September 22, 2014

We’re approaching 2014, and by now you or your company has surely adopted content marketing as a long term marketing strategy, right? After all, SEO is apparently dead, no one watches TV anymore, and those ads you ran in the Sunday paper last week? Well, no one really read those either.

You’ve got this all under control, spending your days with clients and your nights writing blog posts. Easy stuff huh? Soon you’ll be reaping the rewards of all those 350-500 word articles! You’ll be living in a place where traffic and income will instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano.

Unless your name is Lloyd Christmas, or you’re as delusional as Harry Dunne, you probably know content marketing success is not that easy. Truth is, content marketing is hard and most will fail at it. Below you’ll find six common reasons why you’ll never succeed at content marketing.

You can’t just throw content out there and hope it sticks.

You can’t just throw content out there and hope it sticks.

1. You’ll give up in a week

Much like your new years resolution of losing that extra weight, you’ll hit the ground running with fire blazing through your veins. Not realizing how hard it is to go to the gym twice a day, or cook pinterest inspired healthy meals 3 times a day, your ambition will burn out after a week or two.

Most people just starting out in content marketing have a similar mindset, and just like getting in shape you need to make content marketing a long-term and sustainable commitment. It’s very easy to burn out in the early stages of content marketing, especially if you aren’t a natural writer, or you aren’t seeing results as quickly as you hoped for. It’s always great to set high goals, but is writing a six posts a week sustainable for you? Sure, writing six posts a week can be amazing for traffic, but don’t overextend yourself if you don’t have the resources for it.

Start and stick to a schedule that you know you can fulfil on a consistent basis, and scale up from there.

2. You’ll create shitty content

Valuable Content

How valuable is your content?

The web is becoming more content saturated everyday, and most of this new content is simply just repeating something that’s been written about before. Unless you add new value, nobody wants to read a piece of regurgitated content.

Just like when you were little and momma told you if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. Follow the same rules when producing content, if you can’t create anything valuable, don’t create anything at all.

I know what you’re thinking, that has to be impossible right? Nope, here is a great post on generating better content ideas. I get it, ideas are hard to come by and you’ll inevitably create overlapping content at some point. But you can make your content more valuable by going the extra mile that your competitors weren’t willing to go.

Escape from the 500 word plain content box that you’ve been trapped in. Focus instead on adding interactive elements to your content. Shoot a small intro video or design a slideshare presentation to go along with your blog post. Buy, shoot, or source high quality photography that makes your piece visually appealing, which in turn can help user engagement and social shares.

3. You’ll think it will promote itself

Ahhh, the old adage of “If you build it they will come” is strong in the minds of rookie content creators. Sure, if you own an authority site that naturally receives a ton of traffic and shares you can let your community do all of the talking for you. But chances are you’re just getting into content marketing, or you’re working on a new site with little to no community.

It’s okay if you don’t have an active community, you don’t need one yet. But you should be leveraging someone else’s community. There are countless ways to promote your content, here’s a few tips to get you started:

  • Submit your content to Reddit. There is a subreddit for everything, but make sure your content is top-notch as some users will rip into bad content. This is a good way to test if your content has a chance of gaining big time traction.
  • Submit to other bookmarking sites such as Stumbleupon, this site is still packed full of potential traffic and real users willing to share your content to their networks.
  • Get your content on a social sharing schedule, KISSMetrics has a great post on sharing frequency. You can use a service like Buffer to set a sharing schedule.
  • Use your own network. Surely you have a few followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook who will be willing to share your content. If not, perhaps you’re reading the wrong article.
  • Did you quote, cite, or link to anybody in your content? The best and easiest promotional tactic you can do is shoot them over a no strings attached email letting them know you’ve mentioned them in your new super cool piece of content. Don’t ask them to share it, chances are they will.

Or try any of these 17 methods for promoting your new piece of content.

4. You’ll create a non-scalable content creation process

As with most things in business, you won’t succeed without a scalable process, and content creation is no exception. If you’re like me, I hate writing, in fact, this post has taken me over three weeks to complete.

Right now, I’m trying to challenge myself to become a better writer which is why I’m doing it all myself. But don’t worry, there are a bunch of different ways to scale content creation.

Content Strategy

If you’re just starting out, start small and refine your process over time.

Create a content strategy

This is a given, but you won’t go very far without a strategy or content calendar. There are a million templates out there that you can download to help you build out a strategy. But even if it’s just a list of goals on a napkin, that’s better than anything.

I like to start with something I call the content tree. The content tree allows you to quickly visualize how a campaign can work together, from your focus content, down to your supporting content and how you’ll promote and measure success. Having a clearly defined goal and conversion point for your overall campaign will go a long way when it comes time to researching blog topics.

Click here to download an example content tree.

Repurpose existing content

Do you have a piece of content that include quotable snippets? Get a graphic designer to make a set of images that you can share across social media.

Did you create an infographic months ago and it’s losing steam? Re-design it into a presentation that you can share on Slideshare. Or reverse this and turn a slide deck into an infographic.

Additionally, you can also combine assets into a larger piece. Do you have a series of 6 blog posts that are related and could effectively be packaged into a one downloadable guide or ebook? You can build your content strategy with this goal in mind. Why spend the upfront time and money to create a huge asset? Build it over time.

Create recurring themes that you can duplicate

You don’t always have to put a ton of effort into creating content, developing ideas and writing can be super draining. One example of a recurring theme is roundup posts, where once a week you create a list of other great content that’s been published in your niche over the past week.

The great thing about this is you’ll have a ton of influencers to reach out to when after you’ve published the post.

Tip: You don’t have to be an expert on the topic to create this post. Send a list of URL’s that you want to include in your roundup post to a virtual editor. All they’re doing is writing a summary on each URL.

Build a good content team

They say you’re only as good as your team, this is the most important piece of the pie. Build a structured team that you can rely on to help you with great content. You can bootstrap it all you want, but eventually you’re going to need some help creating content. The great minds over at distilled put together this great post on how to develop and maintain a content team.

5. You’ll expect immediate user actions

So you’ve started pumping out some great content and traffic is starting to trickle downstream, eventually finding it’s way to your content. But wait, aren’t these users suppose to be buying something?

Your chances of converting a first time user into a hard conversion like a sale off of content are slim to none. I bet you’re wondering why the hell you’re creating content then? Good question, the truth is, that it takes time. That’s another reason you must be consistent about content marketing, you need to constantly be engaging people who are in different stages of the funnel.

It takes an average of 7 visits before a user decides to convert on an action. With most of your content being created around informative search queries, you should be focusing on soft conversions like capturing email addresses, requesting additional information, etc, rather than sales.

Be patient, remember this is a long term strategy and both traffic and conversions will increase in a stairstep effect over time. But by keeping in mind where the user is in the funnel as it relates to your content will help you build a better conversion strategy.

6. You’ll ignore SEO, because it’s dead, right?



You probably bought into content marketing because SEO is dead.

At it’s basic level, content marketing without SEO is called blogging. Sure, you can build up some traffic through some of the promotional methods above, but it will only last for so long. Every piece of content you create, whether it be a blog post, video, interactive infographic, etc. should have a search strategy behind it.

Marketers often complain about the complexities of Google, and how hard it is to rank in 2014. The reality is, for long-tail keywords that can make up to 90% of your content strategy, a little keyword research and basic on-site SEO will go a long way into giving your content a consistent traffic flow.

You don’t have to fail at content marketing

There are many reasons people fail at content marketing, I probably didn’t even cover half of it. If you’re traveling down the path of content failure, take a step back and start taking action on some of the tips above, and commit yourself for the longterm.

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  • chris_chringle

    Great post. I’ve bookmarked as a reference/reminder.