As you can see from the trends image above, content marketing is still a hot topic. However, most brands are still struggling to utilize it effectively. While many companies believe that content marketing is one of the best promotional strategies available, surveys from the Content Marketing Institute have uncovered that only 42% feel their organization executes it effectively.
The unfortunate truth is that companies that don’t employ the right content marketing strategies end up receiving lower conversion rates. Often, this stems from the perpetual issue that it’s easy to say something is important, but harder by far to put it into practice, as data from Hubspot confirms:
“[W]hile 92% of firms say producing high quality content is valuable, just 54% of them rank their ability to execute this strategy as effective. We also see significant gaps around their ability to track and measure content effectiveness, while activities like the personalization of website content see personalization scores below 25% of companies, despite over 50% of companies saying it’s valuable to achieving their goals. The takeaway: content marketing at a high level isn’t easy.”
What differentiates the highly effective content marketers from the mediocre and subpar? Essentially, it boils down to their ability to do something different. They rise above the fray and provide exceptional value. They don’t do that by following the same gameplan as everyone else. Instead, they recognize that they can get better results by finding their own system.
Take Bill Belew, for example, who knows a content marketer that’s successfully drawing over 100,000 visits a day with short-form articles – all because his experience has proven that he doesn’t need to create the long, detailed posts that other marketers believe are necessary. Same with Seth Godin.
Ultimately, if you want to succeed with content marketing, it’s up to you to be aware of the misconceptions that exist surrounding content marketing and to do everything in your power to avoid making these mistakes.
Understand the Role of Content Marketing
Brands that leverage content marketing have conversions that are six times higher than those that do not. However, far too few brands understand the role it can play in their campaigns. According to poll responses shared in an infographic from Adweek, great content pieces share three most important features:
- 58% of respondents said that content needed to be relevant to their audience
- 57% felt content needed to be engaging and compelling
- 54% said it needed to trigger a response or action
With that in mind, there are several factors you need to consider while creating content to ensure it supports your conversion goals:
- Your content must provide exceptional value to your followers.
- Your content must be consistent with your branding goals.
- It must communicate a clear, consistent message.
- It should support, rather than replace, your other marketing initiatives.
Your content marketing campaign will miss the mark if you don’t understand its role in your campaign, which is why you need to create a refined strategy to realize your conversion goals. Unfortunately, research from the Content Marketing Institute shows that only 44% of brands using content marketing have their own strategy. What are the other brands doing? Presumably, they’re just following the “wisdom of others” – which is probably the biggest reason that 46% are failing to achieve their goals.
Key takeaway: Content marketing is a very effective way to promote your brand, but you need to differentiate yourself to make it happen. You can’t do that by following the same principles as everyone else.
Common Content Marketing Misconceptions
Conversion rates suffer when brands fall victim to common content marketing myths and misconceptions. Be aware of the following mistakes and avoid them at all costs if you want to convert your visitors into loyal customers.
1. “Boosting Production Should Be My Top Priority.”
The conventional wisdom used to be that the best approach to content marketing was to scale production. Google rewarded publishers that posted content every day, which led many brands to create as much content as they possibly could.
Unfortunately, this resulted in the creation of a lot of thin content that provided very little value to readers. And since this content wasn’t all that professional in nature, brands had trouble building trust with readers – inevitably causing their conversion rates to suffer. Further disaster struck with the Google Panda penalty, when sites like eHow and other publishers of high volume, low value content lost nearly two thirds of their traffic.
Image by Wikimedia Commons
On the other hand, publishers that focused on quality content over quantity have remained resilient in the face of algorithm changes. They’ve also had an easier time converting visitors, as conversion rates of websites with detailed content marketing strategies are nearly six times higher than those without.
Quality always trumps quantity when it comes to content marketing, but that’s not the only reason to make it a priority:
- SEO Value. While Google still considers the volume of content on your website, the value of your content is more important than ever. Create strong content (like Neil Patel’s $30,000 guides) and you’ll be able to boost your organic rankings, which should lead to higher conversion rates, as organic search traffic is more highly targeted. According to MarketingSherpa, the conversion rates of organic traffic for many brands is close to 20%, which is why creating exceptional content to boost organic search rankings should be one of your highest priorities.
- Building Reader Trust. Building trust with your readers is an extremely important for boosting conversions. Unfortunately, it’s also much more difficult than you might like to think. According to one study from the Content Marketing Institute, as much as 55% of B2B brands have difficulty earning trust. Fortunately, it’s easier to earn trust if you create content that provides clear value to your readers.
Key takeaway: While scaling production may seem like a sensible tactic, it’s counterproductive in the long run if you can’t maintain quality.
2. “I Don’t Need to Worry About Social.”
Image by NASA Goddard
If you’ve ever seen the movie Field of Dreams, you probably remember the quote: “If you build it, they will come.” This quote has become stupidly famous in the content marketing profession, but the unfortunate truth is that you need to actively promote your content to create visibility for it. While organic search and paid traffic are valuable ways to draw attention to your content, they aren’t the best ways to engage with your customers.
If you want to get the most of your content and build the trust needed to earn conversions, then you must be active on social media.
Too many brands neglect their online social presence for a variety of reasons. Maybe they believe that their customers aren’t using social media, thinking that only younger or tech-savvy customers are active on these sites. The truth, of course, is that almost everyone is using social media these days and you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you aren’t.
Or maybe they believe that social media is simply a wasted effort – that if customers are really interested in their content, they’ll actively search it out and eventually find it on Google. Obviously, there are a couple of problems with this line of reasoning:
- It can take a long time for your content to be indexed, and once it is, there are no guarantees that it’ll outrank your competitors’ content.
- The last thing you want to do is place the fate of your content marketing strategy in the hands of the Google algorithm, as a single update can destroy your content marketing model overnight.
- It’s much more difficult to build a relationship with your readers if you only interact with them on your website. You’ll earn their trust more easily if you encourage them to follow you on social media and nurture a relationship with them over time. This is the best way to soften them up for future conversions.
Key takeaway: At the end of the day, social media is a very important element of content marketing. Make sure you leverage it to its fullest potential. Buffer’s “The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Social Media” and “The Social Media Frequency Guide” are two great places to learn how to use it well.
3. “All Content Should Center Around My Business.”
Doug Kessler, the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Velocity Partners once said, “Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks with them.”
That’s powerful stuff, and it’s a lesson that you should burn into your brain.
One of the biggest complaints consumers have raised is that companies that market to them on social media are too promotional. The problem can be even more common for content marketers that come from an old school advertising background and who are used to putting out messages in the form of copywriting.
Key takeaway: The purpose of content marketing should to engage with your target customers. So what should you do differently? Well, for starters, spend less time talking about your business. Start providing more value to your customers instead. Find the challenges they’re facing and offer sound tips to help your readers overcome them. As Andy Crestodin advises, “When creating content, be the best answer on the internet.”
4. “Content Marketing Can Be 100% Automated.”
Content marketing takes a lot of time and effort. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can streamline the process using automation, including all of the following:
- Embedding smart lead gen forms on your landing pages.
- Using social aggregators to schedule your social media posts.
- Tailoring and segmenting your emails to promote your content.
- Using automated email workflows to monitor customer engagement.
- Leveraging behavior analytics tools such as CrazyEgg to see how customers engage with your content.
While all of these tools can help to improve the effectiveness of your content marketing campaign without requiring excessive amounts of time, there is a point where automation can be taken too far. If you try to automate every single step of the process, you’ll end up creating an impersonal, unprofessional relationship with your customers.
The one aspect of this process that should never be entirely automated is your content creation. There are some excellent tools to help streamline the process, such as software that can take aggregate data and create engaging charts. However, the only way to entirely automate the process would be to use private label articles or scraped content – both of which are almost worse than using no content at all.
Key takeaway: Accept that even the most efficient content marketing strategy is going to require time and resources. You’ll either need to dedicate the time required to create content yourself or hire talented creative professionals to do the task for you. If you’re looking for bloggers, Problogger has a great board to recruit talented writers.
5. “I Need to Create Super-Long Pieces of Content.”
You’ve probably read countless case studies showing that longer content pieces trump shorter pieces. As a result, many brands have started moving away from the traditional model of using 500 word articles to boost their rankings and engagement. While this wisdom is certainly applicable in some instances, there are other situations where it’s actually counterproductive. There are arguments from both sides that you need to take into consideration.
On the one hand, there are clearly indicators that long content ranks better and is more engaging. One study from Moz found that content that was between 1,800 and 3,000 words long received more backlinks and ranked better in the search engines. Research from Medium shows that readers pay more attention to content that takes about seven minutes to read, which equates to pieces that are about 1,600 words.
However, creating long-form content isn’t always necessary and may actually be counterproductive. First of all, while longer content does tend to rank higher on Google, shorter content can still rank very well. Neil Patel discussed a very compelling anecdote that disproves the new belief that only longer pieces of content can rank. Patel points out that Upworthy has a page ranking on page 2 of Google for the extremely competitive keyword “tattoos,” despite the fact that its average post length is quite short.
There’s an even more important factor that needs to be taken into consideration before you decide to focus exclusively on writing on extensive 2,000+ word posts: your customers. While the study from Medium shows that longer posts tend to be more engaging overall, you’ll want to be careful with how you apply that feedback across your campaign. Every customer’s preferences are different, and you may find that your target customers prefer blog posts to be short and sweet.
Key takeaway: When it comes to conversions, know that long-form sales content doesn’t always convert better than shorter copy. Longer pages may work better when you’re trying to sell big ticket items, but they can also overwhelm your readers and drive them away from your website. Rather than assuming that longer content always works better, you’ll want to extensively test different styles to optimize your conversions.
6. “I Can Use the Same Content Marketing Strategy as Companies in Other Verticals.”
Another misconception when it comes to content marketing is the all-too-common belief that the approach that works well for Nike or Dell will work for your brand as well. Many brands try to clone successful campaigns of businesses in totally unrelated industries, which rarely works out as well as they projected.
Unfortunately, finding the ideal content marketing approach is going to take time – there’s just no one-size-fits-all model. Every customer is driven by different factors, motivations and interests, so you’ve got to know what makes them tick before you can even think about improving your conversions.
Key takeaway: Before you launch a content marketing campaign, answer as many questions about them as possible about your target customers and their buying processes as you can. What types of websites do they view? Are they visually oriented? Social or introverted? Use this information to create buyer personas that’ll lead you to the content marketing strategy that will effectively convert them from casual followers to buyers.
7. “I Can Let Anybody Create My Content.”
Low quality content was never very valuable, but it’s even less so today. Most companies grasp this concept, but seem to be suffering from a bad case of cognitive dissonance, as they often don’t allocate the resources needed to create the content that’ll actually help build their brands. Their biggest mistake is assuming that just anybody can create content worthy of building relationships and earning conversions.
Creating great content is a very specific skill. You’re going to get what you pay for, so make sure you invest in quality creators if you want to build content that engages and converts your followers. Neil Patel, for example, has paid up to $30,000 for a single piece of content because he knows that exceptional content provides a much higher ROI.
Key takeaway: Stuck on a tight budget? If you really can’t create content in-house, know that it’s much better to invest in one exceptional content piece than to buy 10 lesser-quality pieces at the same price.
8. “Content Marketing Should Operate Independent of the Rest of My Branding Campaign.”
Content marketing is a highly effective way to generate and convert leads. However, some brands go awry by trying to use it as a substitute for the rest of their branding campaign. Content shouldn’t be used to replace the rest of your marketing strategy, but rather to supplement your other efforts. Here are a few of the things you’ll need to do to create a content marketing strategy that aligns with the rest of your marketing campaign:
- You’ll need to develop a clear understanding of your company’s branding goals and make sure that every piece of content you create supports them.
- You must review all of your other marketing messages and make sure that your content marketing campaign will be consistent with them.
- Every piece of content you produce needs to be created by someone that can clearly communicate the defining features of your products over those of competitors.
Key takeaway: It isn’t as difficult to build a content marketing strategy around the rest of your marketing efforts as it may seem. Who knows? You may even find that you’re able to save time and money by repurposing the material you already have from offline marketing campaigns to create new online content.
9. “I Can Focus on a Single Metric.”
Measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing strategy isn’t always going to be easy. Your bottom line is obviously going to be improving sales, but there are many different factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to meeting that goal. Your conversion rate is probably one of the most important factors you’re focusing on, but there are a number of other metrics that play an equally meaningful role in measuring campaign success.
For example, you’ll want to pay close attention to your click-through rates, proportion of visitors arriving from various traffic sources and the demographic composition of your audience. This data will help you assess which types of traffic strategies and demographics convert best for your brand, which can ultimately help you optimize your content marketing strategy for higher sales.
To determine these metrics, you’ll need to test many different traffic sources and collect as much data as possible. Tools like Prosper202 and Hubspot can give you a more detailed understanding of your readers, as well as create opportunities to split test the following variables:
- Landing page images
- Ad copy
- Keywords targeted for PPC traffic
- Native advertising publishers
- Landing page headlines
Key takeaway: Try to be as thorough as possible while testing so that you can make more informed decisions on the future direction of your content campaigns.
10. “Social media made email obsolete.”
Nobody can deny that social media has drastically changed the way people interact on the web. However, some people mistakenly believe that it’s rendered email marketing obsolete, though nothing could be further from the truth. Email remains one of the most effective ways to promote content, engage with customers and convert them into buyers. In fact, all data shows that email appears to be much more effective for converting followers than social media.
Consider the following statistics that prove email marketing should still be an important part of any content marketing strategy:
- Brands receive an average return of $44.25 for every dollar spent on email marketing.
- Consumers spend an average of 138% more after being marketing through email over other mediums.
- The average consumer interacts with 11 brands through email every day.
Engaging with customers through social media is an important way to build relationships and grow your brand. However, all objective evidence shows that email is a much more effective way to convert customers. As a result, it still deserves a spot as one of the core aspects of your content marketing campaign.
Key takeaway: There are a number of common mistakes that keep brands from earning a decent ROI from their content marketing strategy. Be aware of them to keep your conversions on track.
Building a Content Marketing Strategy
Content marketing comes with a steep learning curve, but you’ll find that it’s well worth your effort in the long run. If you’re serious about succeeding, you need a clear vision and a detailed strategy laid out before you launch your campaigns, both of which should be informed by the mistakes that lead other marketers awry.
If you are aware of the myths and misconceptions presented here – and you take the necessary steps to correct for them – you stand a much better chance of developing the kind of lucrative content marketing game plan that’ll lead you to higher conversions.
What other mistakes have helped you learn to be a better content marketer? Share your past experiences and advice in the comment section below: