Nothing about content marketing for startups is easy. Content is hard. And marketing is even more so. When you combine the two, there are more ways to get it wrong than to get it right. The ultimate price of getting it wrong is the alienation of your target market. Also, you can get delisted from Google. The prize for getting it right is incalculable.

With content marketing, all the core rules for marketing apply:

  • Identify your niche
  • Present solutions not products
  • Consult with clients rather than selling to prospects

Marketing is a combination of advertising and sales. An even better way to think of it is consumer education about a product, service, or industry. With these ideas in view, it is easy to see how content marketing can go horribly wrong. Here is how to avoid the three most common content marketing errors:

Doing it yourself

As with a lot of professional projects, one of the biggest mistakes small business owners make is doing it themselves when they should have called in an expert. Content marketing consists of two areas of expertise, neither of which are within the skill set of most people.

The best solution for most people is to work through internet marketing services that can also help you with SEO, links, PPC, social media, and design as a part of an integrated content marketing solution. Compliance with Google regulations is another major part of the equation. New rules that affect your site pop up all the time.

As mentioned before, there are more ways to get it wrong than to get it right. The best way to avoid all those wrong turns is to hire someone who knows what they are doing to do it in partnership with you.

That is not to say that you shouldn’t know something about your own content marketing strategy. It is just to point out that when you need a plumber or electrician, calling a professional is a much better option that attempting to do a job for which you are not qualified.

Know your abilities. And never underestimate the task of content marketing. It is a lot tougher than what professionals make it look.

Market solutions, not products

In sales, there is an old saying: Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Another is, sell the benefits, not the features. When it comes to content marketing, you should do one better: Market solutions, not products.

On the internet, a page full of direct sales jargon looks a lot like spam. Perhaps you’ve lured someone to your site with a content headline promising education about an issue. But what they encounter when they get there is a sales pitch about a product.

This type of low-quality content falls under Google’s Panda category of penalties. These deal with your site’s overall content quality score. One of the best ways to avoid this kind of penalty is to write content that addresses solutions rather than specific products or services.

To assist with identifying if a website has been filtered by Google Panda, you need to line up dates of known algorithm updates to your traffic. Marketing Nomads has a unique interactive timeline for Google’s Panda updates.

“Every website on the internet will be affected by Google’s Panda update/filter sooner or later – it may be negative, positive or null, but they will all be subjected to Panda.”  ~Scott Polk CEO of Marketing Nomads.

There are things you can do to recover from these Google penalties. But the best thing you can do is avoid them altogether. You do that by producing quality, solutions-based content that addresses the consumer’s needs, not yours.

Linking like there’s no tomorrow

There is a right way to do links, and a thousand wrong ways to do links. Most people only know the thousand wrong ways. That is why it is one of the two most penalized problems Google has to deal with.

Google couldn’t be clearer on the matter:

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

Many SEO agencies will try to convince you that they have the perfect link scheme that will get around these guidelines. Even if they do, you most likely do not. Google has gotten very good about recognizing link schemes designed to artificially increase your traffic.

The tragedy is that you don’t have to play these shenanigans. All you really need is well-targeted, solutions-based content that addresses what people are searching for. SEO gamesmanship is no substitute for best SEO practices.