7 Lessons Content Strategists Learned The Hard Way

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lessons content strategists learned

Sometimes mistakes can be the best teachers … especially for content strategists.

While it can be hard to admit that a content piece you tried on your blog or website wasn’t a success, the danger lies being too stubborn to adjust your tactics and try a new approach.

If you’re looking for solid ways to improve your small business content strategy, look no further than these 7 lessons learned from successful marketers who’ve made BIG mistakes — so you don’t have to.


7 Lessons Content Strategists Learned The Hard Way

1. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Use existing infographics, photos, GIFs, and other media for inspiration, not as a substitute for doing your own work.

Saving and reposting these items as if they were your own is unethical and can lead to lawsuits and a bad reputation for your business.

Properly source your material so others can find the true author or designer,” says Ryan Bennion, Content Strategist at CLEARLINK, a global marketing firm based in Salt Lake City.

Many times, there are weeks or even months of time put into a single piece of writing, photography, or media. It is important that we treat others as we would like to be treated in the content space.

2. Work When Nobody Is Watching

Successful content strategists and creators have to be ready to grab onto brilliant ideas whenever they come — even if it’s after you’ve clocked out for the day.

Keep a notepad or mobile device nearby so you can record your ideas at any time, or try an app like Evernote that helps you easily categorize verbal and written notes on the fly.

Then when you get back to your desk you can upload them to a master document and organize and rank your ideas.

This ensures you’ll have plenty to share at your next brainstorming session.

Your ideas, especially when enhanced by your colleagues, could spark a new outreach strategy, viral content idea or media opportunity for your business.

3. Use Free Tools Instead of Paid Versions

Whether it’s a GIF creator or a wireframing tool, don’t pay for something you can get for free — and don’t spend money on an upgrade unless the free version can’t deliver what you need.

When it comes to wireframing new pages for your website, check out free options from companies like Mockflow and LucidChart.

You can create great charts, graphs, quizzes and even infographics using free online services, and sometimes the results will be better than if you had spent money hiring a design firm.


4. Track Each Project’s Progress

Congratulations! You finally finished that big project you’ve spent the last several months working on.

Before you run headlong into the next task, take the time to sit, reflect, and learn from your hard work.

Make watching how well each project performs a habit, and track specific performance indicators like referral traffic, page views and bounce rate using Google Analytics.

Just because a content piece looks great doesn’t mean it’s bringing any value to your site.

Conduct a post-mortem after each project, where you to objectively evaluate what you did well, what you would do differently, and what you could eliminate completely.

This will help you see the overarching pattern of what does well with your audience so you can make smart decisions for the future.

5. Dig into the Data

Not fully digging into data to figure out who the audience is and what they want rarely leads to a successful content piece,” Brooke Davis of

I’m glad I’ve made that mistake in the past so that I can fully appreciate how important that step is for future projects.”

It’s easy to make assumptions based on personal experiences and feelings, but that doesn’t add credibility to your content.

Establish authority and meet client and audience expectations by fully vetting each content piece with real data that informs your writing.

The last thing you want is to publish an industry news piece or report that gets great media coverage, only for it to be ridiculed later for not being well-researched.

6. Set Specific Goals

While you know that you want to publish a blog post or create an infographic, do you know what you want your content to actually accomplish?

Before you jump the gun and spend time or money creating new content, implement a successful strategy by identifying your underlying goals.

Do you want to increase your authority in the industry or do you simply want to drive conversions and increase on-site customer engagement?

Only after you have identified your goals can you create the right content strategy to meet those goals.

And don’t neglect to establish measurable performance indicators that will let you all know if the strategy is working so that you can adjust your tactics if you need to.

7. Don’t Brand-Pack Content — Or Do

It’s difficult to establish authority when every other line of your content includes a distracting link to a specific product or service.

If your company’s ultimate goal is to become the go-to information source for your industry, your content needs to be unbiased.

However, some content strategists have learned that going against this cardinal rule can actually add credibility.

Plugging a broad number of brands into content can build validity by showing an understanding of the market that is evidenced in specific examples rather than generalities.

Consider your audience and purpose carefully before deciding which direction to take.

It’s impossible to run a successful small business without making mistakes, and your content marketing strategy is no exception.

The good news is that you can avoid many common pitfalls by learning from the blunders of others.

Put these 7 common content marketing mistakes to work and your content will be smarter, convert better and, most importantly, achieve your specific brand goals.

What mistakes have you learned the hard way when it comes to content? Let us know in the comment section below!


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Clair Jones

Clair Jones is a journalist, online marketer and small business specialist who loves to write about social media strategy and digital branding. Check out her work at and Next Avenue.
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Category: Content, Content Marketing
Tags: content creation, content creators, content marketing, content strategists, content writing
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2 Comments. Leave new

  • I like your lessons, and I am a huge fan of the second. I work on the Evernote app on my phone every lost moment of my day. I start drafting an email, jot down ideas for a blog post, or even outline bigger projects. That way, the ideas keep floating in my brain, which sometimes leads to sudden ‘eureka’ moments.

    I think #3 can be a pitfall, though. There’s a danger in being frugal. As long as the free tools provide the same value, I’ll pick free, but I’ve also learned there’s a reason most tools have paid options. A love for free can also hold you back.

    • I’m sure Clair appreciates your feedback, Bas! Also, just to weigh in a little bit, I agree with you on #3. I use free trials like crazy!! But, when it comes to really doing me or my business a solid I will buckle down and pay for certain apps or tools. Thanks for your comment! I’ll ping Clair, too.


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