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One of the biggest mistakes in content marketing is when organizations and businesses do not treat it like a distinct channel. There is no difference or hierarchy among their web pages. A page with industry analysis and commentary has the same structure as every other page on your site.

This boxes your approach to content marketing into a corner and removes options. You are not building a new channel or a distinct channel, you merely adding pages to a website. Your visitors get lost in navigation and every page is perceived to have the same value, utility, and relevance. It’s all the same.

What’s wrong with that?

The point of content marketing is to carve out a separate space that functions as a distinct media or trade publication. Your website is a great place for content about features and benefits – and buyers need that a specific time in the buying cycle – but they don’t subscribe to it. To be effective, your content marketing program should be treated as a publication that is easily distinguished from all the other pages on your site.

It’s here that you “report” on your market niche in a way that nobody else can. You advocate your market category, shape its purpose, tell stories, analyze studies, comment on trends, test ideas, and build relationships through content with other people that have a stake or interest in your market. This attracts the right visitors, gives them a reason to come back, helps to transform them into subscribers.

A subscriber is a business relationship. They’ve given you permission to stay in touch, told you explicitly they like your ideas and want more of them, though they have an expectation for what that touch will look and feel like.

This distinct channel does not compete for a send in your email marketing schedule – it goes out automatically and independently. Like any trade publication, your content marketing platform – whether it’s a corporate blog, article site, online magazine – needs its own space within your site. It needs its own email distribution. It needs its own RSS distribution. It needs its own analytics (or at least, a site structure that allows you to cleanly parse the data).

You can and should “advertise” your product in your publication, just as you would if you purchased a sponsorship in an independent trade publication. For sure, you can “cover” your own reports, product announcements and public relations driven news, but you do this sparingly and you always take a journalistic approach to content creation.

You do not pretend to be neutral, your readers, or listeners, or viewers, should always know where you stand and where you are coming from. When content marketing is done right, you become an advocate, inquisitor, inquirer, a daily or weekly record, that looks at your vertical through the lenses of the business problem your product or service solves.

You do this to demonstrate thought leadership, to be part of the market conversation, and to build awareness for the category and your organization’s position in it. Over time, it builds your reputation and credibility in your space. When people think about the market, they can’t help but think about you and trust where you are coming from.

To be effective, content marketing has to be its own thing. It’s one of the biggest mistakes I see and now you know how to fix it.

A version of this post was first published on Sword and the Script.