Did you know 70% of savvy marketers rely on content marketing to engage their audience and beat the competition?

What makes content marketing so effective is its diversity and relative simplicity. But many marketers fail to reap the immense benefits of content marketing because they put their efforts in the wrong direction. 

Content marketing isn’t about randomly creating content and hoping that it’ll get you the results you expect. As a small business, you have only as much room for making mistakes and finding your own path.

So, here are the top 15 content marketing mistakes small businesses typically make that can cripple their progress. Avoid them and you’ll save your time, money, and effort by using your resources in the right way. 

Not Incorporating Brand Identity Into Content

As a small business, you think branding isn’t that important just yet… because your focus is getting quick sales and meeting your bottom line ASAP. 

Most people today understand the importance of SEO, valuable content, backlinks, and all that jazz… but very few of your competitors will be focusing on making their content memorable. That’s where branding comes!

It makes you and your message memorable. People remember you and when they’re ready to spend money, they seek you out of the crowd. Successful businesses incorporate their brand identity into their content creation at all levels. 

Wolven is an emerging clothing brand with a strong brand value. Their brand identity revolves around wolfpack symbolism with the ethos of loyalty, diversity, companionship, unity, and power. This brand identity reflects in their images, color choices, and the selection of their words which all tie down perfectly to their message. 

Not Being Able to Identify a Target Audience

No product or service is universally appealing. No matter what your product or service may be, it will only attract a specific type of audience. Many businesses end up losing potential buyers because they fail to tailor their message according to their target audience. 

Zeroing on your target audience should be a part of your business strategy long before you start your marketing efforts. It should be a part of the conversation when you’re designing your products or services. By defining your audience, you will be able to position your brand in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd. 

Here are a few ways you can identify your target audience: 

  • Create customer personas for your target audience
  • Conduct user surveys on social media
  • Use Facebook Insights to understand the target audience

If you have a clear picture of who your ideal customers are, you will be in a better position to tailor your content accordingly. 

Not Giving Enough Thought to Content Distribution

Having the best products and creating killer content is hardly enough if you don’t plan how you’re going to put your content in front of your ideal customers.

Stats reveal that 94% of all content doesn’t generate a single backlink while 1.3% of the content gets 75% of social shares. And, the reason is not the quality of the content but its distribution. 

Hiring expert writers and creating valuable content is only one part of your content marketing strategy. Whether you limit yourself to organic distribution methods or opt for the paid ones, you should be very clear about it and leverage all the opportunities fully. 

Content distribution channels depend on content type and your budget. They also depend on where your target audience hangs out. We can divide distribution channels into three categories:

  • Owned Content Distribution: For example blogs, email marketing, social media, etc.
  • Earned Content Distribution: For example press coverage, organic links, guest contributions, reviews, and shares.
  • Paid Content Distribution: For example CPC and social media ads. 

No Long Term Strategy

Content marketing success depends on a solid long-term strategy. It’s a race between the hare and the tortoise, where the tortoise wins because of its consistent effort. You need to show up for your audience every single day to build a loyal following. 

A long-term content marketing strategy allows you to plan this presence in alignment with your specific goals. It takes into account the money or resources spent on content creation and the expected return on this investment. 

With a long-term content strategy in place, you enjoy the peace of mind that your goals are set and you have a plan of action to achieve them. With the strategy in place, you are better equipped to adapt your content to meet changing audience expectations and market trends. 

With this high-level view of your goals, investments, and the role of content, you are less likely to neglect content marketing as an expendable business operation during trying times which are common for small businesses and startups. As a result, you can stay consistent in your content marketing efforts and win over your customers gradually.

Ignoring the Competition 

While you do need to differentiate yourself from your competitors, ignoring them altogether can bite you in the back. In fact, from keyword research to creating the best, most valuable content for your audience, you should keep an eye on your competitors to outrank them. 

You can use tools like Ahref and Semrush to determine what specific keywords are ranking them higher in the Google search. Notice:

  • What type of content is bringing them the greatest traffic? Is it infographics, video content, or good old blog posts? 
  • How many backlinks do they have?
  • Are they utilizing paid advertisement or they rely heavily on organic reach?
  • How often do they post new content?
  • Which are their most active social platforms?
  • Where are the gaps, what are their weaknesses?

All this information will help you determine what it’ll take to outsmart the competition? How can you win over your ideal customers who are already loyal to other established brands?

Conduct a SWOT analysis of your own weaknesses, and strengths, and match them to market trends to decide the direction for your content marketing efforts.  

Trying to Do All Yourself

Many small business owners are hesitant to hire professionals because they think their unique product angle is too complicated for others to grasp. They feel like they should create the content and distribute it to their audience themselves to convey their message precisely. But, because they’re not the experts, they can fail to effectively communicate their message to their audience.

In the end, they end up wasting a lot of resources and time. Sometimes it pays to get an external expert to get a new angle for your message. If your content marketing efforts are falling short, contact a content marketing expert before wasting any more resources. They will be able to identify the root of the problem. For example, if your content is weak, you may need to hire professional content writers who are experts in your niche. 

You should also hire SEO experts, keyword researchers, and social media marketing experts to make sure your content can rank easily and reach the target audience. Not hiring the experts wastes the money spent on content creation because your efforts are not fully optimized to get the desired ROI.

Ignoring Customers’ Wants and Needs

Content marketing success relies on valuable content that fulfills your customers’ wants and needs. Whether you write blogs or produce video content, it must answer your customers’ questions and position your product or services as a viable solution. 

Your content is your chance to show your customers that you understand their dreams and aspirations. You know what they want and what bothers them, and that, your product and services will help them achieve their goals; your products can make a difference in their lives.

Many small business brands struggle to understand what their customers want from them. The easiest way to know is to put yourself in their shoes. Identify what your services or products can do for them. 

For example, if you’re a real estate agent, you can create content that helps your customers understand what it takes to buy or sell a house or move to a different area.

This way you can capture the attention of your target audience i.e. people looking for real estate services. When you produce content that consistently answers their questions and addresses their pain points, they will seek you out actively whenever they need advice or your services. 

Over time your readers will begin to trust your brand, rely on your services, and become your brand advocates offering incredible word-of-mouth publicity. 

Not Tracking Your Performance

The only way to improve your content is to be able to figure out what works and what does not. As soon as you set up your website, link it to Google Analytics and it will start collecting data. It can help you gather data about website traffic, product impressions, the growth of your business, and a lot more metrics. Even if you don’t know how to benefit from this data, you can hire an expert to get the insights at any point.

Tracking the performance of individual content pieces allows you to identify the best performing content. Then you can analyze it to mimic that success and align all the content according to reader expectations. 

In the absence of an expert, tracking every content detail might not be possible for you. But these essential key performance indicators can help you determine if you’re on the right track.

  • Site Traffic
  • Audience Engagement
  • Ranking in SERP
  • Increased Dwell Time
  • Conversions

Using Only A Single Content-Type

It’s a fact that blogging is one of the simplest and most productive content formats but you shouldn’t limit yourself. Content types are way more diverse than business owners typically assume. Moreover, not all topics suit only one type of content. Some topics are best covered as blogs while some info is best presented as an infographic or a video presentation. 

Did you know 91% of people prefer visual content whereas 67% of B2B marketers create infographics to target specific audiences? Similarly, video content is typically a hit with most customers. So, relying on any single form of content means you’re overlooking the needs of potential customers and boring your audience.

Understandably, some small businesses may not have the means to create new content often. But you can always repurpose your existing content by creating it in other formats such as videos, infographics, quizzes, slideshows, and downloadable pdfs. 

Not Making Enough Evergreen Content

Evergreen content is the backbone of any content strategy. It’s the content that never goes stale and stays relevant no matter what other topics trend in or trend out in your niche. It takes an effort to identify such topics and produce in-depth evergreen content. That’s why many small businesses postpone creating it in favor of quick content about what’s trending now.

But it’s a recipe for disaster because you end up playing a never-ending chase to stay relevant. Moreover, when the topics fall out of trend, your content can become largely useless. 

Evergreen content builds up traffic gradually but surely. For example, taking the example of a real estate agent again, a comprehensive guide about the cost of selling a house like this will never go out of trend. All the author needs to do is, update the prices as time goes by, and the article will keep bringing highly qualified traffic their way. 

But how do you determine what topics can remain beneficial for a longer period? Check the topics in Google Trends and see how they fare over time. You should also evaluate your competitor’s content to find the topics that have been bringing them consistent traffic for many years. 

For instance, look at the search term ‘types of evergreen content,’ the featured snippet is a BuzzSumo blog from 2017 while the first three SERP results are blogs from 2016, 2018, and 2019 ranking above newer blogs written in 2020 because of the value they deliver. 

Long-form articles receive 77% more clicks as compared to short term articles because they pack more value and provide complete insights to readers. 

Not Adding CTAs

So, you’ve created powerful content that is leading many readers to your website. Now what? If you’re not leading them anywhere, i.e. you haven’t added any CTA to your content, how can you expect to gain any benefit from all this traffic!

Depending on the type of services you provide, you should always have a defined call-to-action at the end or any other suitable place within your content. Don’t assume that your audience will know what to do next once they’ve read your blog or watched your video. Adding a CTA is the only way to catch your leads and convert them to achieve your content goals. 

The CTA can be anything depending on the goal of that particular content. Some common CTAs are:

  • Subscribe to the newsletter
  • Book a Consultation
  • Download the white paper
  • Get discount
  • Read more

Without a CTA, your audience would rarely know what to do and all the traffic will go back without converting into sales. For example, look at the seamless addition of CTAs in Neil Patel’s blogs.

Focusing on Sales Instead of Adding Value

There’s only one encompassing goal of all the marketing efforts, and that is to make sales! It may sound counterintuitive but focusing on sales won’t get you far in this over-competitive world of eCommerce.  

Content marketing focuses on providing value to the customers without compelling them to make a purchase. Unlike paid advertisements that only aim to boost sales, content marketing empowers buyers to make sound purchasing decisions whenever they’re ready to buy.

If your content is on-point and unbiased, your audience will value your honesty and buy from you without you ever boasting your products or using sleazy sales tactics. Focusing too much on sales can negatively impact your bottom line as your audience won’t be able to trust your brand and doubt the valuable information you provide. 

Their Content Lacks Quality

Google is smart today and it loves quality content, the content that solves readers’ problems, brings them value, and earns organic shares and mentions. The quality of your content can be a big differentiator between you and your competitors.  

Did you know 90% of the content doesn’t make it to the first page of Google? It’s because that content is thin and doesn’t go the extra mile to fully answer users’ queries or solve their problems. 

Here are a few tactics that can help you create quality content and increase your worth in customers’ eyes.

  • Define your content marketing objective
  • Keep your ideal customers on the radar
  • Understand what makes your customers happy
  • Optimize content for search intent 

Google ranks content that fulfills search intent i.e. the reason why someone is searching for those queries in the first place. Quality content is a win-win as it pleases Google and the readers equally and positions you as an authority in your industry. 

An Inconsistent Publishing Schedule

Keeping a consistent online presence takes time and dedication but it’s vital to keep your audience engaged. When you post regularly according to a set schedule, your audience looks forward to new content from you. In short, they remember you!

Whether you post new content once a week or once a day, it pays to fulfill your readers’ expectations every single time. Many small businesses and startups fail to understand the importance of consistency and publish new content when they feel like it or have time for it. As a result, their followers don’t stick around because they don’t know what to expect. 

Plan your editorial calendar for at least the next three months so that you’re never short of material to publish. Content planning also allows you to create appropriate seasonal content well in advance. You can also create related social media posts and schedule them using various social media scheduling tools

Not Creating Enough Content for Each Funnel Stage

Your marketing strategy should involve content creation for all the three main parts of a sales funnel, i.e. the Awareness, Consideration, and Conversion. The average buyer in the US reads around three to five informational blogs before deciding on buying a certain product. 

If your content isn’t developing a strong bond between your brand and customers’ needs, it can fail to translate leads into sales at any point during the buyer’s’ journey. Therefore you need enough content matching each stage of the sales funnel. 

Here’s the kind of content you can create corresponding to each stage of the buyer’s’ journey:

  • Awareness: At this stage, the person is looking for answers or more information about the problem. You can catch this searcher’s attention through top-notch informational posts, social posts, infographics, videos, and podcasts. 

If the buyer finds your content helpful at this stage, they will typically enter the second stage of the funnel. 

  • Consideration: This is where you engage the user and build a relationship by helping them solve their problem themselves without asking anything in return. The content at this stage can be in-depth guides, ebooks, case studies, free courses, helpful resources, templates, and toolkits. 
  • Purchase: It’s the final stage and the users enter it when they are seriously thinking about buying your product or service. They want to know more about your offers and want to be sure that they’re making the right choice. So go ahead and create demos, post comparisons and customer testimonials, and offer free trials and discounts. 

Typically small businesses have little room for experimenting and making mistakes, but luckily content marketing isn’t a tough nut to crack. Just follow some best practices, avoid these common content marketing mistakes, and call in expert help if your efforts aren’t bearing fruit. Sometimes all it needs is a thorough marketing strategy and some fine-tuning to make the magic happen.