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12 Ways You Screw Up Your Content Marketing


In the most recent CMI B2B research, 89% of respondents say they use content marketing.

Yet, just 5% of respondents rated their content marketing strategy as “very effective,” and 64% label it as moderately or minimally effective.

Just 5% of respondents rated their #contentmarketing strategy as very effective via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet


Clearly, a lot of marketers could be doing better.

Are you one of them?

Screwing up your content marketing is easier than you might think. Here are 12 ways you could be sabotaging yourself and your content marketing.

1. You don’t set clear goals and objectives

Specific types of content are more effective at fulfilling certain goals. That is why you can get much more from a content marketing initiative if you define your goals before you begin.

You get more from a #contentmarketing initiative if you define goals before you begin says @sujanpatel. Click To Tweet

If your primary goal is to drive conversions, you need to create content that moves potential customers through the sales funnel. The important criteria for your content is that it addresses customers’ pain points at each stage and moves them a step closer to making that purchase.


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If your primary goal is to boost your site’s visibility in organic search results, your secondary goal is to gain links. As such, you need to create content that other sites would want and can easily republish. This is why infographics are such a popular form of content with marketers.

If you simply want to get your brand in front of a wider audience, content for social media may be most helpful.

2. You don’t understand your audience

Different people respond to different stimuli – or in this case – different types of content. Understanding precisely who you want to consume your content is key.

You need to know your audience’s:

  • Demographics
  • Core interests
  • Pain points
  • Ways to consume content
  • Reasons for buying from you

Without that understanding, it is extremely difficult to create content that reaches them effectively. For example, as the next three infographics show, while content format preferences remain relatively steady across generations, the devices used to consume that content differ. Even bigger differences can be seen among the generations when it comes to subject interests.


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Of course, an audience is more than the generations that comprise it.

To understand your audience, you have to get to know them. Your analytics tool is a good place to start that understanding. It should provide you with basic demographic information and (potentially inaccurate) interests.

To understand your audience, get to know them. Your analytics tool is a good place to start says @SujanPatel Click To Tweet

Another excellent tool to help you paint a picture of your audience is YouGov Profiles. Search for a (big) brand in your industry and you’ll find various insights into that brand’s customers (some of which carry more weight than others) that you can apply to your own audience.

Last but not least – talk to your customers. Learn what matters to them most by asking them. Email short surveys to your customers post-purchase or go crazy and have an actual conversation with the people that buy from you.

3. You don’t perform keyword research

You might think a unique, engaging topic, written and presented well, is enough to get results. Well, you may be right, but you could do more to investigate keywords to inform your great content. Long-tail keyword research serves two purposes:

  • It inspires content ideas based on questions consumers are asking the search engines.
  • It uncovers phrases that searchers use that you can incorporate into your content to boost its visibility in the search results.

Using your keyword research can help improve the performance of your content, sometimes significantly. Take Neil Patel, who used long-tail keyword research to bring an extra 20,000 monthly visitors to his site.

Free tools like Ubersuggest, Answer the Public, and Keyword Researcher Pro are designed to uncover the long-tail side of search. Use them to identify relevant phrases that can help maximize the reach of your content.

A Nutshell Guide to Proper Keyword Research

4. You produce content that just isn’t good enough

This one might seem obvious, but I think it’s important to touch on how good good content really needs to be.

You’ve probably heard the term “10x content” before. Originally coined by Rand Fishkin, the term is designed to set a benchmark for what content creators and marketers should be aiming for. Good, unique content, as Rand says, simply doesn’t cut it.

Good, unique #content simply doesn’t cut it. It needs to be 10x better says @randfish. Click To Tweet

Do you want to ensure that your content has the best possible chance of success? Then, long story short, you need to create something that is 10 times better than anything similar in the search results today.

5. You’re not spending enough time promoting content

Few publishers can launch a content piece, seed it on their social channels, and sit back while the rewards roll in. Most of us have to work much, much harder to ensure that our content gets in front of the right people at the right time. Social Triggers’ Derek Halpern recommends spending 20% of your time creating content and the other 80% promoting it.

Few publishers can launch content, seed it on #social, & sit back while the rewards roll in. @SujanPatel Click To Tweet

Among the promotion options:

  • Post and repost content to your social channels (remember, it’s highly unlikely that all your audience is online at the same time).
  • Contact influencers mentioned in the content or for whom it might resonate.
  • Send a notification to your email list.
  • Detail your latest content piece (or the one you’re trying to push the most) in your email signature.
  • Repost articles to publishing platforms like Medium and LinkedIn Pulse.
  • Build a reputation in industry communities that will welcome shared content from trusted members.

6. You don’t publish consistently (or often enough)

You don’t need to publish every day to run a successful content marketing program, but there is a strong correlation between results and publication frequency and consistency.


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Posting regularly keeps you at the forefront of your audience’s mind. Posting consistently helps your audience form habits around the consumption of your content.

Of course, this is immaterial if the content isn’t that good. Create a schedule based on how much quality content you can realistically create, and try your hardest to stick to it.

7. You write bland and boring titles

There’s a reason clickbait exists – it works.

The most shared domains on Facebook in 2013:


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Most of these sites have been guilty of using clickbait. But can you blame them? Clickbait is effective because the titles spark near-uncontrollable curiosity – so much curiosity that we just can’t stop ourselves from clicking to find out the full story.

“Will I really be shocked by this?” Click.

“I bet I do know that.” Click.

“How could (enter title of something completely innocuous and inoffensive) have made someone so angry?” Click.

Now, I’m not saying “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Clickbait often misleads, frequently annoys, and is falling out of favor with many publishers. Even the popular site Upworthy is improving.


What I am saying is that we marketers could learn something from clickbait writers. We should be spending a lot more time thinking about the one thing that’s going to determine whether our content even gets looked at – our headlines.

Marketers can learn something from clickbait writers – spend more time writing headlines says @SujanPatel. Click To Tweet

8. You don’t capture users’ attention right away

The average human has an attention span of between six and eight seconds. That’s less than that of a goldfish.

The opening section of your content is absolutely vital. Within the first six to eight seconds of landing on your content, you should aim to include two things:

  • Explain clearly what your content is about.
  • Give a “hook” that makes your readers want to find out more.

If you get readers past that initial hurdle, they’re more likely to stay until the end – even if you don’t maintain that same level of allure – simply because you’ve achieved that goal of “hooking” them in.

Think of your content like a TV series. The pilot episode has to be great because it’s what hooks viewers to come back for subsequent episodes. When the audience is established, it’s not as hard to get them to stay, even when some episodes suck (just look at The X-Files).

9. You make your content difficult to share

It’s always nice when people share your content. So why, oh why, don’t you make it really easy to share?

You might think this tip would be obvious. I thought so too. But the amount of content I come across that has social-sharing buttons hidden at the bottom of the page or none at all shocks me.

Social-sharing buttons should be visible at all times – moving as the user scrolls or on a stationary sidebar (you can see the latter on the left of this page).

Social-sharing buttons also should:

  • Be visually appealing
  • Feature your audience’s preferred social channels
  • Generate suitable messages your audience can use to share the content instantly

10. You don’t tell your audience what you want them to do

Every piece of content has a purpose. Do you want to increase its odds of fulfilling that purpose? Then tell your audience what you want them to do.

If you’ve read any of my content, you might have noticed that I usually wrap up by asking readers to leave a comment with their thoughts on the topic. This is because I don’t want to be the final voice on an issue. I certainly don’t know everything; I want to learn as much as you do. That’s why I always try to start a conversation.

If conversation is your goal, you should do the same.

If you’re writing content designed to drive conversions, include clear calls to action with links to relevant products or in-content sign-up forms.

If you’d like your audience to share your content, then ask them to.


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If you’ve created an infographic because you want other people to use it on their sites and link back to you – say so. Clearly state that people are welcome to publish it so long as they credit your site as the source with a link.

It all comes down to the fact that if you don’t ask, you don’t get (or at least, you won’t get as much as you would if you asked).

11. You don’t bother to measure the ROI of your content

If anyone tells you that the impact of your content can’t be measured, run. You can, and you definitely should, measure the ROI of your content. How you do this depends in part on your goals.

If anyone tells you that the impact of your #content can’t be measured, run says @sujanpatel. Click To Tweet

Want links? Then measure how many you get. Just be sure to pay as much attention to the quality of your links as the quantity. One link from The New York Times could be worth as much as 50 links from year-old .blogspot domains.

Looking to drive conversions? Add inquiry forms to relevant content and set up a goal in analytics to ensure that you can track completions properly. Alternatively, check how many people have entered your site via a particular piece of content, and gone on to convert (in Google Analytics, you can access this information via Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages – you then need to filter the data to find pages of interest).


12. You don’t learn from your successes and failures

When content fails, it can be tempting to brush it under the carpet, pretend it never happened, and move on. Please don’t do that.

There’s no shame in failure. It’s what you do next that matters. Figure out why that piece of content didn’t resonate. Did you fail to understand your audience? Did you choose the wrong format? Was the subject matter too dry, not relevant enough, or just plain uninteresting? Did it fail to incite an emotional response in its audience?

Whatever the problem (or problems), remember them, learn from them, and avoid making the same mistakes in future.

On the other hand, when content performs well, figure out why and, where possible, incorporate those winning attributes into future content.

How have you screwed up your content campaigns? (Come on, we’ve all done it!) Confess your sins in the comments.

Want to know the 13th mistake you may be making? You aren’t subscribed to CMI’s free daily newsletter with tips, insight, and advice to improve your content marketing program. But that’s easy to correct. Sign up now.

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team.  No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute