Are you pouring your time and money into content… but you aren’t attracting and converting your target audience?
There are (fixable!) mistakes we see – again and again – when working with companies and analyzing content on the web.
If content isn’t working for your company, you’re probably making some of these mistakes.
In this article, we cover 7 common reasons for ineffective content and the solutions.
So, before you throw in the towel, read this article 🙂
Let’s get started!
1. The person writing the content doesn’t understand your target audience or product
Handing off a brief with nothing more than a topic and a few keywords to your writer?
Asking the writer to turn that into a piece of content that attracts and converts your target audience is like asking them to turn water into wine!
Provide your writer with ICPs, personas, and product documentation. Understanding your target audience and how your product solves their problems is necessary for a writer to create revenue-generating content – even if they’re the best content writer out there.
2. You don’t have an editorial style guide
Don’t have an editorial style guide?
In that case, your content is more likely to be disjointed or present conflicting information.
While it’s possible to overcome a lack of established standards, it’s time-consuming – you would have to spend a lot of time (money) editing your content in the absence of guidelines.
3. You are trying to do too much with your budget
In content marketing, less is usually more – spending $1,000 a blog post typically works out better than getting 5x the number of blog posts for $200 a piece.
You obviously want to get as much as possible for your money, but trying to get too much may result in getting nothing.
Branded content – being free to consume – is winner take-all (at its most efficient).
It’s like if gas station sushi cost the same as sushi prepared by the best Japanese chef in the world.
4. Your writer isn’t good enough
Alright, so you’re convinced you need premium content (hopefully!).
Well, here’s the thing:
While great writers are expensive, not all expensive writers are great.
As someone who has hired several writers, here are a few tips to separate the wheat from the chaff:
- Don’t put too much stock into samples. Yes, samples are a good filtering mechanism… but they aren’t the be-all, end-all. Let’s say someone has written 500 articles in their career (many of which are ghostwritten, meaning you couldn’t find their work with a Google search). You ask for a few samples and they send you their 5 very best, maybe heavily edited by someone else. You’re getting their top 1% – NOT what you can expect.
- Good writing is good thinking. Paul Graham once said, “A company asked why it was so hard to hire a good writer. I told them it was because good writing is an illusion: what people call good writing is actually good thinking, and of course good thinkers are rare.” When you communicate with someone via email and interview them (yes, you should talk with a writer on the phone before hiring them), pay attention to how they communicate with you. Do they seem scattered or come across as clear thinkers? The former is unlikely to be a good writer, while the latter is more likely to be a good writer.
- Start slow. So you have a great candidate. Nice! You still don’t know if they’re actually the real deal (in general), or if they can create compelling content for your company. Start with a small number of articles, and take it from there. You don’t want to make a 20 article / $20,000 commitment and then – 2 articles in – realize you hired the wrong person.
5. You are writing about the same thing as everyone else.
If you have the authority of an Investopedia or a NerdWallet, then sure, you can rank on page 1 for the most coveted keywords – in other words, what everyone else is chasing.
But for the other 99.9%+ of websites?
You have to find the non-obvious targets.
Yes, SEO tools have their place in topic selection and keyword research. But if you exclusively rely on them, your results are going to be nothing special (it’s competitive out there!).
So what’s the alternative?
Use original data and unconventional tactics for topic selection and keyword research.
Here are a few resources:
- Guide by SERP Builders where we cover picking the right topics, immediately followed by a section on keyword research.
- Article by Steve Toth about how to find keywords with zero search volume in the tools… but a lot more searches in reality.
- LinkedIn post by Steven Macdonald on “finding topics that show low volume but actually drive traffic.”
6. Not leveraging subject matter experts or original data in your content
Most content is nothing special because it brings nothing fresh to the table. It’s regurgitated.
It would be amazing if you could have someone with first-hand experience write every article.
A restaurant owner writing about how to start a restaurant.
An engineer writing about the benefits of the software he created.
But the chances you find that person, they can write well, AND they are willing/able to write for a reasonable price are very low for any given article.
So, the next best thing (and almost as good!) is finding a great writer with strong general knowledge of your industry, and having them interview subject matter experts and/or use original data for your content.
7. You are neglecting SEO Best Practices
The Google Search algorithm decides whether or not your content ranks, and while content quality directly/indirectly impacts your rankings, implementing SEO best practices heavily impacts your rankings (traffic).
We went over keyword research earlier, but here are a few more SEO tips:
- Optimize title tags and meta descriptions to maximize click-through rates on the SERPs.
- Effectively use internal links – they can send page authority to important pages, help Google understand your site, and make it easier for users to navigate your site.
- Regularly update content for relevance, and to stay ahead of the competition (e.g., update your content if another site publishes a better version)
You can have a huge budget for content and get a poor ROI or have a small budget for content and get an amazing ROI.
Quickly hiring expensive writers with great “reputations” and giving them very little to work with? Good luck.
But if you take an intentional, thorough approach to content, avoiding the common mistakes described in this article, you can get a great ROI from content – even if your budget is on the lower end.