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Content Marketing Mistakes That Are Poisoning Your Progress


Content marketing – like any marketing discipline – can fall short of expectations for a number of reasons. For starters, it’s not a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants initiative. It takes time, dedication, and a strategic plan to position your business as a helpful resource for the kinds of information your audience needs and wants.

It’s also not a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of technique, so ongoing success is going to require some flexibility. Let’s assume you already understand all this. In fact, you may even be among the 30% of marketers surveyed in CMI’s latest B2B Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report who consider their organizations effective in their use of content marketing.

But if you are part of the other 70%, no need to despair: A few simple mistakes may be all that’s keeping you from realizing the benefits that content marketing offers.

Knowing what to look for – and how to fix the problems you find – is the first challenge to overcome. To help, we’ve gathered some of our favorite insights from Neil Patel, founder of KISSmetrics, and one of CMI’s most prolific and experienced contributors, into a new e-book, 13 Content Marketing Mistakes That Are Poisoning Your Progress. In it, Neil reveals some of the most common errors that content marketers make and offers elixirs to help get your program on track.

For a preview – and some information that didn’t make it into the book – read on.

Mistake No. 1: You give up

As Joe Pulizzi once said, “Content marketing doesn’t usually fail because of content quality. The main reason is because it’s inconsistent or it stops.”

Neil’s advice? “Never, ever quit.” In fact, he advises that being consistent is one of the best ways to reinvigorate a content marketing program that has grown stagnant or hasn’t quite found its stride:

Consistency won’t automatically make things exciting again, but it will keep things from dying altogether. Besides, stale is sometimes just a phase. Once you plod through the slow times, you’ll emerge on the other side with a more inspired content marketing effort.

Mistake No. 2: You are focusing on quantity, not quality

Why is quality important? There are many reasons: It builds trust, increases your engagement, and drives thought leadership. But paramount among all those reasons is this: Content quality is important because Google thinks it’s important. And since Google likely sends your site more traffic than any other source, it gets to set the standards.

As Google’s own quality guidelines explain, if your pages contain useful information, your content will attract more visitors. That added authority will pay dividends when it comes to getting your content to rank highly on search engine results pages (SERPs) – thus, getting it seen by a larger share of your target audience.

To ensure your content is being viewed favorably by Google, start with obvious signs of trouble:

  • Monitor your site for hacking, and remove hacked content as soon as it appears.
  • Prevent and remove user-generated spam that might be appearing on your site.

But those are external factors. If you really want to make sure your content achieves high-quality status in Google’s robotic eyes, follow these quality guidelines:

  • Post unique content on the page.
  • Don’t stuff your content with keywords.
  • Use internal links to make it easy for users to navigate to your other content on a related topic.
  • Focus on a single subject. (Use links to pages for related topics or to break a complex topic into multiple parts.)
  • Use affiliate links or ads at a minimum or not at all as they may detract from the user’s experience and engagement.
  • Make sure your content is accurate and trustworthy, and meets all legal requirements, particularly if you are in a regulated industry such as finance and health care.
  • Include helpful features like takeaways, key data, explanations, videos, or images.

Mistake No. 3: You aren’t marketing your content

As Neil explains in The Advanced Content Marketing Guide, “The secret to content marketing boils down to three things: creating great content, making sure it gets found in search engines, and promoting it to your followers.”

If you don’t market your content, it will never get the chance to spread its wings and bring in new fans and followers, let alone new prospects and customers.

If you haven’t been giving your content the promotional support it needs, consider adding one or two of these tactics into the mix:

  • Leverage influencer marketing: When influencers promote a product or service, their circles are likely to respond – by taking immediate action and spreading positive brand association.
  • Create Google AdWords campaigns: If you’re promoting a new white paper or e-book, create display campaigns to raise awareness and remarketing campaigns to retarget visitors who abandon your content before taking action.
  • Develop social media campaigns: Sharing your content on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram may not make your content a viral success story overnight, but every interaction it earns from the members of your community has the potential to create a ripple effect that can impact your bottom line over the long term.
  • Build email marketing campaigns: Think of a well-executed email strategy as the backbone of a successful content marketing program. It’s an essential structure that supports your various content efforts and is the best technique for building a subscriber base – which helps you stay at the top of your readers’ minds.
  • Experiment with native advertising: This in-stream content distribution technique uses ads that appear as part of the typical browsing experience, extending the reach of your content to audiences that may not be exposed to your owned channels.

Mistake No. 4: Your offerings have become passé

Letting your content become outdated diminishes its ability to attract and engage an audience. It also can reflect poorly on your company’s ability to relate to readers’ current challenges and concerns.

To freshen your content offerings, try these tips:

  • Think outside the blog: Content marketing is more than just creating a blog and publishing articles. Consider shaking things up by experimenting with new formats, such as videos, podcasts, e-books, or webinars.
  • Paint a visual picture for your readers: Using visual imagery in your content is an instant eye-catcher. But don’t stop at adding a few charts or photos to your usual blog posts. To increase interest, exposure, and engagement, create content in visual-centric formats like SlideShare, infographics, or video.
  • Create a conversation: In contrast to “push-marketing” techniques, content marketing works best when the audience can interact with it. Ask a question or offer a controversial point of view that gives readers an opportunity to weigh in on the discussion.
  • Get real: Being too protective of your business’ plans, practices, failures, and successes can hinder your reputation as a transparent and trustworthy business. You don’t have to spill company secrets, but offering a glimpse behind the scenes can really give your audience something to engage with and relate to personally.
  • Ramp up your content production: If it’s done intentionally and strategically, increasing your output velocity can demonstrate your business’ ongoing commitment to successful content marketing and can help you reach new audiences and spur more feedback – infusing some much-needed energy into your efforts.
  • Give your content creators total autonomy: No one enjoys reading content that obviously comes from a corporate entity; people want to hear from other people. Encouraging your writers to use their own voice to express your business’ point of view can add some much-needed personality to the content you publish.

Mistake No. 5: Your storytelling leads to a dead end

The term “content marketing” is misleading because you might think that the content itself does all the marketing work. But you can’t just expect readers to consume your content and instantly become loyal and engaged customers. You need to gently encourage them to take the next step in the purchase process, and that requires including a clear call to action.

People expect a request to take some action after reading content. That’s the whole idea behind marketing – you want people to do something based on the information they just received.

Start asking for action on your blog posts and other content forms. The call to action does not need to entail a million-dollar deal. It can be a mailing list sign-up, a link to another resource you offer, or another conversion point you are looking to support. Without it, your content is a means that is unlikely to lead to a desirable end.


It’s time to come to terms with content marketing’s ever-evolving nature. What worked for you at one time may no longer be enough to produce the results you want today; and those poisonous mistakes aren’t likely to just disappear as you march on toward the future. The good news is that by identifying and eradicating mistakes like these – and consuming antidotes that Neil discusses in the complete e-book – you’ll give your content a better shot at achieving success – and maintaining those gains for a long time to come.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute