3 Reasons Why Your Content Isn’t Working

Content Marketing Marketing Tools & Tips

Think you can get away without a content marketing strategy?

In 2017, every company should understand the value of content marketing and have a clear strategy in place.

A recent study shows that 75% of companies are increasing their spending on content marketing. So unless you want to be left in the dust, you need to start building up content that’s relevant to your audience’s interests and begin unleashing it to the world through your social feeds and website.

But what if you’ve been riding the content marketing wave for a while but just can’t seem to build a loyal following? You’ve done all the necessary research, optimized for SEO, created a blog, and published landing page after landing page, but the time you’re putting in just doesn’t seem to be paying off.

Let’s talk about three common reasons why your company’s content is not getting traction and what you can do to fix it.

1. Failing to Optimize your Content for Readability

Recall the phonics lessons you learned in elementary school to write essays and book reports? I’m referring to rules like, “don’t begin a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘because'” and “don’t finish a sentence with a preposition.”

Do yourself a favor and completely forget about them (except basic grammar and spelling, you still need those!).

Try using a conversational tone in your marketing content to build trust and rapport with your audience.

Use a conversational tone

The reason they’re irrelevant is that academic writing is not the same as writing for marketing content. Often, marketers take on a much more conversational tone in their writing style, much like this blog post. It has a flow similar to an internal dialogue as opposed to a novel or academic paper.

Why would marketers write this way? The primary reason for writing in a conversational tone is to inform your audience while entertaining them. Your audience isn’t just a persona you’ve outlined on paper; they’re people. By writing in a conversational tone, you build immediate rapport with your audience. It helps humanize your brand, and that makes your brand more trustworthy. Finally, it’s easier to read content that sounds similar to the way we talk to each other.

Keep in mind that academic writing will either bore your readers three sentences in, or intimidate them so that they don’t even start reading in the first place. You need to break up your text and include plenty of spacing so that it seems as though you have less text than you actually have.

Keep it short

Brevity is also important. It turns out that shorter sentences are easier to read. Long, run-on sentences require a longer attention span and better working memory to comprehend information. When you’re fighting for the attention of people on the internet where the average attention span is 8 seconds, do yourself a favor and keep it brief.

Your audience’s time is precious. Getting to the point quickly demonstrates that you respect their time.

man sitting on bench reading a newspaper with an attention-grabbing headline

Write an attention-grabbing headline.

To get people to sit still long enough to read your content, you’ll need to put together an attention-grabbing headline. Regardless of how informative, relevant, or interesting your content is, it’s a moot point if you can’t capture your audience’s attention. Headlines are the hook of content. There are many simple tactics you can use when it comes to optimizing your content’s headline. The first is to utilize the power of hard data and numbers. People LOVE stats and numbered lists.

Statistics Examples:

Lists Examples:

Statistics and lists like these are effective because they let the reader know that they aren’t going to have to go scurrying through a page of information to find what they’re looking for. All of the useful information is presented conveniently in list form where they can see what is and is not relevant to them. A numbered list or many headings and subheadings make the content easy to scan.

Lastly, you need to make your headline as specific as possible. For instance, the title, “7 Ways to Potty Train Your New Puppy in 30 Days” is more effective than “Ways to Potty Train Your Puppy.”

Specificity lets your readers know that your piece will solve their problems within a specified period and to a specific audience (new puppy owners).

Group of broke, college students sitting in a circle in New York City. Make sure you're specific about who your content is targeting.

Optimize phrasing for more qualified readers

Once you have a topic and a working title (“working title,” because it might change), you want to consider why your audience might search for this topic and how they might phrase it. Usually, when you’re writing content, you’re giving your audience a solution to a problem. Your content also probably answers a question. What problem is your content solving? Can you put that problem into the form of a question, so it looks like their search?

For example, let’s say you’re writing about living in the city on a tight budget.

Topic: budgeting
Target Audience: College students in urban areas
Working Title: “Making it in New York City on a tight budget.”
Why are they looking for a solution? They’re broke.
Phrase problem as a question: “How to Make it in New York City as a Broke College Student.”

Now your content is an informative, in-depth tutorial on a subject that they’re trying to learn about. By calling out your target audience in the title, you’re identifying more qualified readers. This piece of content not only tells readers what information they’ll find once they click, but it also tells you who this content is intended for. You may find you have less traffic to this piece, but the trade off is likely a lower bounce rate and longer page sessions.

2. You aren’t using basic SEO strategies

Your search rank on Google is critical. Considering that the top result on Google gets on average 33% of all search traffic and the second result gets 18% if you aren’t showing up in the top 5 of the SERP (search engine results page), you might as well not be on the page at all.

Tell me, how often do you click on page two of your Google search results? I already know, you don’t. Instead, you go back and adjust your keywords. So it’s definitely in your best interest to rank as high as you possibly can to generate more website traffic. If your audience can’t find your content, it doesn’t matter how great it is.

Now everyone thinks that watching a 5-minute YouTube video will tell them everything they need to know about SEO. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

picture of laptop with SEO analysis to improve content and SEO strategy

Invest in key phrases and long-tail keywords

What people don’t understand is that you shouldn’t be looking for a “keyword” but rather a “key phrase.” Often, a keyword is so widely used that unless you’re an industry leading authority on the subject, you will rarely rank high enough with a single word.

The real key to success in SEO is the use of long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are phrases with multiple words that are more relevant to your target audience and easier to rank for on SERPs.

For example, let’s say you’re starting a moving company in southern New Jersey. You build your site and incorporate the keyword “moving” on all of your pages.

After a few weeks, your site still isn’t drumming up any new business. If you do a Google search for the keyword ‘moving,’ you’ll find big names in the moving industry like U-HAUL, PODS, and moving results from Yelp (in this case make sure you’re on Yelp and encourage customers to leave reviews). The keyword “moving” is too broad and will just lead people to big name industry leaders.

You can use tools, like Moz, to see how difficult ranking for keywords and keyphrases are before getting started. Here is the result for the keyword, ‘moving.”

use keyword and key phrase difficulty levels from Moz to improve your content and SEO strategy

These tools can also suggest similar keywords and long-tail keywords for you as well:

long-tail keyword suggestions from Moz to help your SEO strategy

Instead, try to incorporate the key phrase “Southern New Jersey moving company” in your website’s pages. This way, you will show up in results for people who will be much more likely to be interested in your services or products.

Also, you shouldn’t be afraid to narrow down your phrase. I know it may sound illogical not to use the terms with the bigger audiences, but it’s more profitable to optimize your content for more accurate key phrases. It helps increase the quality of your website traffic.

There’s a good chance that people are searching for a broader term like “moving” who aren’t even interested in finding moving services. However, someone searching “Southern New Jersey moving company” or “moving company in Southern New Jersey” will be much more likely to be an actual customer interested in purchasing your services.

3. Your Content Just Isn’t Very Good

This is never an easy pill to swallow.

People take 30 minutes out of their day to write a quick blog and are surprised when it doesn’t take off and shared by top influencers. Really?

It doesn’t matter how advanced your SEO skills are, or how readable it is. It’s irrelevant if no one finds any value in your content.

I’ve seen it time and time again, you visit a company’s blog, and it’s littered with entries detailing their newest products, recent successes, plans for the future, etc.

What’s the problem with this?


If they don’t know anything about your organization, why would they click on a link and invest the time to read a piece about your latest product update?

Publish reader-centric content; it’s not about you.

You need to be publishing content about topics that your potential buyers are interested in. Help your audience alleviate a pain point that your product or service can resolve. Help them be better at their job, learn a new skill, or answer a question.

This ‘top of the funnel’ content creates brand awareness, instills trust, and establishes your brand as an industry expert. When they’re ready to buy, they’ll remember your brand because you were helpful and the information you provided was valuable.

Publish customer-centric content, not content about your brand, business or product.

For example, if you owned an online shop that specialized in all-natural, healthy dog food. Your blog shouldn’t just have posts about your newest upcoming flavors or how big name retailers are picking up your product.

You should have blogs on subjects like “10 Reasons Why Healthy Dog Food is Worth the Money” or “How-To Get Your New Dog Comfortable In the City in 30 Days”. Help dog owners solve problems that come with the territory of being a dog owner, regardless if it has anything to do with dog food. Be a resource for dog owners. That’s the job your content needs to do.

Editorial process is critical

Get at least two sets of eyes on your content before hitting ‘publish.’

Please, make sure that your pieces are always heavily edited before sending them out. A few typos here and there isn’t going to tarnish your reputation, but consistent spelling and grammatical errors and awkward sentence structure sure will destroy your credibility.

Social media has changed the marketing landscape. We’ve shifted from commercials and ads in magazines to Facebook Ads and content marketing.

Now, we’ve been tasked with creating content that our consumers actively seek out.

The battle for consumer’s attention is getting tougher with each passing day, and it is up to you to keep up.

Merhawi Kidane

Merhawi Kidane is the Founder and Lead Copywriter of Stankonian Ink, a copywriting business specializing in creating in-depth blogs for B2B SaaS companies that position them as industry experts, build their brand and grow their business.

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