Content marketing is not easy. In fact, it can be rather complicated. When you sit down and think about all the planning, individual tasks, time, and personnel involved in a successful content marketing campaign, your head can start to spin.
So as an act of therapy for myself and all my fellow content marketers out there, I thought I’d lay out our frustrations in an easy to consume and SEO-friendly listicle in the hopes that when it’s all laid out there, we will all feel a little better.
Well, at least I’ll feel better. No guarantees for the rest of you.
Anyway, here are the top 10 things I hate about content marketing…
1. I Hate Measuring Content Success
Can’t we just assume everything is going great? Must we always prove how great things are with empirical data?
And how exactly do we define success?
I suppose we can rely on Google Analytics to show us how much traffic our content is generating. We could also use Search Console to see 50% of the searches people used to find you, which is 50% helpful.
We could look at our social shares with a tool like BuzzSumo.
We could use tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMRush to see the backlinks we’ve earned, our keyword ranking improvements, and the estimated traffic from these changes.
We could even use these tools to get an estimated monetary value of our newly acquired keywords based on what it would cost to advertise for those keywords.
Sure, we could do all that.
And we do!
We actually do all that to measure content success.
If only we were comfortable enough in our own skin to stop trying to improve ourselves. It’s like why do I even listen to those Dove Soap commercials?
Constant analyzing and improving? It’s the worst. I hate it.
2. I Hate Keyword Research
Let’s start at the top, shall we?
Keyword research is the first thing we do when we start a content marketing campaign. We need to find the search terms our audience uses to find us. Those terms must have a high search volume and they must be something we can realistically rank for.
What does “realistically rank” mean?
First, we need to find out our domain authority score. We can do this with tools like SEO Review Tools, Ahrefs, Spyfu or Moz. Then we check the domain authority of the sites that currently rank for our desired keyword target.
If we have a new site and our competitors have a significantly higher domain authority, we will need to deep dig on our keyword research. That will help us find long-tail keywords that have a high search volume and low difficulty and work your way up from there.
(Note: The difficulty is NOT the competition score from AdWords tools. That competition score is ad competition, not organic competition. To get the organic competition, use Ahref’s “Page 1 difficulty” score.)
And we need to make separate lists for three kinds of searches:
- Navigational: looking for our specific site
- Informational: looking to learn more about topics related to our site
- Transactional: looking for our products or services
We do this because it covers all the stages our potential customers are at in our marketing funnel. And we want to bring them into that funnel any way we can.
In addition, we also use one of the aforementioned tools to see what keywords our competitors are ranking for to find additional opportunities we may have missed.
Keyword research is a combination of knowing your audience, analyzing search data, and knowing your position in the market. Even if you know your market well, it can be difficult to put together a relevant and attainable list of keywords to target.
And hopefully, our website is set up correctly so it’s easy to assign these keywords to relevant pages and blog posts. Otherwise, we will have to make structural changes to our site.
It’s a lot of work and when we’re finished we haven’t even started our campaign.
Google should do all this work for us, don’t you think? Feels like Google should do this for us.
I hate doing keyword research. You do it, Google.
3. I Hate Creating a Content Strategy
Now that we have our list of keywords to target, it’s time to go out there and get them, right?
Not so fast!
Many people make the mistake of writing without a cohesive strategy. If you’re in digital marketing you have most likely seen this statistic:
61% of people creating content without a plan! Publish and pray I guess, right?
We absolutely need to have our content strategy figured out before we write a single word. And once it’s finished we need to be ready to constantly adjust that strategy along the way.
Not everything we plan will work out and what does work, we double down on and scale.
So why do I hate creating a content strategy? Because to do it right, means a ton of work! And I didn’t get into marketing for the work, you guys.
I got into marketing to wear nice suits and drink whiskey during the day.
And I don’t do either. Don Draper lied to us.
Here’s what you need, generally, for an effective content strategy:
- Mission Statement & Goals
- Style Guide
- Competitor Research
- Customer Personas
- Target Keywords
- Current Content Analysis
- Social Channel Analysis
- Workflow: Who is Doing What?
- Tools & Software Needed
- ROI: How We Will Measure Success
I won’t go into detail on every aspect of the above list, but you get the idea. It takes a lot of research and data to know what we should write about, who our ideal audience is, and how to best reach them.
And we still haven’t written a word yet!
I hate creating a content strategy because I know how important it is to success. I wish it weren’t, but it is.
As a wise man once said, “them's the breaks.”
4. I Hate Writing SEO-friendly Copy
Yay, we can finally start writing! Wait a second, is creating content easy?
Yes, we have all our target keywords and a killer strategy to go with them, but this a blog post does not make.
There is a lot to consider when creating content for your business or for a client. Each post needs its own mini-strategy to abide by and SEO rules to follow.
Here are a few of the questions to answer:
- What should our title be?
- How long should our title be?
- How long should the post be?
- What subheadings do we need to include?
- What should the meta description & title tag be?
- What images should we include?
- What sites should we link to as resources?
- What internal links should we include?
- What kind of post is this?
- Is it a listicle?
- A guide?
- A product review?
- How is this post better than what is currently ranking for our target keyword?
- How are we providing value to the reader?
- Who will share this when it’s done? And finally…
- Who will write this for me?
That last one is very real. Are you the right person to be writing this article?
You may need to find another team member, hire a freelance writer, or hire an in-house writer to create content for you. Not everyone has the ability, time, or inclination to create content.
As for the other questions, we can find answers by analyzing the top 10 results for our target keywords. Seeing commonalities in the title tags, meta descriptions, word count, and style can tell us what Google values.
But we can’t just copy what others are doing. We have to do better than what is out there if we want to outrank them. We have to add value. We have to ask ourselves what is missing from those top results that searchers need to know.
Easier said than done. I wish Google based all their ranking decisions on my own personal writing style. But alas.
I hate writing SEO-friendly copy.
5. I Hate Finding & Hiring Freelance Writers
If our goals are where they should be, chances are we won’t be able to accomplish them on our own. That help often comes from experienced freelance writers.
Of course, we can’t just have anyone representing our company. We need to vet these writers. Read their writing samples. Have conversations with them about our brand and our content goals. Negotiate a price and set deadlines. Edit their work or send back for revisions.
It’s a whole thing.
And when we finally find our perfect writer, what do they do? They go and get a full-time gig because they are great and they like having health insurance.
How dare they?
I hate finding new writers. I miss my old writers. I thought we had something special.
6. I Hate Writing Content Briefs
At Scripted we asked our writers, “What is most important to a successful writing assignment?” Overwhelmingly, their answers were about having a detailed job description and open communication.
Writing a detailed content brief is essential to working with freelance writers.
So even though I’m not writing the post myself, I still need to answer all those questions about length, style, goals, links, subheadings, et. al, so I can write a decent content brief.
(Take a look at how much detail we put into one of our content briefs: Keyword “Content Strategy“)
That’s why I decided to hire a writer in the first place, so I don’t have to write things down!
If only writers could read our minds. We wouldn’t have to go through this every time we needed content.
Stupid non-telepathic brains.
I hate writing content briefs.
7. I Hate Promoting Content
My blog post is finally ready for the world! It is perfect. It’s informative, easy to read, and has all the SEO bells and whistles.
Now to sit back and wait for the traffic to spike and the shares to grow.
What? Why hasn’t my incredible blog post become a New York Times Best Seller?
Oh right, I still have to put in work promoting this content on social media, in forums, and through my newsletter.
And of course each platform has a different audience and best practices, which leads to EVEN more questions:
Is it even possible to reach people on Facebook anymore without paying for ads?
What are the rules of this LinkedIn Group?
Am I hip enough to be in this Reddit Channel? (No I am not.)
Should I answer Quora questions about the topic? Should I link to my post? Do those links matter?
Should I re-publish on Medium? What about canonical tags?
What are my Twitter hashtags?
When is the optimal time to post on all these channels?
Should I email my list letting them know about the new post?
Argh!!! I hate promoting content.
8. I Hate Link Building
Wait a second, didn't we just get done promoting our content on every channel we could think to share it? Won’t people naturally link to it?
Oh right, shares are not links. Google needs those links. And not just any links, links from authoritative, relevant websites.
We need to reach out to industry leaders who MIGHT be interested in our article. Most of our emails will be ignored or outright rejected. This will hurt our feelings.
And even if they do like our content that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to link to us.
Link building is hard work that ends with mostly hurt feelings.
I hate having hurt feelings. I hate link building.
9. I Hate Guest Blogging
Finding a place to guest blog can be just as discouraging as link building.
First, we need to find a website in our niche with high authority and reach. Then we need to find the person in charge of content on that site. Then, after some emailing back and forth, we pitch them our blog ideas.
(You’d be surprised how many content marketing sites rejected the blog idea “10 Things I Hate About Content Marketing.” Crazy, right?)
And once we do get a site to accept your guest blog proposal we actually have to write the thing. What’s that about?
And since we’ve done our research and found that this site only publishes excellent content, we have to write a great article.
It’s like, what’s next? You want my kidney, too?
Life is a mystery, you guys. And so is guest blogging. I hate it.
(Just kidding, you guys. The fine people at shanebarker.com have been great, but the title of this article isn’t “People Who Are Great to Work With” so let’s get back to complaining.)
10. I Hate Starting All Over!
Here’s the thing about finding success in anything; it only makes you hungry for more. Getting on the first page of Google for a keyword you targeted feels great.
You know what would feel better? Getting that #1 spot.
Content marketing doesn’t have an end date. Once we reach the goals we set, we set bigger goals and we get back to work.
New goals mean starting this process over and finding new challenges along the way.
It’s work. It’s hard work. And I hate it.
Where is that whiskey?