Rubbish contentSo, you’ve committed to content marketing. You’ve hired a small team of writers. You’re ensuring your content has been tweaked with SEO in mind. You’re distributing your content via all the social media channels. Yet, you’re not getting the desired results.

It’s something we’ve heard time and time again, with most having come to the conclusion that content marketing is just not for them. However, by and large, content marketing can be for everyone, which puts the blame back in the court of the brand.

So what is it that you’re doing wrong? The following findings from The Economist Intelligence Unit might point you in the direction of your content marketing failings.

In a recent survey, 530 global executives across a number of different industries were asked to state the main reasons why a piece of content did not succeed in making a positive impression on them.

While the executives have their own reasons for reading content – most likely for research purposes – their responses will still prove useful in indicating where your content marketing efforts might be going wrong:

1. The content read like a sales pitch

Nearly three quarters (71%) of respondents said they are turned off by content when it fails to come across as anything but a sales pitch. Leave any persuasive talk until the end of the piece, in the form of a call to action. Otherwise, you should concentrate on making the content useful for the reader, rather than just a means to flag up how brilliant your brand is – let your readers decide how true that is for themselves.

2. It didn’t read well

For us writing purists, we see the vocation of putting words on a page as an art. However, in the race to get content out to your readers as soon as possible, it’s seemingly too easy to skimp on quality. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, 43% of the executives said that they were halted in progressing through the customer journey set out for them because they were left disappointed by the standard of the writing. Don’t allow quality of writing to suffer in the name of speed of delivery.

3. It explained something that didn’t need explaining

Part of being a content writer is having a nose for what makes a good story. The beauty of content marketing in this day and age is that there are streams of information to make use of – but not all of it will be useful. Don’t waste your readers’ time by presenting them with something that even you wouldn’t be inclined to read, just because you feel under pressure to get something (anything!) written.

4. It was out of date

The world is constantly changing (cliché alert!), but some writers seem to forget that. As a content writer, it is your responsibility to research whether a certain topic will still be poignant and new when you come to publish it. If there are any doubts it will be out of date or ‘yesterday’s news’, don’t run with it. This also highlights the need to get content out into the world as soon as it’s been written and edited.

5. There was too much jargon

While the 20% of respondents who said difficulty in understanding the content was what left them not wanting to find to out more didn’t explicitly mention jargon, you can surmise as much. We are actively engaged with our particular sector on a daily basis, therefore the technical language associated with our industry comes naturally to us. Your readers, however, are not likely to be anywhere near as knowledgeable about it as you are, so don’t fall into the trap of blogging about topics even you find hard to grasp.

6. It was dull

You can pick the most illuminating topic in the world to write about, but if the writing style is drab, or it is presented in something like block text, don’t expect people to read it. Half the battle is getting them to pull up your content in the first place – don’t ruin all that hard work by presenting them with an uninviting design.

7. It was too long

Variety is the spice of life, we are told, and that’s an important mantra to take into content marketing. Sure, go long-form from time to time. But, remember that people simply haven’t got time to get their head round 3000 words worth of your writing each and every day. Likelihood is they will set such a piece aside for when they do have time – but if you ask them to read too many long-form pieces they might start to see your content as unnecessary ‘noise’.

8. It wasn’t trustworthy

Now I’m not saying stay away from the Daily Mail completely, but don’t always take their word for everything. The newspaper is renowned for writing, shall we say, speculative stories (case in point), so it might not be a good idea to start quoting statistics from this source too often. If you do, you can expect your readers to click away from your piece with a hint of doubt. Therefore, make sure any statistics you bring in are well sourced and relevant to the point you are trying to make.

Ben Hollom

August 5, 2015