The 3 Mistakes Companies Make with Content Marketing – Rich Brooks
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Yes, we’re back. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?
It’s funny because early on during COVID I was 8 – 10 guests ahead, and because that was such a long lead time I started not taking on new guests.
But the funny thing about 8 – 10 guests is that after 2 – 3 months, you’re all out of guests!
So, I fired up the engines and started looking into bringing in a fresh selection of high-quality digital marketers, but scheduling headaches and a couple of last minute cancellations due to conflicts caused about a month of downtime.
We’ve started up interviews again, and my plan is to have a great interview next week with Darren Shaw about the just released Local SEO rankings guide. But for this week, I’ve got one of our “flyte school” minutes with John Paglio, our in-house SEO expert, and then I’ll be dipping into the virtual mailbag.
I had planned on holding off on John’s mini-interview until our next guest, but I’ve fielded a couple of great questions this week from clients, and I thought we could talk about them in this episode. To round out the episode, I thought my conversation with John would fit in perfectly.
John and I are talking about SCHEMA…a slightly nerdy, slightly technical aspect of SEO, but if you’re looking to gain an edge on your competition at Google, this is the type of nerdiness you need to know. Let’s check it out…
SCHEMA is definitely something you want to be adding to your site. If you don’t feel comfortable handling it yourself, be sure to talk to your web developer about adding it.
If they look at you quizzically or tell you that it’s not so important, feel free to reach out and we’ll hook you up.
But now, let’s go to the mailbag.
OK, as I stated before, it’s less of a mailbag and more of a retelling of a conversation I had this week.
I have a client who is launching a brand new business. He’s got a lot of industry experience, but he’s launching a disruptive service and needs to develop a content marketing strategy.
During our weekly consulting session he was sharing with me some rough ideas about the types of content he might want to create, although he wasn’t sure how to distribute it. He had thought about creating new content, but also about doing a weekly blog roundup of the best blog posts in his vertical.
I told him that when it comes to developing a content marketing strategy, there are three things I consider: creation, curation, and channels. Basically, all the things he had mentioned.
Creation and curation were about the content itself, while channels were about the delivery.
Creating new content takes time, and creating content that provides value and ranks well can be very time intensive. And you’re not going to grow your business off of one blog post, one podcast, or one YouTube channel. Rather, it’s about regularly, consistently, creating valuable content for your audience that will ultimately move the needle.
Curating content can go quicker, but only if you’re already reading and researching within your industry. Which you should be. If you are already doing this, pulling together some of the most valuable posts can help you gain traction with your prospects, but only if you do this consistently.
I told him that blog roundups were—IMO—a relic of a previous blogging era, and roundup blogs didn’t have a long shelf life, and could actually dilute your SEO for some of your keywords. If a round up post was what he wanted to do, and he felt his audience would find value in it, then he should do it in an email. There are a number of companies that do a great job with a well-curated list delivered via email, often with their own content in the mix.
Moz does a great SEO roundup which I believe is delivered bi-weekly. Although not every article is of interest to me, it does help me keep on top of the ever changing sands of SEO so I usually keep it in my otherwise clean inbox until the next issue arrives so I can go back to it and read other articles as I have time.
Jeffrey Kranz from the Overthink Group does a similar model, although he pulls a couple of key elements from an article or presentation and breaks it down for his readers. Usually it’s about B2B SEO, but obviously this approach could be used in almost any industry. He’s another person who has taken up permanent residence in my inbox.
Whether you go creation or curation, or some mix of the two, channel is an essential consideration. I suggested a curated list of articles is better for an email newsletter because it’s less permanent. You’re delivering this valuable roundup, but I wouldn’t make room for it on my blog/website. It will just fight for prominence and, as I mentioned, search visibility. If you post a weekly roundup of articles on plumbing, it can take away from your work on optimizing other key pages for the same topic…blog posts with YOUR educational content or pages with your persuasive copy that might otherwise get Google’s attention.
Email is the paper plates of digital marketing, and your blog or website is the fine china. There’s a time and place for each.
I shared that because this was a new venture, I wanted to position him as an expert or thought leader, and that meant that he had to create content. If he had the bandwidth, or if he could delegate it, then curation would be a good addition.
he asked me this question:
What mistakes do businesses make with content marketing?
I thought it was a great question, because it gets to the heart of ramping up quickly and avoiding many of the traps companies have fallen into before him.
I immediately came up with three mistakes. Not because three is a magic number, but I do tend to think in threes.
The first one is going too broad. That could be in terms of content or channels or audience.
If your business is distributing sweeteners and food additives to food scientists and other people in R&D, you could go too broad in content by talking about not just the products you carry, but also about products you don’t carry.
Now, there’s an argument to be made that you might want to cover topics that are outside what you can supply to a client. This distributor could talk about products they don’t carry if they’re talking about the benefits of the products they do carry in comparison to those they don’t. That, in and of itself, isn’t going too broad.
But talking about things you could add to food or drink that aren’t relevant to their offerings, say carbonation, would be going too broad. People are looking for expertise. And if you’re an expert in everything, than you’re an expert in nothing.
Great content, the kind that attracts customers and ranks well at Google, takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to create, so any effort you put into your carbonation post takes away from what you can create for a post on starches or sweeteners.
You can also go too broad in channels. There was a time when companies were told to “be everywhere.” Unfortunately, the only way to be everywhere is to drive by at 100 miles an hour. SMBs don’t have time to be everywhere. To post on every channel and engage with their audience in every channel. To answer questions in every channel.
Instead, do some research into where your audience is most likely to hang out, and spend time there. Better to put all your energy into a small, engaged audience on Pinterest than be dropping unseen social media posts on FB, Insta, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, and any other place you can think of.
The company distributing sweeteners shouldn’t be posting pictures of honey and molasses on Instagram, even if they’re insta-worthy. Their audience is likely on LinkedIn and possibly doing searches on Google. Therefore, focusing on LI and blogging makes the most sense right out of the gate.
After you build up an engaged audience on one platform, you can start to expand into other social media outposts.
There are many social media and content channels available to you, but it only makes sense to distribute it where your customers will find it.
The third place you can go too broad is in audiences. There are millions of people searching for sugar, sugar substitutes, and organic sweeteners online. But mostly to add to their morning coffee. Or baked goods. Moms, home ec teachers, and local bakers may all be in the market for these products.
However, this company is only set up to sell in large quantities, and its sales reps are calling on large food producers. Mom (or dad) doesn’t need a semi pulling up in the driveway to dump thousands of pounds of stevia like it’s this season’s mulch delivery.
Many people may want to buy from you, but you only want to create content that addresses your ideal customers’ needs.
So, that was one mistake. Although it had three parts.
The second one is not dedicating enough time to content marketing. This seems pretty self-evident, but even I’m amazed at how long certain things take, especially when there’s more than one person involved.
Over the past few years, it’s become evident that rehabbing old blog posts can be more beneficial than creating new ones, depending on your industry and a lot of other factors. To “speed up” content creation at flyte, we decided that half of our new blog posts would be rehabbed blog posts. Besides the SEO benefits of rehabbing an old post over creating something brand new, we were excited about the time savings.
Turns out, there’s like none.
None time savings.
At least not the way we do it.
Case in point, we recently rehabbed a post on FB Ad Manager from the flyte blog. Between updating the copy, getting new screen grabs, adding expert quotes, editing, posting, creating a lead magnet, creating social share images for FB, Insta, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, posting it to the site, plus all the social promotion and writing and sending the email, plus meetings, plus all the UTM codes, we easily logged 15 – 20 hours or more as a team on that one post.
We had a very aggressive editorial calendar at the beginning of the year, and although 2020 has been our most productive year in ages, we’ve definitely fallen behind. And, we’re OK w/it. We’d rather optimize as much as we can and create the most valuable piece of content possible than just throw blog spaghetti at the wall.
The point is, creating content—great content—takes time. You really need to budget time in your calendar to make it happen. If we didn’t have weekly marketing meetings where we reviewed and updated our editorial and production calendars, I’m not sure we would have published anything.
And podcasts are no easier. For interview podcasts, I spend 1 – 2 hours on all the prep work, which can include finding the guest (or wading through dozens of requests), scheduling a pre-interview chat, gathering data, working up questions, and scheduling the interview. The interview itself is about an hour between hosting the interview, processing the files, writing the email, and then giving them over to my team who then spends a couple of hours, handling the audio editing, transcribing the audio, posting the audio to libsyn, posting the transcript and audio and related files to the website, creating the social share images for FB, Insta, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, publishing the email, promoting it on social, and managing everything else behind the scenes, including UTM codes and tracking…well, it takes a while.
And don’t even get me started about video.
If content marketing is important to your online visibility, lead gen, and sales, block out time in your day for it.
The last big mistake companies make when it comes to content marketing is not having a strategy behind it.
I flashed back to what Chris Brogan said when he keynoted the 2016 AOC Conference: Content marketing is weaponized storytelling. I can tell you to make a bunch of media, but if you don’t put hooks into it telling people how to buy the thing you sell, you’re basically at a bridge, fishing, but you don’t have a hook.
Now, maybe you might argue that if you know who your audience is, and you’re creating content for them, and you’ve blocked out enough time to do so, that you have a content strategy.
Playing off of what Chris said, I’d argue you’re not all the way there.
There are different phases of what marketers lovingly call the customer journey. There are some funnels with 3 phases, others with 5. I found one online that had 10. That’s not a journey, that’s a death march.
Some of the phases that show up in all of these funnels include Awareness, Consideration and Conversion. Some of your content should be around awareness. Just letting people know that your company or product or solution exists.
Some should be dedicated towards consideration. How you stack up to the competition.
Some should be for conversion. The triggers that gets someone to take action now.
The content for each should support the customer’s needs at that point, and move them further down the sales funnel.
So, to avoid the mistakes other content marketers have made before you, narrow your focus, dedicate time in your calendar, and develop a content strategy that moves your ideal customer forward.
It’s easier said than done. I’ve been doing content marketing (even before that’s what it was called) for 20+ years and I still have a ways to go.
As you can tell, because I haven’t had a true interview in about two months.
BTW, this downtime has given some time to reflect on the podcast and on AOC in general. There’s always been a blurry line between where AOC ends and flyte begins. What I’ve come to decide is that AOC is for the DIYer…if you’re looking for actionable tips that are going to help you find that next customer online, AOC is the place to come.
However, we all have bandwidth limits. If you find that something important is beyond your capabilities, or time restraints, or interest, then talk to flyte. If you’re looking to grow your marketing team with a crew of digital marketing experts who live, breathe, and dream about SEO, social media, email marketing, and web design, then I’d love to have a conversation with you.
You can reach out at our website at take flyte.com, at the AOC website, or just find me on social media. I’m therichbrooks on every platform.
I hope you found this helpful. I’d like to say that we’ll be back next week with more amazing guests, but it really depends on if people keep blowing me off!
So, until next time….
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.