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Content Marketing's Epic Fails

Posted on 7.10.2013

:: By Rohan Ayyar, E2M Solutions ::


Content marketing can break your back with, sometimes, nothing to show for it.

Yet, it forms the core of your digital marketing processes. You could fail with content marketing in any number of ways. Marketo.com has a list of at least 20 Ways To Fail With Content Marketing and Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute gives you another 13 Reasons Why Your Content Marketing Could Fail.

Knowing where you could slip is one thing; remembering where it's greasy is totally something else.

Here are some content marketing assumptions and activities that you should denounce immediately.

Calculating Content Marketing

Content marketing is an effort that aims for multiple birds: branding, trust, engagement, long-term lead nurturing, immediate sales and much more. Some of those content pieces you create could certainly lead to immediate sales but that’s not what content marketing is set out to deliver for your business. Don’t create blog posts, whitepapers, guest posts and emails with calculations buzzing in your head on what you’re spending versus what you’re getting.

Instead, think of content marketing as a long-term, recurring investment. 

Thinking Google (Only)

Google’s search listings, indexing of your Web pages and rankings are all important milestones/goals, but to focus on one company is not that clever of an option.

Instead, fork out your marketing strategy across multiple channels. Create a variety of content (to be distributed across a variety of media): Videos can find a home on YouTube and Vimeo; presentation decks can be shared on SlideShare; company-specific write ups can go on your blog and another generalized or targeted sets on others’ blogs (guest posting).

Obsessing On SEO

Google is way smarter than most people can imagine. SEO consultants and their honchos can wax eloquently about how much they know about SEO but no one really knows. At Moz.com, Rand Fishkin still addresses the possibility of how marketers can scramble hither and thither and crash when Google updates its algorithms. Rand admits that SEO is a moving target.

If SEO experts and long-standing authority figures, proficient marketers and Google veterans themselves don’t get the SEO game completely, why do businesses like to pretend that they seem to know what they are doing with SEO?

Stop developing content for Google rankings in the name of the already extinct “SEO writing.” Don’t build content around keywords. Instead, find a way to include a keyword or two in an otherwise impeccably created piece of content. It’s not about “keyword density” anymore; it’s more about “quality density.”

Thinking Short Term

I’ll take the liberty to amend a small comment that Kivi Leroux Miller, author, coach, consultant and owner of Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog, made on her webinar on “Stupid Marketing Tactics That Don’t Work” about why it’s mostly self-abortive to create long-term plans for content marketing:

“Knowing content marketing is long-term? Clever. Creating long-term plans for content marketing? Stupid.”

For one, you can’t foresee what holds the interest of your readers too far into the future.

Second, planning that far into the future makes your content marketing sound like a rigid governmental mandate and takes away the fun of publishing what’s more relevant and pressing.

Third, planning that far doesn’t give you room to tweak with the creative flair that marketing really is.

Being Egocentric

Writing content about your own business, your company and the weekend retreat you indulged your staff in is stupid on all counts. Mentioning these once as a Twitter update is the only justifiable distribution that makes sense as its important to let stakeholders know that you are indeed a company that makes its work fun, that there are real people behind your products/services, and that you believe in teamwork and togetherness.

Writing a series of blog posts, an entire eBook on why you are such an awesome company (unless you are a GE, Toyota, FedEx, Apple or Starbucks) are a complete waste of your precious resources.

The reason? Your customers don’t really care. Neither should you. What you should care about instead is the immeasurable value you provide for your customers. Worry about the “takeaways” from every piece of content.

Think impact. Not ego self-massaging.

Not Doing What Works

In spite of clear evidence of the resounding success that different pieces of content have achieved, some businesses just don’t get it. 

One look at the Advanced Guide to Content Marketing will tell you that evergreen, detailed content always wins. Lists, detailed reviews, controversial takes on others’ opinions, infographics, videos, podcasts and many other forms of content will all work today.

Not doing what works is stupid. Not believing that content marketing works is a sin.

Content marketing requires long-term wooing, that’s it.

What does your first content creation drive with 10 blog posts, one whitepaper, three slide decks and three videos get you? Nothing. Of course, they’ll pull up a few views and shares but that’s all that happens.

For content marketing to work, you’ll need to stick to it forever. In a romantic style of “feeding love without expectations”, content marketing for your business could be a thankless experience – depending on how you view marketing in the new age. Blogger Mark Manson, for instance, worked continuously and blogged for three years before reaching a milestone of 1,000 visitors to his blog. Now, that’s for a well-crafted blog owned by one person.

What do you need to craft for your business? Go figure.


Rohan Ayyar is responsible for project delivery and campaign management at E2M Solutions, a digital branding agency that focuses on content marketing and leveraging its intangible potential for premium clients.

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