5 Common Mistakes Made by Content Marketing Agencies
Content marketing is the foundation of inbound lead generation. When part of a strategic marketing plan leveraged with search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing can dramatically increase thought leadership, inbound lead generation, revenue and profits.
Effective content marketing can generate ROI of at least 300% within 9-18 months, sometimes sooner. Unfortunately, ineffective content marketing is more common, can cost several thousand per month and may only result in a handful of leads. How can you tell the good from the bad so you don’t waste a lot of time and money?
Here are five common mistakes made by content marketing agencies, and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Content in a Vacuum
Any content marketing agency who guarantees they can boost your online ranking with content alone is telling you a tired story. With over 409 million people viewing more than 20 billion pages each month on WordPress sites alone, the same old story doesn’t get you anywhere.
Content marketing needs a clear purpose, a compelling message, and must be optimized for search engines and part of a comprehensive marketing strategy. In content marketing, quality wins over quantity, every time.
In 1960, E. Jerome McCarthy laid out a marketing framework known as the Four Ps: product, price, placement (distribution channels), and promotion. All four Ps must work together for effective thought leadership and lead generation. Content marketing is “promotion” and will not work except as part of an overall strategy that includes inbound and outbound marketing.
Content marketing built around quantity, or around doing what everyone else is doing, accomplishes little. Content marketing should create interest in and demand for a product or service, not just promote it explicitly.
A compelling blog can be an excellent link in an email marketing campaign, and higher level content, like case studies and whitepapers, are often central to outbound campaigns. Printing out a case study and mailing it to prospects with a letter – in an envelope! – often leads to a much higher “conversation rate” (up to 50%) compared to 10-20% email open rates, where only 10-20% of those lead to conversations.
Mistake #2: Inexperience
Many content marketing providers employ a revolving door of inexperienced people without a background in the subjects they are writing about, or any B2B experience. While they may be bright, they struggle with learning new material especially if their agency doesn’t have primary market research experience.
Many are low-paid, recent college graduates with little or no reporting or writing experience beyond social media. This leads to high turnover and light, uninspired, and frequently unoriginal content that won’t resonate with your target markets or convert website visits into leads.
Mistake #3: Lack of SEO
We’ve seen websites with hundreds and thousands of blogs and web pages not rank for any important keywords. It’s usually because of a lack of SEO. Without extensive keyword research, thorough on-site optimization and high value links to your website, content won’t rank and generate inbound traffic.
Many content providers claim to have more SEO experience than they really have. One sign is that they can’t explain their SEO processes in a way you can understand.
They also tend to be eager to start pumping out content but neglect to research and create a strategy around keywords. They might use Google Analytics but fail to use other useful tools like Google Search Console and Moz that give insight into current rankings and keyword opportunities for building thought leadership and lead generation.
Keywords need to be worked into the entire structure of the site, including URLs, folders, page titles, meta descriptions, H1 headings, calls-to-action, and body content.
Then you’ll need links from sites with a higher Google PageRank than yours to improve your site’s credibility with Google.
Mistake #4: Quantity over Quality
All content is not equal. Content marketing providers who focus on superficial, top-of-the-funnel content won’t do much to generate leads. “Fluffy” content does little more than create another indexed page on the website.
The content marketing funnel mirrors the sales funnel: the deeper in the funnel, the closer to a sale. For example:
- Top-of-funnel content: “What is content marketing?”
- Mid-funnel content: “How to generate leads with B2B content marketing”
- Bottom-funnel content: “Lead generation best practices for B2B content marketing in manufacturing”
While some top-of-the-funnel content can be useful for prospects wanting to learn the basics, too much can hurt. Deleting excess top-of-funnel content can drive an increase in lead generation even if organic search traffic decreases. This is because top-of-funnel content typically attracts more consumers, students and other unqualified prospects who read a single blog post and leave without viewing anything else – this creates a high bounce rate for the blog, and for the entire site itself if you have a lot of this content. The higher the bounce rate for the site, the harder it is to convert website visitors into a lead. Many SEO experts claim that bounce rate is not an SEO rankings factor, but our experience suggests otherwise.
Copywriters who pump out fluffy content often do so because they lack solid journalism experience and don’t recognize the difference between shallow, derivative content and thoughtful, well-researched writing, especially when they try to create case studies, whitepapers and other forms of higher-level content.
According to a 2019 Demand Gen report on content preferences, case studies are the most valuable content in the B2B sphere – especially case studies that quantify results. Moreover, 41% of respondents reported reading between three and seven pieces of content before contacting a salesperson. If your marketing collateral doesn’t provide content potential clients find valuable, they won’t stick around to learn more.
Mistake #5: Falling into the B2B Social Media Trap
While a social media presence can be useful for B2B companies, some are hyper-focused on it, even though it is not a reliable form of B2B lead generation.
We see many B2B marketers spending thousands of dollars – or worse, thousands of hours – per month with little to show for it other than a few “likes” from vendor salespeople and job applicants.
B2B social media will occasionally generate a lead and can help with recruiting, but these efforts must be balanced with other inbound and outbound lead generation efforts as part of an overall strategy.
Staying Afloat in the Sea of Content
It’s a waste of time and effort to robotically publish content in hopes it will resonate with someone. The ability to analyze the reach and strategic value of content, including a review of web analytics, is not something all companies do, or understand. Expertise in the digital and strategic marketing factors that distinguish result-generating content from content that just takes up space is a rare thing in B2B marketing.
Effective content marketing takes more than just engaging blog posts, case studies and well-researched whitepapers. Blog content is important, but so is creating effective home page and foundational website content that conveys your brand story. Every interaction a potential client has with your content or website should provide the knowledge they need to make decisions about your product or services, or make them want to learn more.
Make sure the agency you hire can provide the strategic mix of inbound and outbound marketing that will elevate your business.