Brutally Honest Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Isn’t Working

brutal reasons why content marketing is not working
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Just out of curiosity, have you ever wondered how many new pieces of blogs go live every single day? What according to you would be a reasonable estimate? Ten thousand? Hundred? Heck, a million? Wrong. It’s much more than that. Four times as much. Content marketing is really on a roll if you ask me.

Every day, more than 4.4 million blog posts are published on the internet, and that’s the reality of the scale at which content is being produced in the digital age. And you thought you were being a content-unicorn. Awww, there-there.

So, if you have been wondering why the content marketing efforts you and your team have been so arduously putting in not paying off, the harsh truth is that you’re either too ‘off’ from what your audience wants to consume or you’re just a rip off of from one of those many pieces that no one asked another version of.

Either way, it’s not too late before you can take a good long pause and reflect if you are making any of the following mistakes, and correct your course for the better. Without further ado, let’s dive in to learn more about a few reasons why your content marketing just doesn’t seem to be working for you.

PS. These are reasons I have noted while working on projects at Contensify, the content marketing agency I’m super proud of. They also stem from some of my conversations with teams that are struggling to start with content marketing or scale their efforts. I’m going to cover all grounds slowly and steadily. 

Reasons why content marketing is breaking up with you

1. You are just doing whatever your competitor is doing

In the legendary film Fight Club, the narrator says, “everything is a copy, of a copy, of a copy”. Unfortunately, the same can be said about the state of content marketing in 2021. If your content looks anything like a rip-off from what some of your top competitors have been doing, then you’re guilty of making the same mistakes which should be avoided at all costs.

So often we come across content that has the same matter, same points, same images, heck, even the same freakin’ examples. This can only work if you consider your audience to be dumb enough to not notice what is at play here, or you just don’t care about your content enough.

If we gave you a history book to read five times, would you be able to do it? Hell, no? Thought so. Then why should your content look like how it does?

content marketing fail reasons

Here’s what you should do instead

Now, there’s a difference between being inspired, and being someone who copies. So drop the “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” talk and think of what you can do from learning and studying your competitors in a more constructive way.

One good way to go about one-upping your competitors when it comes to content is for you to find opportunities that they haven’t explored and tap into them. You can build a skyscraper piece, add more value to the piece, include updated tips, and so much more. Whatever you do, you have got to show for making your content piece better than your peers’.

2. You are just throwing darts in the dark, hoping for something to stick

If you how you go about creating your content is simply picking up a blank sheet of paper (or the equivalent in a Google Doc) and just getting down to it, you are doing something massively wrong.

content marketing mistakes

The purpose of creating content is for a target audience, so, you ought to know exactly who they are. Knowing what their challenges and goals are, knowing their likes and dislikes, knowing their preferences and individual attributes, and so on.

You can not do justice to your efforts in content marketing if you do not have a clear picture of the personas of your ideal customer in your mind. Once you do, then, and only then should you proceed to the next step of actually getting down to creating value for them through your content.

Here’s what you should do instead

Goes without saying, but the very first step for you should be to sit down and create personas for your ideal customer, and overall target audience at large. Take all the time you need to interview them, talk to your people-facing teams, go through the data you have on them, shadowing sales calls, and more.

You need to be able to really understand who they are, what their goals and challenges are, and then, create content which is aligned to their wants and needs. The content you write should solve real-life problems which your readers face in their day to day, and not look like something out of a page 3 publication.

3. You are all fluff and no real material

And it’s not even this cute…

content marketing mistakes you made

More often than not, content is writing to reach targets for word limit in the hope of it to create some impact. In your mandate, there might be a word limit for you to write for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t mean you’ll just fill your content with words to reach the same. Your content shouldn’t sound like a drag, or something someone wrote half-heartedly.

If your content is lacking real, actionable insights which you thought of originally instead of ripping them off another writer’s article, you really need to pause and hold. Even hold your breath maybe so you know how the reader feels.

Here’s what you should do instead

Firstly, ditch the darn jargon. You are writing content for humans to read online, not crack the IELTS or TOEFL, so, keep it simple, silly.

Secondly, instead of dragging any point to reach your word limit, get straight to the point. Like this one.

Instead of pre-deciding how much you are going to write on the topic, you should think more about what tangible value you can add through the piece, and then take the requisite next steps. Before you write anything, do your research as if your life depends on it (it should).

And lastly, do give credits wherever due by highlighting the source of your inputs. Don’t fake it till you make it.

4. You’re not optimizing your content for the search engines

Before you go on to say “content is meant to be read by humans”, hear yourself out loud. Sure, your content is supposed to be read by humans, but how do your humans discover that content is how well you’ve structured the information in it for a search engine to decide its relevance.

No matter how well you write the content in terms of its quality, depth of research and other qualitative factors, if it isn’t aligned with how people search for content, it would not do you any good. If you don’t know how people search for the topic you’re writing on, how do you imagine it ever getting discovered?

content marketing and search engine

Here’s what you should do instead

As hard it can be to spend time trying to figure out the keyword strategy for your content piece, you should really take some time out to spend it on Keyword Planner, SEMrush, Ahrefs – or whatever your jam is. The first thing you need to do is have a comprehensive understanding of what it is that people are searching for in the first place.

Look for related keywords for better relevance with the thoughts of your target audience. Moreover, you need to start looking into places savvy marketers look for – the Frequently Asked Questions sections of your competitors’ key pages and their SERPs. Last, but not the least, use something like Yoast or RankMath to optimize your content once you’re done with the creation bit.

5. You confuse breadth of content with writing just about anything under the sun

“If HubSpot can write about so many topics with such great quality, generating millions of organic views through search engine traffic, then I can do it too.” Sounds like you? Well, HubSpot also had 500 writers working for them at one point, so you have a better shot at doing something better, and of course, differently.

We know it can seem pretty lucrative to be omnipresent with your thoughts on a number of topics, but you’re not a content Dracula living through the ages, so hold that thought. If you’re giving yourself the classic excuse of “I feel it falls under my industry or domain”, think twice. If you continue to keep doing it, no one will know what you’re actually about, and you have the risk of getting lost in all that noise.

too much content marketing

Here’s what you should do instead

Identify your niche, one that is unique and relevant to your business. Once you have that in place, think of topics which can add value to your readers’ perspective and solve for your audiences’ pain points. At this point, you would like to have a goal for your content, a specific, measurable goal you can get behind and chase.

And no matter what, stay aligned with your business. Going broad is great – as long as it’s something you want your business to be known for – but if you’re a baby products brand, I’m sure you don’t want to be known for contraception. Sorry, not sorry.

6. You are not giving your content enough time to brew the optimum results

This is one mistake we are primed to make at almost anything because we’re humans, and we are impatient humans. How many times have you found yourself ogling at the numbers your content piece has generated – visits, shares, time spent, and bla blu bla bla? Even the best content marketers are guilty of making this mistake.

But hey, as we mentioned, 4.4 million content pieces are published every day, so clearly, yours would take time to create any impact. If you don’t give the search engine crawlers enough time to scan and list your blog, you are not going to generate anything by surprise.

content marketing takes time

Here’s what you should do instead

Sitting, wondering, and whining about why your content isn’t bringing in the numbers would not solve the problem you are facing, doing something about it, definitely would be a step in the right direction. So instead of doing the former, you should work on continually finding opportunities to make people notice your content.

You need to optimize your content for the latest, updated keywords, keep it up to date – hey, no one wants to read a 2018 blog post in 2021 – with original insights, and most importantly, focus on being consistent so that your audience doesn’t feel that this content piece is just a one-off from an industry noob. Sorry, not sorry again.

7. You are not making your content reach the right audience

Your content marketing efforts are only as good as your distribution efforts. By writing good content, you are just getting half the job done. However, by distributing and promoting your content in front of the right audience, now that what hits it out of the ballpark, really.

If this doesn’t sound like you, don’t fret – a lot of content marketers are guilty of making this mistake. What everyone else is doing, is spray and pray. What you should be doing, is method and method.

Here’s what you should do instead

The first step to making your content more discoverable with the right audience is to figure out who your right audience is in the first place. Remember the whole point we made above about having a persona in mind? That’s your very first step, without a doubt.

Once you have figured it out who your ideal audience is, spend time trying to identify where they hang out the most. LinkedIn groups? Reddit? Facebook? Double down on the right mediums and channels like nobody’s business.

Apart from these, you have got to keep the lights on doing the obvious stuff: linking your content to good, high ranking sites with good domain authority, make people engage with your post through questions and answers, syndicate your content, and more.

content marketing audience

8. Your content isn’t much differentiable from a college thesis or whitepaper

Ever heard the saying, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? On the same lines for your content, if the saying “all text and no fun makes Jack a dull post” is true, you really have some hard thinking to do.

In today’s digital economy, with ever-increasing distractions resulting in even smaller and smaller spans of human’s attention span (which by the way, is now lower than that of a goldfish at 10 seconds), you have got to do things that make your brand, its marketing, and your content, stand out.

boring content marketing

Your content shouldn’t look like a whitepaper which a scientist working on nuclear physics wrote, simply paras after paras of text with nothing to hook on to. It’s not that tough to get creative with how you create your content and deliver the same to your audience in engaging, captivating ways.

PS. Please do not make another banana challenge Reel. I will bury myself alive. Not that you care. 

Here’s what you should do instead

Instead of just writing bricks after bricks of text, here is how you should approach your content:

  • Include relevant images to your content
  • Explain concepts better through the use of videos
  • Replace static, boring images with GIFs
  • Make infographics that your audience can refer to quickly
  • Break long content into shorter, consumable pieces

Oh, but don’t stop here at all. This is just good enough for you to cover the best practices of the craft. Feel free to use your creativity and resources to blow your readers’ minds.

9. You are all about writing new and not recycling or repurposing the old

If your content marketing mandate only involves producing more and more new content day after day, week after week, and month after month, you are definitely in the wrong here. Content marketing is so much more about just writing new content. It’s about repurposing what you already have, recycling stuff, repackaging it differently, and most importantly, to keep it absolutely up to date.

One of the reasons your content isn’t paying off is because you never rehash your existing content into a different format – also known as content repurposing, just by the way. Heck, in the day and age when even fashion is getting sustainable, your content marketing efforts shouldn’t be unsustainable.

content repurposing

Here’s what you should do instead

It’s actually not that hard to do what you should be doing once you’ve identified this as one of the reasons your content is not paying off.

  • Step 1: Identify your content pieces that are performing well by looking at your content analytics.
  • Step 2: Repurpose them across other formats. For example, an eBook could be rehashed into a blog post, and vice versa.
  • Step 3: Rinse and repeat the above two steps till you are convinced you can not continue doing it any longer.

10. You are all about the numbers – just not the right ones

Content marketing is tricky. Why? Because it is subjective how you measure its performance. But one of the mistakes you should absolutely avoid doing is this: measuring the wrong numbers, alas the ones you should not.

Are you associating the content that you publish to bring in direct conversions of your products or service? Stop. Doing. That. Right. NOW.

Are you segregating blog performance with your site performance? Stop.

Are you looking at numbers which end up disappointing you? Again, something’s amiss. So, stop.

content marketing numbers

Here’s what you should do instead

At the very least, the first step you should take to fix this issue is to focus on metrics that matter to your content marketing efforts, and nothing else. For instance, when you are just getting started, looking at traffic numbers should be primary for you – then, and only then, comes engagement, and even later comes conversions.

Just as you look at your marketing as stages in a funnel, start thinking about your content in the same way. Oh, and know this – when you publish good content, the results are seen across the site – your numbers on the homepage will increase if, for instance, you’re linking back to it from the blogs (when your blogs rank) – those aren’t really coming out from thin air.

11. You don’t follow and adhere to a content calendar

Oh, this one is a big, big bummer, and probably one of the biggest reasons your content isn’t performing well. You can’t call yourself to be someone practising content marketing if you do not maintain, follow, and adhere to a content calendar in a very, very strict fashion.

A content calendar is akin to having a schedule for you to reach your goals in a timely, measurable manner. The absence of which will only be like shooting in the dark and hoping for something to stick. According to the Content Marketing Institute, teams that follow a content marketing calendar see their productivity jump by 10X, and their efforts pay off 4X better than the ones who do not.

Don’t smirk. I know I don’t have one, but I don’t claim to be an expert either. But now I do have one. In my defence, maintaining the calendars of all the projects we work on, is tedious.

content marketing calendar

Here’s what you should do instead

To solve this, you would need to spend some time trying to figure out what is the best way for you to build a content calendar in the context of your brand, business, and its industry (and in some cases, even geography).

Next, have an Excel sheet or Google Sheets sheet where you comprehensively manage your content calendar with your team and have everything else being centrally managed from there as well. Yup, that’s mostly it. Not that hard now, is it?

Don’t have a calendar? Here’s a complete guide to using Trello to create a content marketing calendar by yours truly.

12. You don’t experiment with the latest content formats

Have you ever wondered why people have started listening to podcasts so much? Or why Instagram is becoming the go-to platform for people to explore brands? One reason, and one reason only: consumer preferences.

And here’s a fact about them: they are dynamic, and change constantly, basis context and consequences (Corona says hi). Hence, how you go about thinking about your content marketing strategy, and the formats and channels you leverage to reach your goals should – you guessed it – also evolve.

content marketing tests

Here’s what you should do instead

Well, this one is pretty straightforward – keep experimenting. Yep, that’s it. Make sure you try out at least one new format (short, long, video, and so on) on one new platform (Insta, LinkedIn, YouTube…) at least once every month. If nothing else, it will be a learning experience for you.

13. You think you are or want to be a grammar nazi

Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that of course.

But think about this for a minute. Instead of focusing on the quality of your research and your content, you’re actually running after ‘ooooh the grammar right’, ‘have I made the sentences short enough’, ‘have I pleased the grammar lords’. Again, nothing wrong with getting it right. But your primary focus needs to be the quality of what you’re sharing!

content marketing grammar nazi

This is a lesson I learned from those with EXTENSIVE experience in their industries. They don’t care about how “fancy” they sound when they write a piece or speak at an event. They care about what they’re sharing, and that is exactly what you should be focusing on too.

I’ve seen too many companies trying to “perfect” their language or what they perceive as perfect, instead of focusing on what their audience wants to read.

Here’s what you should do instead

Come on. Do the “work” first. Then start focusing on the nitty-gritty of all the grammar rules you want to follow. I’m dead sure I broke at least 99 of them in this post! Sorry, not sorry.

Get a grip on what you want to talk about, how you can add value to that, who do you want to address and then start making use of tools like Grammarly, Hemingway, etc.

Also, just a note – Don’t lose your personality trying to please the grammar lords. If Gary Vee did that, you’d be calling his content either boring, too uptight or too crafted.

Stop making or following unnecessary content marketing rules. They’ll turn out to be mistakes that stopped you from scaling.

The marketing landscape is crowded, and making your brand shine is tough. However, by doing the right things at the right time, you can ensure success for your business, and impact your bottom line positively.

Hundreds of brands, if not thousands have been a testament to the fact that content marketing delivers high reward, low effort results for your business. Now the onus is on you to make sure you do the same. Happy content marketing!

FIN. 

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