7 Ways to Screw Up a Content Marketing Plan

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Content marketing is all the rage right now – and with good reason!  Not only can content marketing help you to expand your brand’s recognition and increase your website’s overall traffic, it can provide powerful SEO benefits to the companies that take advantage of this highly effective strategy.

Opps! Content Marketing

Of course, it should go without saying that there’s a right way – and a wrong way – to do content marketing.  But while there are plenty of different tutorials out there that will show you how to effectively plan and launch a content marketing campaign, there aren’t many articles telling you what not to do.

So, without further ado, here are seven specific pitfalls that’ll doom your content marketing plan to failure from the start.  I hope you find them useful when it comes to putting your own content promotion strategy into place!

Idea #1 – Failing to deliver high quality content pieces

The underlying assumption of content marketing is that if you publish good quality content pieces, your website readers and brand followers will feel compelled to pass your marketing materials on to their friends and family members.  The resulting viral-style sharing drives content marketing success, but it’s the sentiment behind this person-to-person sharing that makes the strategy so powerful.

Obviously, then, if you fail to deliver high quality content pieces, the odds of people going out of their way to pass your articles on to others are pretty slim!

To prevent this occurring, you simply must make content quality a primary consideration when working on your campaigns.  Take the time to put a thorough editorial review process in place that ensures that every piece of content that leaves your digital doors is free of errors and reflects well on your company in order to prevent low quality articles from tarnishing your brand’s reputation.

Idea #2 – Sharing content pieces that aren’t interesting

Really, though, a content marketing piece doesn’t need to just be error-free – it needs to be interesting to read as well!

Think about it…  How often do you come across a content piece that truly captivates your attention?  Odds are, in today’s digital culture of disposable information, it’s not very often that you encounter content that’s interesting, innovative and exciting to read.  And since it’s rare that you come across these pieces, it’s also equally as rare that you’ll take the time to actually pass on any of the content pieces you read online.

Therefore, if you want to give your content marketing campaign the best chance at success, put some effort into identifying topics that you can cover in some new and interesting way.  Don’t just regurgitate the same old topics that have already been covered in your industry hundreds of times before.  Bring something exciting to the table and you’ll dramatically increase your odds of encouraging viral sharing.

Idea #3 – Deploying content pieces in the wrong medium

In addition to building high quality content marketing pieces around interesting subjects, it’s also vitally important that you consider the type of materials you deploy.  There are plenty of different formats that content pieces can take, including:

  • List posts
  • Case studies
  • “How to” articles
  • Image posts
  • Link round-ups
  • Infographics
  • Instructographics
  • Video files

And while this gives you plenty of different opportunities to reach your target audience, be aware that individual content styles aren’t interchangeable.  As an example, if your customers and brand followers don’t spend a lot of time watching internet videos, you’d be better off releasing the types of text-based content they’d prefer to digest.

Really, the only way you’ll be able to figure out what types of content your audience prefers is by observing their behaviors online and testing the results of different content types within your campaign.  Pay special attention to the types of links that are shared most frequently on the Twitter and Facebook profiles of your industry’s authority figures, as these will give you some insight into what types of content your niche supports.

Idea #4 – Failing to adequately publicize content pieces

Unfortunately, putting out great content in the right types isn’t enough to guarantee content marketing success.  Although I do recommend publishing most campaign materials to your own website first, simply adding them to your site and crossing your fingers won’t get the traffic flowing!

Instead, you need to take the time to publicize any campaign pieces you create.  The best way to do this is to link to your content from within your social network profiles – although, even then, you shouldn’t do a “once and done” mention.  Since people are active online at very different times of the day, you’re better off using a service like the Buffer App that will allow you to pre-load links back to your new content pieces that will go live throughout the day.

In addition, once you’ve published your content marketing pieces to your own website, look for opportunities to share your materials on other web properties.  One obvious example is sharing your video files on Youtube in order to boost your audience exposure, though there are plenty of other content sharing alternatives you’ll want to consider as well.

Idea #5 – Building content based around false assumptions

One last concern when it comes to the quality of your content is to be sure that you’re basing the materials you create around measurable, confirmed data regarding your audience’s interests and online preferences.  Don’t simply make assumptions based on what you like the most – take the time to conduct the market research needed to inform the content creation process.

As an example, suppose you run an industry website that covers three primary topics.  Topic #1 interests you the most on a personal level, so you decide to base your content marketing campaign around this subject.  But what if your followers are most interested in Topic #2?  At the end of the day, you’ll have sunk a lot of time and money into content pieces that aren’t as engaging to viewers as they could be.

Instead, use all of the data sources at your disposal (including Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, Youtube Analytics and any paid research tools you use) to learn as much as you can about your audience’s interests, demographics, ages, geographic locations and more in order to create content they’ll truly find compelling.

Idea #6 – Not committing to regular content releases

Now, unfortunately, not every content piece that you publish will go viral and send thousands upon thousands of new visitors back to your website.  Although content marketing certainly has the potential to bring about this result, it’s not guaranteed and there’s no way to predict with 100% accuracy which of your materials will go on to this type of success.

As a result, if you only publish a handful of content marketing pieces, you’re severely limiting the odds that your campaign will wind up successful.  Often, it takes time to understand what works – and what doesn’t work – with your particular audience, which makes giving up too quickly a surefire way to screw up your content marketing plan.

Idea #7 – Failing to measure the ROI of your content marketing campaign

One final caution to you is to get into the habit of measuring the ROI of your content marketing campaigns.  Too many people think of content marketing in terms “contributing to the conversation” or “sharing value,” but really, this type of wishy-washy attitude can doom your campaign to failure from the start.

Given the amount of time and resources required to run an effective content marketing campaign, it’s reasonable to want to know whether or not your investments are paying off in terms of measurable improvements in your company’s target metrics.  If you’re engaging in content marketing to grow your social following, for example, meticulously tracking your number of followers, social shares and Facebook “Likes” is a vital part of determining whether your efforts are paying off.

Alternatively, if you’re using content marketing as a technique to increase sales on your website, set up the necessary tracking systems to determine whether visitors that arrive on your website and convert to buyers came from your content marketing efforts or from some other traffic source.  Depending on the complexity of your website, this can be challenging to set up, though most online businesses will be able to use the Event Tracking and Advanced Traffic Segment features within the free Google Analytics program.

Yes, this all sounds like a lot of work.  Content marketing isn’t as simple as tossing up a few infographics and calling it a day – but really, no website traffic strategy is this easy to implement.  By putting in the effort needed to avoid these seven potential mistakes, you’ll dramatically increase the likelihood that you’ll see positive results from your content marketing campaigns.

Photo credit: Opp! Content Marketing – courtesy © Glenda Powers – Fotolia.com

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their... Read Full Bio
Sujan Patel
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  • Ravi kumar

    Content Marketing has become the crucial step to market your products, you can outsource your content marketing work to guest writers and freelancers at reputed online websites.

    Google has given importance to Content Marketing.

  • Lauren Smith

    Lovely article. Great points. I agree on all of your ideas, especially “sharing content pieces that aren’t interesting.” Finally somebody says it! I am reading a fascinating book called, ” Leverage Social Networks to Drive Business Results” by author Lisa Anderson. Why should executives focus on social networks? If they don’t, they will be left in the dust. And why is this especially critical in the new normal business environment? Only the best will thrive! You’ll learn why leveraging social networks is vital to success, and you’ll take away best practices, results from an executive survey and gain insights into case study examples. http://www.lma-consultinggroup.com/ I’d love to know what you think of it!

  • Chandler Bryson

    Fantastic article Sujan, You have shown us great points here. They are to the point and informative. I really like that you mentioned about “Building content based around false assumptions”, this is really a bad approach to populate content. Falsify user is really unethical and it really knock down the author rank which is going to be a significant factor in SEO in 2013.

  • Brad Canham

    Oops! (as in oops, not “opps!” per above)….I think you forgot Idea #8, proofreading for spelling errors. 🙂

    • Meg Carper

      I was wondering if anyone else noticed this! Oops!

  • Nick Stamoulis

    I see #6 happen all the time, especially with smaller companies that don’t really have the time or budget to go all out with their content marketing. They might write a few pieces of great content, but when they fail to bring the traffic and attention they were looking to get they lose faith in the power of content marketing and push it to the back burner. Not everything you write is going to go “viral” but everything you write does provide some level of value.

    • Chandler Bryson

      That’s right Nick, I agree with you, We shouldn’t lose the power of content, it is nice way to build back links as well as brand value. We should keep going with content marketing even if it is not going viral because everything what we write can not go viral.

  • Chris Kelley

    Excellent points. It’s not enough to simply create content. It must be of high quality, original and interesting, plus relevant to the consumer where and when they want it.

  • Jared

    Idea #6 should be #1 ( or #7 if these are prioritized in that order). Your site can have amazing content on it, but if you don’t add anything new on a regular basis, then you’ll just be forgotten. Your content should be strong, but even if you don’t have Pulitzer material, it’s ok. As long as you have your brand out there on people’s feeds, you have a chance at getting their attention.

    It’s better to have good content posted often and regularly, than having amazing content posted once in a while.

  • Eric Scism

    I love the list of different content pieces. I think so many of us get stuck in the idea of just releasing blog posts. We totally forget about lists, and how-tos.

  • Lane Murphy

    Tremendous article and outstanding comments by all! Full disclosure, I’m the co-founder of Tauntr Media and we create something we call real-time branded content. Our product is multi-media content…not textual content (i.e. 100% original animation, live action video and original imagery/illustration). This is a very hot space right now as most of you know. Most companies must outsource their content needs as they don’t have the staff/infrastructure in place to execute internally. Additionally, agencies are not set up to do this work…however a couple smart one’s are trying to figure it out. Big business for those who can actually “make the donuts” everyday for clients. If you’re curious check out our “how to” video on our home page tauntrmedia.com. Thanks so much for writing this article!

  • Jordan Schaffel

    Being that most people scan articles that they read online, I would make a bet that many of your readers will skip over your #1 reason! It takes a huge amount of time to craft high quality content. (if it was easy, everyone would have it, correct?) Truth be told, few people calculate the thinking, iteration and re-thinking time to make a high quality piece of content. My partner and I have been at this for 4+ years and there’s no shortcuts. One simple idea to giving you a clue is to audio record (any smart phone should do) your white paper, video script or post. How does it sound when you play it back? Do the ‘Jargon Police’ need to make an arrest? Even better, play it back for someone who doesn’t know about the topic you’re sharing. If they say, “aha, I get it now”, you’ll know you’re on the right track.