5 Content Marketing Mistakes that Even the Pros Make

content marketing mistakes

Do you feel overwhelmed with content marketing? As simple as it sounds, it’s easy to forget that there’s just as much marketing involved in promoting your business as there is content creation. Typically, this task falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing department. If this sounds like the track your content marketing strategy is on, it could be costing you more customers than it’s gaining.

So, how can you make sure you’re developing a solid, actionable content marketing plan? Well, you’ll first have to avoid the following mistakes as they will derail your content strategy. Here’s what to avoid:

Mistake #1: Relying completely on the marketing department

The first and most common mistake is dumping everything on the marketing department. Compared to other departments in the company, the marketing department would be the most logical choice for the job if look at it from the outside. If your company does this, you’re not alone:

content marketing ownership

Content marketing, however, shouldn’t be thought of as purely an extension of marketing, editorial or public relations departments. It should pull from various departments, including design, engineering and even sales, to name a few.

Why? Because the marketing department won’t always know what the best type of content you should be creating. For example, at KISSmetrics, our engineering and design departments recommended various types of content:

  • How to track people – one of the most common questions we get at KISSmetrics is “how do we track people?”. The marketing department can’t write a piece like this as it would require a deep understanding of our technology.
  • How design affects conversion – a lot of our ideal customers are trying to boost their conversion rates. The design team is not only better suited to write a piece like this, but they can also create design examples.
  • How to delay the loading of external javascripts – a lot of people are concerned about their website load time, so one way to improve the speed is to delay external javascripts. An engineer can not only explain how to do this, but he/she can also break down the code you need to use to accomplish this task.

As you can see from the examples above, the marketing department wouldn’t be able to write all of those content pieces. For that reason, it’s important to have many departments in your company involved in your content marketing strategy. Here’s how you can get the other departments involved:

  • Encourage other departments – tell them the benefits of content marketing for the company and for them personally such as increasing their personal brand. An easy way to do this is to also look for people in the company who are already communicating to customers as they are going to be more open to blogging.
  • Create an editorial board for all content pieces – this will act as both a springboard for ideas and a way to keep the brand and voice consistent through all content marketing channels.
  • Create an email alias or Skype group – add all these members so that you can easily communicate with each other the moment an idea hits or a concept piece is finished.

Mistake #2: Running out of steam

Now that you have a team together, you need to focus on the content itself. When a strategy is just launched, it’s all too easy to churn out tons of great ideas and get right to work making them a reality. But at some point, you’ll run out of ideas, and the quality will suffer.

When that happens, here’s what I do:

  • Storytelling – people are attracted to certain kinds of stories: stories of triumph, stories that challenge and stories that inspire. How will your content play a role in helping to tell the kinds of stories that get shared? Just make sure you aren’t mistaking storytelling with storyselling.
  • Answer the questions your customers don’t know how to ask – what are some of the greatest challenges people face with your product? How can they be more successful with it?
  • Add personal touches – one of the biggest problems with most content marketing formulas is that they subtract the person completely and focus entirely on the company and it’s actions.
  • Pay attention to the competition – one of the easiest ways to get new content ideas that are hot is to keep an eye on the competition. You can check out my process of researching the competition in order to come up with creative ideas here.

Now, to check that you were paying attention to the four bullet points above, here is a question: do you know what’s wrong with this example of content marketing from GE?

ge blog

It’s all about GE and its technology, and not about the people they’ve helped or the impact they’ve made. Or better yet, they should have created content that benefits their ideal customer.

Mistake #3: Marketing content only via the company blog

By now, you should know that marketing content on your blog alone isn’t going to cut it. You need to reach out and broaden your focus to include the channels your customers are using.

You need to look at all the possible ways in which content can be shared: social, video, document, slide, infographic and more. Content marketers are often so laser-focused on social media that they completely forget that their audience may also be reading other sites. You can leverage this knowledge by creating other forms of content.

content forms

You should try the following:

  • Turn your video into a guest post
  • Turn a blog post into an infographic and post it on someone else’s site.
  • Interview industry experts via a podcast and try to get them to publish it on their blog.

Once you create the above content pieces, you can then use the following email outreach templates to publish your content on industry related blogs:

Subject: you should blog about [insert your guest blog post topic]

[insert their first name], as an avid reader of [insert their site name] I would love to read about [insert guest blog post topic], and I think your other readers would as well.

Your content on [insert existing post from their website #1, insert existing post from their website #2, and insert existing post from their website #3] are great, but I think you can tie it all together by blogging on [insert guest blog post topic].

I know you are probably busy and won’t blog on it. so I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse. 😉 How about I write it for you? Don’t worry, I’m a great blogger and have had my posts featured on [insert previous guest post URL #1] and [insert previous guest post URL #2].

Let me know if you are interested. I already know your blogging style, plus I understand what your readers love… as I am one. 😉

Look forward to hearing from you,
[insert your name]

The reason you should guest post on a regular basis is that it can do wonders for your search traffic. For example, I wrote 59 guest posts, which help build an extra 117 links into 30 posts on Quick Sprout.

guest posting traffic

As you can see from the image above, the posts I linked to from my guest posts received more search engine traffic than the posts without many external links pointing to them. If you add in the number of leads and sales those guest posts generated, the ROI was huge.

Mistake #4: Not winning customers over

You have the content, but is it really winning customers over? One very common content marketing mistake that’s made with even the best of intentions is to put a positive spin on every piece. For one, your customers aren’t buying it. You and they both know the product or service has flaws or isn’t right for everyone. Every content marketing effort feels more like a sales pitch.

To help avoid this, you may want to invite users to participate in your content marketing efforts. A Vermont ski resort Jay Peak did this by encouraging their users to tag Jay Peak in their instagram photos describing what they love about the mountain. The mention of Jay Peak is secondary to the users emphasizing what they love about skiing there, but the campaign does a great job of sharing the enthusiasm without hyping up the location.

So, how do you do it? You could:

  • Encourage users to pose with your product or showcase your brand name in an unusual way. Nylabone invites their users to post pictures of their dogs using the product, with captions, providing real social proof in a way that marketing videos or photos can’t.
  • Give a shout out to the submitters when you do post their content, since they’re very likely to show both the content and your response to their friends.
  • Focus on feelings rather than the brand itself. Coke’s Happiness is… Tumblr page and Chobani Greek Yogurt’s Pinterest Page don’t always mention the products themselves, but by interacting with the pages, customers grow to associate the brand with those feelings.

Don’t make the mistake of relying completely on user-generated content. Make sure that you check the sources of uploaded pictures or videos before posting and let the customers know upfront that any content they submit becomes the property of your company to do with as you wish. This will help prevent any controversial or legal issues that could crop up if the campaign truly takes on a life of its own.

If you really want to harness the benefits of user-generated content, you should ask for (and respond) to reviews, both good and bad. For many users, knowing that the company cares and is willing to work with them to resolve the issue will diffuse any anger or frustration, which can be the spark that leads to other disgruntled customers jumping on the bandwagon.

Mistake #5: Not measuring the results

The easiest way to gather usable content marketing metrics is to figure out which pages or promotions have the biggest impact on customers, and why. Measuring things like the click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors are all sales-focused metrics. You should also look at:

  • The type of media customers engaged with the most – this is a simple metric and boils down to the number of pages, downloads or other raw data. You can use basic tools like Google Analytics to determine this.
  • Where and how the content was shared socially – you can use services like Hootsuite to track the number of social shares and the channels used to share the content.
  • Whether or not content converted into customers – all your content marketing efforts are wasted if your visitors are not turning into paying customers. Start off by learning who’s doing what on your site, how often they participate, and how soon they made a purchase.

Here is an example of what we track on our KISSmetrics blog:

kissmetrics cohort

As you can see from the image above, content URLs are placed on the left and number of times people visit the blog after reading one of those URLs is at the top. So the higher the percentage, the better the content. If you are writing content that causes a low return visit percentage, it means that you are publishing content that people don’t care to read.

At KISSmetrics we try to optimize our blog for return visits because we know it helps create brand loyalty. In the long run, those visitors are more likely to turn into customers.


It’s never really easy to create a content marketing strategy that works well, but if you avoid the mistakes above, you will be better off.

Out of all the mistakes I’ve listed above, the most common one is not measuring the results. You can’t just dump tons of hours or dollars into a content marketing strategy if you can’t produce a positive ROI. It’s not just about the number of downloads or shares, but about the number of customers who have been gained from consuming the content.

What are some other content marketing mistakes you see being made today? How would you handle them?


  1. Can’t disagree with you Neil,

    You’re right. We should learn from mistakes. 😀

    Keep sharing more interesting stuff like this!

  2. Sorry: I believe I made a mistake when talking about a creative approach that cashyblogs.com used. They just went creative and the entire web is being informed about that by their friends and family via their content.

    One more thing: people forget that content is not only those 1000 or 2000 words that you write over many hours. This is the mistake made by almost all content marketing gurus.

    Content marketing also includes the two or three words that your friends and family post on social media.

  3. Amir @ Blue Mile Media :

    Very boring headlines and the style it’s written in. In the beginning I would just write informative articles for the sake of the link, but you really need to put extra time and captivate the audience. More social shares and links if it’s quality stuff that’s interesting.


  4. Agree – can’t be self-reliant on the marketing team for what could be a wide-spectrum of content at your disposal when looking company wide. However, in the first graph, you ask who “owns content marketing”. Without a doubt, this still has be the the marketing team that holds the accountability/control.

    • John, great point!

    • Arbitrage Reporter :

      Right! @John_C

      It’s the marketing department who should collect relevant info from all departments and create marketing copy and be responsible/accountable, else content marketing will become orphan with too many aunts & uncles and no mom & dad!

  5. Hi Neil,

    All the points mentioned are well thought.

    #1 The first step from where the filter starts working
    It really depends on how well the marketing machinery is working in coordination with the other depts, and specially the Design and product development dept.

    #3 WOM – word of mouth is really the winner and is actually the underdog but it all boils down to how the message has to be conveyed.

    #5 This is the toughest part and no one is ready to invest in analytics to determine the impact and the final result.

    Thanks a lot for sharing. Neil you rock.


  6. Sourav Saha @ Blogaholic :

    Great post Neil! Two things I would like to add:

    1. Create content on what your readers/customers would like to know more. One can use tools like Qualaroo to gather the data on which topic they would like to have the next post on. Ask questions on the Facebook page. Get to know your fans who are the, what are the challenges they are dealing with the most. Sort them out & try to find out an easy solution & make your next piece of content.

    2. As you already mentioned measuring things like the click-through rate, time spent on site, bounce rate and unique visitors are all sales-focused metrics & social shares can be a great measuring point….But also I think one should look into the comments part a bit. It also one of the determining factor of engaging blog content or other social media forms like SlideShare, YouTube etc. And also you can find the next content creation idea from the comments itself.

  7. Les Sheppard :

    Great timing Neil – just got a team together to publish blog content, so we have more variety. #4 and #5 particularly relevant at the moment, as much content seems to be untargeted at the moment…

  8. Bamidele Onibalusi :

    Great post, Neil!

    I can completely relate to your third point on only publishing content on one’s blog; I believe there are two main ways to getting results from content marketing.

    1. Writing great content
    2. Distributing that content

    There are several ways to distribute content but guest blogging seems to be the most popular one right now; just like you, it’s also my favorite and a similar experiment I conducted where I published over 30 guest posts a few years back has resulted in over 100,000 search visitors till date.

    Regarding your closing question I think, with the buzz around content marketing lately, the number one mistake companies and individuals are making is just publishing anything; there’s this recent Hubspot study that revealed that the more content published on a blog, the more likely it is to generate leads. As a result, people are increasing content frequency to generate more leads; in the process, they’re writing crap that isn’t getting results.

    The solution to this is to write more quality posts, like resource posts; you can testify to this due to the success your advanced guide to SEO has. I also experimented with this on my blogs and the results I’ve gotten has been massive – two of the resource posts I published have gotten over 60,000 views and one I recently published on a smaller blog I own doubled overall monthly traffic instantly. I wrote about it here: http://www.youngprepro.com/one-content/

    I talked about your advanced guide to SEO in the above-linked post btw so you might want to check it out 🙂

    Ultimately, I think the key to content marketing success is focusing on quality instead of quantity; your advanced SEO guide took you 6 months to complete but resulted in massive and consistent increase in traffic to your blog. I’ve also noticed this to be the case with any resource post I write.

    Best Regards,

    • Bamidele,
      Thanks for all of this additional information. It was a great read. I will check out the link. Thanks for reading!

  9. Hi Neil,

    Great post, as usual.

    Hey, I was wondering if you’d considered putting together a content marketing course from A – Z.

    I know you’ve written articles about the various components, but was just wondering if you ever though about putting something together for people that wanted more of a comprehensive guide.

    I’m sure others would find it useful (him, hint) 🙂



  10. Darnell Jackson :

    Excellent point Neil,

    Has helped my blog more than measuring results weekly.

    I started documenting my progress and now it’s been six weeks straight that I’ve grown my blog consecutively.

    Minding your online business by watching what’s working and making ‘half time’ adjustments is what it’s all about.

  11. Agree with your points Neil. Yes, we have to learn from our mistakes. Sometimes it takes time to identify our mistakes as we are not aware of them. We have to take instant decisions to move forward. Good read!

  12. Till now I have read it on almost all the premium blogs that Guest posting will do wonders………..May b now it time I should take it seriously.
    So Neil thanks for article………:)

  13. You’re right. We should learn from mistakes.
    Keep sharing more interesting posting like this!
    I like your posting, give me an inspiration .

  14. It’s good to know that even pros make mistakes!

  15. The presentation of the blog in relation with the 5 content marketing mistake is very interesting, through this post many people would find some new and excellent information related to this subject.

  16. Thanks Neil, I was about to write a blog for my site I shall keep in mind the above mentioned mistakes. This will be my superb guide will writing the content. You have always been life saviour to all.

  17. Nora McDougall-Collins :

    The fields of marketing and communications aren’t the same thing. IMHO, organizations make a mistake when they think of their social media as “marketing” instead of as “communications.”

  18. Jeff Molander :

    Re: #4… the way to win someone over without making a sales pitch is to give them a taste of success—-in advance of their even thinking of investing a dime with you.

    By creating a sense of “I CAN have what I want in my life… without breaking the bank / getting fired / having my wife slap me”… a sense of CONFIDENCE in themselves prospects assign trust to the source of their confidence—-you (the content marketer).

    The result: Sometimes customers as YOU for the sale. Your product/service is the next logical step in the journey they’re on with you… via your content.

    Happens to me all the time with my free training course!

    So, Neil, I think you’re on to something with 4 but user generated content—fashioned around playing with the brand name? Focusing on feelings? It just seems weak to me.

    In my experience teaching a prospect a new skill or helping them achieve a goal… avoid an unseen risk using content like an educational series of videos. Solving problems for customers PROVES what you sell is worth it. Yeah?

    • Jeff, you are spot on! There are many ways to get around the brand name dilemma. Teaching skills shows a potential customer your value prop.

  19. Belinda Summers :

    You explained all the points very well Niel. In tip number 3, when I saw your comparison on guest posting, I was more challenge to start. Well, it’s been in our plan but haven’t started it yet. Hope this time we cab be able to materialize that thing. Thanks Niel. I have so much learning from your blog post.

  20. Durban Airport :

    most blog webmasters dont allow commenting because of spamming but what they dont realise is that they are stopping more then 50% of returning traffic.

  21. Shruthi Dominos :

    Hei Neil,

    That was a nice post. I saw your interview on http://searchenginewatch.com. That too was a great input for us


  22. Great article Neil.

  23. I’ve always wondered how you come up with these amazing topics and articles, Neil. But now I think I have a better grasp of your content writing process. Your articles answer questions that people are curious about, and even questions that are at the back of people’s minds.

  24. thank You!
    really have to distinguish between good and bad traffic though..

  25. But most of the team mates unable to write post, So how we can ask them to write something which have unique value. Some months before I read some where the same thing that buy domains for every employee and ask them blog per week as a task. And Announce blogger of the month so this will help to get more powerful content!!!

  26. Reid Peterson :

    Neil, great article. Thanks. I’m wondering if you have all-star practical advice for a solopreneur in the creation of their content marketing. It’s a double edged sword because the solopreneur can’t afford to outsource but has no time to do it themselves. Thoughts?

  27. Connor Harley :

    I totally agree with all your points here especially the first one. There are a lot of ways to market and we can’t just rely on a single one.

  28. Thanks for the post, Neil! Over the last 6 months I’ve taken what I’ve learned from you and a few choice others and completely refreshed my virtualization for beginners blog. I can honestly say I was running out of steam and ready to give up when I saw it flat line after Google’s updates. I’m still learning what to measure but it’s getting better now that I’m following solid advice!

  29. Mike Cowburn :

    Just got round to reading this Neil.

    This article is a nicely crafted piece that is succinct and gets to the core of what good CM should be all about.

    Well done!

  30. Cape Town Airport :

    what about guest bloggers?

  31. Another mistakes that content marketers makes are:
    -Not encourage user generated content, Youtube have done a great job with this, as most of great content made by users.

    -Not aggregate experts to share difference perspective. Oprah has done a great job with content marketing methods.

  32. Thanks neil,, i really appreciate your effort and these tips will really help us alot..

  33. Hello neil !
    You are right, these are those mistakes that even professional use to do. the most important one is “totally relying on the marketing department”. Every department, even every individual should be responsible for the promotion of the product or company.

    • Morton, great point. When all departments work in unison you can really achieve some great results.

  34. Neil I agree with your points. It’s good to know our pros and cons and through your article got additional info like guest postings do make miracles.

    From First paragraph till the end you have penned it accordingly that how to convey the message and in what all possible sources. Your idea that each department held responsible for CM really rocks and instructions will really help us a lot.

    • Lisa, glad you found the post helpful.

      You should really compartmentalize things so that you get the most value from each vertical/channel/topic. Thanks for sharing.

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