A representation of a dart board with a dozen darts completely off the mark

Missing the mark when it comes to good content

Content marketing is a crucial component of SEO strategy, as many companies are discovering. I will write more in the future about why content marketing is so important and why companies should start doing it now. But today I’m going to address something a little more fun: mistakes people make in their content, or, as I prefer to call it, 5 mistakes of bad terrible awful content. Avoid these 5 things like the plague in your own content creation, and you’ll be okay.

1. Bad terrible awful headlines or subject lines

These take many forms, both in articles and emails. For example, some give away the farm. How about this for an article title: “Use table salt to soak up red wine stains.” Why read it?  You know what to use, what it’s for, and how to use it. You won’t learn much more by reading the whole thing. Next.

Others are too spammy. “FREE info to make $10,000 per WEEK in under 5 HOURS!!!” Would you click on this? No. Neither would I.

Finally, some are dull. “Day Spa Newsletter May 2012.” Yawn. Easy to trash.

2. Bad terrible awful writing

This is not to say that anyone without an MFA will produce bad writing. Bad writing in a marketing sense means writing that has no purpose. For instance, think about websites with home page copy that says “welcome to our website.” What does that accomplish? Presumably you know that you’re on their website, and even if you didn’t, does that sentence help you suss out what they do or how they can help you? No. It’s a flabby, pointless sentence that you have to get through before getting to the good stuff.

Other bad elements of bad writing from a marketing perspective include long blocks of text that are not easy to scan; multiple multisyllabic words in run-on sentences that can’t be understood by a 7th grader; and sloppy, error-filled copy.

3. Bad terrible awful “So what?” factor

When it comes to content marketing, businesses must keep in mind that the information they’re providing at every point must have a purpose, as I said above. Most of the time, they want to share information with potential customers that the customers can actually use in their own lives. There’s plenty of interesting information in the world that has no direct impact on your existence – did you know, for instance, that the 10-foot-wide Skinny House in Boston was built out of spite? – but it doesn’t belong in marketing.

One place this really matters is when it comes to the “About Us” section. Many companies want to lead with their own accolades and accomplishments. Wrong! When potential customers are first getting to know about what you have to offer, they don’t care that you’re certified by the CTFA (what is that, anyway?) or that you’ve won awards from other people in your industry (it’s not the Oscars, so no one cares). But after they know what you have to offer, how you can help them, and why they need your help, you can give them that information to help them make the decision about why they should hire you and not your competitor. Simply moving that copy from the beginning to the end can eradicate the “so what?” factor.

4. Bad terrible awful call to action

One mistake is to mention your company too soon or too frequently. Another is not to mention it at all. At the end of your content, whether it’s an email, a video, or something else, you want to remind people who you are and what you do, and ask them to take a particular action. That means they should visit a particular website page (that you link to), or call a particular number (that you give them), or come to a particular place at a particular time (a map is always nice).

Sometimes you see quasi-CTAs that seem like they’re moving the sales cycle forward but are too vague to be useful. For instance, if I get an email that ends like this, I don’t know what to do next: “I’d love to stop by and drop off some information.” Okay. So do I have to call you and tell you to drop by? Do I wait by the door? Will you do it even if I don’t want you to? It’s unclear, and therefore ineffective.

5. Bad terrible awful idea assuming people want what you have because it’s free

There is so much free content out there – 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, well over 150 million blogs by now, countless free newsletters and articles – if you’ve really got something good to share, you have to let people know about it and make them want it. You can’t just say, “Hey guys, I have this ebook, you should download it ‘cause it’s free.” People may not spend money on your content, but they spend their time, and free simply isn’t enough anymore.

Tomorrow: virtues of great, wonderful, fantastic content

Hope this helped. Tomorrow you’ll get even more helpful information on what to do with your content marketing when we turn it around with 5 Keys to Effective Content. Read it! (That’s my call to action for this post.)