Just the words can get a reactive hum and nod of the head. Everyone’s trying it because ‘great content’ is what modern SEO or digital marketing depends on. That part makes sense. Problem is: following the idea through is a lot more difficult than agreeing with or expressing it.
Content marketing isn’t a cure-all. But whether or not content is the right approach is an issue for another post.
When brands do decide to embark on a bit of content marketing though, we’ve seen some common issues that make the whole thing a giant waste of time.
Here are some of the most common:
1. Priorities: A content strategy isn’t always preceded by getting the basics right – like having a good core service and making sure that site implementation is sorted. A flawed business rushing-ahead with content is a bit like a person trying to surf without being able to swim – and the results can be nearly as ugly.
2. Capability: Mediocre content can be as effective towards generating digital outcomes as planting a field of maize can. In saturated spaces, content needs to be really great to do well but this requires the coalescence of time, money, creativity, and expertise to become real. If at least one of those elements is missing then a content marketing campaign can be fruitless.
3. Control: The content was great; the ideas behind it were good. But someone (usually in the marketing department) has decided to add a load of branding messages on top and dumb the ideas down at risk of offending – or weakening the ‘brand message’. This is a common mistake, especially with larger brands, and the result is usually a bland piece of monocontent with no real appeal.
4. Promotion: The ‘build it and they will come’ maxim doesn’t really work online. Even if the content’s great – it can sit and gather dust if it’s not promoted well. And it’s very common for companies to out content without any strategic approach towards promotion and seeding.
5. Sincerity: Insincerity or dishonesty can be insulting to the intelligence of an audience. Recent history is littered with digital campaigns that didn’t hit the spot because the messaging was totally disconnected from the real business behind – as the big grab for traffic, backlinks etc. was made.
One of the worst (or best, depending on your perspective) examples of all time was Wrigley’s inexplicable UK ‘Worth Chewing Over Campaign’ (shown below), which just made no sense, and was so bad it inspired backlash memes.
6. Measurement & Goals: Making the sense of marketing activities requires targets to be in place and the effects to be measured. Sometimes this whole idea’s missing, leaving a black hole that the whole strategy gets eventually sucked into. But the failure is sometimes one of focus – where a piece of visual content is judged purely on its ability to generate backlinks; or a branded video is judged on how many conversions it leads to.
How to do content marketing well:
1. Priorities: Do not approach content marketing without a good, well optimised website – and a decent service behind it. If either of those two elements are missing then fix them first.
2. Capability: A great idea relies on creativity, and then skill to enliven and execute. The right people must be on board, either in-house at the agency or otherwise, to make ‘it’ happen. Unfortunately there’s no tried and tested approach for getting a mad creative genius onboard – but it makes sense to work with people with some proven success and experience.
3. Control: Light, humour, controversy, creativity – all elements that lead to good content and each one can be broken by branding. Remember this and think of subtler ways to make content work for the business – like linking the theme of content to core services, and interlinking key pages.
4. Promotion: A 50-slide strategy ‘deck’ isn’t needed to promote content (even though you might be sold or selling one) but a repeated, step-by-step promotional process can be good to have in place – alongside well-networked social media accounts. See our tip below for a bit more on seeding content.
5. Sincerity: Content should be a conduit of a brand’s values, not just a hollow ‘strategy’ that’s employed as a pretext to push up SEO rankings. That in mind, the messaging within should relate to the business behind and maintaining that connection will also help important goals like conversions and shares by making the content more relatable and less obscure.
6. Measurement & Goals: Set fair goals for content (i.e. widen the tunnel-visioned focus on backlinks) and audit your analytics beforehand to make sure that these goals can be measured. Google Analytics is pretty robust these days and includes decent attribution modelling – allowing the effects of content within the entire user journey to be measured.
Seeding content is key to getting shares, backlinks and citations but it’s not usually enough to just put content up on social networks like Facebook and Twitter – or general seeding sites like Digg and Reddit.
Niche networks for specific types of content are often as (or more) useful than the main players. Here are four to get started:
- Visual content & infographics: visual.ly
- Marketing posts & content: inbound.org
- Images: imgfave
- News & Articles: Outbrain (paid service)
What do you think of content marketing?