Did you know that more than 40% of a business’ revenue is captured through organic traffic?
That’s why the majority of businesses are spending up to $5,000 per month on SEO.
But there’s a problem: If you’re not creating content that drives your target audience and convinces them to stick around, working your way up to position one will be a tough slog–meaning your SEO budget could be going to waste.
And, with 55% of marketers planning to increase their content marketing budgets over the coming year, competition is fiercer than ever.
Crafting content that shoots to the top of Google’s ranks is tricky.
There’s the ever-possible chance of investing time into 3,000-word blog posts that fail to make an impact–not to mention the several algorithm updates that spring on us unexpectedly (with the most recent one resulting in websites losing 50%+ of their organic traffic).
Don’t fancy overhauling your entire content strategy?
I don’t blame you.
But you will need to fix these content marketing mistakes if you’re to stand any chance at driving organic traffic.
Wait. Do you even understand SEO? 🤷♀️
I spoke to Jacob McMillen, and he told me how a lack of SEO understanding is a content marketing mistake in itself.
“One of the biggest mistakes I see among the newer generation of content marketers is a lack of SEO fundamentals.
Today, Google’s algorithm improvements have allowed brands and marketers to rank and bring in organic traffic solely through focusing on quality content (or sometimes even just content volume), and while this is a net positive for the web, it has resulted in many marketers falsely believing that those critical SEO fundamentals are no longer needed.
The reality is that even today, running content marketing without rock-solid keyword analysis, on-page SEO, and link building is like a 5-year-old swinging at a piñata while blindfolded.
Sure you’ll land some hits, but you’ll also be wasting a ton of time and energy batting the air for every hit you land.”
Marketers need to know what it takes to build a bulletproof content marketing strategy–but they also need to know how that relates to SEO, and the strings they need to pull (or more accurately, steps they need to take) to rank their content organically.
Once you’ve mastered that, these are the mistakes you’ll need to avoid:
1. Leaving old content to go stale
It’s easy to think that everything in the marketing world needs to move fast.
That’s true if you’re emailing customer post-purchase, or retargeting customers on Facebook within a week of them visiting your website.
But content marketing? It doesn’t need to go that fast–especially if the resources you’re creating are evergreen (like a “how to” blog post).
You can often see great success by working with what you’ve already got.
- Constantly producing new content can be a waste of time.
- The old content you’ve already invested time, effort and $$$ into could drive thousands of organic visitors if you spent an hour updating it.
Google views constantly-updated content as “fresh”. And, you guessed it: It’s a ranking factor in their algorithm.
My friend and fellow B2B content marketer Jordie Black has the proof.
After updating her client’s content and making it “fresh”, organic traffic to the blog post increased by 1034%:
But even if you don’t make drastic changes to your old content, Tom Demers says:
There is often a “power law” that applies to existing posts where a small number of older posts drive a significant percentage of traffic (maybe 10-20% from the top two posts and as much as 75-80% from the top 25-50 posts).
This can happen even if their previous content creation efforts were uneven and not particularly focused on SEO.
Those posts have not been updated in several months or even years.
When updated, those posts can frequently see a 15-30% increase, which is significant since those posts already represent a significant portion of the site’s overall traffic.
In a nutshell: You could be missing out on a 15% increase in organic traffic, at least, if you’re not updating old content.
So, how do you determine which pages you should start with?
You’ve got two options:
- Head over to Google Analytics and find pages with declining search traffic
- Use Google Search Console to identify pages loitering on page #2 that could do with a ranking boost
Then, for each piece of content, “freshen” it up by:
- Inserting new graphics
- Referencing new data, surveys or studies
- Reaching out to experts and adding-in new quotes
- Checking/replacing broken links using SEO Minion
- Adding links to content you’ve published recently
- Performing keyword research again, and including keywords that are growing in popularity using Google Trends
2. Not deleting (or optimizing) auto-generated pages
If you’re publishing new content regularly, there’s a chance that your CMS is automatically generating new pages on your behalf.
Sounds like a nice helping hand, right?
It’s not always the best help.
Allowing hundreds of auto-generated pages to clutter your site could put you at an SEO disadvantage–especially when they’re left to go stale.
(And that happens quickly when over 300 million blog posts are published daily.)
Pages automatically generated by your CMS, such as:
- Category pages
- Tag pages
- Author pages
…can quickly fall off your radar. (Or go completely unnoticed.)
That leads to a ton of low-quality pages bringing down the overall credibility of your website–and could cost you those all-important rankings.
So, how do you fix it and get back in Google’s good books?
Search through your CMS and see whether you’ve got any of those low-quality, automatically generated pages.
For each, you’ve got two options:
- Optimize them: Refreshing meta tags; adding alt text for images; writing fresh content; optimizing for a long-tail keyword
- OR delete them: and redirect the old URL to a better quality, relevant page
Feel nervous about deleting or redirecting pages because you’re losing a fair amount of pages indexed by Google?
Quickbooks doubled their search traffic by deleting a 40% of the content from their resource center. That extra traffic contributed to a 72% increase in signups.
Remember: It’s quality that counts–not quantity.
3. Publishing awful user-generated content
Opening your site to contributors is a fantastic way to generate content on a larger scale. But if you’re not carefully monitoring the content being published by your network, you could be undoing the SEO strategy you’ve already got in place.
Why? Because external contributors to your website could be posting:
- Spun content
- Overly promotional content
- Content optimized for a long-tail keyword you’re already targeting elsewhere
- Duplicate content
- Thin content
None of which are favored by Google. (In fact, you could be penalized by posting some of them.)
Resolve this from becoming a huge SEO disaster by enforcing a strict set of contributor guidelines.
Stop giving contributors the power to publish something without your approval, and don’t be afraid of rejecting content that doesn’t fit your guidelines.
Google’s algorithm will reward you for it.
4. Optimizing for the wrong keywords
Keywords are crucial for SEO. That’s no secret.
But finding the keywords you should be targeting on your website is like finding true love.
(A hard search, but worth its weight in gold once you crack the code.)
Optimizing for the wrong keywords–phrases that are related to your business, but don’t bring site visitors who’re ready to hand over their cash after reading what you’ve got to say–could be dragging down your SEO ROI .
Why? Because although you might be driving tons of organic traffic, the people viewing your content aren’t going to buy.
Discover the keywords you should be ranking for by identifying an overarching keyword that matches your product or service. Then, use tools like Ubersuggest to find similar keywords that your audience are likely to be searching for:
Take note of these three metrics:
- Monthly search volume: How many people are searching for the keyword every month? Try to find those with low-medium search volume since they have limited competition, and could be easier to rank for.
- Search trend: Is this keyword increasing or declining in usage? It might be best to steer clear from those on the decline.
- SEO difficulty: How easy would it be to rank for this keyword? Aim for keywords with a score of 30 or below if you’re a new website without much existing ranking power.
You could also run an SEO report on your competitors using tools like SEMrush*, to unveil which search terms your competitors are ranking for (which you aren’t already targeting).
Combine the results of your keyword research, and decide on a combination of short and long-tail phrases.
Make sure making sure each keyword relates to your product/service, or solves a pain point of your target customer.
(For example: If you’re a marketing analytics software, target “track monthly recurring revenue” instead of “why is monthly recurring revenue important”. Your target audience will likely already know the latter.)
Then, begin to create content which targets them on your site.
Once you’ve optimized the entire page for SEO, you should see an uplift in visitors from search engines.
5. Creating more than you’re promoting
Think about the percentage split of your content marketing efforts.
How much time do you spend creating content vs. promoting it?
For many businesses, the “creating” side is much higher than the “promotion” side.
A study by SEMRush found:
- Direct traffic
- Time on site
- Totale referring domains
…are three ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.
Without them, you’d struggle to rank highly–and position yourself in front of people searching the keywords you’re targeting, no matter how well-optimized the post otherwise is.
Self-promotion can solve that problem.
By raising awareness of your content, directing people there and encouraging them to stick around for a long time, you’re improving key on-site metrics like total traffic, time on site and reducing bounce rate.
Why wouldn’t Google want to push your content up the ranks?
To get in on the benefits of self-promotion, follow the 80/20 rule.
Spend 20% of your time creating new content, and 80% promoting the content you’ve got in your arsenal by:
- Posting the URL of your content to your Facebook Page
- Sharing your recent content in online communities (like Slack channels)
- Answering relevant Quora questions, linking back to your site for more information
- Tweeting a quote from your article and tag the person who said it
- Sharing the link with your email list as soon as it gets published
- Sending outreach emails to people you’ve linked-to, asking them to share the content with their audience
Each of these content promotion hacks is bound to drive more traffic to your site.
But the key with content promotion is to share the link with uber-relevant people. Make sure the audience of the place you’re sharing has similar interests to yours, and that the content you’re sharing is on-par (or beating) the type of content they’re already reading.
That gives you the opportunity to generate more on-site engagement, social shares, and gain the attention of publishers looking to link to credible content.
…and be one of the bloggers who report strong results by reaching out to influencers and doing some paid promotion.
6. Forgetting to monitor internal links and 404 errors
Internal links play a huge role in SEO, and helped Ninja Outreach increase their organic traffic by 40%.
Not only do they allow search engine spiders to crawl and index new pages, but they impact user experience–another factor proven to influence a site’s organic rankings.
It goes without saying that each piece of content you’re publishing should contain internal links.
But, the mistake arrives when you’re taking your eye off the ball, and forgetting to monitor the internal links you’re building.
Over time, you might delete pages, change URLs and shift content around your site. And if you’re not redirecting those old URLs to the new page, your internal linking could quickly become a hot mess.
Why? Because those old URLs will lead to 404 pages.
They’re not accessible to people clicking them–leading to poor user experience.
Make sure to include a handful of internal links in each new piece of content, and always redirect old URLs (using a tool like Redirection) to the next, most relevant page.
That way, both Google’s spiders and your human visitors won’t land on a yucky 404 page.
…But what happens when you’ve accidentally mistyped a URL, and point people reading an old blog post to a 404 error page you didn’t recognize existed?
The answer: Optimize your entire 404 error page.
Try to make a broken link fun, and attempt to make your audience feel less frustrated that they didn’t find what they were originally looking for by:
- Adding a link to a search bar to help the user find what they hoped to read
- Linking to your most popular posts
- Giving an exclusive freebie (like an eBook or white paper) to say sorry
As you’ve probably recognized, SEO plays a huge role in any content marketing strategy. Blog posts, product descriptions and whitepapers all impact how Google views your website, and you’ll need to win-over both Google and your current audience if you’re to stand any chance at reaching the top spots.
But as Nichole Elizabeth Demere, B2B SaaS Consultant, explains, you’ll need to write for humans before Google:
The biggest mistake I see is writing for Google, rather than writing for your target audience. Write for people.
Make content original and entertaining enough to share. Write so it’s scannable, with fun images and pull quotes and intriguing headings that make people want to read more.
And link to other posts on related topics to keep those readers on your site, and ensure they’ll come back.
Remember to constantly check the readability and quality of every piece of content you’re publishing–and never sacrifice it for quantity. That’s one of the biggest content marketing mistakes you could make.
You’ll soon start to reap the rewards.
NOTE: This post includes affiliate links, meaning I get commission if you purchase from links with an asterisk (*). But please remember I only recommend tools I personally use and recommend; I wouldn’t point you to a tool I don’t use.
See my full disclosure here.