Your readers have questions about your industry – and learning how to avoid key content marketing mistakes can help you engage them. Your readers may be in various stages of the buying cycle, but they have one thing in common. They are looking for a trusted resource that can provide answers to their questions.

That is where content marketing comes into play. It allows you to differentiate yourself from the pack, and compete with some businesses that have traditionally had a larger budget for customer acquisition.

As you compete for eyeballs and attention online, you have to make sure you are doing everything within your power to appeal to your audience. Here are a few content marketing mistakes, and some actionable advice for how to avoid them.

7 Content Marketing Mistakes

You failed to connect with your readers – Chances are your reader doesn’t know as much as you about your industry. It’s easy to start throwing around fancy acronyms and $10 words that may just pass right over their heads. In a best-case scenario they leave to look up the industry lingo that you’re failing to define. In a worse case scenario, they are on to the next search result. Either way, there’s a better than average chance they aren’t coming back.

Here’s what you can do: If you don’t absolutely have to use the industry term, don’t. If you do need to use it for context, then define it. If it’s an acronym, spell the whole thing out the first time. Make sure that your readers know what you’re talking about. Don’t talk down to them, but don’t leave them guessing at your message, either. Learn how to speak your audience’s language.

You’ve faded into the pack – The whole point of content marketing is to attain leverage over the competition. The Internet gives your business an expanded customer base, but it also increases your level of competition. In order to differentiate yourself, you’ll need to produce the kind of valuable content that no one else is producing. You’ll need to pour yourself into it.

Here’s what you can do: In order to stand out, you’ll want to produce quality content on a regular basis. This can be every day, every week or every month. Just remember, in the best case scenario, you want readers to remember your stuff, and what you had to say. So:

  • What kind of questions are you frequently asked in person? Can you incorporate answers to these questions in your content?
  • What kind of advice can you give consumers?
  • Are there a series of how-to stories you can tackle?

Putting thought into the type of content you produce in advance can help ensure a built-in audience, and help you stand out. Post enough to stay top of mind with your readers, but not so much that you sacrifice the quality of the content.

Your content is marginally average – It’s really easy to get into a mindset that involves simply publishing, without much thought into the quality of the content. But ask yourself:

  • Is it something your customers will want to read?
  • Have you done everything possible to make it appealing to your readers?
  • Have you done everything possible to make it easy for your readers to read and share?
  • Have you told your readers what you want them to do?

The Internet is filled with marginal content that rambles, and is riddled with spelling and grammar errors. These factors may not mean much to you, but they erode trust, and create natural stopping points. The goal of content marketing is to create customers, not lose them for messy grammar, or other content marketing mistakes.

Here’s what you can do: Put a high standard of professional care into everything you publish. Understand what need it fills for your customer base, and be willing to check the grammar and spelling on all the content you produce. If you’re working in WordPress, that publish button looms large on the right-hand side of the screen. But don’t let that lower your standards. It takes a commitment to quality content to benefit from content marketing. If you have a physical location to your business, you want it in tip-top shape before your customers see it. The same should be true with your website, and content.

You forgot SEO or social – Your audience expands in one of two ways online – through search engine rankings or social media. When you fail to prepare your work for these platforms, it can disappear into the ether. Once you know how, you can improve your chances of connecting with your audience with just a few minutes worth of work tacked onto the beginning or end of writing your post.

Here’s what you do: Learn how to use the Google Keyword tool. I have a book coming out Oct. 4 that addresses this, among other key content issues. Look for the terms that people are using that will be easy to rank for. Sprinkle these terms through the course of your writing. You can also learn how to use an SEO plugin on WordPress such as Yost, to enhance your efforts. On the social side, spend some time writing the messages as you post your content. Make sure that your post holds some level of value for your audience. If you can direct this to your audience in a way that will appeal to them, your chances will be higher of seeing some kind of social success.

You’re selling – People aren’t reading massive amounts of online content to be sold to. No one reads advertisements for eight hours a day. So if there is little depth to your content besides a sales pitch, you might be driving away the very people you want interested in your work – making this one of the most important content marketing mistakes to avoid. People came to you. This isn’t like the telemarketing heyday where you could approach them and hold them captive with a sales pitch.

Here’s what you do: Instead of selling, try providing value. Get to know your audience, and develop your voice. Write in a way that engages people, instead of pitching them. Look for the information your audience will be interested in, and provide that. Write a headline that makes a promise, and then deliver on that promise. Provide body content that quickly moves people through to the end of the post, and give them an emotional reason to take action.

There’s no specific goal – Do you have a larger marketing plan? Do you know what you want people to do once they’ve given you their email, liked your page, or followed your blog? “Buy more stuff” is a copout answer, and doesn’t fully cover anything. You need a marketing plan. Content marketing needs to fit into that plan. It needs to educate your customers, and be part of an underlying plan to grow your business. But you’ll need to do some long-term planning work to determine the details. Every blog post you write, or piece of content you produce, should be part of a larger goal to move the ball forward. (It’s the fall, so football, and football references are back in season.)

Here’s what you do: If you don’t have a marketing plan, start there. Develop your big picture sales and marketing goals. Read everything you can get your hands on about how blogging, email, and content in general can help your business. Implement these in a way that moves your business forward. Pick two to three social networks and devote your energy to promoting your content, engaging with people, and developing your business there. There are many, many different ways to implement these platforms. You should be trying new things all the time. Don’t be afraid to experiment with what is new, to rid yourself of one of the most important content marketing mistakes. Keep what works, and discard the rest.

There’s no call to action – What action are you hoping your readers take, after reading your work? They won’t know, if you don’t tell them. A great blog post with nothing about how to proceed falls flat. If your readers don’t know how to further benefit from your work, you can be assured that nothing will happen after they take in your words of wisdom.

Here’s what you can do: If your content did it’s job in educating your customers, and convincing them that you are the solution to their problem, then a strong call to action is in order. Go ahead, tell them to pick up the phone, or fill out your form. Ask them for a sale. But make sure that you laid out your best argument as the solution to their problem. Blog posts, website content, emails, and other forms of content marketing should contain calls to action. You can also ask your audience to download, comment, share or register. A well-written call to action can help you expand your customer base.

Wrapping it up…

Avoiding content marketing mistakes can require a series of experiments. Make sure you are constantly reviewing previous efforts to determine what has worked, and discarding the rest. The rewards can be high, if you can rid yourself of these common content marketing mistakes.

Have you committed any of these content marketing mistakes? How did you get out?

Matt Brennan is a Chicago area marketing writer, copy editor, and the author of Write Right – Sell Now.

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