According to research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, some 77% of B2C and 83% of B2B marketers had a content marketing strategy in place by the end of 2014, and it is fast heading towards becoming ubiquitous in the world of online marketing. However, in spite of its popularity, content marketing is often misunderstood, not least because many novices are still using it almost interchangeably with SEO. A great deal of work is involved in crafting and publishing great content, but done correctly, is can be one of the most powerful tools for raising brand awareness, establishing authority and, ultimately, driving sales.
1 – Not Knowing Your Audience
There are plenty of great content creators out there, but creating great content is only a part of the battle. You also need to know your audience and how to reach out to them. You need to know which social networks they use, the times that they tend to be most active, the content format that they tend to prefer (e.g.: blog posts, videos, infographics etc.) and the style and subject matter that they crave. A good place to start is by defining your audience personas instead of solely focussing on trending topics and high-value search engine queries. With a bit of competitive research and social listening, you’ll have plenty of sources for ideas.
2 – Focusing on Quantity
Every piece of content that you publish should have a purpose, but that purpose should never be solely to increase search engine exposure. Content marketing and SEO are no longer interchangeable terms, and thinking that they are will inevitably lead to poor-quality content of the type that Google penalizes. With content and social marketing, less is more, and the focus should be on quality more than anything else. Value-adding content must be entertaining, educational or useful in some way to its intended readership, and while there should be enough of it to keep your audience engaged, quantity should never be your first priority.
3 – Optimizing Excessively
Taking the above a step further, you can largely forget about SEO itself when crafting content. While keyword optimization can still be beneficial, it is far more important to focus fully on reader experience. Excessively optimized content is that which is littered with key words and phrases and is clearly designed with the purpose of gaming the search engines, and Google is getting better every year at distinguishing and penalizing such content. Instead, marketers should focus more on the topic rather than a specific keyword phrase itself, not least because the search engines are leaning more towards natural conversational queries anyway.
4 – Being Overly Promotional
Content that is excessively promotional in nature tends to offer little of value to its intended audience. In fact, content marketing is not supposed to be about direct promotion at all: this is better left to paid advertising platforms. After all, consumers are constantly surrounded by advertisements, and they certainly aren’t likely to be interested in voluntarily reading through one. Google has also come down hard on promotional content in recent years, not least because it is often associated with thin affiliate websites that have no goal other than to make money as quickly as possible in return for minimal effort.
5 – Forgetting about Calls to Action
While the goal of content in terms of content marketing is not to be directly promotional, its ultimate goal is still to indirectly increase sales. In other words, while content should provide value to its readers, some pieces should also be actionable. Every content marketing strategy, as well as every individual piece of content, should have a goal (or goals), whether to earn more email newsletter subscribers, increase social media subscribers, increase awareness of a new product or anything else. The call to action should itself not be particularly promotional, instead guiding its audience to take the next step if they found the content itself useful.
Content is still king, and this is not going to change, as the digital world becomes ever hungrier for information. Crafting and delivering great content should be an on-going commitment to your human audience rather than being used as a way to drive traffic to your website by way of search engine optimisation. Ultimately, your content should define your brand and instil trust and authority.