I love watching cringey things online. Bloopers, bizarre Reddit threads, the occasional fail of the week video. It’s a weird habit, but for some reason, the discomfort is entertaining — it’s like I’m in a haunted house or on a roller-coaster. What I don’t enjoy, however, is cringey content that is intended to be a positive marketing tactic.
It’s totally human to make a spelling or grammatical error here or there; no one is perfect. But the following five practices could be digging a grave for your content strategy. Some of these things could easily happen by accident (you’re forgiven!). If you’re utilizing any of these practices on purpose, though, allow me to be a good friend and help you make lemonade out of lemons.
The point of content marketing is to earn the trust of your readers — that’s why it’s successful. People are bombarded with ads all day long; the last thing they want is to have another sales pitch thrown in their face while they’re trying to read a blog post and learn something. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good shameless plug. (Your puppy really is the cutest canine on all of Instagram.) But there’s a way to show off your brand without being overly promotional and irritating your audience.
Avoid using language in your content that encourages your readers to buy something from you right then and there. It sounds counterproductive, since sales are always a goal, but trust me on this one. Try showing your readers why they should buy something from you. You’re the expert, so educate them on what they need to solve their problems. Instead of saying that your product or service is the best, talk about awards that you’ve won or opportunities that you’ve received, such as speaking engagements or press mentions. That way, members of your audience still get the message that you’re successful without feeling like they’re watching a YouTube ad.
We’ve all put a filter on a picture to make ourselves look a little better — it’s fine. But tricking out your website to be something it’s not really isn’t a good look for anyone. If you don’t know what black hat SEO is, it’s a way of manipulating a page on the internet to increase its ranking on search engines. It actually violates the search engines’ terms of service and is mostly used by hackers and virus creators. This can sometimes happen without your knowledge if you hire someone to create and manage your website and haven’t looked into it closely.
You can tell that a site is using black hat SEO if a page is covered with links that provide no value to the reader, has duplicate pages or sneaky redirects, or is consistently bashing a competitor. If you’re creating your own content, you can avoid black hat SEO tactics by asking yourself whether every link you’re inserting serves a purpose. Are the keywords you’re using beneficial for the content, or are they a way of trying to climb the search engine ranks? If you outsource your content, make sure that the creators you’re working with have good values when it comes to SEO practices and are using your keyword list for good, not evil.
When creating content, it’s essential that you consider who you are speaking to and what you want them to gain from your content. Think about your buyer personas and what they’re looking to learn about your product or service. If you need help figuring out who your audience members are, what content interests them, and how you can target them best, check out NetLine’s Audience Explorer.
Also, find out what real-life questions your leads are asking during sales calls. What do your sales reps find themselves explaining to customers frequently? Those are the kinds of topics your content should be addressing. While it might seem fun to create content about life around the office or the latest branding initiatives your company is undertaking, think of the value prospective and current customers could get from reading it. If the answer is “little to none,” then direct your content creation efforts elsewhere. Content can make a huge difference for both marketing and sales, but only if it truly speaks to your audience.
Have you ever ordered a meal at a restaurant, and when it arrives, you see that it’s a teensy-weensy portion with a squiggle of sauce on a glistening giant plate? Deciding to leave hungry and get french fries on the drive home is almost never a fun conversation to have with yourself. When it comes to content, you don’t want your readers to have to go out for seconds just to get their questions answered. Make sure that what you’re delivering provides enough information that your readers feel satisfied and have learned something.
On the other hand, you don’t want overwhelm them with more than they can handle, like a teenaged boy in a buffet line. The sad truth is, there’s no one right length for content. You definitely have to use some judgment here — there isn’t an equation for it. Try to focus on making sure your content is clear, concise, and easy to read. If the subject you’re covering requires you to go into more detail, then let that be a piece of longer-form content. But don’t ramble on only to end up making a piece longer than it needs to be.
If you take your marketing seriously, it’s an absolute must to track the metrics of your website and content. It’s the only way that you can truly know whether what you’re doing is working or not. One of my favorite quotes is from professional tennis player Billie Jean King: “Champions adjust.” In order to be successful, you have to make changes based on what you’re currently seeing.
Finding out that content creators are not tracking the metrics of their content is alarming. Everyone with a website should be paying attention to Google Analytics. And if you’re using a marketing automation platform, be sure to keep tabs on what is performing well so that you can build on successful practices and nix the unsuccessful ones.
If you think that you are committing one of these content crimes, everything can still be OK — provided you go and sin no more. Content marketing is absolutely worth your time and effort, and the results that come from doing it correctly can completely change the way your company thinks about sales and marketing.
Now, while you mull all of that over, I’m going to go back to watching cringey YouTube videos.
Newsrooms don’t have craft beer, chalkboard walls, and ping-pong tables, so I switched from journalism to marketing. I stayed because I truly believe that every company has a unique story and that content marketing is the most authentic way to use it for good.