’re working with trending topics that you find a genuine hook to connect to your content. This tactic is not effective when abused, and if an article or piece of content doesn’t deliver on the title’s promise, your readership can become unhappy. All it takes is one bad article to lose readers. Instead, find a genuine connection between what you’re trying to accomplish and what’s happening in the broader world.
Promotion is especially important for hot items. Understanding how to promote these topics via social media, and participate in the broader discussion is helpful. For example, if you’re promoting a topic on Twitter, ensure that you’re using hashtags. The more organic your discussions to the natural environment of the social media network, the more interest and shares it will garner. Always look for ways to share content that makes an authentic contribution to a bigger conversation.
A great content strategy will open up a world of possibility for your business. But it’s important to note that great content is timely, targeted to your audience, and helps build your brand. If you take the time to develop a solid content strategy, you’ll be better positioned to achieve your business goals. Have you made any critical content mistakes in your own marketing? Let me know in the comments below. I’d especially love to hear how you corrected course, and what lessons you can share for other business owners.