Here's the scenario: you have a well-performing website, validated target buyer personas, a content strategy to steer all of your activity and a content calendar to underpin it. After weeks of researching, writing, editing, and design work, you've made your first premium content download available — you're all set to go.
But a few weeks on and you’re no closer to your goal than when you started. Your articles are struggling to rank for your chosen keywords, and your premium offer isn’t receiving the downloads you’d expected. Why isn’t your content strategy working?
There are countless reasons why a content strategy might not be performing. Without going under the bonnet of your website for a content audit, we can’t tell you definitely why that is.
What we can do is help you to diagnose where your strategy could be made tighter — and what you can do about it to turn your content strategy into one that helps you achieve your goals.
Diagnosing the problem
Start by deep-diving into your collateral. Whether your problems end up being with the content itself or more technical in nature, your data reveals all.
Depending on what your goals are, your content might be underperforming in any of the following ways. Here are four common signs that your content strategy isn't working. Do you recognise any of them?
You’ve reviewed your traffic analytics and seen that traffic to your website is low. When people do visit, they aren’t engaging with or converting on your content.
You’ve reviewed your blog’s bounce rate and seen that nobody is actually reading your articles. The content you’re producing isn’t engaging and your target audience is losing interest, quickly
You've reviewed your conversion rate and seen that your articles aren't generating any new contacts. People might be reading your content, but they're not converting on your offers. How are those calls to action (CTAs) looking, and are the offers themselves aligned to your buyer personas?
You’ve reviewed your contacts’ timelines and seen that content isn’t helping sales to nurture and close customers. Customer retention is also likely a problem.
Pinpointing where your content is letting you down may not be your favourite task, but identifying your issue(s) is half the work.
To put it another way, you could spin and rationalise and explain away why your content marketing isn't generating leads — or you could own up to it and tackle the problem so your blog does start creating new contacts!
So how do you solve these challenges?
4 ways to start improving your content:
If traffic is low, consider… killing your content downloads. Yep, you read that right. Many organisations spend a great deal of time and effort creating premium content offers, which are then hidden behind gated forms. Un-gating some of your offers and making them freely available on your website will give Google much more content to crawl when it next looks your way. Take the time to keyword-optimise and link all this great new content into a topic cluster and you’ll have set some strong foundations for organic traffic to build on.
(Remember: high traffic isn't always good traffic. Weigh up how much traffic your page is getting with what that traffic is doing. Smaller but high-converting traffic can be much more valuable than articles drawing in large crowds who go on to do nothing.)
If readers are bouncing from your blog… video marketing could be the perfect solution. Your visitors might not have the time to read long, informative articles. They might not be interested in a seven-minute read. They might simply prefer video. Video can get across much of the same information that your written content accomplishes, in a medium that’s more engaging, shareable, and popular than ever.
If nobody is converting on your articles... audit your conversion points. Make it as easy and compelling as possible for your readers to say 'yes' to your offers. This means including a variety of text-based CTA throughout the content, there to catch readers however far they make it through your articles. Finish each piece with a standout image-based CTA that jumps out at the reader and captures their attention. A/B test the effectiveness of these CTAs with different colours, visuals or, yes, copy! And finally, take a look at the offers themselves. Do they speak to your target buyers? Do they offer practical solutions, clear guidance, or genuinely interesting thought leadership?
If your content isn’t helping sales… review whether or not it’s the right content. What questions are your prospects actually asking? And how does sales typically communicate with them? Sit down with your sales reps to uncover those moments of truth when a buyer is on the fence, and create content that is highly focused on answering that question or hesitation. Are sales working with a few target accounts? Tailor it even further. Or would they value content they can use everyday or deliver at scale through workflow automation? Find out what they really need to help them sell.
Notice a trend? Above all, your content needs to grasp your target buyers’ attention and keep them engaged. And while many businesses focus on the technical benefits of their offerings — don’t get us wrong, this is still important! — creativity in your content will pay in dividends.
So how exactly do you keep your audience wanting more?
The power of storytelling in content marketing is huge. Grabbing the attention of your prospects and drawing them into your content is the perfect way to demonstrate the value of your services and offerings and create long-term advocates for your brand.
“Create content that starts meaningful conversations between you and your readers.”
In fact, it’s all about your brand story and how you stand out from the crowd. What solution do you provide for the customer that other vendors don’t? This is rarely the actual services you offer — after all, your competitors are your competitors because they’re offering the same. What sets your organisation apart and gives it the leading edge likely runs much deeper than that. So what is your differentiator?
“We’re talking about the people who make up your business, the core values you support, and the behaviours those values drive”, explains Dr Thomas Brown, our Head of Content. “This is what puts your business on the top of your target buyers’ list and, told well, your brand stories communicate that, sometimes without ever having to explicitly state it. The right stories can move your reader’s heart or change their mind or invite them to see the world a little differently. This is incredibly powerful, especially when you’re implementing a content strategy week by week, month by month.”
“This goes way beyond better engagement or a higher click through rate. We’re talking about the building blocks of customer relationships.” Tom
Connect with your buyers’ pain points. Speaking to the needs of your customers and using true-to-life scenarios will light up your reader’s brain in a way most other content styles won’t. It’s this relatability that keeps your prospects engaged, and likely to act on what they learn from your content.
What, Why, How. The architecture of your stories. Relate to what challenges your readers face,, why you and your offerings are different from your average vendor, and how these can help improve their situation.
Be a brand journalist. Telling stories targeted at your prospects and their buying journey will make your services uniquely relevant to their needs. Taking this approach is a sure-fire way of driving results and engaging your audience.
Storytelling is crucial. Whether you’re leveraging use cases or case studies, discussing challenges your prospects are looking to solve, or even raising pain points they might not realise they have, you want your readers to sit back and think, “yes, I have that issue and they can help me solve it!”.
The technical part: lifting the bonnet on SEO
Your site may look polished and professional on the exterior, but something, somewhere, is affecting your content strategy’s performance… If you’ve followed our opening advice and lifted the bonnet to see what’s going on, and you can’t align the metrics you’re seeing with the quality of the content itself, you might be looking at some technical issues.
Do you recognise any of these?
Since you last checked, your site's Google popularity rating has only gone in one direction: down.
Old backlinks that direct to broken, outdated, or spam pages have been added as part of an expensive SEO service delivered by a previous (now out of business) agency.
You've been hacked from Russia with loads of sexy URL links (you know the sort) hidden in the database.
Something's preventing all the posts from being indexed (a theme update may be the likely culprit on that one).
Anyone of these could have been rendering your new content as 'unwanted' by Google. Put all four together and you aren’t going anywhere – no matter how good your editorial is. But there are steps you can take to change that.
Troubleshooting tips for technical problems:
Find what tool works best for you. And make use of it. From Moz to SEMrush to Google Console, a whole range of tools and resources exist to help support your SEO and keyword work.
Understand what competitors are ranking for. We don’t always advise looking across the pond – your content solutions should be tailored to your business – but sometimes it’s a must. Research your competitors’ SEO activity and analyse where you might be able to incorporate some of their strategy.
Establish best practice. This is your longevity piece. Once you understand why Google has decided it doesn’t like your site, you can understand how to fix it. Create a best practice for your teams to easily implement in the future.
The components of a content strategy that performs
Your content strategy represents a phenomenal opportunity for you to attract new traffic, engage your prospects, close business, and build meaningful relationships with customers.
“It’s crucial to make your content strategy work for you, and build a demonstrable ROMI to match your fabulous-looking website.”
Having spent some time looking why your content strategy isn’t working, take a moment to look at the components of a content strategy that does. Here are a few final tips for creating a content strategy that fuels your inbound marketing and meets your business’ objectives.
Involve your whole business
From the company directors, to sales, to customer services, each area of your business will be able to offer key insights into the pain points of your different personas and collaborate on ideas for content. That brand story will sound so good coming from the CEO. You’ll get content ideas from the whole business, and create resources that the whole team will use.
Partner with a content strategy specialist
If you’re going to do it properly, do it right. Outsource some of the writing to a B2B content marketing agency, inbound marketing agency, a HubSpot Solutions Partner, or a freelance writer capable of translating your knowledge into a piece of content that stands out. Often, someone removed from the organisation can bring a fresh pair of eyes to your expertise.
Review and repurpose your existing assets
The most opportunistic strategies start with what you already have. Review your existing content to quick wins and lucrative opportunities. Maybe you have a case study that could be repurposed into a video or infographic, or multiple pieces of content that would perform better as one. After all, it’s what we did here. The lower the touch, the greater the ROI.
We’ve barely scraped the surface here, but we hope this has been helpful. There are so many reasons why a content strategy might not be delivering the results you’d hoped. Whatever approach you take to diagnosing and solving the issue, start with analytics.
You might think a case study looks weak or an article doesn’t answer the question asked of it but without going under the hood to the reporting, you can’t say for sure. To make informed decisions and implement content strategies that deliver on your goals, your data is key.