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5 Ways to Fail at Content Marketing & Tips to Succeed

Posted on Mar 9th, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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    Content Marketing FailThe value of content marketing has been well established here and in many other places on the web.  It’s nothing new for many marketers, especially those in B2B Content Marketing. As companies seek competitive advantages and to adjust their ability to reach and engage markets, the creation of content as a vehicle for key messages and influence has grown substantially.

    I hate to say it, but some online marketers are pretty lazy. They take shortcuts in order to find the least amount of effort for the highest impact. That’s a workable short term strategy if you have a disposable brand. Long term, it can cause problems if content does not add significant value.  The recent Google Panda update has drawn a lot of attention to the consequences of such short term thinking with low quality content being dropping from Google search visibility.

    The temptation is understandable with pressures for increased marketing performance, competition and the need to create advantage. But there are risks to short term thinking with content marketing too. Here are a few ways that many companies #fail in the content marketing space:

    Targeting From the Gut vs. to Personas

    How much marketing budget do you think is allocated based mostly on intuition? Way too much and it’s no different with content marketing. Marketers often make decisions about content marketing strategy and tactical mix based on what’s popular or guesswork.  Blogs, ebooks, reports, webinars and email newsletters are pretty popular as are social content like Video, Social Networks and things like Twitter. But based on what?

    In the way that best practices SEO doesn’t make ASSumptions about keywords, content marketers would do well not to assume what kind of content or publishing platform is best for reaching their customers without research. Developing personas that exemplify desirable customer groups gives useful direction towards content marketing strategy, messaging and topics. Without the research into how target customers discover, consume and share information, content marketing is akin to “throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks” and that’s hardly efficient or effective.

    Building the Army on Day 1 of the War

    “Great content is dead until someone shares it”.  Promotion is an essential component to content marketing and developing communities and distribution channels are key for expanding reach and engagement. The mistake many marketers make is to craft a compelling piece of content and the start blasting Twitter, blogs, social news and bookmarking sites with links.  More savvy marketers will decide to start building networks on those channels at the same time they’re promoting.  It’s an item on their checklist to fan, friend and follow relevant contacts to build a network.

    The problem is, for effective content marketing those networks need to be in place BEFORE you start promotions.  Otherwise, it’s like declaring war and starting to build your army of fans the same day. You need that army in place and ready to activate long before the time comes to ask them to help promote. That means participation NOW, not later.  Once you’ve identified relevant communities, blogs and platforms, start creating signals of value and credibility through interaction – a small amount of time, consistently.  When the time comes to execute a particular promotion, there should be a network in place with clarity of purpose for the relationship.

    Campaign vs. Ongoing

    Much like SEO, content marketing is a commitment and ongoing. When companies ask us about the viability of SEO for their online marketing, I recommend to “get in it to win it” for the long term or don’t get in at all. The same is true with content marketing. It’s not an individual campaign that you start and stop. That said, a content marketing strategy may call for a string of integrated campaign efforts across different channels and communities with distinct objectives and tactics in mind. But it’s an ongoing effort, not a single “content marketing campaign”.

    Not Repurposing Content

    Creating original content takes talent and doing so over the long term takes a lot of hard work.  To be an efficient and effective content marketer, it’s essential to plan the repurposing of the content you create. There are many ways to do this to add value to online marketing efforts. One example I often use involves taking screen shots of videos and transcribing the audio to text (transcript) for use as a separate blog post.

    Another approach is to use modular content that has common key messages but can be customized for specific vertical markets or audiences. For example, a “How to Buy Product XYZ” article could be focused on different publications according to the varied reasons customers would want to buy the product – ie customized according to personas.  Yet another way to repurpose content is to take parts of numerous articles and compile them into one aggregated list.  We’ve done this with interviews where 2-3 of 10 questions for each of 20 plus interviews are very similar and designed to evoke tips as responses. The answers to those tactical questions are compiled into a new blog post or ebook as a list of tips from numerous industry experts.

    The key thing about repurposing content is that it must still be accountable to a target audience, not just republish the same thing on multiple websites.

    No Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    While awareness of the notion of SEO has grown quite a bit amongst the content marketing community, defining what SEO is can be varied. Many content professionals focus on keyword use as the defining characteristic of improving their content’s visibility on search engines.  Some content pros don’t use keyword research because they feel it might compromise their writing quality.  Bad keyword optimization implementation does degrade content quality.  However, great SEO is transparent and actually improves readability and user experience. If you think badly optimized copy represents all SEO, then you are mistaken.

    A SEO professional would include many more points of impact on how search engines decide what’s on top and what’s not.  Keywords are important, but alone do not constitute Search Engine Optimization. Content Marketing that does not leverage the full impact of SEO to help search engines crawl, index and rank content means lost search traffic.  Website code, site architecture, keyword use within content, internal links between pages of the site, social signals, links from other websites to pages and other characteristics all contribute to the performance of content in search. Here’s a post listing 10 Steps to Better Content Marketing & SEO performance that illustrates how.

    Hopefully, being aware of some of the short term approaches to content marketing with help you focus on creating real, sustainable value for your target audience.  If you’ve been developing a content marketing strategy and tested tactics, what have you found to be most successful? What mistakes have you seen form others?