5 Ways You’re Killing Perfectly Good Content

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Content marketing has the power to transform the relationship between you and your customers. Well-crafted content can build trust with audiences, communicate the nuances of your brand stories, generate new leads, engage and inform readers, get eyeballs to e-commerce pages — and ultimately, drive sales .

But new research shows if your content marketing is executed without a solid strategy behind it, it’s a lot like the proverbial tree falling in the forest — no one will be around to experience its impact. In fact, content done wrong can actually be dangerous for your brand in that it demands creative resources that could otherwise have been put to better use.

That’s why, rather than racing to push out a lot of content quickly, your team should spend at least one strategy session planning for the potential pitfalls that can render otherwise exceptional content, well, dead on arrival.

In working with brands, the strategists at our editorial marketing company, Masthead Media, have identified several of the stumbling blocks that can prevent content from reaching your most important marketing and business goals. Keep these five misses in mind before developing your next post.

1. You’re Not Defining Your Target Audience

If your editorial team can’t visualize the specific customers you’re trying to reach, how can they develop articles, videos, graphics, and social media posts that truly speak to what those audiences care about most?

Take the time to create customer profiles for your team to reference when brainstorming and creating content. This should include audience demographics, how your content can address their needs and interests, and where each group is most likely to seek out information (i.e., Pinterest vs. Quora).

Make sure that you move this information from whiteboard to paper: Research from the Content Marketing Institute finds that marketers who document their content strategy (including customer profiles) are significantly more likely to be successful at their efforts than who only have a verbal strategy or none at all.

2. You’re Posting Inconsistently

It’s tempting for some brands to treat content marketing like an ad campaign, pushing out a ton messaging right before a launch or event…and going totally dark when they don’t have as much to say. Don’t follow their lead.

While it’s fine to increase frequency at key times, it’s even more critical to let your customers know that you’re providing useful, relevant content to them when itdoesn’t overtly benefit your company. By the same token, search engines — one of the most powerful ways to find new leads — reward websites that produce content consistently over time by ranking them more highly in search results pages.

Take the time to plot a shared editorial calendar that maps out the content that you’re able to publish each month or quarter — and stick to it.

3. You Don’t Promote

Taking the Field of Dreams approach to content marketing (if you post it, they will come) all but guarantees you a limited audience. Don’t expect publishing alone to drive page visits or clicks to e-commerce. Nothing markets itself.

When allocating your content marketing budget, create an owned, earned, and paid promotional strategy. Use and build up your owned channels — such as your blog, social media, and e-mail newsletters.

Decide how earned channels fit into your mix, which can include partnerships to cross-promote content quid pro quo, as well as pitching trade publications, bloggers, and other influencers for coverage on their sites.

Finally, allocate budget (even a small amount) toward paid promotions, including targeted Facebook ads, Reddit ads, or promoted tweets on Twitter.

4. You’re Overdoing — or Avoiding — Brand Mentions

Your content marketing is an opportunity to show your brand personality beyond just sales and promotional offers, so avoid turning a conversational moment into a full-on sales pitch or re-post of a company press release.

That said, there’s no need to completely scrub your content of every reference to your brand or its products. If your customers never encounter any kind of product information or call-to-action at all, your content will probably fall short of hitting major brand goals.

There’s a sweet spot to be found where brand mentions and links are organically woven into entertaining substance. Fitness streaming service Daily Burn has found that intersection, striking an excellent balance in its blog, Life, by integrating product mentions and links into relevant, service-driven content.

5. You’re Writing for Robots

The science of writing branded content (creating something that performs in a particular, predictable way) shouldn’t come at the expense of the art. While you want to make your content easy to discover through SEO techniques, if you find yourself jamming in keywords or writing on hot topics for the sole purpose of optimizing search, it will read clunky and inauthentic to the actual humans you want to engage.

Remember that at the heart of this, you are writing for people, not machines. Write your first draft with the focus on ideas and engagement before taking an SEO pass. If you don’t have a content marketing expert in house, you may want to bring in a content strategist or editorial marketing company to help you learn this fine balancing act.

Written by Amanda Pressner Kreuser.

This article was originally published on Inc.com on Feb. 24, 2016.

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