Cold Content Soup is Never a Good Idea – 8 Risks of Failing at Content Strategy

Medieval (8)
 

“Content is the reason search began in the first place”
Lee Odden

With the unbelievably dynamic and diverse competition nowadays and the fact that Content’s Kingdom is about to evolve further in 2016, we will surely be needing a Master Content Strategy plan to be able to work the SEO magic and stay on top of search results.

But with the myriad of information available on this topic, it can be a bit paralyzing to lay out a full functional plan. Regardless of whether you’re a content beginner, a pro, simply a curious reader or an extreme content geek, you’ve most likely come across useful articles on tips to improving your content strategy, tools and metrics to use, guides, etc.

Can we really follow a specific set of rules and guidelines that will make us thrive in Content Strategy if we don’t understand what the risks of failing are in the first place?

Unlikely.

For this purpose we would like to examine this complex content puzzle from a different angle. Let’s take a minute to look at the commonly seen challenges that are preventing you from getting those wanted and much needed clients with perfect content.

The following article will leave you with two main benefits:

Understanding these challenges, their origins and implications – the 1st and most important step to putting your finger on what it is that you could work on to get on the highway to success.

Overcoming these challenges, on the other hand, will not only make your life easier, it will take some weight off the shoulders of search engines, they might even start to like you a bit.

Most importantly, it will help you survive and blossom as a business.

So, ladies and gents, without further ado, here they are!

1. Irrelevant Content

Research gives us a hint that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human. We’re already seeing this trend as we follow the typical online customer’s journey:

 

User Browsing Steps

 

A bit of a ‘ back to basics ‘ moment!

The bottom line is, the necessity for human communication is deteriorating which puts additional pressure and importance on the relevance of the information that is presented to users online.

Looking at the stages above, you can see that you don’t really have a cheat stage where you can re-explain to someone what your web page does or what your products and services are. It’s essential that you get this right from the start.

If you owned a surf store based in California and someone came in to see what you had to offer, would you start talking to them about beauty services in London? (If anyone reading feels like they would – PLEASE contact us, we’d love to hear your story!)

What would that poor person in your surf store do? That’s right – most likely run for the hills! And that’s exactly what your potential customers are doing on the web – bouncing back to Google search results like crazy.

Search engines are designed to help you rank for the words you’ve chosen yourself. If you sell surfboards but your blog is full of beauty procedure content, how will they know what to rank you for? Don’t be surprised if you end up with a bunch of site visitors looking for pedicures.

Irrelevant content not only makes your customers run away but it also guarantees a stinky relationship with those search engines that you’re doomed without.

2. Poor Choice of Keywords

“All I’m armed with is research”

Mike Wallace

Failing to conduct your keyword research is like entering a battlefield naked. Prior to choosing the keywords you would like to rank for, doing some investigating should be your first and foremost step!

  • What are the top searched for keywords in your industry or area of expertise?
  • Who are the main competitors fighting for these keywords?
  • How do you benchmark against them?

Choosing your battlefield is no less important than going armed!

The challenge is with differentiating yourself and choosing alternative, unique long-tail keyphrases. Focusing on long-tail, not as highly competitive, yet relevant to your industry keywords will make it easier for you to quickly improve your search engine rankings.

Ranking first in organic search for the keyword ‘surfboard’ is merely impossible. However, going for ‘hybrid surfboard 7-9 feet’, for example, puts you in a better place.

Long-tail keywords also typically signalize that the customer is closer to making a decision to purchase, hence is more valuable to you.

Someone searching for Nike Air Max Thea Women Size 5 is surely closer to getting their debit card out than someone typing in Nike Shoes.

What if you don’t manage to select the right keywords? An unshakable fence of search engine pages will lie between you and your customers.

Take a look at your pages and its content as you read this. When you click on your products or services what do you see? If you’re selling surfboards, does your catalogue read Surfboard #1, Surfboard #2 or have you described them as detailed as a love poem for your sweetheart?

3. Duplicate Content

Let’s imagine we’ve now created some high quality, 100% relevant content on our page. A frequent scenario is the understandable thought process of “Great, I spent so much time coming up with this, I’m exhausted and a bit lazy, why don’t I just copy-paste it across my website “.

Err.. Wrong!

Or even worse, you find a competitor whose website brilliantly describes your own concept, products or services and works wonders in attracting the people you’re after! Nobody’s going to find out if you secretly “borrow” a tiny bit of their content, right?

That’s a 2nd bad point scored.

It’s worth a mention that not everyone out there who’s experienced a situation with duplicate content is to blame, this could also arise as a result of technical errors.

Some on-site issues can result in an increase of the duplicate content found on your site. Examples include problems with URL parameters (same pages or content can be accessed through different URLs), maintaining printable page versions along with their standard alternative, issues with session IDs and so on.

MOZ have compiled a simplified summary of the three biggest issues with duplicate content that search engines face. Overall, the problem is that duplicate content confuses search engines on which version they should be indexing in their search results.

We’ve all experienced how difficult, time-consuming, nail-biting, hair-pulling, let’s not forget expensive, creating unique quality content can be. But it’s an investment you don’t want to miss!

4. Keyword Cannibalization

This one in the SEO world is even worse than what most of you associate the word with as it is a completely realistic threat and its occurrence is by no means rare.

What this term symbolizes is the mistake of centering different pages on your website around the same keyword. The reason for this could be accidental duplicate content. But it could also be a lack of analysis, strategy or a misconception that this might reward you with more traffic.

It’s fundamentally punishing all pages that target the same keyword as search engines must only choose one to display – the one they feel is most relevant.

For the sake of this article let’s continue our examples with the surfboard store. If a couple or all of your pages target the keyword ‘custom surfboard’, search engines won’t decide that you’re on top of the list of ‘custom surfboards’ as that’s vividly your area of expertise.

One of those pages, not necessarily the truly most relevant one, will be displayed and the rest will literally get eaten away as they won’t be shown to users.

Although there are no official penalties for keyword cannibalization it is extremely harmful for your rankings and highly inadvisable to engage in.

5. The Quality vs. Quantity Debate

Although content quality and quantity shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, when speaking to clients we’ve seen that it often does come down to drawing the line between one or the other. In an ideal world, your aim should be to make it quality and make a lot of it!

However, the challenges to this goal are that we often feel pressured to produce more and more, which inevitably deprives quality as a result of potential time constraints, not enough resources, lack of a talent pool, etc. Quantity is also the easier option and serves best for ticking the ‘to-do‘ boxes.

Another point that deserves attention is… how do you even define quality? This may not spring to mind as an obvious challenge but it is in fact a contributor to the ‘bad strategy mix‘.

Content quality should ultimately be defined by your users, visitors or customers (depending on your business model). Remember, at the end of the day they’re the ones you create content for – not even search engines.

On the quest to quality, metrics you should be looking at are bounce-back rates, user engagement, time spent on-site and conversions.

Because readers are the ones who vote whether your content is quality or not, pay special attention to user engagement. Are they sharing, commenting on or reviewing the information you’ve provided? What do the social signals related to your content look like? Is it generating positive conversation across different social media channels?

Good content is sticky! It attracts readers like honey attracts flies!

6. Missing Out On Blogging

The importance of blogging as a means of sharing and discovering information has skyrocketed in recent years.

Why should you consider creating a blog?

Think of blogging as a perfect way to personalize your message for your audience and an opportunity to reveal character in your content. Adding on to the shining light, what better way to diversify the information available on your website and attract readers with educational, informative and fun to read material! Not having a blog or failing to regularly update it puts you in a gigantic disadvantage, yet there are many websites that haven’t indulged in blogging. This could be a result of lack of expertise, lack of time or choosing to stay in the shadows and relying on your other pages to do the magic.

Creating a blog but not updating it and leaving it out on the rain to rust is not a good idea as it shows inconsistency, disloyalty to your visitors and fans and is another lost opportunity of engaging more people with valuable content.

As challenging as it may be, blogging is free (as long as you have the knowledge and will to start).

You can ensure your blog is always up-to-date, relevant and consistent by laying out a structured strategy on blogging schedules, topics to cover and audience to reach.

7. Tip-Top Content – Poor Promotion

Often businesses invest heavily in valuable and intriguing content but fail to cross the “finish line”.

What could be missing?

Executing a strategic content sharing plan.

Ultimately, we don’t create content for it to sit unnoticed in the corners of our website. We create it in order to receive more engagement, leads and conversions. We do have that return on investment target after all, don’t we?

The challenge around this does not necessarily originate from no sharing. It could also arise from sharing specific content across the wrong channels. For example, LinkedIn and Twitter have their own, very unique and diverse purposes. What will get you incredible traction on Twitter as a tweet won’t necessarily result in a lot of likes on LinkedIn. Are those channels you’ve chosen even appropriate for your business?

The winning sharing schedule is also tricky as it’s not consistent throughout channels. Try different tactics and see what time of day is best for the channels you’ve selected, you might be surprised.

On a third note, is your call to action providing positive results? Or do you use any CTAs throughout your onsite content for that matter?

8. The Same Old Content?

We’ve now covered the basic but most commonly seen problems that could be preventing you from putting together an impressive content strategy that will boost your SEO rankings. Our last point to make is what the risks of entering a cozy comfort zone are:

It’s tempting to sit back with a smile on and wait to see what your amazing quality content will do for you. You might enjoy a huge wave of attention but that will only be for a short period of time. The traffic to your site will be looking great, you will get a lot of new followers and your conversions will also be increasing fast.

But quickly it will go back to where it all started.

That’s part of the game.

Failing to regularly update your pages, descriptions, blog posts and to curate new content will bring you back to where you started.

The option of playing around with old content by re-purposing or updating it is exploring a great way to revive the articles that are gathering dust in your blog. There are a number of ways you could freshen it up, just make sure you add value to them.

The ingredients for a healthy content soup can’t merely be exhausted in such a short space and time but we do hope you’ve found the list of these basic but disastrous (if not handled) challenges useful and your first point of thought on the journey to creating the best content strategy for your website.

What other challenges have you or your colleagues faced with content strategy?