27 Reasons Why Your Content Sucks
27 Reasons why your content sucks. Nobody thinks their content sucks – or, in other words, is weak and not deserving to be believed.
After all, why would someone intentionally create something that’s utterly useless for their organization or their audience?
And yet, a lot of content sucks. We’ve all seen (and sometimes created) it.
Consider this article the proverbial splash of cold water to help you wake up (or more importantly, wake your content up).
More than 70 people responded to my request for examples of bad content, but almost all demurred to offer real-life examples. But one brave, smart content creator came forward to share her own experience: Christina Russ of Gage Diamonds.
“Sadly, I’m guilty of writing (weak) content at times,” she says. “Here’s a piece I wrote that no one will ever read because, honestly, no one gives a crap about what I’m selling.”
“Despite the fact that I write that type of content, I have my moments of sanity. Here’s a better piece I wrote,” Christina says.
Christina smartly recognized the difference between the two posts: “One is (perceived as) beneficial to the business. The other is beneficial to the readers because it provides useful information about store credit cards and financing opportunities.”
A lack of focus on the audience’s needs was frequently cited as a key mistake.
Now, that we have the audience-focus thing on the list, let’s dive into 27 more characteristics of content that sucks.
1. Another of the same
Blog posts that just sum up what you can find through Google searches. Regurgitation of basic information that’s reformatted on a company blog with a lot of injected ads, unnecessary links, and keyword stuffing in hopes of achieving a high SERP rank. If all your blog post does is tell me the same information I can find through a simple Google search, then it’s (weak).
Dew Smith, managing editor, Vendasta
Not only has the topic been dealt with, but even the angle taken is too familiar … I don’t need to read what’s already been published 300 times. I am not saying invent something new, just don’t share the same 10 tips that everyone is sharing.
Youness Bermime, content writer, writersdo.comI don’t need to read what’s already been published 300 times, says @YounessBermime. #contentmarketingCLICK TO TWEET
2. Product name here and here and there
The more mentions of the brand or its product in the bounds of a piece of content, the higher the (weakness) of that piece of content.
Eric Kinaitis, director of content marketing, American Endowment Foundation
3. We before you
Whether it is on Twitter, blogs, or company collateral, there seems to be a recent trend to overemphasize statements about oneself or to put the company ahead of the customer. No matter the content type, this type of self-indulgence is weak. You’ll lose the reader because of braggadocious puffery. Remove the ‘I’ and ‘we’ from your marketing.
Jamie Glass, CMO and president, Artful ThinkersRemove the “I” and “we” from your #marketing or you’ll lose the reader, says @jglass8.CLICK TO TWEET
4. Now obsolete
“You can have outstanding blogs when first published that ultimately turn (weak) because they are outdated.
“I rewrote this post about concussion-related light sensitivity, even though it was already ranking number one for several target keywords. I did it because: 1) it took too long to answer the question that most searchers were asking, which resulted in a high bounce rate and low average time on page. The original post wasted a lot of valuable real estate sharing info on general characteristics of post-concussion syndrome vs. the meat of the content related to light sensitivity AND 2) new research had been published, which I wanted to include to make it fresh and relevant. “
Greg Bullock, marketing manager, TheraSpecs
5. No duh
Stating the obvious. The world is round. A volcano is hot. Snakes can be poisonous. Then explaining in painful detail these obvious facts.
Holly Wolf, director of customer engagement, SOLO Laboratories Inc.
It’s trite. It’s content that tells me something obvious – an article on losing weight that recommends exercising regularly, or a piece with money-saving tips that says to cut out Starbucks from my morning routine.
Jami Barnett, associate director of research, Consumer AffairsWeak #content tells me something obvious, says @JamiBarnett.CLICK TO TWEET
6. Pointless intros
Some (weak) content can be found in a lot of good content. For instance, the first paragraph or two is (almost) always filler that never tells you anything informative and can be skipped on almost every article. Go ahead and try it.
Mike Lamood, founder, Lamood Big Hats
7. No voice
There’s no excuse, no matter the topic, for dry content with no emotion or enthusiasm. You can’t convert without getting your readers excited. Instead, throw in personality and stories, create a voice, and be human.
Brittany Berger, founder, Brittany BergerThere’s no excuse, no matter the topic, for dry #content with no emotion or enthusiasm, says @thatbberg.CLICK TO TWEET
In the event video world, it’s a three-minute highlights video with peppy music, generic conference testimonials, and footage of attendees networking across a table.
Briana De Marco, Media Llama
9. All listicles, all the time
Ever read articles called ‘10 Ways That You Can Improve Your SEO,’ ‘5 Cool Things to Do in (City Name),’ ‘10 Healthy Diets That Make You Feel Good’? Those articles are boring. I get it – for a while people were obsessed with listicles. Yes, sometimes having a listicle on your blog isn’t a bad thing. But, if every article you post is a listicle, you just aren’t trying hard enough.
Dan Salganik, managing partner, VisualFizzIf every article you post is a listicle, you just aren’t trying hard enough, says @VisualFizz.CLICK TO TWEET
10. Unfulfilled premise
The Internet always manages to astound me with how much content delivers none of the info promised in the title.
Justin Golschneider, vice president of marketing, ChannelReply
11. Wrong information
Nothing will kill your content more than false information.
Emily Trogdon, public relations manager, The Brandon AgencyNothing will kill your #content more than false information, says @QuickFoxescom.CLICK TO TWEET
12. Poor or no sources
It fails to establish credibility – an important concept from journalism that most marketers haven’t yet mastered. Credibility means quoting nonpartisan subject matter experts, using data from trusted, objective, neutral sources, and not editorializing. Authoritative sources build credibility, credibility builds trust, and trust drives revenue.
Jeff Roberts, digital marketing director, Olive & Company
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
13. Focus on length
You can find plenty of discussions debating the merits of 1,500-word posts vs. 500-word posts. Both sides promise that their ideal length gives a surefire way of keeping a reader on your page. But that misses the point entirely. Content should always fulfill its purpose and do it in a succinct, respectful way that doesn’t waste a reader’s time – regardless of if it’s 10 seconds or 10 minutes.
Shelby Rogers, content marketing strategist, Solodev
14. TL; DR (Too long, didn’t read)
We don’t have time to read a 5,000-word article – or a long video or big volume of images on social media.
Connie Chi, CEO, The Chi Group
“Bad content is irrelevant for a specified audience. It doesn’t add value. It doesn’t entertain. It doesn’t answer a question.
“The hinge here is the audience. As the old saying goes, ‘One person’s trash is another’s treasure,’ so it’s important to continuously challenge assumptions, with data, analytics and even intuition.”
Frank Strong, owner, Sword and the Script Media
“It’s focused on attacking other players in the market, trying to put the competition down and creating conflict to get attention.
“When Uber tries to break into a new market, it has launched aggressive campaigns against taxi drivers.
“We see competition as helping us grow the market … Just like a person could use an Uber sometimes, and other times a taxi. There’s room for everyone in this world.”
Ela Iliesi, SEO specialist and trainer, London Marketing Academy
17. Check-off task
It is usually written exclusively to check off a task on the marketing team’s SEO plan. You can almost always tell when you come across a post that’s written to grab organic traffic from some keyword.
Brinck Slattery, marketing director, LBRY
Unnecessarily twisting an article by adding useless and irrelevant words to make the post 2,000-plus words to satisfy Google. It comes at the cost of bad audience experience.
Yogesh Jain, founder, Concept AlliesAdding useless words to make a post 2,000+ words comes at the cost of bad audience experience. @mrjainyogeshCLICK TO TWEET
‘We should blog a lot because it’s good for SEO.’ The firms (who think that way) often end up publishing the same blog on their site as every one of their competitors … The recycled and sterile blog articles aren’t representative of anyone at their firm.
Spencer X Smith, instructor in social media at the University of Wisconsin & Rutgers University; author, ROTOMA: The ROI of Social Media Top of Mind
20. Word selection
The words are not compelling enough. This doesn’t mean use exciting vs. boring words but words that are appropriate for the content piece’s goal and the audience who would read it.
Laura Lopez, manager, content marketing, Notarize
21. Hard-to-read structure and exciting punctuation
“Anything with lots of passive voice, dependent clauses, and nonvarying sentence length.
“Anything with an emoticon. Just don’t. Lots of exclamation points. Makes me feel like I’m reading something written by a tween!”
Amanda Austin, founder and president, Little Shop of Miniatures
22. Boring images
It is not visually engaging. Instead of posting a photo of an event’s promotional poster or restaurant’s menu, try a picture of the event or menu item with engaging copy to support the promotion. Be descriptive but not salesy! Bad content might say, ‘Enjoy a delicious cocktail at this restaurant,’ versus ‘Tacos + margs make for the happiest of hours.’
Ashley Cady, integrated communications manager, Flock and Rally
23. Clunky design
“It’s clumsy or has a hard-to-understand layout. It’s published in an outdated manner so as to appear to be created with older technological limitations.
“It contains overused or inappropriate typefaces or boring titles … The color compliments are disturbing or irrelevant and clumsy graphics, especially, badly rendered gradients, poorly clipped out or cropped elements; low image quality such as with lack of attention to composition, lighting, styling or color, especially low resolution, blurry, or watermarked photos.”
Rich Harris, founder and CMO, insomniagraphix
“When everyone puts their two cents into ideas for shaping the content, it often becomes watered down. There is an old saying, ‘A camel is a horse designed by a committee.’
“(Weak) content also gets produced when you are afraid your company or your client might not approve the content you were originally planning.
Robert Barrows, R.M. Barrows, Inc. Advertising & Public Relations
25. Unfriendly mobile and meta
“Mobile thinking should be a no-brainer. And yet, people still publish content with huge blocks of text that are difficult to scan.
“It also doesn’t have optimal metadata. No one shares an ugly link. Search engines skip over content with missing meta descriptions.”
Benjamin Collins, CEO, Laughing SamuraiBad #content has ugly links (no one will share) and doesn’t have optimal metadata, says @extremecollins.CLICK TO TWEET
26. Silly expectations
With the rise of social platforms and the desire to capture user attention in short vehicles and formats seen on mobile devices, it is creating slow music audio in a long video and expecting the user to have the time to actually get through the long video.
Robb Hecht, adjunct marketing professor, Baruch College
“Tweet this. Like us. Share it. Don’t reduce to begging for social shares and likes as it can reflect a negative impression and thus put your brand’s reputation at risk.”
Mehmood Hanif, senior digital marketing strategist, PureVPN
OK, how many of the content sins described have you committed? More importantly, how many of them do you plan to fix?
Oh, and if you have other ideas of what makes content bad, please share in the comments. Bonus points if you provide examples. Big bonus points if you own your bad examples in the comments.
Gather with over 100 experts to learn more about how to make sure your content – and your content marketing – doesn’t suck. Register today for Content Marketing World this September.