Why Content Marketing Isn’t Working for You

22nd August 2017

Are your content marketing efforts not getting you the results you expected?

Do you feel like you’ve followed all best practices and done all that you’ve been told, but for some reason, you are still not getting anything back?

What if I told you that you’re not alone:

In fact, a survey conducted by the Content Marketing Institute found that 88% of the companies interviewed use content marketing and only 30% of B2B marketers say their companies are effective at content marketing.

The effectiveness of content marketing
An image showing the effectiveness of content marketing Source: Content Marketing Institute

This means that all this content creation doesn’t seem to be working.

So, does content marketing really work?

Absolutely. It’s just really easy to do it wrong and very hard to get it right.

There are countless examples of companies (even in the “boring” industries) which had huge successes using content marketing.

For example, Optum, a health information technology and services firm, leveraged the hub & spoke approach to content marketing to boost their lead generation & nurturing campaigns.

Optum released an eBook called Moneyball Analytics talking about the power of analytics in healthcare. The eBook was downloaded more than 500 times in the first month and generated more than 18,000 leads.

I know you’re thinking that content marketing is just not right for your business but most likely you’re missing an important piece of the content marketing success puzzle.

Thankfully, the reasons behind ineffective content marketing strategy are common and most of them have an easy solution.

Here we’ve packed the most common reasons why your content marketing isn’t working and an advice on how to fix them.

1. You don’t have a content strategy in place

A good strategy is at the heart of every good marketing campaign, not just content marketing. You name it – social media, SEO, PPC, email marketing, the list goes on and on. All marketing incentives need a strategy in order to be successful.

However, 14% of marketers have no strategy and 48% had a verbal-only strategy (which let’s face it is the same as… having no strategy).

The percentage of companies with a content marketing strategy
An image showing the percentage of companies that have a content marketing strategy in place Source: Content Marketing Institute

To nobody’s surprise, research consistently shows that having a clear (and documented) strategy directly impacts content effectiveness.

So what does this mean for us marketers?

To put it briefly, even a bad strategy is better than no strategy.

When you have some strategy in place you can judge & measure whether what you’re doing is working or not. When you have no strategy, or at least not a documented one, there is no way to benchmark your efforts.

Do you remember all of your KPIs for this quarter?

So I thought. Go and document your content strategy if you haven’t already.

To help you, here are the basics of a content marketing strategy:

  • Set up content marketing objectives & KPIs – You can’t measure whether your content marketing efforts are successful if you are not clear on what you want to achieve with it. Do you aim to increase website visitors? Do you want to use content for lead nurture and lead generation? Or maybe improve SEO? Set realistic, clear & timely objectives and KPIs on how you would measure success.

For example:

Objective: Increase new visitors to the website

KPI: 5% increase in new visitors month on month

  • Build a buyer persona –To run a successful content marketing campaign you need to know who you’re speaking to. So, define your target audience before you start.
  • Run a content audit – If you’ve been producing content until now you might want to run a content audit. It will help you figure out what you want to keep, scrap or repurpose & identify any existing content gaps.
  • Come up with content ideas – Do a keyword research or use a content idea generator to help you come up with content ideas.
  • Make an editorial calendar & plan your posts – If you don’t have one you can use ours. We’re that cool.
  • Content creation & distribution– Here’s where you make magic happens. Don’t forget to put as much effort and resources in distributing your content as you did in producing it.

What you should do next: sit down and document your strategy.

2. Brands don’t know who their customers are

A study back in 2005 discovered that in an entire day, we see around 3,500 marketing messages. Imagine what this number is likely to look like in 2017…

So how do you make sure you cut through the advertising clutter and better tailor your messages to the people who could be interested in your products or services?

By clearly identifying your target audience. The easiest way to do that is to create a buyer persona(s).

HubSpot defines buyer persona as:

A semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.

Here is an example of a good buyer persona:

Example of a buyer persona
An image showing an example of a buyer persona

See how the description is all written as if the persona was a real person?

The more fleshed out & detailed your buyer description is, the better. Your buyer persona(s) should include traits, attitudes and values such as background, demographics, hobbies & interests, motivations, challenges, goals & common objections.

Now, before you start fleshing out your buyer persona you need to determine how many target customers your business has. Some niche businesses might only have 1 or 2 target customers and that’s okay. However, services like Grammarly will have several distinct groups that can benefit from their grammar & spelling checker.

3. Brands think it’s good enough to publish average content

Between 60% & 70% of B2B content created goes unused and about 30% of Microsoft’s content had never been visited.

What does this mean to you?

That investing in content that nobody will read is quite simply an empty investment, but most importantly that:

Average content can no longer cut it. Neither can random acts of content.

To be successful in content marketing you need to provide unique content & value to your audience. That’s what your visitors are expecting and that’s what Google wants to show searchers.

Here are the basic criteria your content needs to meet:

  • Your content needs to be original, no copycats
  • It needs to be relevant to your audience
  • Content should be well-timed
  • It has to be helpful, nobody likes a sales pitch
  • Provides unique value to the reader
  • It needs to be in line with your overall marketing strategy
  • Good writing skills
  • Your website provides great user experience

I know that it can sometimes be tough to meet all of those criteria. Coming up with fresh content ideas can sometimes be challenging. Also, the amount of research, time & resources put behind one of a kind content is enormous.

Nobody said that doing content marketing is easy, but it can be rewarding.

4. Brands treat content marketing like a sales pitch

The one thing that great content marketing lacks is a sales pitch.

How content marketing doesn't work when it's too salesy
An illustration showing how content marketing doesn’t work when it’s too salesy Source: Marketoonist

Salesy content and clickbait might get people to click, but visitors will be looking for answers, not pitches.

And what do visitors do when they don’t find what they’re looking for?

That’s right, they leave. And the last thing you want is people bouncing off your page.

So, to ensure that people stay and read through you need to meet their expectations, and first of all you need to identify their needs.

How do you do that? The easiest way is to identify the users’ search intent.

Search intent is concerned with:

Identifying primary topics and questions that people are looking to answer when searching for a specific term, then creating content that addresses the user’s needs.

In other words, search intent simply refers to a searcher’s intentions when performing a search.

There are 3 main categories of search intent:

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional

Here’s a practical example of every type of search query:

The different types of search intent
An image showing the different types of search intent Source: CoSchedule

There are plenty of questions that can help you investigate and identify user intent. Here are some to help you get started:

  • What were visitors searching for right before they arrived on your website?
  • What answers were they hoping to get from your content?
  • Are there any other semantic searches that your content could have answered?
  • Why did they choose to land on your page and not another?

Understanding this intent will help you drive more qualified traffic, improve user experience and also identify missed opportunities & content gaps.

5. Your content lacks a clear call-to-action (CTA)

We can all agree when I say that CTA buttons are one of the most important tools that we digital marketers have at our disposal.

The term refers to the buttons that encourage visitors to take a certain action, whether that’s reading more articles, scheduling a demo, or requesting a quote.

  • “Subscribe to our newsletter”
  • “Download…”
  • “Start your free trial”
  • “Add to basket”

Why does your website need a call-to-action?

Approximately 75% of your blog traffic are information searchers. This means that these readers are not yet sales-ready.

An effective CTA can help you:

  • Nurture these visitors
  • Provide clear expectation of the next logical step
  • Generate leads
  • Increase conversion rates
  • Capitalise on your content efforts
  • Improve customer experience by helping visitors fulfill a need or solve another problem
  • Grow your email list

Here are some examples of effective CTA buttons that you can’t help but click:

Home page with a strong call-to-action button
An example of a home page with a strong call-to-action (CTA) button UrbanMassage’s home page
Home page with a strong call-to-action (CTA) button
An example of a home page with a strong call-to-action (CTA) button Neil Patel’s home page
Spotify's home page
An example of a home page with a strong call-to-action (CTA) button

See how all of them are focused on a single next action? How the surrounding images & text complement the button and make it more effective?

To design a successful CTA, you need to consider more than just the text itself. It’s also important to consider elements like button design, colour and position, background colour, surrounding images and text.

6. Lack of an effective distribution & promotion plan

You spend hours brainstorming, writing and editing your new blog post, you even created a custom image for it so you’re sure that this article is going to become viral. You hit the “publish” button and wait for the traffic to start pouring in… but then nothing happens.

Does this sound familiar? I thought so.

Everybody tells you that to excel in content marketing you need to create great content. However, nobody tells you that the creation is just the first part of a two-part rule. The second rule is effective promotion.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to invest as much time and effort in content promotion as you did in content creation.

You need to get at least some initial traction for your content through your own promotion initiatives. Without an outreach and promotion plan, chances are even your best killer content will go unnoticed.

How do you promote your content?

For a comprehensive promotion & distribution strategy it’s best to harness owned, earned & paid media. However, you should adjust your promotion strategy according to need, budget & internal resources.

For example, you want to invest more time & resources promoting a cornerstone content piece or an eBook than a regular entry on your blog.

Explanation of paid, owned and earned media
Examples of paid, owned and earned media

Here are just a few ways to promote a single blog post and increase your reach:

  • Email your internal teams
  • Email newsletter subscribers
  • Share across social media channels
  • Put new content in your email signature
  • Publish on Medium
  • Post to Reddit
  • Write a weekly round-up post
  • Practice good internal linking
  • Mention your content when you comment on other websites and forums
  • Pitch industry influencers & other bloggers and ask them to share your content

7. Your content is not search engine friendly

Content and SEO go hand in hand. If your website has bad SEO then nobody is going discover your content, and there is no point producing content nobody will read.

So, before you start producing content it’s important to familiarise yourself with the basic principles of SEO.

If you’re running your website on a CMS platform you can also install an SEO plugin which will help you optimise your content. I would personally recommend Yoast SEO which will not only improve your SEO but also content readability. It’s easy to use and will make a huge difference to your website.


Don’t despair if your content marketing efforts are not paying off, many businesses are facing the same challenges as you are. Most likely, the reason why content marketing is not working for you is already on our list.

Luckily, there’s a fix for every mistake and by identifying what your gaps are you are halfway there.

But most importantly, content marketing is a long-term investment and an asset to your business. So, be patient & give your content time to start paying off.

Are there any other content struggles you have faced? How did you overcome them?

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