51 Experts Share Content Marketing Myths and Missteps That Hurt Your Work

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They’re like nails on the proverbial chalkboard – those things that make us cringe when we read or hear them. Or maybe they’re just little gnats that we want to swat away from us.

Pet peeves and misconceptions can be big or little, but they’re all annoying. In content marketing, they’re downright bad for the practice, your business, and (mis)perceptions of all of our work.

We asked presenters at the upcoming Content Marketing World what irritates them about our industry. They came back with a lot to say. Much of it falls into a few overarching categories: strategy, audience, and the content itself.

Read on to hear what bothers 51 of them.

Table of Contents

1. Focusing on what’s easy

My biggest pet peeve about the content marketing industry is how it promotes tactics and tools more than the importance of strategy and planning. Tactics and tools are easier to sell because humans are typically impatient. Marketers would get so much more out of their content marketing tactics and tools if they took the time to strategize and plan. – Chris Craft, co-founder and chief content officer, NeoLuxe Marketing
Marketers would get so much more out of their content marketing tactics and tools if they took the time to strategize and plan, says @CraftWrites via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

2. Starting without a content strategy

Our biggest annoyance is what we call “strategy MIA” (missing in action). Many brands jump straight into content creation without spending time on the strategy work. We also see a lot of brands spending without any attribution or idea of their content ROI. – Karen Hesse, CEO and founder, 256
Our biggest annoyance is what we call strategy MIA (missing in action), says @256media via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

3. Creating disposable content

It’s time to start creating evergreen content and stop wasting time, money, and energy on disposable, single-use content. Creating evergreen content can be compared to creating a great television series that you don’t have to watch as soon as it debuts. Your audience should have the opportunity to consume it whenever it’s relevant to him or her, not just in campaign time. – Carlijn Postma, founder, author, and speaker, The Post
It’s time to start creating evergreen content and stop wasting time, money, and energy on disposable, single-use content, says @carlijnpostma via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

 4. Confusing content marketing with campaigns

A “content marketing campaign” is not a thing. A campaign always stops. A content marketing initiative, theoretically, should never stop. Evolve, yes. Stop, never. – Joe Pulizzi, founder, The Tilt
A #ContentMarketing initiative, theoretically, should never stop. Evolve, yes. Stop, never, says @JoePulizzi via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

5. Framing it as a quick fix

Content marketing can be a difficult concept to understand, particularly for leaders who have a traditional marketing mindset and think that the best way to sell is to talk about products. It doesn’t help that some marketers attempt to tout “quick and easy” content marketing solutions. Doing content marketing right means taking the time to understand your strategy, audience, goals, and channels. – Andi Robinson, global digital content leader, Corteva Agriscience
Doing #ContentMarketing right means taking the time to understand your strategy, audience, goals, and channels, says @hijinxmarketing via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

6. Mixing up content marketing with marketing content

Too many people still think marketing with content is the same as content marketing. If you don’t publish content on your own website consistently and with a focus on educating your audience, you’re not doing content marketing.

A YouTube video is not content marketing. An e-book is not content marketing. Content marketing allows us to build an audience so they get to know, like, and trust us more than the competition. – Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group
If you don’t publish content on your own website consistently and with a focus on educating your audience, you’re not doing #ContentMarketing, says @BrennerMichael via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

7. Failing to see content’s real value

Some people don’t understand that content is an asset in and of itself and needs to be treated that way. Too many content marketers are still using content only in a marketing capacity. – Carla Johnson, marketing and innovation strategist, speaker, and author
Too many content marketers are still using #content only in a marketing capacity, says @carlajohnson via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

8. Not expressing content marketing’s full potential

The content marketing industry does a poor job of communicating the full value of high-quality content. Marketers know they need content, but too often they fail to realize the full potential of their content investment. As an industry, we need to do a better job communicating that high-quality content should drive SEO, sales enablement, conversion, email marketing, advertising, affiliate programs, and more. If marketers understood that, they would invest more and see a higher return. – Dale Bertrand, president, Fire&Spark
The #ContentMarketing industry does a poor job of communicating the full value of high-quality content, says #DaleBertrand via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

9. Trivializing the practice

There’s a perception that content marketing is pretty pictures and words. Content marketing is customer and industry research, messaging alignment, then content creation. Then we execute testing, measurement, and revamps of content to continually meet buyer needs. It’s a work in progress and never really complete. While we love savvy words and pretty pictures, content marketing is a lot of work. – Penny Gralewski, solutions marketing, Commvault
There’s a perception that #ContentMarketing is pretty pictures and words, says @virtualpenny via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

10. Thinking it’s an easy lift

There’s still a tendency for content marketing to be viewed as pretty pictures, snazzy videos, and storytelling. Content marketing performs a heavy lift in so many marketing programs. It starts in strategy and goes all the way to conversion and sales results, whether it’s across B2B or B2C. –  Jacqueline Loch, executive vice president, customer innovation, SJC Content
There’s still a tendency for #ContentMarketing to be viewed as pretty pictures, snazzy videos, and storytelling, says @jacquelineloch via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

11. Taking the short view

Too few people are willing to take the long view on the value of content marketing. The ROI can take a while to measure and realize. Brands and marketers who try to measure it too quickly or with vanity metrics will jump ship too quickly or stop being consistent in their efforts. – Sharon Toerek, founder and principal, Toerek Law
Too few people are willing to take the long view on the value of #ContentMarketing, says @SharonToerek via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

12. Living in a silo

In my experience, content marketers tend to live in a bubble. As a result, the content they make creates just another silo. From the point of view of an individual interacting with a brand, however, all content is part of their larger experience and none of it lives in a silo. Content marketing, in my opinion, needs to work harder to fit into the larger content ecosystem. – Matthew Rayback, creative director, Adobe
In my experience, content marketers tend to live in a bubble, says #MatthewRayback via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

13. Infighting instead of coordinating

Seeing content marketing teams infighting instead of aligning their efforts: hoarding creative resources, protecting their turf, measuring success by the channel or format they own rather than by company outcomes, and then wondering why they feel like they don’t have the resources and support they need to succeed at content marketing.

Team alignment, proactive synergy, and unified strategies across all audience-facing channels are must-haves for more efficient (and happier) content marketing teams. – Jenny Magic, strategist, Convince & Convert
A common misstep is seeing #ContentMarketing teams infighting instead of aligning their efforts, says @JennyLMagic via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

14. Pushing back

Resistance to change, specifically, integrating the content marketing discipline in with the rest of the business. – Noz Urbina, omnichannel content strategist, Urbina Consulting and OmnichannelX
A common misstep: Resistance to change, specifically, integrating the #ContentMarketing discipline in with the rest of the business, says @nozurbina via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

15. Failing to connect

Lack of organization-wide awareness, customer focus, and consistency. We may produce the most beautiful, meaningful content in the world – but if it exists in isolation, it’s useless. Likewise, if the messages we put in content don’t reflect the customers’ reality, the sales experience, or real business value, everyone fails. – Gina Balarin, director, Verballistics
If the messages we put in #content don’t reflect the customers’ reality, the sales experience, or real business value, everyone fails @gbalarin via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

16. Seeing people only as revenue

We treat people like dollar signs while talking a good game of “being human.” In part, it’s because marketers think like marketers … and I think we need to change how marketers think. And it’s not in long-term campaigns. – Kathy Klotz-Guest, founder, Keeping it Human
A common misstep is treating people like dollar signs while talking a good game of being human, says @kathyklotzguest via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

17. Failing to listen

So many people talk, assume what people want, yet they don’t listen to their audience. – Michael Bonfils, global managing director, SEM International
So many people talk, assume what people want, yet they don’t listen to their audience, says @michaelbonfils via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

18. Not talking to customers and prospects

There’s a lack of focus on truly understanding your audience and their needs. According to a recent CMI study, only 42% of content marketers have conversations with customers and prospects as part of their research. That’s insane. You need to get to know your customer intimately to understand them, develop empathy for them, and create content that will really stand out. – Joe Lazauskas, head of marketing, Contently
A common #ContentMarketing misstep: Lack of focus on truly understanding your audience and their needs, says @joelazauskas via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

19. Valuing buyer personas over actual people

My biggest pet peeve is how narrow-minded we are in our view of our customers. Content marketers rarely spend as much time talking to actual customers as they should. They get stuck on “buyer personas” that are not reflective of the diverse groups of people who are interested in and buy their products.

Because they don’t talk to their customers or invest the time and energy to incorporate diverse perspectives in their overall strategy, they often create content that is self-serving and non-inclusive. That only adds more noise to the marketplace and alienates the exact people they want to serve. – Sydni Craig-Hart, CEO and co-founder, Smart Simple Marketing
My biggest pet peeve is how narrow-minded we are in our view of our customers, says @sydnicraighart via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

20. Forgetting the audience

So much terrible, valueless, company-centric content that adds no value or benefit to the audience. – Christopher S. Penn, chief data scientist, Trust Insights
A common #ContentMarketing misstep is creating so much terrible, valueless, company-centric content that adds no value or benefit to the audience, says @cspenn via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

21. Analyzing to exclusion

Some focus too much on data and not enough on emotions and creativity. – Adam Morgan, executive creative director, Adobe
Some #content marketers focus too much on data and not enough on emotions and creativity, says @askadmo via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

 22. Creating without a plan

Content being created without keyword research, trend data analysis, or performance tracking. Content created without strategy, data, or tracking is just clutter. – Brian Piper, director of content strategy and assessment, University of Rochester
#Content created without strategy, data, or tracking is just clutter, says @brianwpiper via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

23. Thinking the same works

Some content marketers think there is a one-size-fits-all template or framework or approach that will work for every company. But the truth is, every organization—and the people who make up the team—are different. Different goals, strengths, and priorities. And their content strategy has to take that into account. – Erika Heald, consultant, Erika Heald Consulting
Some #content marketers think there is a one-size-fits-all template or framework or approach that will work for every company, says @SFErika via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

24. Failing to put in context

What works for one company in one industry will probably not work for a different company in a different industry. Make the best decisions on behalf of your business goals and audiences. Don’t just do what’s done because someone told you to in an article. Think it through for your needs. – Ahava Leibtag, president, Aha Media Group
Don’t just follow best practices. Make your decision based on what will help your business goals and audience, says @ahaval via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

25. Giving unhelpful advice

Vague tips. It drives me crazy when marketers listen to experts who give tips that are so vague, they can’t be implemented at all. – Christoph Trappe, director of content marketing, Voxpopme
It drives me crazy when marketers listen to experts who give tips that are so vague, they can’t be implemented at all, says @ctrappe via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

26. Just doing it

As the industry becomes an established part of marketers’ repertoire, there is an increasing amount of content for contents’ sake. The goal isn’t to create more content. The goal is to create content that moves your audience to action by building trust and affinity. – Zontee Hou, head of strategy, Convince & Convert
The goal isn’t to create more #content. The goal is to create content that moves your audience to action by building trust and affinity, says @ZonteeHou via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

27. Measuring the wrong things

There’s an obsession with metrics that don’t matter for the end goals of a company or benefit a user. From an SEO standpoint, there is an absolute unhealthy focus on keyword rankings that don’t necessarily align with user metrics. Other “obsessive” goals are word count, number of content pieces created, and backlinks from low-quality websites. – Eli Schwartz, growth advisor, author of Product-Led SEO
Common #ContentMarketing myth: There’s an obsession with metrics that don’t matter for the end goals of a company or benefit a user, says @5le via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

28. Giving up on measuring content marketing impact

Too many people still talk about content marketing as something that can’t be measured. That is simply not true. The only trick is that you need to define what that success looks like. If you go into a content marketing effort without a goal, you won’t be able to measure anything. But if you come into an effort with a clear expectation of results, you can. – Inbar Yagur, vice president of marketing, GrowthSpace
Common misstep: Too many people still talk about #ContentMarketing as something that can’t be measured, says @content_fairy via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

29. Staying on the surface

Focus on surface metrics over substance. – Tamsen Webster, CEO and chief message strategist, Find the Red Thread
Common #ContentMarketing misstep: Focusing on surface metrics over substance, says @tamadear via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

30. Concentrating on content production over results

I wouldn’t call it a peeve – more of an opportunity to do better – but there’s still too much emphasis on output rather than outcomes. Keeping up a consistent publishing calendar is important; publishing high-quality content consistently is what really makes a difference. – Carmen Hill, content strategist and writer, Chill Content
I wouldn’t call it a peeve – more of an opportunity to do better – but there’s still too much emphasis on output rather than outcomes, says @carmenhill via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

31. Setting up for failure

The expectations for content marketing are normally unrealistic. It simply does not work as well as it did a few years ago because content is no longer a novelty. It takes superb, consistent effort to break through with success. – Mark Schaefer, author, Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business, and Life Against All Odds
#ContentMarketing misstep: It simply does not work as well as it did a few years ago because content is no longer a novelty, says @markwschafer via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

32. Having to do too much manually

My biggest pet peeve about the content marketing industry is that we have yet to develop robust tools to allow us to single-source content. We need CCMS-like (component content management system) tools that provide all the features and functionality but allow us to work in our traditional authoring environments. The inability to single-source content leads to added expense creating and updating materials and delays time to market. – Val Swisher, CEO, Content Rules, Inc.
My biggest pet peeve about the #Content Marketing industry is that we have yet to develop robust tools to allow us to single-source content, says @ContentRulesInc via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

33. Seeing B2B as boring

I find it particularly irritating when I hear that B2B marketers can’t be as creative or free as B2C marketers. – Andrew Davis, author and keynote speaker, Monumental Shift
I find it particularly irritating when I hear that B2B marketers can’t be as creative or free as B2C marketers, says @drewdavishere via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

34. Failing to stand out

There’s too much paint-by-numbers content. Bland, obvious, off-the-shelf stock content. – Doug Kessler, co-founder, Velocity Partners
There’s too much paint-by-numbers content, says @Dougkessler via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

35. Getting lost in the shallows

Not enough depth – the sea of sameness. Some content marketers are willing to truly teach and give away what you know. – Drew McLellan, CEO, Agency Management Institute
Misstep: Sea of #content sameness, says @drewmclellan via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

36. Forgetting to differentiate

I can’t stand it when a piece of content is too generic. If I look at articles from your blog and your competitors’ blogs and can’t tell which brand posted the article (apart from creative), then you haven’t created a strong strategic narrative and point of view. It’s not worth the time if the reader doesn’t feel closer in relationship with your brand after consuming your content. – Ashley Guttuso, director of marketing, Simple Focus Software | Curated.co
I can’t stand it when a piece of #content is too generic, says @GuttusoAshley via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

37. Repeating what works

Doing too much of what’s been done before. Let’s take the example of roundup posts, which are – and continue to be – quite popular. We see the success brands had with these posts, so we add them to our staple. While there’s nothing wrong with doing things others found successful, how about dreaming up the next concept? Let’s be bold and experiment more. Maybe then, others will start copying you. – Dennis Shiao, founder, Attention Retention LLC
A common misstep is doing too much of what’s been done before, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

38. Failing to one-up

Lazy, “me-too” thinking. Why repeat conventional wisdom when you can challenge it with unique insights? – Jonathan Kranz, principal, Kranz Communications
Why repeat conventional wisdom when you can challenge it with unique insights, says @jonkranz via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

39. Regurgitating the obvious

My biggest pet peeve is that many experts parrot each other with “hot takes” that are simply common-sense marketing tips. – Rachel Mann, digital engagement supervisor, American Fidelity Assurance Company
My biggest pet peeve is that many experts parrot each other with ‘hot takes’ that are simply common-sense marketing tips, says @rachelizmann via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

40. Fearing anything long form

Fear of long-form content. Of course, almost no one reads an entire article. But one person will read this part, the next will read another, etc., depending on their interest and need. Going long (when warranted) can help more than hinder. – Mariah Obiedzinski, AVP content services, Stamats
Misstep: Fearing long-form #content, says @MariahWrites via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

41. Emphasizing micro-content

With the focus on micro-content (TikTok, Snap, Instagram reels and stories, etc.), there is a lot of flash and not a lot of quality content. I love that these mediums can be entertaining, but our industry needs to share real value too. I worry we are going to devolve and propagate these 10-second bursts of entertainment and that longer-form content (blogs, podcasts, etc.) will disappear. – Viveka von Rosen, chief visibility officer, Vengreso
I worry we are going to devolve and propagate 10-second bursts of entertainment and that longer-form content (blogs, podcasts, etc.) will disappear, says @LinkedInExpert via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

42. Cut and paste

It’s foolish for content marketers to use the same “headline” everywhere. It should be adapted for each place it’s used. Tailor it. Really, there is no such thing as a “headline” anymore. There are title tags, H1 headers, subject lines, social posts, video titles, video thumbnails, infographic headers … so what’s a headline? It’s a mistake to think that one size fits all. – Andy Crestodina, co-founder and CMO, Orbit Media
It’s foolish for content marketers to use the same ‘headline’ everywhere, says @crestodina via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

43. Checking out

The phrase “check out” is the most lazy, vapid, valueless call to action on the planet. – Kate Bradley Chernis, co-founder and CEO, Lately
The phrase ‘check out’ is the most lazy, vapid, valueless call to action on the planet, says @LatelyAIKately via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

44. Seeing a finish line

Marketers are told that the only way to succeed is to win a battle for our audiences’ attention. Participating in an escalating arms race of content isn’t the answer. – Dr. Leigh George, CEO, Freedom
Participating in an escalating arms race of #content isn’t the answer to win a battle for our audiences’ attention, says @leighgeorge via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

45. Following the new

The pressure that can be brought to bear to join new social platforms. You don’t need to be on everything. – Tony Gnau, founder and chief storytelling officer, T60 Productions
You don’t need to be on every new social platform, says @t60productions via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

46. Thinking success depends on pricey tools

People think you need expensive tools to do anything. Yes, tools are helpful to do tasks at scale or across an enterprise, but marketers can do so much extraordinary work with just Google, Google Search Console, and Microsoft Excel. – Katie Tweedy, supervisor of content marketing and content strategy, Collective Measures
#ContentMarketing misstep: People thinking you need expensive tools to do anything, says @Katie_Tweedy_ via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

47. Investing in promotion while skimping on content creation

Too often content marketers put 20% of their budget toward content creation and 80% toward the promotion of that content. But if they were to put 80% of their budget towards content, the sheer quality of that content would outweigh the need to break the bank promoting it.

High-quality content succeeds without a huge promotion budget behind it. On top of that, it’s stickier and earns far more audience loyalty than the dime-a-dozen, subpar content that most promotion budgets go toward. – Amy Balliett, CEO, Killer Visual Strategies
It is a #ContentMarketing misstep to put 20% of budget toward content creation and 80% toward the promotion of that content, says @amyballiett via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

48. View content an expense

Teams of editorial content creators show up as a cost line item on a profit-and-loss (P&L) statement. – Jessica Best, vice president of data-driven marketing, Barkley
#ContentMarketing misstep: Teams of editorial content creators show up as a cost line item on a profit-and-loss (P&L) statement, says @bestofjess via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

49. Ignoring accessibility

My biggest pet peeve is the lack of accessible content when it’s easy to do. Two things can make a huge difference and optimize your content for search engines. Format headers with H1, H2, H3, etc. headings instead of using the bold, font, and color options in the editor. Headings help people using screen readers scan an article and skip to the content they want. Besides, headings provide more search engine juice than improperly formatted content. The second easy thing is to add alternative text to all images because screen readers and search engines read them. – Meryl Evans, digital marketing pro, meryl.net
My biggest pet peeve is the lack of accessible #content when it’s easy to do, says @merylkevans via @CMIContent. #CMWorld #Accessibility Click To Tweet

50. Thinking about shareability over quality

Our tendency to focus on being sharable over shareworthy. It doesn’t matter how sharable it is if no one is willing to share it. – Marcus Collins, head of planning, Wieden+Kennedy New York/Ross School of Business, University of Michigan
#ContentMarketing misstep: Our tendency to focus on being sharable over shareworthy, says @marctothec via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

51. Taking one view

Content marketing has a singular purpose – to generate leads. That one-dimensional thinking reverberates across verticals and is especially damaging when it is reinforced by leadership. As an industry, we need to push back on that singular focus. – Jacquie Chakirelis, director of digital strategy, Great Lakes Publishing/Quest Digital
Misstep: #ContentMarketing has a singular purpose – to generate leads, says @JacquieChak via @CMIContent. #CMWorld Click To Tweet

What bugs you?

Do you agree? Do you see your content marketing program doing any of them or suffering because of these misperceptions? Air your frustrations in the comments.

Then, look for ways to take an eraser to the chalkboard. Clean off the mistakes, correct the misunderstandings, and set yourself up for better (and better understood) content marketing practices.

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT: Time-Saving Tips, Checklists, and Templates to Conquer Content Marketing Goals in 2021
Learn about how to counter these myths and avoid the missteps from these presenters (and many more) at Content Marketing World this September. Join us in person or online – the choice is yours. Register today. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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