The 7 deadly sins of content marketing

Reasons why businesses fail in their content strategy.

Content marketing has become a popular online marketing tactic over the last few years, with many businesses incorporating it into their larger digital marketing strategy. Unfortunately, content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) aren’t always integrated well — or at all — within an organization.

Content creation strategies should be based on a thorough SEO analysis, including advanced keyword research. Without SEO, content marketing efforts can’t reach their full potential with regard to online visibility. Even content that is well-written, attractively presented and expensive to create will underperform without careful preparatory research.

Following are seven common mistakes businesses make by not integrating SEO (and other digital marketing disciplines) into their content strategy.

1. Not doing proper keyword research

Some content marketers imagine keyword research is only about keywords and search volumes. But it’s much more. Keyword research is a tool for planning your content strategically, not just from an SEO perspective, but also for branding, communication and public relations, with the overarching focus of achieving business goals.

It’s astonishing how many content creators don’t undertake keyword research at all, instead going by gut feelings and instinct. They don’t map out a topic to uncover all the relevant keywords. They use guesswork and random brainstorming to find some relevant phrases and trust that that is good enough. But if your content strategy is not based on real data from thorough research, it’s not going to perform to its potential.

Smart keyword research lets you predict what your audience needs — before they tell you, or even before they know it themselves! Guided by a properly prioritized set of keywords, your content team can be creative while anchoring their ideas to data.

Your role, as a content marketer, is to play matchmaker between content and the people searching for it. Look at their intent, needs and wants. Apply that intelligence to create content which converts visitors into buyers.

2. Not testing out content ideas

Tools like BuzzSumo help you predict if your content ideas will work by studying how they worked for others. Use it to find out what kind of content about a specific topic or keyword is more engaging to your audience. Look at statistics to see how many times it has been shared with others on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or LinkedIn. That information helps you plan future content.

3. Not utilizing AdWords data to study conversion rates and performance

With paid search and Google AdWords, you can see how keywords in your search campaigns are converting. Planning your content around the best-converting keywords can make your website more profitable.

4. Relying solely on Google data to guide content topics

Google’s tools are good, but they’re not the be-all and end-all of keyword research for SEO and content marketing.

For example, Google Analytics only reviews data you already have. You can tell which search terms brought you more visitors or which content is more popular. But this tells you nothing about your actual unrealized potential. While Google Analytics should be part of your keyword research, it is not enough by itself.

Similarly, I find that Google’s own keyword research tool, Google Keyword Planner, doesn’t provide reliable search volume data. While the tool is good for spotting seasonal or directional trends, as well as comparing the relative popularity of multiple search terms, the exact search volume numbers themselves should not be taken as gospel.

I also find Google Keyword Planner conceals many long-tail keywords, unless you know how to dig deep for them. This means you’ll miss out on important data. Keyword phrases with three or more words are more specific and can help you discern user intent, letting you can create content that answers their questions and meets their expectations better.

Again, Google tools should absolutely be used in your keyword research for SEO and content marketing, but you’ll need to use other data sources as well.

5. Not measuring performance or taking action on the data

Having worked with omnichannel marketing clients and large companies that have a combination of e-commerce and local retail stores in different cities, I often find they don’t measure performance of the content they have invested in.

Sometimes they simply don’t know how to do it or don’t have the tools, systems or knowledge to do it right. But in many instances, it’s only because they lack motivation.

Let me ask you this: If content producers are given the opportunity to produce ineffective content over a period of several years, without anyone paying attention to the problem, whose responsibility is it?

6. Thinking content marketing is the new SEO

Content marketing isn’t SEO. Yes, high-quality content is important in order to rank well. But search engines demand more than that. Search Engine Land’s very own Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors offers an excellent overview of how Google works and how SEO isn’t limited to content alone.

Blasting out one blog post after another won’t help you reach your highest SEO potential. In fact, creating a few outstanding, memorable articles that are well-researched and written by experts, ones that others would have a hard time improving upon, can set you apart from everyone else — especially if they’ve been properly optimized for search engines.

7. Failing to apply new knowledge

The most disappointing reason that businesses fail with content marketing is that many business leaders, content producers, agencies and strategists actually know most of what I’ve just said — but they don’t act on their knowledge.

They are passive and keep postponing any corrective action. They know it’s important, but they don’t want results badly enough to make the changes happen. It’s easier to pretend nothing’s wrong and carry on. Sometimes, it takes a serious failure to jolt them out of their comfort zone.

Final thoughts

I hope you liked this compilation of reasons why content marketing fails and found it interesting and helpful. If you found any of the reasons or examples relevant to your own situation, then it’s time to bite the bullet and make changes. Bookmark this page as a reminder. Share it with your team.

Make sure this is the day you change the way you think about content marketing and SEO. Sure, it often hurts to know the truth. But this is also your wake-up call to step out of the shadows and into the light.

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