What Businesses Get Wrong About Content Marketing in 2024 [Expert Tips]

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Margaret Cousino
Margaret Cousino

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The promise of inbound marketing is a lure that attracts businesses of all kinds, but many don’t understand the effort it takes to be successful.

a marketer yelling into a megaphone in an attempt to reach customers through a half-hearted content strategy.

After a few blog posts, many people flame out and grumble, “We tried content marketing, but it didn’t work for us.” As a content marketer, I see the same content marketing mistakes made across all platforms and industries. After reading, you’ll start noticing these mistakes, too.

There’s an epidemic of half-hearted content marketing out there that’s giving the whole inbound philosophy a bad name. While the content you see online may look effortless and natural, there’s more strategy, experimentation, and skill behind high-quality content.

From identifying your target audience to executing the perfect content marketing strategy, there are 11 common mistakes that digital marketers see again and again.

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    Content Marketing Mindset

    Content marketing is not new. The ideas have been around for decades. At this point, no business professional is unfamiliar with a blog, search engine traffic, or social media.

    The problem, it seems to me, is that too many people have misunderstood the true purpose of content marketing — and so have missed the mark in their past efforts.

    Go to most companies’ blogs, and you’ll often find fluffy, self-serving content: Pictures from their clean-up day at the local park, press release-style articles about promotions, and employee-of-the-month winners.

    Or, it’s filled with content that feels derivative and identical to a thousand other articles on the internet.

    It is no surprise to me that this kind of content has failed to bring in customers.

    Unremarkable effort, unremarkable results.

    With most things in life, your results match your efforts. As the saying goes, “You get out of it what you put into it.” Same thing here.

    When companies tell me about their forays into content marketing in the past, I’m not surprised it didn’t work for them.

    “We tried a content strategy…”

    If you’re one of those businesses that “tried” content marketing, only to see sub-par results, something missed the mark:

    • Your content.
    • Your understanding of how to use the different social media channels.
    • Your expectations.

    This happens for a few all too common reasons, and I’ll share the specific marketing mistakes to avoid in a moment.

    “... But it didn’t work for us.”

    There’s something to unpack here, too. What do you mean it didn’t work for you? How did you plan on measuring success?

    Any marketing initiative needs to be measured to be evaluated, and those measurements need context to have meaning. It’s possible you need to unlearn what you think you know about inbound marketing.

    11 Common Content Marketing Mistakes

    Is your online content marketing strategy destined to fail? Check to see if you’re making any of these common content marketing mistakes.

    common content marketing mistakes

    1. Focusing on the wrong metrics.

    The inbound funnel is a compelling idea: If you get enough traffic to your site, a percentage of that traffic will turn into leads, and a percentage of those leads will turn into sales.

    So, people mistakenly assume more traffic will equal more sales. This is not necessarily correct.

    While organic traffic is important, it can also be a vanity metric that distracts you from the most important business goals.

    Imagine this content scenario:

    • Article A gets 10,000 views each month and brings in 10 customers.
    • Article B gets 2,000 views each month and brings in 20 customers.
    • Article C gets 500 views per month and brings in 50 customers.

    Too often, companies chase Article A, putting their effort into high-trafficked content that doesn’t end up converting visitors into customers. A successful content marketing strategy is based on understanding the hierarchy of metrics.

    This leads us to our second mistake.

    2. Not getting sales involved.

    The inbound approach is not just a marketing one. In fact, if you limit it to just marketing, you undercut your content marketing results. Inbound is as much about sales as it is about marketing.

    If you don’t get your sales team involved with your content marketing, you’re more likely to produce a library of Article A-type content. Marketers love to brag about reach, and what’s more encouraging than thousands of site visitors?

    The sales team will bring your marketing team back down to earth. Because your sales reps hear from actual customers each day, they know the questions your prospects are asking. They know why Article C is the better investment of your team’s time.

    Generating your content marketing strategy with input from both the marketing and sales teams will help you avoid the next mistake.

    3. Making irrelevant content.

    If you can’t draw a clear line between the content you create and one of your paid products, then your content marketing efforts will be wasted. Or, at a minimum, they won’t reach their potential.

    After analyzing hundreds of blog posts from brands, I’ve observed that many businesses treat their website content like a parking garage for random content ideas:

    • Miscellaneous business updates that aren’t important to viewers.
    • Bragging about company culture or philanthropic work.
    • Random promotional content and sale announcements.

    When you’re creating content, every single piece of content needs to lead directly back to:

    1. Email opt-ins and free products.
    2. Industry thought leadership.
    3. Products and services.
    4. Lead generation.

    Here’s an example from my website. In my digital shop, I sell a search engine optimization (SEO) checklist for the software Keysearch. So, I wrote a blog post that’s a beginner’s guide to Keysearch:

    Screenshot of a blog post example

    Image Source

    One of these content types is often overlooked, so let’s zoom in on point two on that list: thought leadership.

    4. Overlooking thought leadership.

    “Content marketing is not just about generating short-term sales, important as those are. It is also an opportunity for you to establish your brand as a thought leader in your space,” said Sally Percy, an author and business journalist who writes thought leadership content on behalf of executives and senior leaders.

    Percy elaborated that thought leadership comes when you share insights, data, and expert analysis that give your customers a fresh perspective on pertinent issues and challenges they may be facing, as well as useful strategies that they can apply in practice.

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      “Establishing your brand as a thought leader through content marketing is critical to building trust with your customer base,” shared Percy.

      Here’s an example of Percy’s thought leadership content marketing that promotes her book, 21st Century Business Icons:

      Screenshot of a piece of thought leadership content marketing 

      Image Source

      5. Always playing it safe.

      Content marketing is about educating your customers, building trust, and being transparent so that your potential buyers can access the information they need to become customers.

      You have to offer honesty instead of a sales pitch, which means you need to sometimes address thorny subjects and answer hard questions.

      Hiding things like the prices or drawbacks of your product will make it impossible for customers to have total clarity before purchasing. Your target audience is asking these questions, so it’s productive to create content with the answers.

      Good content marketing helps viewers self-select if your product can help them, which means content that helps people opt in and opt out of your offer.

      6. Prioritizing quantity over quality content.

      “Many people prioritize the sheer volume of content produced rather than focusing on creating high-quality, valuable content,” shared Yogesh Kumar, a digital marketing manager.

      While publishing heaps of content may feel productive, Kumar warned that creating low-quality content can harm a brand’s reputation.

      “Focusing on generating a large quantity of articles, blog posts, social media updates, videos, or other forms of content won’t work. In place of large quantity, you should focus on quality and ensure that each content piece meets a certain standard of excellence,” Kumar advises. 

      Creating exceptional content is easier for companies to achieve when there’s clear ownership of the content marketing efforts.

      7. No clear ownership.

      If content marketing is something that gets tacked onto other responsibilities, it’s going to fall by the wayside. A dedicated content marketer needs to be leading the charge to create content that’s going to get results.

      It’s unrealistic and unfair to ask someone who already has a full-time job to also produce and implement a full content marketing strategy. That in itself is a full-time job, and it’s a mistake to see it as an “add-on” to an existing role.

      I know that people power is stretched thin, and there are some common ways to save time, such as publishing user-generated content, but all of the shortcuts in the world can’t compete with an actual content marketer.

      That being said, make sure that you hire thoughtfully. This leads us to the next content marketing mistake.

      8. Outsourcing mistakes.

      The reason I’ve seen many content marketing initiatives fail is that businesses hire ill-prepared agencies or freelancers to do it for them. This sounds like a good idea at first, but the help you hire needs to deeply understand your brand.

      Otherwise, they’ll produce the same bland, derivative content that sounds like everyone else in your industry — but it doesn’t sound like you. Or, even worse: You hire the cheapest freelancer to produce content for platforms that they aren’t actually specialized in. This is a content marketing mistake I’ve seen many, many times.

      As a Pinterest marketer, I’ve personally seen countless accounts get suspended or flagged as spam because of outsourcing mistakes. Pinterest isn’t a social media platform, as many people assume; it’s a search engine, and it has special needs.

      I’ve received emails from many desperate brand owners asking me to help resuscitate their accounts after they’ve assigned their Pinterest account to a virtual assistant or general marketing staff member. The mistakes are very predictable: Newbies immediately start keyword stuffing (adding too many keywords to be natural) and repeatedly publishing pins for the same URL. These accounts are quickly flagged as spam.

      These content marketing mistakes can be avoided by hiring specialized help or investing in your team’s education.

      9. No content framework.

      Without a plan, your content strategy probably isn’t going to get very far. A good content marketing framework gives you:

      1. Goals.
      2. Structure.
      3. Benchmarks.

      Without it, you’ve got guesswork and inconsistency — which can quickly lead to frustration. Learn how to build a content creation framework in HubSpot Academy.

      10. Focusing solely on short-term content.

      One of the biggest content marketing mistakes that I see with content creation is brands only focusing on short-term content. What’s the difference between short-term and long-term content?

      • Short-term content is distributed based on when it was posted (think: your Instagram feed).
      • Long-term content is distributed based on search terms (think: your Google search results).

      Some content falls into both of these categories. For example, TikTok has a “for you” page where you’re shown content that the algorithm thinks you’ll enjoy. However, the search function of TikTok works as a search engine. Other types of search-based content include:

      • YouTube videos.
      • Pinterest pins.
      • Blog posts.

      Research has shown that 93% of all online user experiences begin with a search. Content marketers who ignore searchable content are leaving a lot of money on the table.

      The type of searchable content with the longest lifespan is a blog post. The goal is to write a blog post that shows up in search engine results pages (SERPs, AKA the first page of Google).

      Only blog posts that are optimized will be widely circulated by search engines, so there’s a learning curve when learning how to write a blog post. Thankfully, well-written articles can be updated and displayed by search engines for years.

      Since a blog post has an extremely long lifespan, it’s okay if this content takes longer to create.

      Only creating content that lives for a few hours or a day on viewers’ newsfeeds makes content marketing feel like a hamster wheel.

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        11. Unrealistic expectations.

        This final content marketing mistake is the most fatal. Even if you do everything else correctly, your content strategy will fail if you don’t give it enough time to take root. The time investment is significant, even for professional content creators.

        “Over the last four years, The Mindful Mocktail has grown to more than 300K followers on Instagram and 122K on TikTok. I’m closing in on 20K email subscribers, and I had almost 2 million visitors to my website last year, but it took me almost four years to get here,” said recipe creator Natalie Battaglia.

        She admits that for the first two years, she wasn’t making anywhere near a full-time wage, and only in the last 12 months has she been able to sit back a little and watch all the hard work from her first three years come to fruition. 

        “In my experience, there is no such thing as quick or overnight success if you want to build a long-term, sustainable business,” Battaglia shared.

        Invest in Your Content Marketing Strategy

        Ready to increase brand awareness, reach more potential customers, and maximize your content marketing efforts? Here’s a blueprint for your content strategy:

        1. Define your target audience.
        2. Choose your marketing channels.
        3. Start posting content.
        4. Measure progress.
        5. Review the analytics.
        6. Double down on what’s getting results.
        7. Continue creating the most compelling content that you can.

        Learn more in our Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing.

        The Promise of Content Marketing

        Which content marketing mistake surprised you the most? These are the biggest mistakes that I see brands making with their content marketing. Pay attention the next time you open a promotional email or scroll on social media, and I bet you’ll start to see these mistakes out in the wild, too.

        Brands get started in content marketing for a variety of reasons, but in most cases, the goal is to drive revenue. Brand recognition is great, but it needs to translate into sales at the other end of the funnel.

        In order to get content marketing right, we need to re-acquaint ourselves with the real objectives that matter, train our employees for excellence — and be ready for a long-term commitment.

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