Content marketing mistakes are easy to spot on the web these days, because the concept of content marketing is under reconstruction right now … and frankly, it has been for years.
Pardon our dust.
Even when content marketing was a newer tactic online, there were naysayers. Now the naysayers point to the loads of bad writing and say, “You think that works?”
But there has always been junk. Currently, it’s just easier to find. It feels kind of dirty, like there’s a layer of filth that requires some serious Clorox Clean-Up.
However, I know content marketing isn’t dead because it works on me every week.
I buy from brands who publish smart articles. I subscribe to video channels that persuade me to pay attention to them.
Underneath the dirt, there’s still a proven process for content marketing mastery that builds your business.
Content marketing mistakes are easy to make because …
It’s easy to write for “everyone.”
I love “easy.” We all love “easy.”
But one factor that contributed to the current content marketing climate involves the dark side of easy.
It’s easy to put words together for a general group of people you want to attract.
And technology makes it easy to publish online and sell on a blog.
So, all of this easy-to-produce, repetitive information exists on the internet, but the content doesn’t connect with anyone.
When you don’t also learn how to be a copywriter, there’s a much greater chance that potential audience members will quickly move on from your website … and you’re left thinking that content marketing doesn’t work.
Writing for specific people requires a lot more skill.
It takes real research, real listening, real empathy, and real cojones … to publish over time and earn an audience’s attention.
As Sonia Simone always points out:
“We’re (still) not suffering from a glut of good content.”
Bulldozing the filler
There’s no substitute for the creative momentum you get when you publish on a regular schedule.
I like using the example of releasing new content once a week. It’s a model for focused content — a presentation your audience truly sees as a gift, something they look forward to getting.
That’s the type of content worth publishing.
Let’s say your ideal audience is “small business entrepreneurs.” I can think of a ton of typical information that would interest that group.
But as someone who wants to avoid common content marketing mistakes, you don’t publish for “the small business entrepreneur,” you publish for the small business entrepreneurs …
Those are characters whose attention you aim to earn and whose needs you aim to serve.
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Start with your cast of characters each time you create
One piece of content won’t satisfy everyone in your audience, so that’s another reason why publishing on a set schedule is important.
It gives you frequent opportunities to connect with different types of people.
When you create a content marketing strategy to serve small business entrepreneurs, you’ll start with the question:
Who do you want to create content for this week?
Your profiles for each character will outline their problems and the types of resources they’d prefer to have for help.
For fun, let’s look at sample characteristics of what you might include for Charles and Colette’s personalities.
- Likes doing everything for his bespoke pastry business himself and doesn’t like hiring people
- Writes engaging email autoresponders that nurture his prospects
- Eats (tuna, BLT, chicken, etc.) sandwiches for lunch most days, sometimes while reading about garnish techniques
- Wakes up at 6:00 a.m. and walks to a local coffee shop to socialize with other daily customers before she starts work
- Loves collaborating in a team environment to grow her fashion-styling app
- Enjoys taking her dog Nevil to a park in the early evenings
Charles Content and Colette Content might have some overlap since they both belong to the group “small business entrepreneurs,” but avoid the temptation to be vague.
One week could be for Charles … the next week could be for Colette … and so on, for the other characters you create.
In your editorial calendar, keep track of who you’re serving, so that you speak to each character regularly, but there’s no need to be strict about it.
For instance, if you happen to write for Cynthia two weeks in a row, you’re not necessarily neglecting the rest of your audience. Cynthia Content might be useful for Carl or Cedric, too.
With each installment of your content series, get precise about what each person:
You’ll use those details to make individuals feel that your articles, podcast episodes, or videos were created just for them — because they were.
How to fix content marketing mistakes
So, what happens when someone clicks through to your website?
Does your blogging persuade them to stay and find out more about you through the experience you immediately provide?
Or, do visitors see information that looks just like the other sites in your niche?
Those are enough questions for now. 🙂
But as you think about your answers, take a look at these five common content marketing mistakes that keep prospects from connecting with your content.
Each section includes guidance on how to fix the mistake.
Content Marketing Mistake #1: Your visitors can’t tell if your content’s right for them
A row of four new houses that all look basically the same were recently built on the street where I live.
When a real estate agent starts taking potential buyers on tours of the houses, do you know what’s going to happen?
The potential buyers are going to examine the properties and make judgments about the slight differences they notice.
A woman is going to dislike the filigree on one of the front gates and select the house with the simple brown gate and extra large balconies.
A man is going to love the house with the filigree on the front gate. Another woman is going to hate the house with the extra large balconies and prefer the house with additional living room space.
You get the point.
While these houses appear roughly similar from the outside, visitors quickly assess which property is right for them based on their personal preferences.
The same thing happens when people search for information about a topic. The websites that appear at the top of search results for a keyword phrase might all look the same at first, so visitors will quickly inspect your content to see if it contains the qualities that are right for them.
If your special qualities (your proverbial front gate with filigree, large balcony, or spacious living room) aren’t clear, you won’t convince the people you want to attract that you can satisfy their preferences.
How to fix it
Take 15 Minutes to Find Your Winning Difference
When you stop trying to attract everyone, it’s easier to attract those who recognize and appreciate your unique selling proposition (USP).
You’re right for some visitors and your competitors may be right for others. That’s okay.
Content Marketing Mistake #2: Your headlines aren’t specific
Weak headlines that could appear on any other website in your niche typically fail to offer a benefit.
Or, the benefit could be so vague that it fails to capture the attention of the people who you actually created the content for.
They could also be boring.
How to fix it
3 Simple Questions That Help You Write Better Headlines
If you immediately communicate details about why your content is relevant and useful, you’ll grab the attention of people who need help with your topic.
To avoid headline-related content marketing mistakes, aim to infuse your headlines with the essence of your USP and show your site visitors that you’re a match for them — faster.
Content Marketing Mistake #3: You don’t edit
Plenty of websites have success publishing first-draft content. If rough drafts form a bond with the people you aim to serve … cool.
But if your content isn’t striking a chord with the people you want to attract and develop relationships with, then you may need to push yourself further.
How to fix it
Content Editing: The Art of Revising From Basic to Brilliant
Rough drafts often fail to effectively convey your messages. They may contain too much information or tangents that distract busy readers and make your content less useful.
Editing is about creating a content experience. Rather than expressing raw thoughts, you craft a thoughtful presentation that helps solve a problem.
When you click on the link above, you’ll learn how content editors think.
Content Marketing Mistake #4: You don’t give visitors more opportunities to learn
Websites with a lot of content may still look like “brochure” websites if they don’t present a different angle or perspective that makes visitors think, “I like this specific approach to this topic.”
When visitors feel you offer them something they can’t find on other websites, they want to hear more from you and stay connected.
If you don’t anticipate a reader’s desire to learn more, he might bounce to other sites to see if they offer more resources.
How to fix it
Make Your Marketing Too Valuable to Throw Away
Ideally, you want to have so much great content that when visitors land on your site they’re frustrated that they don’t have enough time to consume it all in one sitting.
They’ll have to make a note to come back. Now the question is:
Do they sign up for your email list so they don’t miss any new content?
One of my favorite email marketing tips is to make signing up for your email list a no-brainer: Show your potential subscribers they’ll get exclusive content that is a perfect match for their needs.
Visitors will feel like they hit the jackpot that day on their journey.
Content Marketing Mistake #5: You don’t empower visitors to make a purchase
Information alone doesn’t spark the buying process.
If you don’t give visitors a taste of what it’s like to do business with you, you won’t convert prospects to customers.
How to fix it
Educate to Convert Your Prospects
When you convince your website visitors to keep up with everything you publish, you’re able to build the relationships that will build your business.
And the right balance of content and copy helps your prospects imagine what it’s like to buy from you.
Demonstrate why your product or service will give them the transformation they desire.
Optimize your content to grow your audience
If you want to do more than just think about the questions I mentioned above, here’s an exercise:
- Assign each of these five mistakes to a day next week, Monday through Friday.
- Spend a couple hours each day identifying where you might make those errors and how you can fix them.
- By the end of the week, you’ll have a wealth of new ideas about how you can improve going forward.
This is the perfect time to take all of the work you’ve put into your freelance website so far and make it even better for the next phase of your business.
3 content marketing mistakes from the wild
Now let’s turn to the real world to get even more clarity on some of these ideas …
A grocery store solicitor is a nuisance because grocery shopping isn’t typically a leisurely activity.
The shopper needs to get down to business, because there are many other tasks to perform when they leave the grocery store and carry on with their day.
However, some people might treat grocery shopping as a more casual activity, perhaps time to explore new products or even meet new people.
Those are the ideal prospects who are more open to grocery store solicitors.
So, the solicitor does have a chance, but I recently witnessed one blow his opportunity … twice.
The Meditation Table
On this fateful day, a table with a sign on top of it that simply said “Meditation” was adjacent to the front of the organic grocery store I walk to regularly.
Not a terrible start.
The location has potential.
Not all people who buy organic groceries care about upping their zen game, but they might be curious about meditation and want to learn more.
Unfortunately, things quickly fell apart, providing us with three content marketing mistakes to examine that are related to the ones above.
#1: Don’t lead with features
Meditation is a “feature.”
Features explain your offer. Benefits persuade someone to care about the offer.
Features and benefits work together, but leading with features often creates a lackluster presentation.
You don’t care about how many Instagram followers your friend has — you care if they remember your birthday.
Instead of just saying “Meditation,” the sign on the table could have attracted people by referencing any of the true benefits of meditation:
- Improved concentration
- Peaceful sleep
Smart copy could have also carefully highlighted the pain points that would lead someone to look for a new way to manage stress.
#2: Don’t mumble
There was one man standing behind The Meditation Table.
Let’s call him Rick.
When I walked past the table, he said:
As you may have guessed, I have some issues with that salutation/question.
First, it just makes no sense.
I didn’t know what Rick wanted from me.
- Start meditating on command, right then and there?
- Teach him about meditation?
- Confirm he was pronouncing the word correctly?
Since it was not clear, I couldn’t connect with his message.
Second, let’s say I had just started a meditation practice and went to the grocery store that day secretly hoping I’d run into a person who wanted to talk with me about it …
Rick’s chosen greeting was confusing, so I would continue to walk past him and into the tomato-and-onion aisle on the other side of the automatic-sliding door.
It’s regrettable that he potentially put off an otherwise-interested prospect.
And finally, I already mentioned that the table displayed a printed sign that said: “Meditation.”
If I didn’t know what it was, I could easily perform research about meditation later.
Rick failed to provide a winning difference about his meditation proposition.
There was no reason I’d choose him over finding a meditation resource I did connect with.
If you “mumble” in your content marketing for small businesses, you don’t provide a compelling reason for anyone to stop and pay attention.
#3: Don’t ramble
As I left the grocery store, strategically looking down and fumbling in my purse for my keys, I heard a woman ask Rick:
“Where is the meditation center located?”
This time, he replied with a long-winded answer.
It should come as a surprise to no one that it was not a strong one.
Similar to his mumbling, this response gives Rick’s prospect zero reasons to choose his meditation organization.
In fact, content marketing mistakes like these actually give her a reason to choose a different one — to look elsewhere for a meditation community that directly appeals to her sensibilities.
Clarity and connection, every time you publish
You need to release your work knowing you’ve polished it up to professional standards, so you feel good about sharing it.
We all have the potential to build engaged audiences.
Don’t let your content be an insignificant event others pass by without thought or care.
Have it be a milestone.
Reader Comments (15)
Sandeep Rathore says
Hey Stefanie, thanks for writing such a useful post. All of these content marketing mistakes, I believe, can be fixed if we write the content keeping our buyer persona in the mind. The more we know our buyer persona, the better our content marketing efforts will be.
Vladimir Covic says
Thanks for posting this. As a content marketer you need to learn to stop shoving your content in your reader’s’ throat and instead give them what they actually want and make it useful to them.
Daniel Z. Chohfi says
Great post Stephanie! My tip is remove the clutter. It helps visitors to focus on what you want them to do.
Daniel Z. Chohfi says
*Stefanie! Sorry, as an Editor-in-chief I bet you hate when this spelling is wrong!
Stefanie Flaxman says
It’s a common “mistake.” 😉 No worries, Daniel!
Jeff Doubek says
Great post… I had to Google “filigree.”
Stefanie Flaxman says
I like the Google image results for “filigree.” 🙂
Michael LaRocca says
I’ve found that if I turn my web copy into a 30-second “elevator speech” and test drive it at a few networking events, it evolves. You really have to focus on your core message when you deliver it verbally, especially if delivering anything verbally terrifies you the way it does me.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Great tip, Michael! You can learn a lot when you’re forced to say something succinctly. Even though you have the luxury of writing whatever you want in your content, it doesn’t mean all those extra thoughts are effective. 🙂
Vishwajeet Kumar says
Thanks for this awesome and informative post. Crafting a quality post and optimize the content is a tricky part of blogging. Your article will definitely help bloggers like me. Thanks for the post.
The not giving them an opportunity to go further always blows my mind. I saw a great example of how to do this recently. Instead of finishing a blog with a conclusion, she kept writing about a related topic as if it were another paragraph in the content… by the time you had to “click here to read the rest of this blog” you were already hooked on it. Very clever.
Stefanie Flaxman says
Interesting tactic to connect two posts together! I like how (presumably) both posts had to be planned ahead of time to make that work. Thanks for sharing, Dana!
Thanks for a great article, Like many I seem to be spending far too much time on optimisation with very little to show. I’ll take onboard your tips.
Agi Anderson says
An exceptional post, you had me sucked in all the way to the end. Since we don’t have credit card processing to buy homes or to secure sellers, I am conjuring up better ways to grab attention. I am in the process of building my list of buyers, sellers, owners and investors. You provided lots of food for thought. Thanks!
Alison Ver Halen says
I’m definitely guilty of rambling at times, which is why it’s so important for me to edit. I had never thought of mumbling as applying to written content, but you made some great points there.
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