A good content marketer is a complex beast. These days, it’s not enough just to be a great writer. More and more, you basically have to juggle being a psychologist, a tech-whizz and a data scientist is you want to make an impact. With close to 5 million blog articles being published daily, that’s just what it takes to be noticed.
Are all of these bloggers reaping the famous benefits of content marketing? Doubtful. In fact, dear reader, you’re probably here because your content strategy isn’t converting as well as you’d hoped. There’s no shame in that. As little as 9% of brands would describe their content marketing as ‘very effective’.
So what’s going wrong? You read that this was going to be easy, right? The good news is it should be. Your problem can only really be one of planning or execution. So figuring out what it is shouldn’t be too hard either. Let’s take a look at some common issues.
You’re Shooting in the Dark
This is the biggest and most common planning error. Namely, you aren’t planning at all. There are plenty of marketing departments out there where the manager draws up a list of topics, hands it to the intern and moves on completely.
This is no good. You need to have a clear idea of your audience and their needs. The more detailed the better, but even basic demographics will point you in the right direction. Spending even 10 minutes on Google Analytics to work out the age, gender and location of your core audience can help you get in their heads.
Once you’ve published a large body of articles, you’ll also want to go back and reassess what worked and what didn’t. This makes it easier to work out what content your readers found useful. You should also look out for any long-tail keywords you might be ranking for and work these into your future work.
You’re a Follower, Not a Leader
There seems to be some confusion out there about competitor research. Some content marketers think this just means ripping off others in their niche. It’s ok to look for inspiration. And it’s definitely great to do your research. However, this doesn’t mean you should be saying the same things as everyone else.
This all comes down to value for the reader. You can have lengthy and perfectly written content, but if your reader has heard it all before, you’re not going to convert. You’re only going to look like an amateur.
Targeting the same issues as thousands of other bloggers is going to ruin your SEO too. Effective content marketing has to be innovative. You need to add something new to the conversation, or else you’ll just be drowned out by all the other noise online.
You’re Not the Writer You Could Be
The existence of freelance writers proves that there must be something to good writing. You don’t have to be a specialist though. It’s an easy skill to learn. The absolute most important thing is good spelling and grammar. How many of those 5 million blogs are incoherent? You can’t rely on spellcheck. If you want people to take you seriously, read over your content. Read it out loud. Even once.
With a couple of tricks, good writing is an easy skill to fake too. For example, I always like to address my reader directly early on in my articles. Literary types call this Apostrophe, but we don’t have to worry about that. I did it in the second paragraph today and here you are, still reading.
You also need to keep one eye on readability. There tools out there to help you make your content readable. A couple of basic rules can keep you right too though. In general, short sentences and simple words are king in the online space. You should also use plenty of linking phrases to keep things smooth.
You’re Only a Writer
Everything I’ve said so far has been about blogging. However, ideally this shouldn’t be the be all and end all of your content strategy. The internet is a multimedia environment. It’s not just text, it’s sounds and images too. You can cheaply and effectively leverage these other mediums for content marketing.
55% of people watch online video every day. You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, a minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. There’s no need to create a studio quality action film, we all have HD cameras on our phones. Simple video content is well within reach.
Similarly, there are about half a million active podcasts out there. That figure is only going to grow. Right now you have a great opportunity to be a relatively early adopter. That way you can establish yourself as an authority in your industry in a way you could never dream of with a blog alone.
You’re Not Including a Call-to-Action
How could you expect your content strategy to convert if you don’t steer your audience where you want them. You should end every single article by directing your reader to carry out whichever action you want them to perform.
A good call to action uses action words. ‘Click here’ isn’t good enough. You need to offer your reader something to entice them into converting. Something like, but not necessarily, ‘Sign up to our newsletter to claim your free private jet’.
A little bit of crafty web design can make your call-to-action that bit more effective. Adding a button looks infinitely better than just embedding a link. If it’s social shares your after, you’ll also want to add some decent icons for your desired social network. This is a great way to add legitimacy.
It is, of course, wise to learn from your mistakes. It’s a lot better to learn from other people’s mistakes though. What I’ve sought to do is point out some common errors content marketers make, so you can figure out why you’re not seeing the results you’d like.
The benefits of a good content strategy can’t be overstated. Realistically, it’s not that hard to achieve either. With a little bit of forethought and self-awareness, anybody should be able to make the most of content marketing.