It’s 2016, and a growing number of businesses are discovering the massive benefits of content marketing:
- More traffic
- More brand recognition
- Better search engine rankings
- More leads
- And, most importantly, more customers and more revenue
With businesses like Crazy Egg and WPCurve growing from zero users to millions of dollars in annual revenue using content marketing alone, it’s clear that great content (as well as great content promotion) can often be the only marketing strategy your company needs to expand its audience, generate more leads and make more money.
The only problem, however, is that content marketing needs to be done really well in order to be effective for your business. If you dive in headfirst and start producing content without a clear plan, it’s easy to write blog post after blog post without any real impact on your company’s revenue.
Even worse, since you’ll spend time writing and promoting your content, you’ll actually end up losing money through the opportunity cost of doing things properly.
Luckily, it’s far from difficult to refocus your content marketing efforts and transform a failing campaign into one that produces results. The first step in turning your content marketing efforts around is identifying why you’re failing, then taking steps to eliminate these failures.
Below, I’ve listed the four reasons most companies fail to make any real progress with their content marketing. From uninspired content to ineffective promotion, check off each item on the list below to see they apply to your business:
Reason One: You’re too focused on attracting search engine traffic
One of the biggest benefits of content marketing is that relevant, keyword optimised content can attract a steady supply of visitors to your website from Google’s search results. A well crafted piece on a topic related to your business can gradually move up the rankings and become an asset for your business, especially when it ranks for a competitive, commercially valuable search term.
This presents both an opportunity and a problem. Many businesses, seeing the SEO opportunities in content marketing, build their content marketing plan around search keywords. The end result is usually a stream of short, uninspired blog posts with titles that look like this:
- 5 Ways Blue Running Shoes Can Improve Your Training Efforts
- What Type of Blue Running Shoes Should You Buy?
- Are Blue Running Shoes Best for Jogging or Sprinting?
Look familiar? If you’ve ever searched for a product keyword in Google, you’ve no doubt spotted results like these, usually near the bottom of the first page (or increasingly on the second or third pages) for keywords related to a specific product.
These posts are obviously designed for SEO, and as a result they rarely attract much of an audience. Because the focus is on keyword inclusion, the content itself is usually dull and uninspiring, receiving little in the way of real attention or shares on Facebook or Twitter. It’s content for content’s sake, not content with any real purpose.
If your company is guilty of producing this type of content, don’t lose hope. A far better way to target search keywords through your content marketing is to naturally include your target keywords in pieces that offer real value to your audience. This way, you’ll eventually achieve the rankings you want, while also producing content that people want to read, comment on and share.
Reason Two: You’re writing for the wrong audience
Another common content marketing mistake is writing for an audience that just isn’t interested in your business. If you’re in charge of marketing for a law firm that specialises in corporate law and big business contracts, you’re unlikely to find a responsive audience on a website like the Huffington Post, where people typically go to find light, easy-to-read news.
The goal of content marketing is to use content to connect with your target audience. The keyword there is your. If your content reaches an audience that’s never going to be interested in your business, it’s unlikely that it will generates any significant results, regardless of whether or not it’s engaging or interesting.
This problem tends to affect businesses that offer a very specific service, such as law firms or other B2B companies. Luckily, it’s something that you can solve using two simple but effective strategies:
- Focus on the one aspect of your business that people are likely to be interested in. For our corporate law firm example above, a piece of content on the “Top 10 Corporate Legal Scandals” is more likely to attract a wide audience than a piece devoted to a specific aspect of corporate law.
- Home in on your target audience and promote your content directly to them. Instead of aiming for a wide audience in the Huffington Post, the Guardian, the Daily Mail or a similar mass-market newspaper, reach out to small, focused websites that cover your industry to reach readers that could become your customers.
The key to effective content marketing is aim. Once you’ve written your content, make sure your promotional efforts are aimed in the right direction so that it reaches the audience most likely to respond to your message, either by sharing your content or becoming your customer.
Reason Three: You’re not promoting your content… at all
You’ve researched people’s problems and written a fantastic post that provides detailed, actionable insights and answers. You format it beautifully in WordPress, double check that your blog’s social sharing buttons are configured properly and hit the “Publish” button.
One week later, your post has only gotten a trickle of traffic (if any) and your Google Analytics sessions graph looks like this:
Without the right promotion, no one is going to read your content. Even the best post will be lost in the massive, endless noise of the Internet if it isn’t promoted. Online, a literary genius like Ernest Hemingway almost always loses out to a mediocre writer with great promotional skills.
The solution is to offer the best of both world: great content with great promotion. Before you even start to write your next blog post, brainstorm promotional opportunities:
- Which subreddit would like this content?
- Which bloggers and influencers could I email this post to?
- Would my Twitter followers like to read this and share it with their friends?
One of the most common complaints we hear from prospective clients is that their existing content marketing efforts aren’t getting any traffic or producing any results. We then find that they’ve published post after post without any time or effort spent on promotion.
Build a promotional strategy into every piece you write and promote it (not aggressively, but intelligently) and you’ll conquer the hardest problem for most would-be content marketers: getting traffic.
Reason Four: Your content just isn’t as good as you think it is
You’ve written a great post and promoted the heck out of it on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. The only problem is that people aren’t responding. They click your link, spend a minute or two reading your content, and then bounce. What gives?
A lot of the time, content that seems useful to you might not be as useful to your target audience. It’s easy to pen a blog post or instructional guide that you think is helpful and insightful, only to have it ignored or rejected by your target audience once it’s published and promoted.
This problem is harder to solve than the others, since it often indicates a mismatch between what you think is good content, and what actually is good content. In this situation, it’s best to go back to the beginning and look at your content marketing plan to see if you’re truly offering value to your target audience. If you’re not, spend a day or two brainstorming new approaches to see if you can discover an alternative approach to your content marketing campaign.
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