Content marketing has seen a nice golden era, ever since Google’s Panda update back in 2011 made it clear that users’ and search engines’ priorities were aligned with businesses who could produce the best, most interesting content. Today, content is still “king” when it comes to maximizing your online presence, improving your reputation, and increasing your rankings in search engines, but content marketing isn’t a shortcut to great results, nor is it ever a sure bet.

In fact, if you aren’t careful, your content marketing efforts can actually backfire, leaving you with lower organic search rankings, a damaged reputation, and a ton of wasted time and money. Whatever you do, avoid these five mistakes, which can completely compromise your results:


1. Thin content. There are a few definitions of “thin” content, but they all go back to one principle; in thin content, the value of what you offer is disproportionately small compared to the number of words you use to offer it. For example, if you write a 1200-word article that can be summed up in a single sentence with no other value, you can consider that a “thin” piece.

Thin content generally comes from the desire to produce a certain quantity of content, rather than a certain quality. For example, an entrepreneur might hear that content marketing is a good thing for getting search engine rankings, and start writing a new article every day, focusing on how many keywords he can squeeze into the article rather than how much value he’s providing to his readers. Thin content is not well-received by readers—they’re less likely to convert or share your article on social media channels. They might be so turned off that they never return to your website. Plus, if your content is considered low quality to search engine crawlers, you could suffer serious drops in organic search visibility due to Google’s Panda algorithm, which is designed to seek and destroy websites with too much thin content.

2. Inaccurate content. Inaccurate content is just as bad as thin content, even if it’s more unique and contains more details. Occasionally, these inaccuracies stem from deliberate attempts to fool the public, such as inventing statistics out of thin air for the purposes of persuasion. More often, they come from an innocuous form of laziness—the writer can’t be bothered to fact check his claims, so he proceeds with the rest of the article.

The general reading public is highly sensitive and naturally distrustful. If you give a reader one reason to distrust one of your articles, your entire credibility could shatter with that reader instantly. Accordingly, you’ll need to fact-check every article you publish, and ensure that your content is as accurate as possible. Cutting corners could seriously ruin your reputation, and there’s even some evidence to suggest that Google’s algorithms have a limited ability to discern the accuracy of your content.


3. Oversaturation. Oversaturation is a multifaceted problem in the content marketing world. There’s a general form of oversaturation, which is the idea that there’s too much content in circulation for any individual piece to stand out. There are industry forms of oversaturation, which manifest as common topics coming up too frequently and with too little expansion. And there’s an individual form of oversaturation, which happens when your brand tries too hard to push its content to its users.

Participating in any of these forms of oversaturation can make your brand appear disorganized, incapable, or even irritating. For example, if you don’t do anything that stands out from your competitors, you might never get any new attention. If you don’t cover any new topics, you’ll lose credibility. If you syndicate articles several times an hour on your social channels, your followers will abandon you. Keep yourself as relevant and concise as possible.


4. Poor relationships. Your offsite relationships at least partially dictate how authoritative your site is seen, both from a search engine and from a user perspective. For example, if the only links you’re getting are coming from a single, untrustworthy website, Google will probably flag you as an untrustworthy source in your own right, and you’ll never be able to move up in the search rankings.

When you reach out to offer a guest post to a new publisher, quality must be your first priority. Only establish a new connection or a new relationship if it adds value to your current reputation.


5. Neglected users. Your content marketing campaign is going to succeed or fail based on how well and how often you engage with your users. Even enlightening, insightful, engaging content depends on the actions of users to carry it across multiple channels and return to read more. If a user always shares your posts and occasionally responds in the comments section, but never gets a response or acknowledgement from you, that user might leave with a negative perception of your brand. If you want your content campaign to keep moving forward, you have to keep your users at the heart of it. Include them, acknowledge them, and reply to them as often as possible.

Generally, content marketing is a good thing, but only if you put in the effort to make it valuable. Find out what your customers want to read about, research your topics thoroughly, and present your final materials in a digestible, interesting, and unique way. In today’s world of oversaturation, the only way to stand out is to do more and work harder than the competition, so don’t try to skate by with the bare minimum. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing more harm for your brand than good.