If you’re wondering where to turn for answers about why your content marketing seems to be under-performing, you may want to consider a mirror. Then take comfort because you’re not alone.
Joe Pulizzi pointed out at Content Marketing World in September 2015 that marketers believe far too much of their content is falling flat: they said just 30% of their content was effective, which is down from 38% in 2014. That means more of you may be looking for answers.
If your content marketing has slipped from a panacea of awesomeness into a mess of mediocrity, you may need to ask yourself some hard-hitting questions in order to improve. Warning: some of these questions are not for the faint of heart, but to my knowledge no one has ever improved by ignoring the truth.
These questions may be the affirmation that you need to put the answers in focus:
1. Are you unique enough?
Take a deep look and examine whether your content truly stands out from the crowd. How many others are publishing the same type of content, or similar content in the same format? What angle or degree of knowledge makes you different?
2. Are you out of touch with your customers?
Lack of traction could come from not keeping up with customers. Challenge all assumptions, including ones about how your customers’ interests from years, months or weeks ago are still their interests now. How frequently are you engaging in real conversations with them?
3. Is your product good enough?
This might be the most difficult truth to accept, but sometimes marketing doesn’t succeed because, well, the product sucks. Rather than being consigned to a grizzly fate of promoting a product that nobody wants, start the conversation about Product Market Fit (PMV). For starters, read Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday if you haven’t yet.
4. Are you pretending that your sales collateral is content marketing?
Content marketing isn’t determined by the format. A blog post that talks about your features and benefits isn’t really content; it’s a sales brochure.
5. Are you still talking about yourself too much?
I have had arguments with plenty of sales and marketing associates about how often to mention your product in your content. Resist the urge to insert you or your company into content. Too often I see content that would otherwise provide value if not for the number of times it inevitably says, “Look how awesome we are!” If consumers wanted to read that, they would have clicked a different call to action.
6. Are you using too much clickbait?
If your content doesn’t live up to the awesomeness that you’re describing in your link, you may be getting clicks but then disappointing users.
7. Are you too infatuated with views and clicks?
Speaking of clicks, vanity metrics tend to only tell part of the story — often at the expense of true engagement. In fact, sometimes less engagement can be better, like if you get more comments because everyone is telling you you’re wrong!
8. Are your calls to action effective?
Wait, you do have calls to action in your content, right? Are they too obtrusive? Too incognito? In the wrong place?
9. Are you gating content too often? Not often enough?
When to gate content is a raging debate among marketing and sales. Always consider your goals when deciding whether to require name, email and other information. Also consider expectations. We most often expect to be able to view an infographic or video without providing any information, for instance, but don’t mind filling out a form to download a white paper.
10. Are you putting too much stock in curation?
The problem with curation is that many others could be curating the same stuff. It isn’t always a bad strategy, but be mindful that it typically means your content isn’t as unique. What if you spent the same resources curating your own content and repurposing it in different formats?
11. Are you setting the wrong goals?
Building your audience is a common goal of content marketing, but don’t forget the potential to help with retention, brand awareness and conversion at all levels of the funnel.
12. Are you sufficiently optimizing for search?
Don’t forget to maximize the benefits of search. Identify a focus keyword or phrase for each individual page. Use the keyword in the heading (h1), subheading (h2), first paragraph, image alt tags, URL and beginning of the page title if possible. Use it in appropriate context throughout the page.
13. Are you targeting the right audience?
Your content may be dynamite, but it may not gain traction because it isn’t targeted to the right subset of users. Segmenting by behaviors, not demographics, can improve the likelihood that you are reaching those who will engage the most.
14. Are you publishing at the right pace?
Experts agree that we are in “content overload.” Volume is not a sole measure of success. Also at Content Marketing World last year, Jay Baer said, “While content marketing is growing as a discipline, the troubling fact is that the amount of content is growing, and it is growing with uncertain purpose.”
15. Are you spending enough time promoting your content?
The rule of thumb for startups is to spend half of their time on product development and half on promotion/customer acquisition. The same should apply to content: spend just as much time distributing it as you do creating it. That can include amplification through Outbrain, Taboola, etc., as well as pay-per-click and social ads to boost the number of eyes on your best-performing content.
What do you think? What questions are you asking about your content marketing?