Why Content Marketing Fails – 5 things you need to know BEFORE you write another blog

Before we get to the content marketing fails, let’s look at the big picture. Typically, inbound marketing costs around 61% less per acquisition than traditional outbound marketing and advertising methods such as cold calling and direct mail advertising.  That’s a big difference. Weirdly, although content marketing can work out cheaper than more traditional methods only around 9% of marketers believe their content marketing is highly effective.

So, those that are getting it to work, must be getting it very right.  From our own experience, we’ve certainly seen amazing levels of success just with content marketing.  For example, we recently helped a company generate around £100,000 in revenue within 12 months. Statistical gymnastics aside, one question remains: why do many companies fail with their content marketing?


The main reason?  It’s not easy.

Let’s look at five major content marketing fails, and five solutions you can implement today.

1. Content marketing takes longer to yield results. Many people don’t have the patience

Content marketing depends upon developing a relationship with your customers and earning their trust.  That takes time.  As your audience gets to know you (though your content) they gradually build up familiarity with your brand and what you stand for.  If you are answering their questions, speaking to their aspirations and making them feel comfortable and valued, then they will be naturally inclined to remember and respect your brand.

If you don’t have the patience (and ultimately the respect for your customers this includes) and just bang out content that is ill-considered and over-salesy, then you’ll fail.  You need to make customers feel at home and that they’re in the right place.  Let’s face it, no-one wants a pushy salesman when they’re seeking advice, information or your educated views on something.

In addition, if you are after the SEO ‘gold’ good content can bring, then you need to be patient. It can take a few months before Google picks up your original, well-written content (SEO optimised of course) and starts to deliver high-quality traffic to your site.

Solution: don’t expect instant results and have a strategy for at least 12 months, carefully reviewing each month so you know if you’re on track or not.

2. It takes focus and attention to detail – two things some don’t prioritise enough

Having a well thought out content strategy takes focus and a level of detail that few people possess. Whether it’s a guest blogging strategy or a social media campaign, if you don’t approach this with the right insights and ammunition then it won’t work.

For example, a guest blogging strategy needs to include:

  • properly researched domains for your target keywords
  • correct contact details for the highly ranked domains
  • an approach to those domains that is attractive
  • good writers ready to create content
  • tracking to understand its effectiveness

A lot of business owners (quite understandably) or even in-house marketers don’t have the capacity to run this type of strategy effectively. Worse than this, some marketers may opt for a link-farm style website with a low or even zero domain authority score – something that will actually damage SEO.

A monthly blogging calendar may also present a challenge.  Especially when you consider:

  • Your blogs really need to speak to your customers’ needs every time
  • Not posting regular content is a big turn off and looks sloppy
  • What your customers are searching for needs to be understood and acted upon

Blogging is hard work. And it needs to be good – not only to get people reading it but to satisfy Google’s need for great content – over and above clever SEO optimisation.

“60% of the world’s brands create ‘content’ that is absolutely useless”
The Drum

Solution: Don’t take your eye off the ball. Make sure you have the right people in place to ensure the level of focus and attention to detail your business deserves.

3. Content marketing needs creativity.  Lots of it.

Not everyone is a creative – at least not at first.  Although we all have the potential to be great content creators, for some people that’s just not a comfortable position to be in.  Add to that the responsibility of representing your brand through words, wit and insight (let alone, correct spelling and a reasonable grasp of grammar) it’s easy to see why it’s not everyone’s cup of Oolong.

Blogging is trial by creativity (backed up by data – see below) and if it doesn’t cut the mustard then it may just make your customers look elsewhere.  Being creative under pressure is, in the main, why people commission agencies and why many brands don’t ask their sales team or eCommerce manager to write blogs (well, not a second time anyway).

Continually coming up with interesting and exciting ways of engaging your customers is a skill.  As much as optimising a PPC campaign is a skill.

Solution: hire an in-house copywriter with the right creative credentials or speak to a copywriting agency with an exceptional track record.

4. Content marketing requires a deep understanding of the customer.  Not all brands have that.

Often companies make one of two mistakes when it comes to their content marketing:

  • They talk about themselves too much
  • They misjudge what the customer wants

In extolling the virtues of one’s own brand – whether that be the latest awards you’ve won or harking on about your new office, blowing your own trumpet just makes people cover their ears (or more accurately click away from your site/ignore your tweet etc).

Content marketing is not about you.

It’s about your customer.

And empathising with them is the only way to get results.

“If you can cultivate compassion toward your readers, you will build a deep connection”
Neil Patel

Recently we’ve been working with a very well-known High Street bank. They put empathy at the heart of their communications strategy.  It works.

Many marketers misjudge what the customer wants.  For example, Google recently found out that major brands were absent up to 93% of the time when it came to being there in the search results.


In other words, when people were searching for relevant content to help them make decisions, brands didn’t have high-ranking content that was fulfilling their customer’s needs.

Here are a couple of examples:

  1. If someone is searching for “vegetarian restaurants near Angel tube station” and your veggie noodle bar doesn’t have any content that answers that query well – then you’re invisible each time someone searches.
  2. If you offer landlord insurance and your content doesn’t answer the query “what type of insurance do landlords need?” then again you won’t figure in that part of a potential customer’s journey.

Whatever your product or service, the principle is the same – you need to be there for your customers with your content.

Solution: Learn to empathise with your customers and get some data to guide you.  Use a keyword tool like SEMrush to understand, deeply, what your customers are searching for.

5. Good content marketing needs an understanding of analytics and data

It’s hard for many SME’s to get their heads round analytics and the key metrics data can give them.  Often it’s a matter of dealing with the day to day.  Even much larger brands can be behind the curve with their analytics.

Solution: use a simple package from Moz.com or hire a good analytics person part-time.  You could also consider using an agency that can create actionable monthly reports to keep you up to speed and ensure your content is on track.

Where does this all leave us?

You need a strategy that’s implementable and affordable.  If you are going to reap the undoubted rewards of content marketing you need to be determined, smart and creative – with the data and analytics to back it up.  It’s not easy – and we totally understand why people fail or even don’t bother with content marketing.  However it’s an essential part of the marketing mix – and after 10 years in the business, we completely believe in its power.

About the author: Derryck Strachan

Derryck - profile pic

Derryck has worked as a professional writer and marketer for over 20 years. Since 2005 he has headed up Big Star Copywriting.

This article was first published by Derryck Strachan