Do you know what’s super spooky?

The easily avoidable content mistakes happening all. The. TIME.

It’s almost 2020 – a year people used to dream about when they thought of a high-tech future – but here we are.

People are still committing basic content marketing mistakes (sometimes unknowingly, but ‍♀️).

These scary mistakes aren’t something to laugh about, either. They cost you a lot. Think Google rankings, traffic, leads, conversions, a loyal audience, and general content ROI.

If you want your content to perform well (who doesn’t??), if you want to keep your website from becoming an abandoned, haunted house where no one dares step foot…

You must know and avoid these mistakes as if they were monsters prowling the dark of night. Don’t get too comfortable, don’t get close, and if you spot one, RUN, and try to fix it.

10 Content Marketing Mistakes That Are Undermining Your ROI

1. Prioritizing the Quick Sale Over Building Long-Term Trust

2. Not Investing in Valuable, Useful Content

3. Buying Fake Followers (Follower Ghosts!) to Grow Your Online Presence

4. Targeting Focus Keywords and Related Keywords Incorrectly

5. Posting Content Whenever the Mood Strikes

6. Publishing Skeletal Content and Expecting It to Rank

7. Putting Out Lots of Scary-Quality Content

8. Letting Duplicate Content Haunt Your Domain

9. Participating in Ghoulish Link-Buying Schemes

10. Forgetting to Champion Your Reader

Don’t Let Bad Content Marketing Tactics Haunt Your Brand Presence

bad content marketing tactics to avoid

There's no need to have a sixth sense for us to see dead content. Low-quality copy and unethical marketing practices should get that straight to the grave. ⚰️ Save your content now by avoiding these 10 bad content marketing tactics! Click To Tweet

Run the Other Way! 10 Scary Content Marketing Tactics Undermining Your ROI

If you commit any of these, call a priest – you need an exorcism to save your content marketing soul.

1. Prioritizing the Quick Sale Over Building Long-Term Trust

Repeat after me: Content marketing is not about the quick sale.

In fact, it’s not really about the sale at all.

Now, hear me out. Yes, the eventual end-goal is to build up enough trust with your readers so they feel confident buying into whatever you’re offering.


More revenue is just one possible end by-product. It’s not the point.

The point is trust.

When you look at a solid definition of content marketing (like this one I constantly reference from the Content Marketing Institute), note there is no mention of sales, money, or revenue.

Instead, the emphasis is placed squarely on your audience/customers. Specifically, content marketing is about:

  • Attracting and retaining your audience
  • Driving profitable actions from customers

“Profitable actions” aren’t necessarily sales. Instead, a profitable action could be adding a new subscriber to your email list, or earning another loyal blog follower.

These are profitable situations because they signify interest and growing trust in what you offer. These people may eventually become not only customers but also brand advocates. That compounding future interest helps spread your brand name as an authority, builds relationships with people, and, ultimately, leads to more conversions.

Trust breeds trust. Once the relationship is there, the sales will come later — but they’re not the point.

Don’t settle for pushiness and try to close your leads today. That’s not content marketing. Instead, focus on building that long-term trust that wins real industry positioning tomorrow.

Don't be a real-life undead chasing humans to get them to buy your product or service with your salesy content! ‍♀️ Start building long-term trust instead with attractive, relevant, and useful content. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

2. Not Investing in Valuable, Useful Content

Content that wins trust and builds loyalty is high-value, useful, and relevant to your particular audience. If your content is none of those things, you won’t reap the rewards of content marketing.

It’s that simple.

Conductor did the first-ever study investigating the impact of educational content on customers. The results were incredible:

  • After reading a brand’s educational content, people were 131% more likely to purchase from them
  • 78% rated a brand as “helpful” and 64% rated them “trustworthy” immediately after reading the brand’s content
  • One week later, the above numbers increased by 8-9%

Useful, valuable content has a direct effect on your readers. Without those traits, however, your content will be useless.

If you want the rewards, you have to invest in creating and publishing the best content you can produce. No ifs, ands, or buts.

3. Buying Fake Followers (Follower Ghosts!) to Grow your Online Presence

Have you ever been tempted — when you’re green with envy over your competitor’s follower count — to just buy some fake followers and call it a day?

(And, just to be clear, I’m talking about non-real followers, i.e., computer-generated follower ghosts that don’t exist in real life. )

Don’t do it.

Not only is buying fake followers majorly frowned-upon, but it will also have consequences that will undermine what you’re trying to do (build an engaged audience).

HootSuite did an actual case study on buying fake followers on Instagram to see what would happen, and the results were laughable:

1,000 followers, each of them obviously bot-created at random, with zero engagement from any of them.

If you have a large follower count but no engagement… well, that’s an oxymoron AND a red flag. Instagram will easily find your fake account and shut it down, according to their Terms of Use.

Likewise, other brands won’t want to associate with your account. Getting their content or products in front of a ghost audience will do absolutely nothing for them. And don’t think you can hide it – there are tools for analyzing accounts (like IG Audit and Fake Follower Check) and estimating the percentage of the audience that’s real.

Not worth it.

Ghost followers surely make your total follower count look good, but buying these non-existent accounts will just drag you to social media hell -- flagged and shut down. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

4. Targeting Focus Keywords and Related Keywords Incorrectly

We’re no longer living in 2007, but people are still using keywords like we are. Unfortunately, misusing keywords is a great way to make Google ignore or down-vote your pages.

Culprit #1: Thinking you need to use your focus keyword verbatim.

Google has previously defined “close variants” for keywords. Essentially, this means keywords with slight rewording but the same meaning will pull up the same results.

Example: The SERPs for the keywords “vanilla ice cream” and “ice cream vanilla” have identical results displayed in different orders. (Both recipe lists include Taste of Home, Epicurious, David Lebovitz, Taste and Tell, Like Mother Like Daughter, and Allrecipes.)

Vanilla ice cream:

Ice cream vanilla:

If you rank for one, you’ll rank for the other, so there’s no need to rigidly stick to verbatim keywords, especially when rewording them slightly makes your sentences flow better.

Culprit #2: Targeting related keywords separately from your focus keyword.

Are you only targeting one keyword per page? Then you’re missing out on the power of semantic search.

Including related keywords in your content helps both users and search engines determine whether it’s contextually relevant to the topic the user is searching for.

For example, if you’re writing about how to brew black tea, you wouldn’t just target “how to brew black tea.” You’d also make sure to include related keywords like “how long to steep black tea,” “how to make black tea bags,” and “boiling black tea.”

Leaving out related keywords ignores semantic search, which is a no-no. The internet is becoming smarter, and semantic search is the future.

Is this common problem haunting your posts? Not using focus keywords synonymously with related keywords. Save your content before it's too late! Here's how. Click To Tweet

5. Posting Content Whenever the Mood Strikes

Do you tend to post content like Dracula preys on his victims – whenever the mood strikes?

This is counterintuitive to content marketing’s core mission, which is building audience trust. (Inconsistency is actually a hallmark of untrustworthiness.)

The more consistently you publish great content, the more your audience will rely on you as a trusted source of information. You’re proving yourself over and over.

On top of that, HubSpot found businesses publishing content consistently received more traffic and more leads than businesses publishing content inconsistently.

Spotty posting schedules and spotty quality are two factors to nix if you expect to make your content marketing work.

Do you tend to post content like Dracula preys – whenever the mood strikes? Inconsistency is a hallmark of untrustworthiness. The more consistently you publish content, the more your audience will rely on you. More: Click To Tweet

6. Publishing Skeletal Content and Expecting It to Rank

Skeletal, thin content is usually unsatisfying, light on research, and light on expertise. It doesn’t answer the reader’s most burning questions about the topic, and it doesn’t serve a useful purpose.

Granted, there’s a place for shorter content pieces (sharing opinions or news, for example), but not if you want to rank for keywords tied to heavy-hitting topics with lots of facets and depth.

Let’s look at an example SERP to show you what I mean.

For the keyword “SEO content writing,” the top 3 results have an average word count of 1,515. The lowest is 880, the highest 1,967.

To rank for this keyword, you would need to create a content piece of at least 1,500 words, because you’re looking to be a better information source than anything that’s currently ranking.

You can’t write 1,500 words full of fluff, either. You need meaty content that explains exactly what SEO content writing is and how to do it, plus provide examples.

In most cases, skeletal content just won’t cut it.

7. Putting Out Lots of Scary-Quality Content

Okay, you say. You’ll commit to consistency. You promptly write 5 blog posts in one day so you can get them out once a day for a week.

No. No, no, no.

Props to you if you can write 5 high-level, exceptionally researched, thought-provoking, engaging content pieces in one day. You’re either inhuman or a savant.

For the rest of us, this is impossible.

Pushing out content just to push it out never results in greatness. Instead, you’ll just have a lot of messy, yucky content sitting on your website, dragging down your game.

Don’t stoop to letting scary-quality content slide. Commit to excellence, and strive for it with each content piece you publish. This is the only way to build up a solid reputation, become an authority, and give your readers the value they’re looking for.

It’s the only way to rank!

8. Letting Duplicate Content Haunt Your Domain

The most common SEO error marketers make is duplicate content, according to SEMrush analysis.

66% of over 100,000 articles suffered from this problem.

Duplicate content is just what it sounds like: Multiple pages on your site that are identical or closely match each other. These are a problem because search engines won’t know which page is the most relevant, which can impact search visibility.

Image: Moz

To avoid this problem, all of your content pages and copy need to be unique.

Duplicate content cannibals in your content island are just eating each other's rankings and confuse Google. ☠️ Before getting that new post published, make sure it's unique from focus keyword to copy. - @JuliaEMcCoy Click To Tweet

9. Participating in Ghoulish Link-Buying Schemes

Here’s what I like to call a “content marketing downward spiral.”

You publish lots of poor content because you want to get it out there, fast. Because your content is poor, you don’t earn any backlinks. Because you don’t earn any backlinks organically, you buy into a link scheme to fake your way to ranking. Google blacklists you.

Do you see how shady content practices feed on each other?

Instead of buying links, focus on making every piece of content your best. Make your content worthy of links, and the links will come naturally, over time.

Remember, it won’t happen overnight. Content marketing, if anything, is a study in patience.

10. Forgetting to Champion Your Reader

You can tell when a brand has forgotten their reader when:

  • They focus on themselves in the content and what they’ll get out of it.
  • Their content has little value for the answer-hungry.
  • Their content is riddled with errors and inconsistencies.
  • They’re more focused on pitching than helping.
  • Their content engagement is the equivalent of crickets chirping.
  • Their content topics seem random and irrelevant.
  • Their posting schedule is summed up in one word: “Surprise!”

The thing is, when you put your reader first, all of these content problems naturally solve themselves.

Champion your reader, and your content marketing should fall into place.

Don’t Let Bad Content Marketing Tactics Haunt Your Brand Presence

None of these tactics will help you win readers and rake in ROI. There’s a better way to strategize, create, publish, and promote content.

Prioritize your audience, invest in the best content you possibly can, commit to consistency, and stay far away from strategies only the Wicked Witch of the West would buy into.

Bring your content marketing into the light, and the monsters sucking the life from your success won’t stick around for long.