Every customer journey begins with content. Customers need to read and digest content before they buy, they trust brands that educate and inform them, and people rely on effective content to steer them through the information seeking and buying cycles. There is a wealth of content types available for businesses to deploy, and more data at marketers fingertips than at any other stage of human existence, yet one of the biggest pain points for business is creating content that works. I’ve worked on thousands of integrated content and marketing campaigns over the past 15+ years, and there are 5 common content fails that appear the most. These content fails and the fixes for them are covered in this post.
1. Going on gut feel
There is a place for instinct, experience and gut feel within marketing and creating content, however, you need to pair this off with some degree of sanity checking and proving (or disproving) that your hypothesis warrants time, resource and money.
Gut feel alone cannot be the litmus test for creating effective content.
If you require a little more persuasion that gut feel is not the best approach for creating content, a recent survey from ahrefs cited 91% of content created receives no traffic at all from Google Organic Search! The fix… All businesses have access to free and meaningful data sets plus analytics packages (Google; Analytics and Search Console are great places to start), which can be used to drive your content creation approach and fuel it by what your users want, need and are looking for. If you have a business culture of creating content that you feel is right, and limited data experience or expertise to justify it, you should start looking at gaps within your indexed search engine content (type into Google `site:your-domain` to see your indexed pages and refine based on topic – e.g. `site:your-domain inurl:topic`) and filling these with expert-driven content. You can complete the same test on your top online competitor sites too, and use tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs (plus others) to identify and build content that has a justified reason for adding to your website.
2. Nobody knows your content exists
If you spend one-day writing, refining and adding new content to your website, you should spend at least half a day promoting the content in front of relevant, engaged and interested audiences. Most of the pages on your website will have zero external authority, awareness, buzz or social sharing associated with them. According to my content marketing colleague Jo: “The biggest challenge is getting results from content. Just about every brand is publishing on a regular basis these days, so it’s difficult to get your content seen, let alone clicked and engaged with.” An important aspect of the solution for this dilemma is pushing the content out effectively with targeted content marketing.
Creating content but failing to support it through content marketing (paid, organic and social promotion) means that you are the silent voice in a room full of shouting people.
The fix… Dedicate some time and budget to getting your content seen and promoted in the right places. To help support ROI from this, look at the content which has historically driven the most traffic, leads, revenue, and promote that content as a rehearsal and strategic refinement exercise. Set aside a budget to trial paid social promotion on your business social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn et al) and support this with organic posts and updates too. Take snippets of the key insights and ensure that you have your key staff (experts) to credibly share these by answering relevant questions within active forums, microblogging platforms, plus other niches tied to the topic and industry in question.
3. Missing the latest trends
The content creation and marketing ecosystem is ever-changing, meaning that what works now is unlikely to be the same tactic to employ next year. The same can be said to various degrees for content types, topics, search behavior and other areas. Trend awareness is crucial if you want to act on new opportunities and avoid potential competitor threats by missing the trend or being too late to the opportunity. Trends can be technology specific, for example, the growth in voice search based on home assistant adoption and increased mobile phone searching with consumers, creating the search demand increases with ‘near me’, ‘close by’ plus location-related content needs. Trends can also be other drivers like; new media coverage, political and economic change, new products/services and seasonal (among other areas). The fix… Proactively allocate recurring time each month for identifying and acting on the latest trends, and build into your business a culture of knowledge sharing plus a passion for what’s new. Some quick tips include:
- Sign up to industry news and aggregator sites
- Attend industry events and exhibitions
- Read and cultivate a reading culture
- Listen to podcasts and webinars on the move
- Take time to ask your customers what matters to them
- Keep an eye on the competition
- Look at what your data is telling you
- Embrace change and encourage people to challenge the status quo
As a business, you should also build interest and practical awareness of using tools like Google Trends as part of ongoing content building actions:
4. Giving content one chance to succeed
This is without a doubt the most prolific content failure seen by most businesses. Consider this process:
- You identify a new content opportunity through trends
- Then justify the resource needs with data
- You make the content live
- Some initial social sharing and link building is completed
- You check the performance 4-6 weeks later
- The content failed to deliver on expected traffic, impression or conversion goals
The fix… Revisit your existing content and ensure that every piece of valuable content you create includes within your process a stage for review and refinement. You will have untapped potential within your website spanning 10-20% plus of underperforming content which can contribute more. Tactics to consider will include:
- Updating the content title, heading and supporting headings for increased CTR and content relevancy
- Adding deeper content based on what the data tells you (FAQs and summary items work well)
- Seeding in core terms that you now know the content is associated with and appearing for Organically in search
- Internal linking to the content from related pages to help pass and distribute topically relevant authority
- Re-promote, share and link build more thoroughly to the content
5. The content is not good enough
In fact, this point really covers a few areas:
- You have expectations that are too high compared to what you are creating
- What you create does not stand up to the competing alternatives
- You are competing against some huge budgets and big brands
- You are not leveraging SEO in your content process
- You are not creating expertise, authoritative, trustworthiness (EAT) content
The fix… The content you create needs to be better – harsh, but true. Anything that goes onto your website should include some (even a very basic level of) SEO involvement. This will ensure that you are giving your content a greater chance to succeed, that the terms you are using reflect the audience being targeted, and that there are no technical impediments preventing your content from being discovered or ranking in the search engine result pages (SERPs). It’s important that you have realistic expectations on the performance of your content and awareness of the external environment in which your content is competing. This will help set and manage the intended outcomes for your content, and ensure that you don’t write off effective tactics that may take longer to deliver business impact. Each piece of content needs to go through some level of an editorial process. This will help with spelling, grammar, readability, interest, and web-readiness. Whilst everyone in your business may not be able content writers, many of them will have credible opinions and voices that can be captured for fantastic EAT content pieces.
If any of the above points are familiar fail points for your business, take time out to assess the practical next actions and the suggested fixes in this post. Be as objective as you can be – it will be the strongest criticisms that will have the largest positive impact on making your current content work harder, and your new content deliver increased results. Try to be logical and fair with the setting, managing and delivering to content expectations. Don’t forget, there is more content being created than ever before, so for your content to succeed you need to think creative, leverage every bit of your data, and promote the content (spending at least half the time you spent writing it pushing it out to interested people).