By Ann Gynn published January 15, 2018

27 Reasons Why Your Content Sucks

reasons-content-sucksNobody thinks their content sucks – or, in other words, is weak and not deserving to be believed.

After all, why would someone intentionally create something that’s utterly useless for their organization or their audience?

And yet, a lot of content sucks. We’ve all seen (and sometimes created) it.

Consider this article the proverbial splash of cold water to help you wake up (or more importantly, wake your content up).

More than 70 people responded to my request for examples of bad content, but almost all demurred to offer real-life examples. But one brave, smart content creator came forward to share her own experience: Christina Russ of Gage Diamonds.

“Sadly, I’m guilty of writing (weak) content at times,” she says. “Here’s a piece I wrote that no one will ever read because, honestly, no one gives a crap about what I’m selling.”

gage-diamonds-bad-example

“Despite the fact that I write that type of content, I have my moments of sanity. Here’s a better piece I wrote,” Christina says.

gage-diamonds-good-example

Christina smartly recognized the difference between the two posts: “One is (perceived as) beneficial to the business. The other is beneficial to the readers because it provides useful information about store credit cards and financing opportunities.”

A lack of focus on the audience’s needs was frequently cited as a key mistake.

Now, that we have the audience-focus thing on the list, let’s dive into 27 more characteristics of content that sucks.

1. Another of the same

Blog posts that just sum up what you can find through Google searches. Regurgitation of basic information that’s reformatted on a company blog with a lot of injected ads, unnecessary links, and keyword stuffing in hopes of achieving a high SERP rank. If all your blog post does is tell me the same information I can find through a simple Google search, then it’s (weak).

Dew Smith, managing editor, Vendasta

Not only has the topic been dealt with, but even the angle taken is too familiar … I don’t need to read what’s already been published 300 times. I am not saying invent something new, just don’t share the same 10 tips that everyone is sharing.

Youness Bermime, content writer, writersdo.com

I don’t need to read what’s already been published 300 times, says @YounessBermime. #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

2. Product name here and here and there

The more mentions of the brand or its product in the bounds of a piece of content, the higher the (weakness) of that piece of content.

Eric Kinaitis, director of content marketing, American Endowment Foundation

3. We before you

Whether it is on Twitter, blogs, or company collateral, there seems to be a recent trend to overemphasize statements about oneself or to put the company ahead of the customer. No matter the content type, this type of self-indulgence is weak. You’ll lose the reader because of braggadocious puffery. Remove the ‘I’ and ‘we’ from your marketing.

Jamie Glass, CMO and president, Artful Thinkers

Remove the “I” and “we” from your #marketing or you’ll lose the reader, says @jglass8. Click To Tweet

4. Now obsolete

“You can have outstanding blogs when first published that ultimately turn (weak) because they are outdated.

“I rewrote this post about concussion-related light sensitivity, even though it was already ranking number one for several target keywords. I did it because: 1) it took too long to answer the question that most searchers were asking, which resulted in a high bounce rate and low average time on page. The original post wasted a lot of valuable real estate sharing info on general characteristics of post-concussion syndrome vs. the meat of the content related to light sensitivity AND 2) new research had been published, which I wanted to include to make it fresh and relevant. “

Greg Bullock, marketing manager, TheraSpecs

theraspecs-outdated-example

5. No duh

Stating the obvious. The world is round. A volcano is hot. Snakes can be poisonous. Then explaining in painful detail these obvious facts.

Holly Wolf, director of customer engagement, SOLO Laboratories Inc.

It’s trite. It’s content that tells me something obvious – an article on losing weight that recommends exercising regularly, or a piece with money-saving tips that says to cut out Starbucks from my morning routine.

Jami Barnett, associate director of research, Consumer Affairs

Weak #content tells me something obvious, says @JamiBarnett. Click To Tweet

6. Pointless intros

Some (weak) content can be found in a lot of good content. For instance, the first paragraph or two is (almost) always filler that never tells you anything informative and can be skipped on almost every article. Go ahead and try it.

Mike Lamood, founder, Lamood Big Hats

7. No voice

There’s no excuse, no matter the topic, for dry content with no emotion or enthusiasm. You can’t convert without getting your readers excited. Instead, throw in personality and stories, create a voice, and be human.

Brittany Berger, founder, Brittany Berger

There’s no excuse, no matter the topic, for dry #content with no emotion or enthusiasm, says @thatbberg. Click To Tweet

8. Humdrum

In the event video world, it’s a three-minute highlights video with peppy music, generic conference testimonials, and footage of attendees networking across a table.

Briana De Marco, Media Llama

9. All listicles, all the time

Ever read articles called ‘10 Ways That You Can Improve Your SEO,’ ‘5 Cool Things to Do in (City Name),’ ‘10 Healthy Diets That Make You Feel Good’? Those articles are boring. I get it – for a while people were obsessed with listicles. Yes, sometimes having a listicle on your blog isn’t a bad thing. But, if every article you post is a listicle, you just aren’t trying hard enough.

Dan Salganik, managing partner, VisualFizz

If every article you post is a listicle, you just aren’t trying hard enough, says @VisualFizz. Click To Tweet

10. Unfulfilled premise

The Internet always manages to astound me with how much content delivers none of the info promised in the title.

Justin Golschneider, vice president of marketing, ChannelReply

 11. Wrong information

Nothing will kill your content more than false information.

Emily Trogdon, public relations manager, The Brandon Agency

Nothing will kill your #content more than false information, says @QuickFoxescom. Click To Tweet
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: How Well Do You Fact-Check Your Content?

12. Poor or no sources

It fails to establish credibility – an important concept from journalism that most marketers haven’t yet mastered. Credibility means quoting nonpartisan subject matter experts, using data from trusted, objective, neutral sources, and not editorializing. Authoritative sources build credibility, credibility builds trust, and trust drives revenue.

Jeff Roberts, digital marketing director, Olive & Company

13. Focus on length

You can find plenty of discussions debating the merits of 1,500-word posts vs. 500-word posts. Both sides promise that their ideal length gives a surefire way of keeping a reader on your page. But that misses the point entirely. Content should always fulfill its purpose and do it in a succinct, respectful way that doesn’t waste a reader’s time – regardless of if it’s 10 seconds or 10 minutes.

Shelby Rogers, content marketing strategist, Solodev

14. TL; DR (Too long, didn’t read)

We don’t have time to read a 5,000-word article – or a long video or big volume of images on social media.

Connie Chi, CEO, The Chi Group

15. Irrelevant

“Bad content is irrelevant for a specified audience. It doesn’t add value. It doesn’t entertain. It doesn’t answer a question.

 “The hinge here is the audience. As the old saying goes, ‘One person’s trash is another’s treasure,’ so it’s important to continuously challenge assumptions, with data, analytics and even intuition.”

Frank Strong, owner, Sword and the Script Media

16. Negativity

“It’s focused on attacking other players in the market, trying to put the competition down and creating conflict to get attention.

“When Uber tries to break into a new market, it has launched aggressive campaigns against taxi drivers.

uber-negativity-example

“We see competition as helping us grow the market … Just like a person could use an Uber sometimes, and other times a taxi. There’s room for everyone in this world.”

Ela Iliesi, SEO specialist and trainer, London Marketing Academy

17. Check-off task

It is usually written exclusively to check off a task on the marketing team’s SEO plan. You can almost always tell when you come across a post that’s written to grab organic traffic from some keyword.

Brinck Slattery, marketing director, LBRY

18. Fluffy

Unnecessarily twisting an article by adding useless and irrelevant words to make the post 2,000-plus words to satisfy Google. It comes at the cost of bad audience experience.

Yogesh Jain, founder, Concept Allies

Adding useless words to make a post 2,000+ words comes at the cost of bad audience experience. @mrjainyogesh Click To Tweet

19. Generic

‘We should blog a lot because it’s good for SEO.’ The firms (who think that way) often end up publishing the same blog on their site as every one of their competitors … The recycled and sterile blog articles aren’t representative of anyone at their firm.

Spencer X Smith, instructor in social media at the University of Wisconsin & Rutgers University; author, ROTOMA: The ROI of Social Media Top of Mind

20. Word selection

The words are not compelling enough. This doesn’t mean use exciting vs. boring words but words that are appropriate for the content piece’s goal and the audience who would read it.

Laura Lopez, manager, content marketing, Notarize

21. Hard-to-read structure and exciting punctuation

“Anything with lots of passive voice, dependent clauses, and nonvarying sentence length.

“Anything with an emoticon. Just don’t. Lots of exclamation points. Makes me feel like I’m reading something written by a tween!”

Amanda Austin, founder and president, Little Shop of Miniatures

22. Boring images

It is not visually engaging. Instead of posting a photo of an event’s promotional poster or restaurant’s menu, try a picture of the event or menu item with engaging copy to support the promotion. Be descriptive but not salesy! Bad content might say, ‘Enjoy a delicious cocktail at this restaurant,’ versus ‘Tacos + margs make for the happiest of hours.’

Ashley Cady, integrated communications manager, Flock and Rally

23. Clunky design

“It’s clumsy or has a hard-to-understand layout. It’s published in an outdated manner so as to appear to be created with older technological limitations. 

It contains overused or inappropriate typefaces or boring titles … The color compliments are disturbing or irrelevant and clumsy graphics, especially, badly rendered gradients, poorly clipped out or cropped elements; low image quality such as with lack of attention to composition, lighting, styling or color, especially low resolution, blurry, or watermarked photos.”

Rich Harris, founder and CMO, insomniagraphix

24. Camel-like

“When everyone puts their two cents into ideas for shaping the content, it often becomes watered down. There is an old saying, ‘A camel is a horse designed by a committee.’

“(Weak) content also gets produced when you are afraid your company or your client might not approve the content you were originally planning.

Robert Barrows, R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations

25. Unfriendly mobile and meta

“Mobile thinking should be a no-brainer. And yet, people still publish content with huge blocks of text that are difficult to scan.

“It also doesn’t have optimal metadata. No one shares an ugly link. Search engines skip over content with missing meta descriptions.”

Benjamin Collins, CEO, Laughing Samurai

Bad #content has ugly links (no one will share) and doesn’t have optimal metadata, says @extremecollins. Click To Tweet

26. Silly expectations

With the rise of social platforms and the desire to capture user attention in short vehicles and formats seen on mobile devices, it is creating slow music audio in a long video and expecting the user to have the time to actually get through the long video.

Robb Hecht, adjunct marketing professor, Baruch College

27. Begging

“Tweet this. Like us. Share it. Don’t reduce to begging for social shares and likes as it can reflect a negative impression and thus put your brand’s reputation at risk.”

Mehmood Hanif, senior digital marketing strategist, PureVPN

Don’t reduce to begging for #social shares & likes as it can reflect a negative impression. @MehmoodHanif Click To Tweet

Conclusion

OK, how many of the content sins described have you committed? More importantly, how many of them do you plan to fix?

Oh, and if you have other ideas of what makes content bad, please share in the comments. Bonus points if you provide examples. Big bonus points if you own your bad examples in the comments.

Gather with over 100 experts to learn more about how to make sure your content – and your content marketing – doesn’t suck. Register today for Content Marketing World this September. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Ann Gynn

Ann Gynn edits the CMI blog. She also serves as the Tech Tools editor for Chief Content Officer magazine. Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. Former college adjunct faculty, Ann also helps train professionals in content so they can do it themselves. Follow Ann on Twitter @anngynn or connect on LinkedIn.

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  • RalphJDavila

    This https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b0ec4bd3d3aff3d68116b2d7e520f4d820edb9060c6ab82057e7e9061e447e06.jpg is an excellent blog Ann! I’ve literally experienced every single “do not” in this list. It can be because of lack of time and resources, but many times because we’re trying to please leadership to accomplish an agenda. I have written some lackluster content that could have been much better had I had more time and people willing to buy in.

    The attached example should have led with why donating helped those in need and context around the urgency during that time of year. Read like a press release…

    • Ann Gynn

      Thanks for sharing @RalphJDavila:disqus. It’s a great example of a good thing being done that gets a bad rap because of the way the content was written (focused on the organization, not the effects of the work they did).

      • https://freshcalendars.com/ Calendar

        audience-focus thing on the list, let’s dive into 27 more characteristics of content that sucks.

  • huggalump

    “All listicles, all the time”

    Ummmmmmm

    • Ann Gynn

      Yep, this is a list 🙂 Lists can be a valuable format. The part that “sucks” about lists is when a blog or other content platform uses that same format all the time. But as with all these items, it’s the reader who is the ultimate decider for him or her.

  • Christina

    Thanks for the feature, Ann! I’m looking forward to talking content with the readers and learning a bit more about content myself. Content is, after all, always evolving, so there’s always more to learn.

    • Ann Gynn

      Thanks Christina for being brave and sharing something we’ve all have done (and more than once) yet resist sharing publicly. The evolution of content is one of the reasons I love this industry — something new to learn everyday!

  • Adrienne

    That just gave me the best laugh of my day! (please note the one exclamation mark only and I will resist the emoji) Thanks, @anngynn:disqus. As the saying goes, it’s funny because it’s so true. Working for a non-profit, we can fall into all sorts of traps but the biggest is probably putting the organization first. Why wouldn’t you? We’re doing amazing things that help people?! We sometimes forget our donors are people too and we can be relevant in a very different way than just giving them a way to make an impact in the community. Thanks and sharing this with my team as our north star of what NOT to do.

    • Ann Gynn

      Glad to give you a laugh. I think all organizations — for-profit and nonprofit — fall into the “us-first” trap. But you raise an interesting point — since nonprofits tend to be mission-focused, it may not seem like an issue. But it certainly can be.

  • https://digimarketal.wordpress.com/ Brian Appleton

    Many of these are very relatable and entertaining as heck! Thank you for sharing.

    • Ann Gynn

      Isn’t it fun when content can entertain? Glad you enjoyed.

  • Harley Greytak

    Also contents that only go half way when explaining main topics. I have read a few articles on AMP that only touched on a few benefits listed on AMP’s official website, without adding their own take on AMP.

    • Ann Gynn

      Very true. When I read those pieces, I’m always scanning again to see if I missed something — and unfortunately, it’s usually not my eyes but the text itself (or lack of it).

  • Valerie Turgeon

    “Blog posts that just sum up what you can find through Google searches.” Guilty! However, my purpose for including links I find on Google searches is to add credibility to a post. I also try to summarize the information I find and put it in langauge that our audience can understand. We’re also working on publishing more thought leadership content, where our company experts can give their unique perspectives on trends and issues, and show off their personalities. Ah, content marketing. Always room to improve!

    • Ann Gynn

      I think you hit on a key point, @valerie291:disqus. You customize that summary for your audience — that’s the original spin necessary to avoid the “suck” factor.

  • Sydney Myers

    Why is the word “weak” always in parenthesis in this article? Did I miss something?

    • Ann Gynn

      I used the parenthetical phrase to substitute the word “weak” for another word used in their original quote.

      • Sydney Myers

        Ah. That makes sense.

        Thanks!

  • http://saddepressionquotes.com/ saddepressionquotes.com

    Thank you for sharing about Content Suck Reasons really informative article keep it up.

  • Mehmood Hanif

    Thanks for featuring @anngynn:disqus – I’m glad to read comments on this blog post.

  • Jenni Karlsson

    Although very thought inspiring (and funny because it’s true!), this article is overly focused on the negative. In the world of content (or writing in general) we are often so quick to judge one another for “bad” writing and pointing out the mistakes of others… Not sure if we need more of that.

    • Ann Gynn

      You raise a valid point about the overall need for people to see what’s bad vs. what’s good. It’s an interesting conversation worth having on many levels and on many topics.

  • Ryan Butcherman

    Good tips there,me luv it

  • Ann Gynn

    Thanks for the feedback. Glad you at least enjoyed part of it 🙂

  • Happy Graham

    woud also love to hear about good content.

  • https://steamcommunity.com/discussions/forum/12/1319962173911326305/ Edward L. Ross

    This is a really very inspiring blog post. Sometimes we just forget that who for we writing a content piece that does not relate to the expectation of our readers. Before writing it’s very important to know our readers. Proper structure, length and all other points that you discussed in your article are very important.

    • Ann Gynn

      You’re right. Even when know the best practices and rules, we sometimes relax them a little too much (or forget to follow them at all.)

  • Lorraine Smith

    I think this is very very important because i believe some adverts are so boring becoz of weak content .

  • Amie Brown

    I used to think continuously mentioning the product’s name in a content is very important as it helps the readers know which product or branch is being advertised, now i know it sucks.Thank you

    • Ann Gynn

      Glad you found the tip helpful — thinking of content from the reader’s perspective is always helpful. (I often write things then think ‘Would I even want to read that?’ And when the answer is no, I rewrite or rethink the topic.)

      • Whitney Rochelle Blankenship

        Then it’s hard to have those who aren’t in content marketing read and review your articles. “Do you think we should mention our product 40979 times here?” “No, no I do not.”

        • Ann Gynn

          Very true. In some cases, I’d love to give them a piece of content from another brand that does that repetitive self-promotion and see if the light bulb turns on.

  • http://businessandlifetips.com JOHN MULINDI

    Sometimes we have to read articles like this, to know that we are making mistakes. Thanks for giving us these reasons, and hope that many people especially bloggers can learn from this.

  • Whitney Rochelle Blankenship

    I’m definitely guilty of some of these. Great list to keep myself grounded for the next content I create! 🙂