5 Biggest Content Fails — and How You Can Avoid Them

Content Marketing that doesn’t perform? The biggest content fails we’ve seen in several startups and scale-ups — which you better avoid

By Paula Jerez Torres | Co-author: Lana Zöllner

In this article, we’ll spotlight some of the things we have seen fail in many companies we have worked with — and the valuable lessons we can get out of it.

Ready to learn from the biggest fuckups in content marketing? Let’s dive in.

Fail #1 A company blog that looks like the Million Dollar Homepage from 2005

Remember the Million Dollar Homepage from 2005? A massive 1000 x 1000 pixel grid with advertisements from different companies and industries. Well, this is exactly what you want to avoid: inconsistency.

One of the easiest ways to damage your brand is to be inconsistent about your messages, topics, tonality, and frequency. Inconsistency and irregularity can screw you up very quickly and make your customers lose their trust in you. A bunch of content pieces that have little to do with each other and are expressed differently — such as Million Dollar Homepage from 2005 — will leave your audience wondering what you want to communicate and what your brand stands for.

Long story short: content marketing needs two key elements in order to be successful: high-quality content, and long-term commitment.

Fail #2 One piece of content to catch’em all

If you think that one nice piece of content will randomly show up in front of the right people and magically attract potential customers, well — we’re sorry to give you bad news.

Another significant — yet, common — mistake in content marketing is not knowing who you’re creating content for. Even the best piece of content will be useless if nobody can find and consume it. For this reason, you first need to know who you’re writing for and how your content can help them.

Your target audience needs to be a foundational piece of your marketing and communications strategy. You need to have a clear understanding of who your audience is, including the problems they have, the language they use, and where you can reach them. Only then can you ensure your content is in the right place and viewed by the right people

Fail #3 Your CEO is waiting for those leads to hit, while you’re happily counting website visits

Before digging into content, try to answer this question: does your company keep track of its business goals? Such as what they want to achieve, if and when they achieved it, what worked and what didn’t in order to get there, etc.

I hope you can answer yes, or at least I think so.

With content marketing, we are playing the same game. Unclear goals will not only make you lose the money and resources you invested, but it may also lead to inconsistent content, unclear messaging, and even targeting the wrong audience.

Before you start coming up with content ideas and how to promote them across channels, you should first get a clear sense of why you’re creating content. If not, you will be improvising as you go — and without clear goals and a way to track and evaluate them, you won’t have a way to know if your content is helping your company or not.

Fail #4 Four months for 400 words

Come up with a topic, produce the content piece, and publish it. Sounds simple, right?

One thing we’ve seen fail 9 out of 10 times is sticking to timelines. Most teams underestimate the time it takes to manage a content piece from ideation to publishing. You’d be surprised to find out that most bumps on the road occur before or after the actual content production. Let’s take a closer look at what we mean by that:

  1. Idea: Brainstorming meetings with your content creators, regular research, and considering input from other teams in your organization, are some of the aspects that should be defined in clear processes and included in a content strategy.
  2. Production: No matter what type of content you’re publishing (videos, podcasts, articles, etc.), we estimate that only ⅓ of the total hours spent on a content piece flow into the actual production of the first draft. Other steps to include here are potential translations or transcriptions, reviews, and approvals.
  3. Publishing: A thumbnail for YouTube, a header image for an article, or a description for the podcast episode. All these extra assets will need to be ready before publishing. Likewise, the material you’ll need to communicate your content pieces: social media creatives and captions, newsletter teasers, etc.

Fail #5 Feeding the audience, but improvising the menu

Alright, this is a very basic one.

Are you creating content just for the sake of creating content? Do you create content to have something to say or offer to your audience? Then your content isn’t going to take your business anywhere.

We’re not saying your content is not good — perhaps you’re investing your resources in high-quality content. What we’re saying is, do you have a “plan” behind all that content you’re creating? Because if not, then you’re honestly wasting your resources on creating high-quality content that nobody reads.

And we haven’t even talked about what an SEO strategy really is yet. But this could probably fill a whole new article — so stay tuned for more.