The 9 Biggest Content Marketing Mistakes and How to Fix Them

I hope you have big, strong, shoulders, because, as a content marketer, you have been asked to carry a lot of weight on them.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2022 B2B Marketing Report, most (58%) of organizations have small (or one-person) in-house marketing/content marketing teams.

That means that you, dear reader, might be the only person on your company’s content marketing team!

While I was not surprised to see that 78% of companies with less than 99 employees had one-person or small teams, I was pretty shocked to see that 52% of companies with 100 to 999 employees had small or one-person marketing/content marketing teams, and even more flabbergasted to see that 20% of companies with over 1,000 employees had small or one-person marketing/content marketing teams.

Wow! That’s a lot of responsibility.

But that’s not all.

A content marketing lead is responsible for a good-sized chunk of the marketing budget: 26%, on average, according to that same report.

When given a marketing budget, you’ll likely feel pressure to get started. It’s easy to begin your content marketing journey with “let’s just start by cranking out some content.”
That leads to your first mistake.

Mistake Number 1: Not starting with a content marketing mission statement and marketing goals.

The Content Marketing Institute states that every successful content marketing plan contains two elements:

  • An understanding of your marketing goals
  • Your content mission statement

Why are they so important?

Because they help you decide what content you should and shouldn’t be creating.

Marketing Goals

Content marketing falls under the larger umbrella of marketing, and every piece of content you create should support one or more marketing goals. Here are some typical ones:

  1. Increase Brand Awareness
  2. Generate Leads
  3. Generate Sales
  4. Increase Brand Loyalty
  5. Build a Subscriber List

This makes even more sense when you consider the official definition of content marketing, from the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content Mission Statement

The godfather of content marketing and creator of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi, has said that creating a content marketing mission statement is the first step in any content marketing effort.

“A content mission statement is the reason for your content’s or strategy’s existence. It’s the marketer’s why,” says Pulizzi.

Most of my clients initially have no idea what a content marketing mission statement is. You might not, either. Here’s why it’s important, according to Pulizzi:

“I grew up in publishing and sat through many editorial meetings. The key to those editorial meetings was the editorial mission statement. That statement guided what the editors could and could not cover. Many times a journalist would have a great news idea, but that was always run past the mission statement. If it didn’t fit within the parameters of the statement, then it was a no go from the start.”

Pulizzi then brought that idea to content marketing:

“When I first started working with product brands on their content in 2000, it was easy to notice that most of these companies didn’t have a guiding editorial statement. Most were creating content to drive product sales, or they wanted to be known for a certain content area, but weren’t precise on the audience. Others were sending all sorts of content (long-form, video, audio, etc.) with no consistency at all. So shortly after that our team started teaching the creation of a content mission statement. Basically, the creation of an editorial mission statement for non-media companies.”

The bottom line: Your content marketing mission statement will guide you, your team members, outside contributors, and freelancers in making sure that every type of content you create is in line with your mission.

Wondering what to include in your Content Marketing Mission Statement?

My buddy Andy Crestodina, owner of website design company Orbit Media Studios, and content marketing expert, shared his fill-in-the-blank version:

Crestodina notes that “our content” refers to non-sales content. It might include blog posts, articles, newsletters, social media posts, videos, podcasts, case studies, white papers, ebooks, and more.

To fill in the blanks:

  • Audience – I love Andy’s take on this. He says, “Unlike the target audience for our products and services, the target audience for our content marketing may be very broad. In content marketing, we have two target audiences and two types of visitors: potential customers we hope to sell to, and anyone we can help through our expert advice. That larger audience of people who are interested in our content can drive huge, indirect benefits. This includes a world of potential visitors, followers, subscribers and influencers. Without this second audience, we are unlikely to attract enough of that first audience to create steady demand.”
  • Information – This includes the topics you want to cover, and the content formats you’ll be using. Says Andy: “It is the overlap between the topics that we know and can teach, and the topics that our audience wants.”
  • Benefit – What benefits does your content offer your audience? Every piece of content you create should be helpful.

Examples of Content Marketing Mission Statements

As you craft your organizations’ content marketing mission statements, here are some examples to provide inspiration.

Swift Passport. At the top of Swift Passport and Visa Service’s website blog page, you’ll see its content marketing mission statement: “Where travelers get expert advice, tips, and news to make traveling easier.” Blog post topics range from “Do You Need a Visa to Go to Vietnam?” to “Carry-On Bag Must-Haves For Travelers” to “Absolute Best International Hiking Vacations.” This blog is a great example of the two target audiences Andy mentions above: potential customers, and anyone Swift can help through expert advice. Only a subset of Swift’s blog visitors will be potential customers for its expedited passport and visa services, but the broader audience interested in this content can also share this blog information with others, who may, in fact, become customers.

Cleveland Clinic. The content marketing mission of its award-winning “Health Essentials” site: “Provide fitness, health, and wellness information that is useful, helpful, and relevant.” With 12 million monthly visitors, this site is another great example of helping anyone who needs it, whether they become patients or not.

Thyrv. Its content marketing mission: helping small businesses compete and win. The website offers a variety of blog posts, ebooks, videos, podcasts, and more, on subjects ranging from “Use Texting to Increase Sales and Improve Customer Communication” to “Boost Instagram Engagement” to “What to Look for When Hiring an Attorney.” Again, while only a portion of small businesses will sign on to become customers of Thryv’s CRM software, the information is helpful for many small businesses.

Getting Buy-In

Having a content marketing mission statement is great, but only if everyone on the team buys into it. In addition to all members of the content team, the C-suite, salespeople, product folks, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and anyone else who contributes to the content process should agree with it. That makes the next part of the process much easier.

Putting Your Content Marketing Mission Statement to the Test

You will have many opportunities to hold up your content marketing strategy and content topics up to your mission statement to see if there’s a fit.

Here are a couple of examples you might run into:

  • One of your product directors just won an industry award. They want you to write a blog post about it. However, it doesn’t fit into your mission of helping small businesses compete and win. As your team mulls this over, someone suggests creating a blog post about how winning awards can help small businesses grow, and including information from your product director as a SME. Win, win, win!
  • A customer has noticed that you publish great content, and they would like to be featured in one of your blog posts, to get traffic to their site. You offer them the option of being part of a case study or contributing a guest post on a topic that fits with your content marketing mission statement.
  • You have identified some experts in your industry that your audience would love to hear from. However, these folks are in high demand, and don’t have much time. You create a video or podcast series titled “Trendsetters” or “Ask the Expert” that will take only 20-30 minutes of an expert’s time, and also allows you to create easy video and podcast content.

The bottom line: Successful content marketing plans have marketing goals and a content mission statement.

Let’s move on to the next common content marketing mistake.

Mistake Number 2: Not being crystal clear on the target audience for your products and services.

In developing your Content Mission Statement, the assumption is that you have a firm grasp on the details of your target audience. Sadly, that is often not the case with many organizations, including larger ones.

Understanding your target audience is important for all of your marketing efforts. If your communications aren’t speaking to the right audience, you’re wasting time and money.

Many businesses spend a few years on the “spray and pray” approach to marketing, which can actually help in your journey to creating a target audience.

Some of your marketing efforts will work, you’ll get customers, and you’ll also gain valuable information along the way. You can use that when you decide to refine your target audience.

If you’re looking for a process to help you determine your target audience, here’s one I like from the Buffer site.

The five steps include:

Step 1: Identify Existing Ideal Customers and List Their Characteristics

Step 2: Identify the Problems You Solve and the People Who Benefit the Most From Your Solution

Step 3: Evaluate Your Data and Create Your Target Market Draft

Step 4: Compare Your Target Market Draft Against Real People

Step 5: Build Your Target Market Personas

This article gets into more details on the five steps.

A reminder: as mentioned in the Content Marketing Mission section, your target audience for content will be larger than your target audience for your products and services. However, you’ll still need to be clear on your target market to understand your larger audience for content.

Understanding your target audience will help you with the next mistake.

Mistake Number 3: Not creating and publishing optimized sales landing pages.

Wait – what!!!????

You might be thinking …

Sales pages have nothing to do with content, right? They’re like church and state, right?

Consider this real-life example.

I recently had a conversation with a new client.

She said she wished her company’s website had landing pages to link her blog posts to, when readers of those blog posts had questions about the services mentioned.

Um … yes.

As a reminder, here is the official definition of content marketing, from the Content Marketing Institute:

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

That last part is key, and having a sales landing page is helpful.

In fact, Andy Crestodina (I know I keep referring to his stuff, and no he’s not paying me) says that before any content is created, companies need to create SEO-optimized and conversion-optimized product and service landing pages. I agree.

You can read more about this in his terrific, in-depth article.

Here are some examples of great B2B landing pages.

One of the benefits of being able to link blog posts to product and service sales-focused landing pages is the ability to measure activities.

That leads me to the next mistake. 

Mistake Number 4: Creating a Content Marketing Plan Without Measurable Results

If the content marketing strategy is the meatloaf you want to serve, then the content marketing plan is the list of ingredients you’ll need to make that tasty meatloaf. (Yes, it’s dinner time, and I’m hungry).

In non-food terms, if the content marketing strategy is the nice one-page powerpoint you want to show to the C-suite and team members to help them understand why content marketing needs to be a part of the company’s marketing activities, the marketing plan is the roadmap that shows how you will get there and how you will measure success.

Within that plan, you’ll have many activities, including content topics, and what format you’ll be using for each piece of content.

You’ll also have goals for what your content marketing plan will achieve.

This is where I see many companies make a major mistake:

They use generic marketing goals instead of measurable ones.

Marketing goals are easy to understand, and are a great starting point. As a reminder, here are some typical marketing goals:

  1. Increase Brand Awareness
  2. Generate Leads
  3. Generate Sales
  4. Increase Brand Loyalty
  5. Build a Subscriber List

One reason why companies don’t go beyond these goals? There is a persistent thought out there that content marketing does not contribute to the bottom line.

Not true.

Savvy marketers know that content marketing can absolutely provide a strong Return on Investment (ROI).


Without attaching specific outcomes to your content marketing goals, there’s no way to determine the effect of content marketing on your organization’s bottom line.
Enter Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

What are KPIs, you ask?

They are measurable values to show progress in reaching a specific business goal, such as:

  • KPIs to increase brand awareness – New website visitors, return visitors, time on site; SEO (measured by keyword position ranking on search engines), SEO traffic, and domain authority
  • KPIs to generate demand/leads – Gated content signups, demo request signups
  • KPIs to generate sales/revenue – New sales
  • KPIs to build a subscribed audience – Newsletter signups

Here are some specific examples:

  1. Marketing Goal: Generate leads
    ➔ Content type: Gated white paper
    ➔ KPI: Add 100 new email addresses to internal list during a 12-month period
  2. Marketing Goal: Increase brand awareness
    ➔ Content type: 20 SEO-optimized blog posts
    ➔ KPI: Improve ranking on target keywords within a specific, priority topic cluster – moving rankings from page 2 to page 1 (results 1-10 in Google Search)

Right about now you may be wondering how the heck you’re going to measure those results? That brings us to the fifth mistake.

Mistake Number 5: Not using technology tools to measure content marketing activities.

Great news!

You only need a few tech tools to measure the results of your content marketing efforts, and they’re not expensive.

Let’s bring back the two KPI examples. This time, let’s add in the tech tools needed to measure the results:

  1. Marketing Goal: Generate leads
    ➔ Content type: Gated white paper
    ➔ KPI: Add 100 new email addresses to internal list during a 12-month period
    ➔ Tech tool: Google Analytics + newsletter software (Google Analytics can show if people clicked “sign up for a newsletter” but not if they follow through and enter their information to actually receive the newsletter.)
  2. Marketing Goal: Increase brand awareness
    ➔ Content type: 20 SEO-optimized blog posts
    ➔ KPI: Improve ranking on target keywords within a specific, priority topic cluster – moving rankings from page 2 to page 1 (results 1-10 in Google Search)
    ➔ Tech tool: SEMRush

If you’re starting from scratch, set up Google Analytics for your website. The best part? It’s free.

Google Analytics can provide a treasure trove of information for content marketers. It provides everything from determining where your website visitors are coming from, where your visitors spend time on your website, which pieces of content have the most views, what pages lead to sales or email address captures, keyword rankings, and more.

Another important tool is SEMrush. If you’re not familiar with SEMrush, it’s an SEO tool that provides keyword research, runs SEO audits of your blog, looks for backlinking opportunities and more. You can try it for free, and plans start at $120 per month.

Other tools that can help you measure the value of your content marketing efforts:

● Email service providers – prices range from free (from MailChimp and AWeber) to $20 per month (Constant Contact) and up
● Social media analytics software – such as Buffer – prices range from free to $99 per month

At this point, you’re probably chomping at the bit to get into some actual content writing mistakes. So here’s the next mistake.

Mistake Number 6: Not including writing guidelines in your Brand Style Guide.

Many companies have Brand Style Guides. They usually include your logo, its colors, your website colors, and more. This document allows internal team members as well as the public, vendors, customers, investors, and the media to reference your company visually in your preferred way.

When you begin creating content, it’s important to include in your Brand Style Guide the direction of the messages and words you publish. This achieves the same objective as the visual portion of your Style Guide – to allow team members, as well as external freelancers and other contributors, to keep a consistent tone, voice, and format.

Uniformity in those areas will allow your website visitors to help website visitors receive your information in the way you want them to receive it. It’s also really helpful to provide this information to everyone contributing writing to the site. Every writer and contributor has their own personal writing style. While there are times when this might be helpful (such as a first-person essay or guest post), most of the time you’ll want to keep content format, tone, and voice the same.

A Content Writing Style Guide

When you begin creating or adding to a Brand Style Guide, consider starting with the basics – reminding creators to follow basic grammar rules and avoid misspellings. This is easier said than done, as everyone has a different background.

One way to set the stage is to choose an editorial style guide as the foundation for content creation. Common ones include the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style. These guides are used by editors and writers to determine everything from when to capitalize words, to how to write plurals of last names, and when to use commas.

Many clients I’ve worked with, including agencies, will pull out some key parts of those editorial style guides, and include them in their own Style Guides.

For individual companies and organizations, it’s also important to include the tone and voice you want to convey. There’s a big difference between content that sounds professional and scholarly vs. funny and street-smart.

For a complete picture, include key editorial guidelines, the tone and voice you want, and the formatting you prefer. Here are some common items to include:

  • How to refer to products and services provided by the company, in terms of capitalization, acronyms, etc.
  • Whether or not to use the Oxford comma (ex. dog, cat, and bird vs. dog, cat and bird)
  • How to refer to sources – through hyperlinks, footnotes, or information in the text
  • If content should be written in second person or third person (you vs. they)
  • What voice and tone to use (ex. – professional, expert, and scholarly vs. fun, casual, and street-smart) – and provide examples of wording for each type
  • What type of formatting is preferred – (such as subheadings and bullet points)

Make sure to share this with your internal team and external freelancers and contributors before they begin any content projects.

Speaking of content projects… that leads us to the next common content marketing mistake.

Mistake Number 7: Not using a Content Brief for every piece of content.

An agency had hired me to write a series of content pieces for one of their clients – a company that provided a data-focused marketing technology.

We had spent hours speaking with team members at the company to get a better understanding of their offerings, but each person we spoke with had a different idea about the target audience and the benefits of their product.

When it was time for me to start writing, I was on a Zoom call with several members of the agency team. I asked them if they would provide me with a Content Brief.

A hush descended on the call.

Then, a team member piped up, “In my 17 years in this business, I’ve never written a content brief.”

I was floored.

I went on to explain what a content brief was, what it should include, and why it was important.

Now I’m sharing it with you.

What is a Content Brief?

A content brief provides guidelines and requirements for each piece of content that’s created.

My content brief template has about 20 items, but at the minimum, consider including the following pieces of information:

  • Working Title
  • Description of topic
  • Content format/type
  • Word count range
  • Keywords to include
  • Tone and voice or link to Style Guide
  • Target audience
  • Goals/KPIs
  • Call to Action to include
  • Brief outline or description of information that must be included

IMPORTANT: Either a client or the writer can put the content brief together. However, the client usually provides input into the brief, and ultimately needs to approve it before writing begins.

Why is a Content Brief Important?

You know that old game called “Telephone?” It’s the one where you tell someone something, and they tell someone something, and so on, until the final person has a totally different message.

This happens frequently in conversations, including conversations between clients and writers.

A content brief ensures that before a piece of content is written, both the writer and the client agree on what needs to be created.

Not only does this eliminate the need for major rewrites or revisions, it also guarantees that each piece of content has a purpose aligned with your content marketing mission, goals, and KPIs.

Once you create a content brief, you might want to hand it off to a writer. That leads to the next common mistake.

Mistake Number 8: Hiring the wrong types of writers.

When I’m scrolling through social media and see who’s looking for writers, more often than not, I’ll see a post like this:

“Looking for a freelancer who can write website copy and landing pages, PPC ads, case studies, blog posts, thought leadership, press releases, and podcast scripts, as well as provide the location of the Holy Grail.”

I added the “Holy Grail” part because asking for all of these skill sets in one person is like finding the Holy Grail. It’s unrealistic.

That said, you will find people who say they can do all of those things. Yet, I have never met anyone who was willing and able to provide all of those services to one client, at a good level, let alone an exceptional one.

Many freelancers and contractors that I’ve met have done all or some of those activities at some point in time, but at any given point, decide to focus on one or a subset of them.

As frustrating as this is to hear, if you are looking to hire a freelancer or contractor (or an internal team member for that matter), you will likely need to hire more than one to handle your communications needs.

The first step is determining what types of writing or content creation you need, and who can provide it.

Content Writer vs. Copywriter

There is ongoing confusion even in the freelancing world about the meaning of these two terms, so if you’re not sure which type of writer does what, you’re in good company.

Here’s the answer (credit goes to Don Dodds, from his article):

“Content writing involves the creation of text content to educate or entertain readers. It may drive sales as well, but that’s not its primary purpose.”

“Copywriting is the art of persuading readers to take some type of sales-related action.”

Examples of typical types of content writing projects include:

  • Blog posts and Guest Posts
  • Articles
  • Thought Leadership for business and industry media, such as Council
  • Newsletters
  • Customer Success Stories
  • Case Studies
  • White Papers
  • Ebooks
  • Infographics
  • Video Scripts

Examples of typical types of copywriting projects include:

  • Website copy
  • Website product and sales landing pages
  • Email sequences
  • Direct mail copywriting
  • PPC ads
  • Social media ads

Most high-level writers identify as either content writers or copywriters. One major reason for that is because the skill sets are very different for each type of writing.

Great content writers are storytellers. Their job is to create content that attracts the target audience, and builds a relationship with them over time.

While content writers may be Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in some areas, to craft a compelling story, they generally spend time researching information, as well as gaining it through interviews with a client’s internal team members, customers, and/or interviews with industry experts.

Many content writers are also required to incorporate SEO keywords and phrases into their content.

Excellent copywriters have the ability to capture the audience’s attention using the shortest of words and phrases. They are master wordsmiths, and understand and use language and its nuances to motivate the audience to action.

The marketing message is usually provided to the copywriter. The job of the copywriter is to translate that message into one that has the highest conversion rate.

As the length of the content needed tends to be shorter for copywriters, they are sometimes referred to as “short-form” writers, while content writers are referred to as “long-form” writers.

With this information in mind, read on for the final content marketing mistake.

Mistake Number 9: Not vetting your freelance writers.

Hiring a freelancer or contractor is different than hiring an employee.

Other than the obvious differences between them (paying taxes, health benefits, etc.), it’s more difficult to determine if a contractor will be a good fit or not.

A key area lies in their experience level. Most employees that you hire will have industry experience, or at least functional experience.

Content creators will often raise their hands to be considered for projects, without industry experience. That is not necessarily a deal breaker, but it is something to consider.

What are some ways to determine if a content creator is a good fit for you?

Step 1 – Be clear about what you are looking for.

  • Create a description of what you’re looking for – as detailed as possible. For example: We are a growing B2B SaaS company in the healthcare industry looking for freelance content writers. We are looking for blog posts, thought leadership articles, and case studies about trends in healthcare technology in the US and globally.
  • Add information that will weed out certain folks. For example: Looking only for native English speakers. Industry knowledge preferred. Payment based on experience but starts at $500 per blog post.

Step 2 – Share this information with your network.

Post on job boards and social media, and with specific friends and colleagues to get referrals.

Step 3 – Review all candidates to see if they are a fit with your requirements.

Check portfolios and ask for samples. Interview them to see if they seem easy to work with.

Step 4 – Pick 3 potential freelancers.

Step 5 – Offer a paid trial at the same rate as your content creation.

Just relying on portfolios and samples isn’t enough. You’ll want to provide a paid writing trial to make sure that the writing works for you. Please don’t ask freelancers to do a free writing trial for you. It’s insulting, and not appropriate for contractors.

Step 6 – Choose one or more freelancers to work with.

Step 7 – Offer projects to freelancers and see if they agree with your budget and have availability to provide work on your schedule.

And that’s a wrap!

I hope you’ve learned some ways to make your content marketing efforts easier and more successful.

So that this process isn’t overwhelming, I recommend choosing one mistake and its fixes to focus on each week.

If you’d like to know how we can support your company’s content marketing efforts, please contact me.

Margie Zable Fisher - President of Positive ROI Communications

Combining journalistic writing, interviewing, and research savvy with deep marketing and business experience to help your company achieve a positive ROI on your content investment.

Freelance Content Writer | Content Strategist | Journalist | Triathlete