The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

13 reasons your content marketing strategy is failing
 
Guest blog
 
Guest blog

This post is by Mike Morgan, Founder and Director of High Profile Enterprises and Content Director for TrinityP3. Mike has been collaborating with TrinityP3 on a Content Marketing, SEO and Social Media strategy since early 2011.

In partnership with King Content and TrinityP3, Warc will be co-hosting a seminar on How to be an Effective Content Marketer in Sydney (Friday, 21 March 2014). Click here to book your ticket. And read on for some key points to consider from one of our event partners for developing a successful content marketing strategy...


Content marketing has become an industry buzzword over the past two years – no doubt about that.

Large numbers of businesses have launched themselves into the new digital arena where "Content is King" and where rewards are great for those that are able to nail the complexity involved with effective strategy.

And that's very true too.

However, there are still a large percentage of these efforts which are completely missing the mark and are leading to poor results, confusion, conflict and eventually, the abandonment of the strategy in many cases.

Way back in November 2012 I wrote a post which detailed 30 reasons content marketers were failing and most are still true today. In fact many have become even more acute.

Content marketing strategy relies on a number of key attributes and the missing piece of the puzzle will in most cases have a significant impact on success…

Forget to factor in Google's requirements and the nuances of the Hummingbird Update? Focus on quantity over quality? Launch without a defined and measurable set of goals?

These are all more common than you might think.

Why is my content marketing strategy not working?

The best way to get your strategy firing is to eliminate the mistakes that are holding your strategy back.

Here are 13 that could be contributing to your poor performance (and probably are).

1. A lack of strategic development

Unfortunately many content strategies are launched with a "create and publish content and they will come" philosophy. No, they will not.

This is a critical part of strategic development –

  • Who exactly is the audience, what are they looking for?
  • What personas are we targeting?
  • What is our tone of voice?
  • What is the value that we are bringing to our audience?
  • What are our goals?
  • How will we measure progress?
  • How will we measure ROI?

And there are many other questions that must be incorporated into this strategy before you build the content platform.

Make it count.

2. Not publishing regularly

Everyone is busy.

It is a time-poor 24/7 business world.

We all have a lot on our plate but for some reason as soon as business is under pressure with either rapid growth or through peak seasonal fluctuations or through reaction to reducing revenue…

Often the first to the wall is the digital content creation section.

And this is the last thing that should be sacrificed as consistency is the key here.

So we see a flurry of activity in the first few months and then contributors are missing deadlines or apologies and excuses arrive.

Suddenly there has been nothing published for a month – and the popularity signals begin to wane. Repeat visitors slow down, search engine robots drop their crawl frequency, social shares flat-line.

Making up this lost ground can be difficult and time consuming.

3. The C-suite doesn't know (or doesn't care)

Without the support and involvement of the executive level of an organization you are pretty much wasting your time.

There are resources, budget, strategy, meetings and much more required. So if those that hold the power to remove budget or veto strategy are not on board and have not been appraised of the proposed outcomes then any requests for future resourcing will go through a series of hands before being put in the low priority pile.

Try doing content strategy with zero budget.

4. Fear of giving away IP

This is a big mindset shift for a large number of organisations.

"If I tell everyone how we do what we do, what is to stop our competitors or even our clients/customers from taking this information and doing it themselves?"

The interesting fact is that the more you demonstrate your high level of expertise the more business you attract. Over a period of time people begin to trust you as a spokesperson and an innovator in your industry as you are continually showing that you understand a broad range of facets of your offerings and of the industry as a whole.

And there is always the thought that if this is what you are prepared to give away, imagine what you would get as a paying client…

5. Too much sell, sell, sell

This is boring to everyone.

No one wants to share your content if there is a big plug for your product at the end.

Or in some cases every piece of content produced is simply a sales message about a product or service.

Picture a thousand eyes glazing over.

You have to earn advocacy or social endorsement.

You will only get a couple of chances and then people will tune out permanently.

6. SEO is dead?

This is a massive fail.

You have read in blogs that the old days of SEO no longer apply and that Google is looking for content and doesn't care about keywords or any of those old school manipulative techniques.

True about the old school techniques but these writers are doing you a grave disservice.

You MUST understand Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

And you need to get an understanding of recommended practice for:

  • Metadata
  • Heading structure
  • Content length
  • Short form copywriting for titles
  • Pagespeed
  • Image optimization
  • Open Graph Tags
  • Authorship
  • Structured data
  • HTML improvements
  • Social sharing optimisation
  • Website performance
  • Clickbait
  • Linkbait

And there are many more ranking factors that ensure great user experience, improved conversion and technical compliance.

This has nothing to do with spammy SEO practices – this is your content foundation.

SEO is not only alive but is an essential partner to content.


7. Woah! – resisting multiple descriptive content enhancing complex concepts

We've all seen these.

It's a pity that some writers think that people will be impressed if they use a whole lot of adjectives, pronouns and words that you need an online dictionary open to understand what they are talking about.

What does it all mean?

Who are you talking to?

Do they really care that you are intelligent enough to use really long words – the scientific name for the protein titin has 189,819 letters – do you think people would be impressed if you used this in your piece?

Keep it simple.

Keep the language informal and address it to your reader. As far as your reader goes they are the only one who is engaging with your content at this specific moment in time.

So engage with them – don't patronize them.

8. Social media? Our clients don't use it

You've decided that a social media strategy is something that you will tentatively use or maybe even put off until someone can prove its worth to you.

Your business has some presence but why would you waste your valuable time on personal profiles?

After all [insert your industry] doesn't really use social media.

There are a couple of incorrect assumptions around this.

Firstly, it would take a massive amount of "head in the sand" behavior to ignore the rise of almost every demographic through at least one of the major social platforms.

Even the most traditional industries have a strong presence on LinkedIn and most are waking up to the benefits of integrated social strategy using a customized range of platforms with a strategy for at least Twitter, Facebook, Google+ with YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and many more jostling for your and your customer's attention.

The game has changed.

Social amplification is crucial.

These social media sites all offer a high visibility content promotion channel. And they allow you to share your "value giving" content with a far greater audience than you could hope to achieve by collecting subscribers.

The reach factor of advocate shared content should never be underestimated. Each retweet, share, like, comment, +1, favourite allows you to get views from people outside of your usual networks.

And as an added bonus (as if you needed one) search engines track popularity as part of their big/popular brands ranking data.

There is some discussion around the power of social signals but there are few who deny some impact to search engine reputation.

9. Big blocks of text, big paragraphs, long sentences

That back button is so easy to hit.

Add in very small, barely legible fonts and you have the back button jackpot.

Talk to your designer/developer.

Get the font size sorted out.

Then make sure you never write incredibly long sentences, that you break up paragraphs, that your site isn't the impenetrable fortress of words.

Think Hemmingway. Not scholarly journals.

Don't lose your readers before they have had the opportunity to absorb your wisdom.

10. This is my title

That's pretty good isn't it?

No, it's not.

I've already mentioned the importance of SEO titles and here I am going to really labour the point.

Upworthy, Buzzfeed and almost every savvy online blog know that the success or failure of any content lies in the attractiveness of your title.

I would even go as far as to say you should spend at least 25% of the time you spent creating the content on crafting the best possible title. (more, if possible)

Learn search engine length guidelines (60 characters including spaces).

Learn title cut-off length for the various social media platforms you use (they vary).

Split-test different titles on Twitter and measure engagement.

Test and learn, test and learn.

Think about this: why would someone who sees your title and a link in a fast moving environment want to click through?

This is where clickbait comes to the fore.

However, a word of warning.

If your compelling headline is not followed up with complete relevance on the destination page then you will fail. You only need to lose the trust of a visitor once so don't push the limits.

11. Attribution problems

If you are not prepared to reference your sources you are missing out in several ways.

Let's say you have used information from a source online and you have used correct attribution. What happens next?

Search engines see that you have referenced a high quality source so your visitors can read on the topic in more depth.

Visitors get more value.

In some cases the referenced author will get a notification that they have been linked to.

Sometimes they will thank you on social channels or link back to the piece.

If not, you can send them a message letting them know you have mentioned them and ask for their OK on how you have framed their opinion.

Back to the social thank you and link bit again. Add in a bit of influencer relationship building into the mix as well.

This all leads to higher authority for your content and increases your visibility.

Obviously Wikipedia is not going to engage with you so find industry sources that have influence but are still approachable.

12. Everything is in-house

We will write all our own content you think.

Why would we allow outside writers to gain advantage from publishing on our site?

Forget about Google's recent announcements about guest blogging for a minute. Google is only stamping out the practice of link building using low quality articles. These are poor quality pieces on unrelated sites to get exact match anchor text links back to their own websites to manipulate rankings.

Pure spam and I'm sure you have had the same email approaches we get too.

This is not what I am talking about here.

Expert contributions from respected, influential people in your industry. That's what I am talking about.

Each one of these adds an extra layer of authenticity, leadership, authority to what you do.

A bonus – you reach new audiences as they will inevitably share the post with their own networks.

This new audience checks out your other content – increased social shares, more views, better authority by association.

13. The old keywords myth

Like the "SEO is dead" myth there is still a lot of misinformation around keywords.

Google's external keyword tool was taken down and Keyword Planner (Adwords accounts only) replaced it.

Google stopped giving us keyword data on what phrases visitors were using to arrive at a site.

The Hummingbird Update and the new focus on context and natural language queries, mobile and voice activated search plus the overall shift from strings to things has led to a flood of "keywords don't matter" proclamations from people who should know better.

Sure, clunky exact match keyword use brings far less benefit and human users will always be turned off by it.

But, that has been the case for at least two years now.

The reality is that your accumulated knowledge pool sinks or swims on its discoverability. And this is driven by evergreen content that is optimised for a range of possible searches.

In order to maximize this potential you need to understand keyword research and you need to understand correct implementation from a humans first, robots second perspective.

How do you answer your potential customers' queries in a completely natural way while taking into account keywords, traffic volume, competition and conversion?

This is the art and the science of technical content marketing.

That's 13 big reasons to ponder.

And this is where I will leave this post.

Content marketing sits at the fascinating crossroads between copywriting, creative direction, strategy, technical understanding, social influence, innovation, conversion rate optimization, design, user experience and a decent amount of sheer hard graft.

Are you prepared to take up the challenge?



Subjects: Digital, Marketing, Warc conferences

28 February 2014 09:05
 

There are 2 comments on this blog

(Want to have your say? Add your Comment)

Nice post, Mike. In my mind, the biggest obstacle to successful content marketing is discipline.

You're right: as soon as sales drop or things get busy, many businesses sacrifice their content marketing efforts - they think they're doing the right thing. However, they are just being reactive instead of pro active and they will regret their actions later on when business dries up.

This is why there needs to be someone, if at all possible, whose core responsibility it to make sure things get done - content is written and social media is utilised.
Andrew H. 02 March 2014 at 6:52pm
Hi Andrew

Nail on the head! Discipline!

And an understanding around the value of the strategy and what the outcomes are. If contributors buy in to how the big picture is tracking then it is a little easier to coax high quality content from them when time or other pressures are on.
Mike M. 05 March 2014 at 7:36am
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