7 Ways to Fail Miserably With Content Marketing

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The marketing trend of the year is content marketing, so you’ve probably been busting your hump to push out blog posts and other content as fast as possible. Now you have an inventory of content, but for some reason it just won’t take off.

You aren’t alone, so don’t beat yourself up. Instead, start with an objective review of what content working and what is not. But before you audit your own activities, make sure you know what to look for.

Content Buzz

There are many ways to succeed or fail at content marketing. Let’s look at some of the most common ways to fail at content marketing and how you should re-evaluate your approach.

Overuse of Buzz Words

Many corporate types take pride in using popular marketing buzz words. While that might be fine for in-house meetings, unless you are targeting people just like you it is important to limit marketing buzz words.

Having marketed to a variety of audiences, I found that most of them are turned off by buzz speak. It is especially crucial to avoid them if you target IT pros, engineers, or other technical audiences, lest you open yourself up to mockery.

What do I mean by marketing buzz words? Here are six of the biggest offenders:

  • Leverage (used as a verb)
  • Game Changer
  • Facilitate
  • Synergy
  • Think Outside the Box
  • Incentivise

Surely you’ve heard of Buzzword Bingo (a.k.a. BS Bingo). There’s a darn good reason that game exists – non-marketers can’t stand these words.

Being a Know-it-All

If there’s one thing that people hate, it’s a know it all. This isn’t a condemnation of being smart or an expert in your field. If you are knowledgeable in a particular subject, most of readers are completely open to your thoughts on the topic.

There is a difference between being smart and being haughty. You can easily embrace or alienate readers with the wrong tone or word selection.

It amazes me to read blog posts that stake a claim to a point (good), and turn around to say “I dare you to challenge me on it” (not good).

Instead, make your point but stay open to other opinions and information. No one knows everything there is to know about any individual topic.

I sometimes write posts aimed at striking down fallacies, but always including a disclaimer that “if you know something I do not, I’m all ears”. I always respect a writer who is willing to reconsider their stance if presented with a good counterargument. It shows that they are more interested in getting it right than being right.

Feel free to educate your readers, but avoid insulting them. That should be common sense.

Making Big Claims Without Proof

One of the great things about content creation is that you get to soapbox. Opinions are great, but as the old adage goes, everybody has one. Readers want more proof than one person’s gut instinct.

Proof can come in different formats. Of course, there is always good old fashioned data. If you can link to market research or other sources with real data supporting your opinion, you build credibility. No data available? Share your own experiences learned through trial and error.

The only issue with this approach: some readers don’t care about data. In those circumstances, try using social proof instead.

What is social proof? Similar to word of mouth, social proof is where you provide other expert opinions supporting your point. Social proof works wonders when hard data is not enough.

Writing “Me Too” Content

A colleague of mine struggles to come up with good blog topics. This is a common problem, as evidenced by a long list of posts on the topic.

We have gone around and around about what he should do. He decided to adopt a “me too” approach. He prefers to look at what others are writing about and use the same topics.

While this is a reasonable way to generate ideas, I caution him not to steal and repackage the ideas. There’s nothing worse than getting a pingback, only to find a post paraphrasing the original content.

Piggyback the topic, but make it your own. Say something unique, or at least provide a new perspective. Consider taking the opposite position to the original. Think point / counterpoint here, and link back to the original to share the credit.

No matter what you do, make it original. There’s too much content out there to rehash good ideas, unless your goal is to be remarkably unremarkable.

Failure To Provide A Coherent Thought

Did you ever read a post or article, only to find that you have a clue what point they were trying to make? Everyone is short on time. If you want them to read and share your content with their social networks, always make at least one impactful point.

There are two ways to miss the mark.

First, make sure you cover all of the salient details to support whatever you want the reader to understand. While short blog posts are easy to read, don’t just glaze the surface and get out. Dig deeper and build a coherent story.

On the other hand, don’t ramble for 2,000 words without honing in on at least one important conclusion. It always helps to outline the material before writing body copy. Start by focusing on your most important idea(s), and build the content around that.

Any length of content can be effective. Word count doesn’t drive engagement; it’s how you make the reader feel and react. Be sure they walk away with a clear understanding of your main takeaway.

Always Writing About The Same Thing

Between the growing impact of social factors on ranking and Google’s adoption of Authorship, it has become important to establish individual expertise. The more you write about, discuss, and share content on your key topics, the more Google will associate you with those topics.

While it makes sense to build that foundation of expertise, be careful not to get myopic.  My colleague Jon Loomer is a great example of someone who does this well. Jon focuses 100% on Facebook strategy and marketing. This is a narrow topic, but he keeps his content fresh and unique.

Jon runs the gamut of topics on Facebook. He interviews folks who have done unique things on the platform, covers different ways to handle metrics, dives into Facebook advertising from multiple angles, analyzes how to set budgets for Facebook marketing, covers changes to Facebook terms of services, and offers advice on the latest ideas for promoting on Facebook.

Having a theme is a great idea, it helps you build trust with your audience and shows you are an expert in your area. But make sure you attack that theme from a variety of angles. There’s nothing worse than digging into a blog’s archives to find 10 versions of the same content, all repackaged around new keywords as an SEO ploy.

Lacking Personality

If you want your content to be engaging and interesting, don’t be afraid to inject your own personality into it. Many companies fall into the trap of writing in corporate speak or avoiding personality altogether. That’s a great way to get ignored.

I get it. Branding guidelines, style guides, direction on what voice to use, and similar tools are a fact of life for medium-to-large businesses. Standards matter with large, geographically distributed teams.

At the same time, there’s no reason to take away all of the sizzle by keeping everything anonymous. Let your team members be who they are. Companies like Cisco and Adobe are perfectly comfortable with highlighting individual authors. (How’s that for social proof?)

For smaller blogs with one author, there’s no excuse for lacking personality. Be yourself. Blog in your own voice. And most of all, connect with the audience, even in the comments.

People like to read content by writers they like. Be that writer.

Summary – 7 Content Marketing Fails

There you have it – 7 of the biggest mistakes you can make in content marketing. If you find yourself caught up in any of these habits, take the time to refocus now.

What other things have you seen that might fit on this list? Feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear every possible angle on this topic firsthand. Thanks for reading.

Tommy Landry
Tommy Landry has 20 years of experience, with a deep understanding of Social SEO and Online Demand Generation. Operating out of Austin, TX, he consults... Read Full Bio
Tommy Landry
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