10 Fatal Content Strategy Mistakes Most Businesses Make
Everybody seems to agree by now that you need „great content“ to succeed on the Web. Both social media and search engines require quality content as their business model relies on others, us, to produce that content.
The problem is most businesses don’t get it.
Their execs might repeat the „content is king“ mantra and they even might realize there is a connection between SEO, SMO and content but they don’t act accordingly. Their content strategy is either non-existent or fundamentally flawed.
Today I’d like to summarize the 10 fatal content strategy mistakes most businesses make on their websites. I don’t use the ever present buzzword „content marketing“ for a few reasons. The most important one is: marketing is just part of the content strategy. Also by calling it content marketing you focus on a means not a goal.
Beyond not having a content strategy at all these are the most common content strategy mistakes:
No Content or Pseudo Content
Not having content is an obvious problem many businesses face. It can get even worse though. Many people mistake any type of text or other media for content. They assume that sales copy or advertising is content as well. Product or service descriptions are not content. Content is something that has value by itself. Just consider the other meaning of content, does it make you content as in satisfying you? Does it answer a question, solve a problem, entertain you? Does it make you laugh or angry? Does it make you want to scream out loud „hey, look at this!“?
Low Quality Content
What is low quality content? Content of low quality contains of words without much meaning. Sometimes its repetitive for the sake of SEO or rather the SEO of 10 years ago when „keyword density“ still mattered. It’s not meant to be read by people. It has no visible author and it’s barely readable. Sometimes it tries to be content while it actually sound like an ad or sales copy.
Low quality shallow content is often devoid of any emotion. It’s matter of act and solely descriptive or it’s sheer manipulation trying to convince you without explaining its points. It uses ready made cliches and common phrases. Sentence like „content is king“ are a good example of this. They are sheer repetition.
Your content can be very high quality and despite of it or even because of it boring. It can be a scientific paper or a statistic with really important insights but as long as it’s boring it’s a waste of time. Do you want a handful of specialists to read your content or do you want thousands of people to spread it on the Web? As a business you need to attract crowds even if you just sell to a few people or other businesses. Why? It’s the people who you attracts that make or break your website. Without the wave of appreciation by large numbers of people sharing your content your website will stay obscure.
The Internet is not a book. Even a book has a cover with an image. So don’t treat your visitors like readers of a novel. Make sure to at least add images. With the proliferation of cameras and screencasting tools it’s even by now possible to create good videos by yourself without a whole team of professionals. So why artificially limit yourself? Content creation is not copywriting. Content creation can use a plethora if tools to create content using manifold media. A text that doesn’t even use images is far less likely to be noticed, read and shared on the Web.
Do you waste your best content on Facebook, Google+ or Quora? Are your best ideas, questions and even problems User Generated Content for services who make their money via the content of others? Are you active on social media and social networking sites on a daily basis while your own site or blog rarely gets updates? This is what offsite content is about. It might be useful to some extent as in guest blogging on important blogs but your Facebook page is not the place to dump your best pieces of content.
Facebook like other social sites is only a way to spread the awareness about you and your business. Working for Facebook doesn’t make sense. Spending half of the day on Quora and „blogging“ on Google+ doesn’t pay bills either. Don’t put your best content and spend most of the time on third party sites. Invest time and effort into your site first to then use them to gather attention elsewhere for yourself.
Musicians who publish a new album after five years have to explain why they have been away for so long. The press is talking about a comeback. Nobody even notices that you haven’t been blogging for a year. I mean they notice that your blog is dead or your site hasn’t been updated in ages but nobody will come up and ask you what happened. Unless of course you have a very dedicated fan base. Most businesses don’t have it. So what you actually need to do is to publish content regularly.
It may be once a week or even once a month but the visitor has to know that the content is not a one time event. The reader has to have a reason to come back for more. When there is no more there is no reason to return. There are weeklies and monthly publications on paper as well. You will lose your most ardent readers when they have no way of knowing when to expect the next piece of work. They will simply forget about you.
Many business sites have added a blog in the recent years. That's wonderful. On the other hand it seems that many decision makers were glad that the content problem has been relegated to the „blog reservation“. The bloggers are responsible for it and thus everybody else can take care of „real business“. The only existing content ends up separated on a blog that often is not even visually part of the whole site.
Some business use third party tools so that the blog appears to be a different site than the rest. They blog may even thrive but it doesn’t help the site a lot if there is no real connection. Also giving up content creation for the actual site beacuse of the blog is a huge mistake. What about a glossary, an FAQ, white papers, infographics, educational videos? The blog can’t be an excuse for not creating anything else. Also a blog is just a casual medium in many cases. The types of content mentioned above are much more substantial.
Some content by major publications or websites ends up being „reprinted“ on some many websites that in the end there is barely a way to locate the original source. I don’t even refer to content theft. Just think about so called journalism today. Most stories get produced by the whole sale journalistic factories, Reuters, AP or DPA. Then they end up on dozens of other sites with small changes but generally they just get copied. In large organization or companies you will also see press releases redistributed all over the place.
Heck, even Google who allegedly hates „duplicate content“ republishes some blog postings on other blogs. I don’t even want elaborate on duplicate content when it comes to SEO. It has been covered numerous times by others. Just don’t publish the same content using more than one URL. Strategically speaking ensure that you have unique sources of content and that you publish it just in one place. Don’t solely rely on third parties producing content for more than one website.
Before you even start creating content you have to ask yourself who you are writing, drawing or filming for. This may vary for each piece of content but generally a publication or site has preferred audience, I don’t like the common term „target market“ as we don’t shoot people here and don’t solely market to them. Imagine being on stage and looking into the audience. Imagine the people you want to see down there. Are they female or male? Are they young and wild? Or are they older and more respectable? Do they have to pay an entrance fee or are you playing at free spontaneous open air festival?
Some businesses create content with no audience at all beyond themselves. They write as if they are the only people they talk to. They focus on themselves, only saying „we are doing this and that“. They use terminology no one else understands. They write impersonal monologues. Who is your audience? Your industry peers? Your potential social media fans? Are your customers your audience? Is it the general public? I can’t tell you. You have to find out for yourself first.
As content creators what they do and they rarely will tell you that they are actually content creators. They will be writers, photographers, filmmakers. Do you get the difference? It’s not the focus on the medium, it’s the focus on the outcome. They don’t wake up in the morning and think „today I will create a piece of great content“. When they get inspired the write a poem, a manifesto, they photograph beautiful women or places. For you, the business person, it might be just „content“ at the end of the day. You can’t start the day with the wish to create content because it ends up just fluff. Content is not the goal, it’s the byproduct of creativity and self-expression. Additionally content is just the starting point. It's like a king in chess. You can't win the game with just the king. So just creating content won't suffice.
These mistakes are indeed fatal for your website. Just make one of them and nobody will actually read or share your content. Even if they do they might not even know that you are the author or that your company website is connected to it.
So what now? Now that you know what’s wrong and how to ask the right questions you can start thinking about your content strategy.
I will help you.
I will focus on each one of the above listed points and explain in depth how to actually do it right. So stay tuned and subscribe to my SEO 2.0 blog to read about a proper content strategy in the following weeks and months.
* Creative Commons image by Jon Wiley.