10 Content Marketing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

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Content marketing has become an important facet of business today. And it goes hand in hand with how to use social media to aid in your business goals. This is not only one of the biggest changes in how brands market themselves to consumers. It has also changed how consumers interact with marketing and PR efforts.

It is important that brands learn from common mistakes and work to correct these in their own content. This is especially true now with Google’s latest update which values quality and positive user experience. This is crucial in the small business world. Here you need to be on top of the game to get your name and brand out into the world. Yet, it is something that companies of all sizes need to improve.

With that in mind, here are some common mistakes in content marketing that will hold you back, and how to fix them.

1. Bad Site Formatting

When someone visits your site, they will immediately judge your site on how it looks. This might not be intentional on their part, but it is still one of the quickest ways to lose their attention. If your site looks ugly or spammy it doesn’t matter how good your content is. You are still going to lose out on people who would otherwise be interested in it.

The same principle applies to things like how you format text, images, and video. If it’s low quality or provides poor user experience, you’re only hurting yourself. If your site doesn’t look reputable, then users are likely to see it as such. Regardless of the quality of your content.

This especially applies to your site’s formatting and optimization for mobile. In fact, mobile optimization is one of the biggest trends in internet marketing today. If your content isn’t mobile-friendly, you are at a disadvantage to competitors whose is.

Moz gives some great advice on mobile optimizing. One important decision you need to make is the decision between responsive, dynamic serving and separate site configuration. Google prefers responsive design but supports all three options as long as they’re set up properly.

mobile-pros-and-cons

Pros and cons of responsive, dynamic serving and separate site configuration by Moz

If you’re not sure about what options are your strongest, do some research. One of the best ways to make decisions about the best format and design of your site is by performing A/B tests.  You just compare two different versions and see what gives a better conversion rate.

2. Hidden Autoplay Ads

If you ask anyone who listens to music while on the internet, there is one thing that will ensure they click away from your content. This is when a video autoplays on the page somewhere that is not immediately obvious and easy to close. And even worse when a new video loads sometime after the first one has stopped!

This is a surefire way of annoying the reader into leaving your site. If this person was considering citing your content, this could be worse than losing that link. It could also mean that the link could be going to a direct competitor instead.

Not only are you losing an opportunity to earn a link to your content, you are also increasing your bounce rate. The importance of this is discussed by WordStream’s Larry Kim. As he says:

Google may not use bounce rate as a direct ranking factor. But there definitely is a relationship between a site’s ranking and their user engagement and time spent on the site.

time-on-site-organic-position-graph

WordStream shows that users tend to spend more time on sites that rank 1-6. By reducing these factors, these metrics should improve, thus making your content more powerful.

3. Immediate and Obvious Sales Pitches

It’s completely understandable that you want your content to help drive actual conversions. However, when your sales pitch dominates the content, it distracts from your content’s usefulness.  It also makes your content almost entirely unlinkable and unshareable.

Instead, they will find more useful, less advertorial, content elsewhere. If you want to drive higher conversions through your content, you need to have a better strategy. Emphasizing a converting page link before a user can get to the meat of the content will only harm you.

This point is well illustrated by Influence & Co in a post about the dangers of promotional content. To do this, they use an article for written for Forbes by their CEO John Hall as an example. They discuss why they didn’t include a hard sales pitch, even though the article is about their writing services.

Notice that we didn’t say, ‘Hey, hire us to help you write!’  Instead, we painted the picture that it’s not easy for everyone, including our CEO, and in order to take advantage of this opportunity, the reader may need help. We then explained the problem and opened the door for the reader to come to her own conclusion that our company may be a viable solution.

john-hall-educating-content

John Hall’s article skips the obvious sales pitch and educates instead.

4. Not Understanding the Funnel

Besides being tactful about when to include a sales pitch, you also need to understand your audience. A widely used model for this is the sales and marketing funnel. When creating content, you should think about where it lands in this funnel.

According to Digital Marketer, having content at each level of the funnel is essential for the process to be effective. To do this, you need to understand what types of content lands at each level.

digital-marketer-funnel-model

Digital Marketer’s funnel model of TOFU (top of funnel), MOFU (middle of funnel), and BOFU (bottom of funnel).

If it’s for a general audience, don’t include a hard sales pitch. That will only serve to make your content seem spammy and turn viewers away. But you also need to know when to include a pitch like this. And how to craft content that aids in turning passive viewers into active buyers.

5. Needless Splitting into Pages (Excessive Pagination)

There are valid reasons to split content into multiple pages. If your article is lengthy or has distinct sections, this can be helpful to your reader. But splitting your content up into pages that aren’t useful to the reader, makes it look and feel like clickbait. This is another great way to get someone to click away from your site.

We’ve all seen this before. There’s an article with an interesting headline that makes you click on it. It then ends up being a gallery slideshow that loads images on one page then content about the image on another. This will not only make your content look spammy, but it will impact user experience in a negative way.

Users understand that this is to increase your advertising returns on a piece of content. And this reflects poorly on you.

Sites also use excessive pagination to drive down their bounce rates by forcing the user to interact with the page. This is a deceptive practice, and will wind up hurting you. Google is smart enough to understand that a lower bounce rate does not necessarily equal better user experience.

Glenn Gabe discusses this in an article for Search Engine Watch. According to Gabe, excessive pagination is not only annoying for the user. It can actually lead to penalties from Google’s Panda Algorithm Update.

glenn-glabe-excessive-pagination-example

Glenn Gabe’s example of excessive pagination. Clicking through 38 different pages just for recipes. The view all button even requires the user to register for the site.

6. Weak, Empty, or Thin Content

There isn’t a specific length that content needs to be in order to be useful to its viewers. Sometimes, short form content can be very useful and great way to get a message or information across.

If your content’s primary purpose is to answer a straightforward question, then do so quickly. This would fulfill the user’s intent in clicking on the page better than a longer piece of content would.

But if the topic is more complicated, then it likely requires more detail. So, when creating content, you should make sure that it says enough to be useful. Make sure that you give the topic you’re covering enough time to be useful and informational. Otherwise, those who click on it will feel disappointed and want more. This may drive them to a competitor’s content instead of yours.

Like excessive pagination, this issue has become especially important because of Google’s Panda Update. Not only can thin content drive users away from your site, but it is also likely to hurt you from SEO perspective. Glenn Gabe discusses this in his findings about Panda 4.0. In these, he says that thin content is one of the most common issues among sites penalized by the update.

Well, once again I saw poor user engagement (and bad user experience) get sites in trouble Panda-wise. As more and more companies reached out to me about fresh Panda 4.0 hits, I could clearly identify serious engagement issues once I dug in. For example, pages that were ranking well in Google prior to Panda 4.0 had thin content, horrible usability, affiliate jumps so fast it would make your head spin, downstream links that were risky, stimulus overload, etc.

the-ultimate-panda-cocktail

Here’s a humorous ‘Panda recipe of death’ by Glenn Gabe. It contains 1 part confusion, 2 parts thin content, 1.5 parts horrible usability and 2.5 parts deception.

7. Complete Irrelevancy

Just because you have interesting information to share, doesn’t mean it belongs on your site. If it has nothing to do with your site, it will likely leave visitors confused. If this content does well, it may still attract traffic, shares, or links. These are all positives, but are unlikely to lead to more business or conversions. It’s better to take the time to craft content that fits within your business’ goals.

Find out what your audience is interested in, and create content around those topics. And if your content can naturally connect with current and trending events, use that momentum to your advantage.

According to user research by Janrain:

  • 74% get frustrated with websites with content that has nothing to do with their interests
  • 67% would leave the site if asked for donations from a political party that they dislike the most
  • 57% would leave the site if they were married and shown ads for a dating service
  • 50% would leave the site if shown a recommendation to buy underwear that is for the opposite gender

This shows that giving users relevant content is essential to a good user experience. If they come to your site with certain expectations, and you go away from that, you are likely to lose their faith. Learning how to resonate with your audience, makes your brand and content more essential.  That way you are more likely to build and maintain the kind of audience you hope for.

8. Poor Spelling and Grammar

Having correct spelling and grammar should be obvious. However, many pieces of content still get published with errors. This will make your content look unprofessional and untrustworthy. Fortunately, this issue is easy to both catch and fix. Before you publish your content, you should always run it through spell checking tools.

At the very least, utilize the one built into your word processor. To be even more thorough, there are also free external tools, such as the Hemingway Editor.

These tools will help you find even more ways to improve your readability.

hemingway-app

An early draft of this section before using the Hemingway Editor

After this, make sure it is also checked by human eyes. Someone on your content team or elsewhere in the company is sure to have done well in English class. If not, your content seems destined for failure. If a mistake still remains when it gets published, be quick to correct the mistake once it is noticed. This means that your content will not only be more usable, but also reflect better upon you.

9. Bad Embedding

A great way to make your content more engaging is to embed visual aids, resources and examples. This can be in the form of tweets, videos, photos or slideshows, depending on the specific needs. It is generally easy to embed these into your content. Yet, simple mistakes with these resources can take away from their usefulness and appearance.

These mistakes can include:

  • Tweets that embed as plain text instead of full tweets.
  • Videos that are only playable on YouTube.com.
  • Media that does not load or buffer properly when embedded.
ugly-mess-spin-sucks

This ugly mess is from an article I wrote for Spin Sucks about Star Wars’ marketing efforts last year. I’m still bothered by how it looks and that I didn’t make sure to fix it.

It is unlikely that you are the first person to come across one of these problems. Thus, with little time or effort, you should be able to find a solution.

10. Letdown Clickbait Headlines

It’s understandable that you want people to actually view your content. So you will do what you can to attract people to click on links and headlines. But there are legitimate and natural ways of doing this without any deceptive tactics.

Think about what makes your content exciting, and highlight that in your headline. This is much better than trying to present something that will generate views without being genuine to the content’s message.

letdown-clickbait-headlines

These are all from the front page of the same site, and the least deceptive among them is a sponsored post.

Ask yourself if there is something in the content itself that would excite someone to click on a link. If not, then it is time to reevaluate that piece and change it so that it has genuine value. Tricking users into clicking on your content will only make them not come back to your site in the future.

zachary-evans

 

BIO: Zachary Evans is a freelance writer from Boise, Idaho. He graduated from Boise State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing in 2013. He now spends his time writing, reading, playing music, and hoping to one day help colonize outer space. 


Photo Credit: Visual Hunt

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