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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  • Ashutosh

    Hi Tommy,

    You are so right about including Personality because personality adds a unique flavour to the blog. I have personally observed that the blogs having a personality of the author are better than the blogs written anonymously. Its a kind of signature of the author that makes an important impact on the readers.

    Your list is quite helpful to any blogger who want to succeed. A simple formula avoid these 7 ways to get closer to your success target.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the topic.

    • Tommy Landry

      Hi Ashutosh, thanks for the comment. I was aiming this primarily at new bloggers, but for many of us who are blogging on behalf of companies, I hope it stirs some lucrative discussion about making their blog content more engaging. Having written online for nearly a decade, I’ve had my own ups and downs in trying to make my own work resonate with audiences.

  • Ros

    Funnily enough I read a blog post this morning and it was awful. It was about 600 words long but so boring and repetitive throughout. I realized why afterwards. It was stuffed with keywords and obviously just for the sake of it. I will not be revisiting that blog!
    So, although obvious, don’t overdo the keyword thing in preference to writing a good article.

    • Tommy Landry

      We see that all the time, even from experience SEOs and Internet Marketers who should absolutely know better than to do it. Most readers react just like you, and I do as well. It’s spam, no question about it.

    • Coroiu Alexandru

      That’s the thing. People learn some itsy bitsy thing about SEO, it gets aggregated and then everyone believes that focusing on keywords will bring you more traffic since you’ll score higher on search engines. People need to learn that nothing is black and white. Rather than focusing on keywords they should focus on concepts, ideas, themes? Take this article for example. He most likely used “content marketing” . It’s not intrusive, it doesn’t stalk you everywhere you look. It fits the theme, the subject, the idea of the post. The sooner bloggers realize that whom they are writing for are other people rather than search engines the sooner we’ll start getting higher content quality.

      • Tommy Landry

        Great points all around. The other issue at play today is Google Hummingbird, where context actually trumps exact match keyword chasing. Get the keywords in, sure, but don’t make it obnoxious. The more people read and share it, the more Google will assume that it’s good content. Simple concept.

  • Viktoriya Semyrodenko

    Thank you for information!
    In addition to what has been said previously, I believe that some brands fail to use the 80/20 principle and become too pushy, their content loses its value and becomes self-promotional.

    • Tommy Landry

      Ah, a key piece of successful content marketing – providing value without demanding money or accolades in return. If it’s good enough, the content will drive results without the writer having to pitch their wares like a used car salesman. That’s the whole premise behind Google’s direction to focus on content first, SEO second.

  • Justin Belmont

    I’ve seen a lot of number 5, failure to provide a coherent thought, and I think often it happens because writers want to force the reader to read all the way through in order to find the point. Problem is, if there’s no apparent point, readers aren’t going to bother finishing the article. Some of the best content follows the same format as high school essays – lead with a thesis statement, and then support it with examples and proof.

    • Tommy Landry

      Great point Justin. This is why I always outline the piece first and put the key points in the H2’s. I always scan for subheads before investing 5-10 minutes of my time reading the body copy. No H2’s? Many of us won’t work to get the point. It needs to be spoon fed at the subhead level to draw me in.

      Of course, the whole purpose of the intro is to stage the key points you are about to share. So yes, I agree completely with your thesis comment . Thanks for chiming in.

  • Abdullah

    First say nice article Tommy and content marketing king in Seo now otherwise Seo is almost nothing its m opinion

  • Brett

    How does one judge whether content has failed? What do you judge as failure? If you were to ask me it would be about data and conversions. You have written a general article about a very big topic. Maybe some examples of failed content??