Common content marketing challenges
Content marketing is a complicated process, and that makes it susceptible to a number of problems. It takes a complex mosaic of people, tasks, tools, and workflows to produce content, each of which presents its own challenges to your content marketing efforts.
Mastering your content marketing process can make a huge difference in terms of content performance, meeting KPIs, and making work easier for your content team.
Below, we tackle each of these common content marketing mistakes and show you how to fix them:
1 – Undefined or ambiguous content strategy
A 2021 poll of B2C marketers revealed that 31% of responding teams did not have a “documented content strategy,” while another 28% did not have a content strategy at all. That means almost 60% of those surveyed are likely struggling to find direction and stay on schedule with their content marketing efforts.
Content marketing is complicated even when a clearly defined strategy is in place, but without a strong sense of direction or purpose, it can be a nightmare to try and align content with overall business goals. Without a crystallized strategy, goals and priorities tend to shift, accountability falls to the wayside, and content creators are at risk of frustration and burnout. In short, content teams without a strategy are working in chaotic conditions.
Solving the problem of an undefined or ambiguous content strategy starts with understanding how content creation supports broader marketing or business goals. What are the aims of the content marketing team? To generate traffic? Capture page 1 SERP rankings for priority keywords? Increase MQLs? In many cases, the content team will be expected to deliver on all these metrics, as well as others.
7 questions you need to answer before you start writing content
- Who is the audience for the content? Specify the target audience for each individual piece of content since you may have more than one persona to address.
- What value will the content deliver for the audience? Content should do something for those who read it. For example, content may provide practical or how-to information, educate readers on a relevant topic, provide compelling insights, share a unique perspective on an industry issue, convey news, or entertain.
- When will the content be published? Does it need to coincide with a particular campaign or other marketing activities?
- Where will the content be published? On your blog, in your resource center, on a landing page, or somewhere else?
- Why will each piece of content support the overall marketing strategy?
- How will the content be shared/promoted?
- How will the content’s performance be measured?
It won’t be enough to answer these questions in your head. The answers need to be documented so that they can be referenced by anyone in your organization or review cycle, and reported on when the time comes. Teams may choose to do this with a spreadsheet, although the complexity of this information can make it difficult to view or manage in this format.
Workflow management software can provide additional layers of control and customization over this process of strategizing and planning content. By visualizing workflows, your team will be better equipped to adapt tasks and processes to reflect the work that actually goes into content. That’s going to be especially important as content production scales and content libraries grow.
2 – Disorganized content workflows
The content creation workflow is complex. There may be several people, tools, and tasks involved in generating even a single piece of content, and there may be a different workflow (or variation of the workflow) for each type of content. To see how complex the content creation process can be, the following table summarizes some of the most common workflow components:
|Starting Point (Trigger||Work||Outcome|
|Specific content strategy goal|
Ad hoc requests
Request for sales collateral
New SEO opportunity
Writing (internal or external)
Taking control of your content workflow begins with defining and planning for the three basic components for each type of content workflow:
Starting point – trigger that begins the workflow
One common content marketing problem is figuring out how to manage requests for new items. The difficulty depends on 1) the volume of requests, 2) the number of requesters, and 3) the tools used to manage requests.
Most teams begin with an established number of content targets: in other words, content goals that emerge from annual or quarterly content planning. Additional content requests will then get added to this initial list. These may include items such as sales collateral, thought leadership content for blog posts, landing pages, ad copy, or other content items that support other marketing teams or efforts.
Content marketing requests that arrive via email, asked for verbally, or in Slack risk being forgotten, lost, or delayed. These types of informal requests may not include all of the information the content team needs in order to follow through. Every request for content requires additional information and context to make sure it meets expectations and arrives in the right place at the right time.
A public form can make it easy for content teams to receive, route, and track content marketing requests. And since forms contain customizable fields and rules can be applied to each field, content teams will no longer be plagued by incomplete requests or have to spend their time chasing down requestors for additional details.
|Learn more about workflow terminology with our quick-start workflows glossary|
Work – tasks or activities required to produce an outcome
Every piece of content will need to follow a specific workflow, and in some cases the workflow will vary depending on the content type. For example, a request for a bog post from the corporate marketing team may require an additional level of approval to ensure that messaging is properly aligned. Content that digs deeply into a product, service, or feature my require review from a product marketer or sales representative to ensure that it’s accurate and up-to-date.
Even if there is only one workflow for all content, each phase of the workflow should be clearly defined and easily viewable. This helps managers and teams keep track of content statuses and identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies.
Two tools in particular will be helpful for managing content workflows:
First, workflows can be visualized with a workflow management tool. Visual workflows can be built (or modified) in minutes using a no-code, drag-and-drop interface that doesn’t require the intervention of IT or a developer. Alternatively, teams that prefer instant access to a workflow can use a pre-built template. In either case, workflow visualization tools provide better visibility and control than spreadsheets, email, or other informal methods.
Second, dashboards and filters can provide deep insights into the efficiency of the workflow as well as the status of all items in each phase. This allows managers and any team member with permission to view items by status, assignee, content type, requestor, or other criteria.
Outcomes – individual content assets
When items in the content workflow are completed, the next step may be alerting other marketing teams of their availability for sharing or publishing. For example, if the sales team requested a landing page for a specific feature, an automatic notification can be sent to let them know their item is completed. Content meant to generate organic traffic will likely need to be shared through social media. Automated notifications can be sent to these teams as well.
Another feature that will help content teams manage their overall workflow is the generation of reports that can be used to inform future strategy and calculate ROI. For instance, teams may need to report on all content published during a given period, or they may want to review all requests received so that they can be prioritized.
Workflow management tools build customizable reports with just a few clicks, allowing content teams to manage their requests, view their content libraries, and report on their progress.
|Learn more about content workflows with the Pipefy Content Workflow Guide|
3 – Difficulty establishing ROI
One of the most frustrating aspects of content marketing can be determining the ROI of your content. The challenge in establishing content ROI is due in part to 1) the complexity of the content creation process 2) the fact that content can take time to mature and produce results and 3) difficulty in determining content’s attribution to your pipeline.
Answering the following questions will help you understand and illustrate your content’s ROI accurately:
KPIs & Attribution
- What metrics will you use to measure the performance of each piece of content?
- What overall marketing goals does this content support?
- How are you measuring or assigning attribution? (conversions, sign ups, demos, etc.)
- What resources will be required for each piece of content?
- What degree of subject matter expertise will this piece of content require in order to demonstrate authority and provide accurate, practical information?
- Will the content asset require input from other teams such as design or sales?
- How much research will be required for a particular content asset?
- How competitive is the space where this content will perform?
- How much domain authority does your site currently have?
- How long will it take to produce a quality content asset?
- How soon do you expect to see results?
Depending on the scale of your content marketing strategy, measuring ROI may be a more or less complicated business.The first thing you’ll want to do is determine which KPIs will be used to measure performance. It’s relatively easy to measure some KPIs such as organic or natural session, clicks, impressions, bounce rates, etc. These metrics are readily available in tools such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Adobe Analytics, or Bing Webmaster Tools. Other tools allow you to measure engagement in social media (such as BuzzSumo or Sprout) or by search performance using aggregated SEO data (such as Moz or SEMRush).
Things get more complicated when it’s time to measure attribution. That’s because some metrics such as brand awareness and organic traffic might not translate easily into a simple attribution model. Attribution also gets complicated by the fact that users may visit many pages on your site before signing up or making a purchase. You may need some help from your data team to help create an attribution model that estimates the influence of content on your sales pipeline.
4 – Lack of alignment between content and buyer journey
The simplest way to put it is that you need content for every stage of the sales funnel. You will want articles, blog posts, and landing pages that resonate with potential customers at the top, middle, and bottom of the funnel.
A common content marketing mistake is to assume that you only need one piece of content for a particular topic or keyword. Instead, try to winnow out the various search intents around a particular topic. You will likely find that search intent can be broken down into 4 primary categories:
- Learning — people who want general information on a topic related to your product or service. Goal: generating brand awareness.
- Exploring — users who are looking for more specific information such as a solution to a problem. Goals: building trust, establishing authority, positioning.
- Considering — users who know about your product or service and who are learning more about it, preparing to make a purchase. Goals: helping users understand your UVP, use cases, and relation to competitors.
- Deciding — users who are likely to purchase, finalizing a decision. Goal: generating sales/conversions.
|Pay close attention to long tail keywords. Often these keywords signal a more engaged user in the middle or bottom stages of the sales funnel. These keywords typically require more specialized content. Long tail keywords often have low search volume, but may generate higher conversion rates if the content aligns well with the user intent.|
As we mentioned above, the relationship between each piece of content and the sales funnel should be defined and documented. That will make it easy to produce reports or dashboards that reveal content library weaknesses.
For example, you may realize that your team has been overproducing content in the middle of the funnel and neglecting content at the bottom. Or, you may uncover new top of funnel content areas that haven’t been considered yet.
5 – Not balancing content quantity with content quality
Another content marketing problem to look out for relates to your quantity/quality mix. At some point, every content team will have to face the dilemma of balancing content quantity with content quality. This is especially true for teams who are ready to scale their content marketing efforts.
Content quantity is important because 1) most businesses have more than one subject matter area that they need to address and 2) there are usually many keywords and search intents within each subject matter area. But we also know from looking at competitors that to build site authority, earn backlinks, and rank well, most of us will need to generate many, many content assets.
The quality of content is equally important. Quality is typically determined by 1) alignment with the search intent, 2) opportunities for engagement, 3) user experience, and 4) usefulness of the information. As a general rule, the higher the quality of the content, the more time it will take to produce.
And that brings us right to the point: content production is an equation in which the fixed variables are usually budget, time, and human resources. That leaves only content quality and quantity in play, and each team will have to decide on a mixture of these qualities that’s right for them.
One way content teams can manage this aspect of their content workflow is to estimate the amount of time a piece of content will require. Usually this estimate is based on content type, expected content length, and topic complexity. Content that provides deep technical knowledge or that demonstrates expertise will likely take the most time to research, write, and review. The complexity of thought leadership content may also require extra time for editorial review.
Building this time estimate into the workflow items — whether based on complexity, word count, degree of expertise, or even the writer’s experience — can help teams create a more realistic content strategy and more accurately predict their production schedule. This can be as simple as adding a rule that requires an estimate of complexity, desired word count, or description be included in any new request.
6 – Not maintaining a content library
Content marketing teams need x-ray insights into their existing content libraries. These content libraries (or inventories) can help teams by:
- Avoiding content redundancy or unnecessary work
- Identifying content gaps
- Minimizing or eliminating keyword cannibalism (SEO)
- Supporting other marketing efforts with related content
- Delivering a high-level overview of both existing and future content inventories
It’s common for teams to try and maintain content inventories using spreadsheets or other ad hoc methods. The problem here is that without consistent, reliable information the library won’t be easy to organize.
Workflow management tools can make maintaining a content library easier by 1) requiring key information be included with every request and 2) providing multiple views of work items. For instance, some teams may want to see a list of all content related to a particular keyword as well as content optimized for each longtail variant of the keyword family.
Another valuable use of an accurate content library is to augment integrated marketing campaigns. For example, if a business is sponsoring an event with a particular theme or focuses on a particular industry, a common request is “what does the content team have on X topic?” Workflow management tools make it quick and easy to pull reports that answer these types of questions whenever they arise.
7 – Unrealistic content calendar and deadlines
Content publishing schedules can be impacted by a number of factors, but three culprits are most common:
- Underestimating production time for content assets
- Mid-stream changes to content priorities (new requests)
- Bottlenecks in the writing, editing, or approval phases
Every content calendar should begin with a realistic estimate of available resources and how much of those resources will be consumed by each content asset. As we pointed out earlier, not all content will require the same amount of research or review, and some items will require additional levels of approval. Building these qualities into your content calendar will help increase its accuracy and make it easier for your team to stay on track.
Another content marketing problem that can affect your editorial calendar is the introduction of new requests into your workflow, particularly if those requests take priority over work that is already in progress. Tracking those requests and labeling items by requestor and priority level will make it easier to view and adjust the editorial calendar as needed.
|Content calendars that fail to take into account content complexities and which aren’t flexible enough to easily accommodate changes in priority can lead to missed targets and content creator burnout.|
Finally, a workflow management system that automates notifications and provides multiple viewports can help teams maintain the integrity of their editorial calendar. Automation can generate notifications anytime an item is approaching a deadline, becomes late, or appears stuck in a phase. Workflow views help teams identify and address the bottlenecks or inefficiencies that can derail content calendars.
8 – Fragmented content production stack
Most teams today rely on a number of tools for content production and management. Their toolboxes likely include spreadsheets, email, collaboration apps, a content management system (CMS), social media platforms, and calendar app.
Unfortunately, trying to manage content production across multiple platforms and apps can lead to broken workflows and missed targets. Items can get lost in the shuffle, requests may be overlooked, and team members may become frustrated by having to switch back and forth between tools. Monitoring items in a fragmented stack can also be a challenge.
Creating a unified workflow across multiple tools and apps can be a big marketing challenge, but it’s one that can be resolved with a workflow management system that provides all (or most) of these functions and which integrates seamlessly with other tools. Map out all of the tools you need to create content, communicate well, and any other necessary software. Then look for a workflow management system that orchestrates processes and data.
9 – Inconsistent SEO
SEO is one of the most important aspects of content strategy. By optimizing content for search, content writers and publishers ensure that their pages are discoverable, properly indexed, and aligned with search intent. SEO helps pages rank and creates a better UX.
Building SEO strategy into the content workflow can improve the consistency of optimization tactics and organize SEO information for reporting. It can also help unify overall SEO efforts by bringing visibility into which assets are optimized for certain keywords. As content production scales, keeping up with SEO can become more complex and time consuming.
|Target keyword||Keyword volume||Outbound links|
|Keyword family||Average monthly sessions||Inbound links|
Requiring content writers to include these details on any content item in production makes it easy to generate reports that summarize SEO activities and measure performance. It is simply a matter of adding form fields to the workflow in order to capture this information during production.
Using rules that require these fields to be completed can be done easily with a drag-and-drop interface in a workflow management tool.
10 – Inconsistent branding, positioning, or CTA strategy
As content production scales, it’s likely to involve more writers, editors, and reviewers. Some teams may shift production to agencies or contract writers, which means that it will become more challenging to maintain consistent branding and positioning.
It’s common for teams to develop style guidelines to help shape these characteristics of content production but — as any editor will tell you — making sure that messaging and positioning stay on target can be a time-consuming process. In many cases, multiple levels of approval are required before content can be published.
While guidelines and editorial reviews are the most effective ways to build a consistent branding and positioning across your content, there are two additional steps that teams can take to assist in this effort.
1- Automate the approval flow
As content items move through a workflow, they will typically require at least one approval or review cycle. Rather than managing approvals with email, a workflow management platform can automatically kick off the approval process by routing the item to the correct reviewer and notifying them that an item needs their attention.
Items that are in the approval phase of a workflow can be viewed in a dashboard or report, to help identify bottlenecks or issues with the approval process.
2- Require CTA copy and url destination in the content item ticket
CTAs play an important role in content marketing, and teams will want to keep an eye on where CTAs are placed, as well as how they are performing. For teams that use a limited number of CTAs or who are looking to measure the effectiveness of a particular CTA, requiring the CTA and its target url can make it easy to review and report on how well the CTA strategy is working.
11 – Not accelerating content lift off
Another common content marketing problem is figuring out how to give content momentum in search. Once new content has been published, it begins the upstream and competitive swim towards the top of the search results page. Depending on the competitive landscape, it may take months or even years before an asset becomes a top performer.
There are a couple of ways your team can give newly published content a head start:
Speed up the indexing process
Implement a cross linking strategy
Content that has links pointing to it may index more quickly and start to rank faster. Build an internal linking structure into your content plan so that whenever a new content asset goes live, an editor or publisher adds links to the new content from existing content. Adding rules to work items that require the linking url to be added before the asset can be completed is a great way to ensure that this happens consistently. Use a similar process for outbound links.
Promote content on social media
Another great way to speed up content performance is to promote it on social media. If you are using a workflow management tool, you can set up an automation to notify social media managers whenever a new item is ready to be shared, or you can build an integration with tools your marketing team uses to organize and share content.
|Learn more about automating the content process|
12 – Not unifying content strategy with other marketing activities
Content is one of the cornerstones of any marketing strategy, and every marketing campaign depends on some type of content to raise awareness, reach audiences, create conversions, and generate sales.
Unfortunately, it’s common for different marketing and sales teams to work in silos. As a result, opportunities to unify marketing efforts such as email, PR, corporate, demand gen, as well as sales team activity, go unmet. This lack of unity can also lead to inconsistency in your branding and storytelling across your various marketing channels.
Unifying content across channels needs to take place at the strategic level, but it can be facilitated by tools that provide visibility into the activities of different teams and integrate workflows across channels. Integrations with other tools and platforms can bring additional cohesion to marketing activities.
Avoid content marketing mistakes with workflow management software
Success in content creation depends on your ability to control your production process. That means bringing definition to strategy, clarity to reporting, and consistency to your workflows, tasks, and data.
Workflow management software solves content marketing problems. It brings structure to work and provides the flexibility to customize features so that they work for your team. Automation removes unnecessary tasks, forms build consistency into your data, and the no-code interface make it easy to build, integrate, and modify workflows without having to wait for IT team intervention.
|See why more marketing teams trust Pipefy to optimize their content marketing workflows|
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