Why Content Marketing Isn’t Working for You

May 30, 2018 Carol Forden

Are your content marketing efforts not getting the results you anticipated?

Believe that you’ve followed all best practices and done all that you read and were told, but you are still not getting results?

You’re not alone:

In a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, it found that 88% of the companies use content marketing.  Only 30% of B2B marketers say they are effective at content marketing.

How effective is your content marketing

This illustrates that all this content creation doesn’t seem to be working.

This raises the obvious question, does content marketing work?

Absolutely, without any doubt.  The key is to be aware that it is effortless to go about content marketing wrong and with forethought and planning you can get it right.

There are numerous examples of companies (even in the “boring” old industries, such as insurance) that have significant success with content marketing.

For example, Optum, a health information technology (HIT) firm, utilized a  hub & spoke approach to content marketing to boost lead generation & nurturing campaigns.

For example, Optum created an ebook as a lead generation item called Moneyball Analytics that discussed the power of analytics in healthcare. By using a landing page with content, the eBook was downloaded by readers over 800 times in the first 30 days and generated more than 18,000 quality leads.

I know you think that content marketing is not right for your business, but most likely you’re missing an essential piece of the content marketing success puzzle.

Thankfully, the reasons behind ineffective content marketing strategy are common, and most of them are easy to fix.

Below are some of the most common reasons why your content marketing isn’t working and some advice on how to fix them.

1. You never developed a content strategy

A solid strategy is at the heart of every good marketing campaign, not just content marketing. You name it – social media, SEO, PPC, email marketing, the list goes on and on.

Every marketing plan needs a strategy to be successful.

However, 14% of marketers have no strategy, and 48% had a verbal-only plan (which let’s face it is the same a having no strategy).

Few companies have a documented content marketing strategy

It should be of no surprise that research has consistently shown that having a clear and documented strategy has a direct impact on content effectiveness.

To put it in plain English, a bad strategy is better than no strategy.

With some strategy in place, you can judge and measure if what you’re doing is working or not. When you have no strategy, or at least not a documented one, there is no way to benchmark your efforts or calculate an ROI.

Do you recall your KPIs for this quarter?

Probably not. Stop and document your content strategy if you haven’t already.

Below are the basics of a content marketing successful strategy:

  • Establish content marketing objectives and KPIs – How can you know if your content marketing efforts and articles, keywords and other are successful if you are not clear on what you are attempting to achieve?

Do you aim to increase website visitors?

What is the intent of your content marketing strategy?  Is it for lead nurture and lead generation?

Or maybe improve SEO and page rankings?

Set realistic, clear & timely objectives and KPIs on how you would measure success.

Here is an example:

Objective: Increase new visitors to the company blog, or website or landing page

KPI: 15% increase in new and unique visitors month over month

  •  Build your buyer persona –To run a successful content marketing campaign you need to know who you’re speaking and marketing to. You need to define your target audience before you start.
  • Complete a content audit – Have you been producing content?  You may want to run a content audit. A content audit will help you figure out what to keep, scrap or repurpose & identify existing content gaps.  Content should be written with a spoke and hub mindset.
  • Develop content ideas – Complete keyword research, another tool that you can use is a content idea generator to aid you in coming up with content ideas.
  • Develop an editorial calendar & plan your posts – If you don’t have one, you can use ours.
  • Content creation & distribution– Developing custom content isn’t enough, while content may be king, distribution is queen, and she wears the pants.  This is where the magic happens. You need to put as many resources and effort into distributing and promoting your content as you did with creating it.

Now its time to sit down and document your content strategy.

2. Do you know who your customers are?

A study back in 2005 showed that over an entire day, consumers are exposed to over 3,500 distinct marketing messages.

This number has grown by over 5x in 2018!

So how do you make sure you cut through the advertising clutter and better tailor your brand messages to the people who would be interested in your products or service offering?

The easiest way to do that is to create a buyer persona(s).

HubSpot defines buyer persona as:

A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

Here is an example of a good buyer persona:

What is a buyer persona
Notice that the description is written as if the persona was a real person?

The more detailed your buyer description is, the better understanding you have of your target market and buyer. Your buyer persona should include traits, attitudes, and values such as background, demographics, hobbies & interests, motivations, challenges, goals & common objections.

Most business will have more than one buyer persona, and you need to determine how many target customers your company has. A niche businesses may only have 1 or 2 target customers, and that’s fine. However, services like Hoote Suite will have several distinct groups that can benefit from their social media software.

3. Brands believe its ok to publish average content

Today the internet is crowded with content with more created every day.  Although it may feel overwhelming when you first get started with content marketing, realize that your goal is to produce highly relevant content that engages, informs and educates your target audience.  Not every piece of content will be a unicorn, between 60% & 70% of B2B content created goes unread, and about 30% of Microsoft’s content had never been clicked on.

So, what does this mean for your company?

Investing in creating content that nobody reads is an empty investment, but more importantly that:

Average content no longer cuts it.

Successful content marketing means providing unique content that adds value to your audience. That’s what your site visitors are expecting, and that’s what Google wants to show web searchers.

Below are the very basic criteria every piece of content needs to meet:

  • Content needs to be original
  • It has to be relevant to your audience
  • Content should be well-timed
  • It has to be helpful; no sales pitches disguised as content
  • Provides unique value to the reader
  • It needs to reflect the overall marketing strategy
  • Uses good writing skills
  • Your website has a great user experience

It may feel like its a lot of work to meet the criteria listed above; however, if you start and stay consistent, you’ll be there in no time.   One of the most challenging aspects of content marketing is developing ideas for fresh content.  Along with the time and resources required to create great content.  This requires a commitment to research, time & resources to put behind a one of a kind article of content can be enormous.

Nobody said that doing content marketing is easy, but it is rewarding, generates leads and builds a loyal audience.

4. Content marketing is not a sales pitch

The one constant with content marketing is that great content marketing is not a sales pitch.

Content marketing is not a sales pitch
Source: Marketoonist

Sales driven content and clickbait might get you a few clicks, but visitors are looking for answers to their problems, not sales pitches.

If visitors do not find what they’re looking for, they will leave, increasing your bounce rate.  This will impact your page rankings over time.

You want to ensure that people stay and read your article or blog post.  To do this, you need to meet and even exceeds their expectations.  To do this,  you need to identify their needs.

So, how do you do that? The best way is to do this is to identify the users’ search intent.

Search intent is:

Identifying primary topics and questions that people are looking to answer when searching for a specific term, then creating content that addresses the user’s needs.

In plain English, search intent is the searcher’s intentions when performing a Google search.

The 3 main categories of search intent that you need to focus on:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional

Below are a few practical examples of every type of search query:

Types of search intent
Source: CoSchedule

A 15-minute brainstorming session and you can develop plenty of questions that can help you investigate and identify user intent; you can also use Google suggested search for others.

Here are a few questions to help you get started:

  • What were visitors searching, what keyword string do they use when they arrived on your website?
  • What problems where they looking for answers on or hoping to get from your content?
  • What other semantic searches could your content answered?
  • Why made the searcher choose to land on your page and not another?
  • What makes your meta description unique?

Understanding searcher intent will help you drive qualified traffic, improve the user experience and also identify missed opportunities & content gaps.

5. No clear call-to-action (CTA) in your content

The CTA button is one of the most essential and critical tools that every digital marketer has at their disposal.

A CTA refers to the buttons that encourage visitors to take a specific action, whether it’s reading more articles, scheduling a demo, downloading an ebook or requesting a quote.

  • “Subscribe to our newsletter.”
  • “Download…”
  • “Start a free trial.”

Every website and landing page needs a call-to-action

It is well documented that 75% of your blog traffic is information searchers. This means that these readers are not yet sales-ready and are either early or mid-funnel visitors.

A CTA that is effective can help you:

  • Nurture visitors through the funnel
  • Provide clear expectation of the next step
  • Generate Leads
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Capitalise on your content efforts
  • Improve customer experience by assisting visitors to fulfill a need or solve another problem
  • Grow your email list

Below are a few examples of effective CTA buttons that make you want to click to learn more:

Example of a strong call-to-action button
Source: UrbanMassage’s home page
Home page with a strong call-to-action (CTA) button
Source: Neil Patel’s home page
Spotify's home page CTA
Source:  Spotify Homepage
  • Notice that they are all focused on a single next action?
  • How the surrounding images, colors & text complement the button and make it more effective?

The design of a successful CTA takes into consideration more than just the text itself. It also includes elements such as button design, color, and position, background color, surrounding images and text.

6. The Queen is your distribution & promotion plan

After you have spent hours brainstorming, writing and editing your new blog post, and created a custom image for it, you’re feeling pretty good and are confident that the article is going to go viral. After hitting the “publish” button and waiting for the traffic to pouring in for a few days.  You then check your Google Analytics stats and see, nothing, no traffic, no readers of the article and you wonder what went wrong.

Sound familiar, doesn’t it? Thought so.

Everybody tells you that to excel in content marketing you need to create great content that educates, informs, inspires or entertains your target audience.

What nobody tells you is that content creation is just the first part of a two-part rule.

The second rule is promotion and distribution.

A good rule of thumb is that for every piece of content you create, you need to invest an equal amount of time and effort in content promotion and distribution as you did in creation.

Content requires promotion and distribution, and you need to jump start the initial traction for your content through promotion initiatives that target your audience and personas. The failure to have an active outreach and promotion plan is more common than you may realize and without one, chances are even your best content will go unnoticed.

How to promote your content?

The most comprehensive promotion & distribution strategies, use owned, earned & paid media. That stated you need to adjust your promotion strategy according to time, budget & internal resources.

For example, you want to invest more time & resources promoting a cornerstone content piece or an eBook than a regular entry on your blog.

Content Distribution - paid, owned and earned media

Below are a few ways to promote a single blog post to increase your reach:

  • Email your internal teams and have them share it on their social media channels
  • Create an e-newsletter and email it to your subscribers
  • Share your content on social media channels
  • Repurpose content from article to videos and infographics
  • Add new content to your email signature
  • Publish on Medium
  • Post to Reddit
  • Write a weekly round-up post
  • Practice proper internal linking using a hub and spoke approach
  • Post a portion of your content or mention it with a link when you comment on other websites and forums
  • Rach out to and pitch influencers & other bloggers and ask them to share your content
  • Use native advertising to reach your target audience

7. Your content needs to be search engine friendly

Content and SEO go hand in hand. If your website has bad SEO, then nobody is going discover your content, and there is no point producing content nobody will read.

So, before you start producing content, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the basic SEO principles.

If you’re running your website on a CMS platform like WordPress, you can also install an SEO plugin, such as Yoast which will help you optimize your content.


The last thing you want to do is get discouraged with your content marketing efforts are not paying off immediately.  No one hits a home run at their first at-bat.  It takes time, and continuous effort and every many businesses are facing the same challenges as you are.

I’m willing to bet that the reason why content marketing is not working for you is already on this list.

Happily, with a few adjustments, planning and effort this is easy to address and correct.  There is a fix for every mistake, and by identifying where your gaps and mistakes are, you are more than halfway there.

Realize that content marketing is a long-term investment and an asset to your business, it continues to pay dividends and drives traffic.  Unlike ads that are only effective while they are run.  The key is to be patient and give your content time to start paying off, it will.

The biggest mistake you can make is to quit; most people quit just when they are about to see the results of their effort.

What other content marketing struggles you have faced?