10 Signs a Content Marketing Campaign Is Dying (And How to Save It)

by Chris Kilbourn

Last updated on December 28th, 2017

Dead in the water.

If that describes your content marketing campaign, you are in big trouble. But how do you know when your campaign is heading for the rocks—and how do you fix it?

Here are some of the main reasons why content marketing campaigns fail.

A question and exclamation mark of jigsaw puzzle pieces

Image credit: Horia Varlan

1. You Don’t Know Who You’re Talking To

If your audience is feeling nebulous, then your content marketing campaign will too. If you already have all the tools but you just aren’t getting the results you expect, it might be because you have no clear understanding of who your target customers are.

Sure, we’re preparing content for a global audience, but there’s probably one little segment of that audience that you consider your own.

statues whispering

Image credit: Cliff

The fix: Figure out who you are serving and how your product or service helps alleviate their pain. Check out this buyer persona worksheet or this questionnaire on Social Media Today for help with this.

2. Your Strategy is in Pieces – Or You Have None

You wouldn’t build a house or a business without a plan, so why wouldn’t you create a plan for connecting with your audience through content?

If you’re putting content out but not getting the return you expect, it might be because you haven’t defined your goals and how the individual pieces fit into a whole.

The fix: Create a strategy. There are some excellent content marketing guides to get you started from the Content Marketing Institute, Hubspot and KISSmetrics. Be sure to check out the one written by Neil Patel and Kathryn Aragon too.

Use these and you will soon have a strategy in place. Don’t forget to include measurement (such as number of shares, downloads or clicks), because if you don’t measure, how will you know it’s working.

3. There’s No Context

If you were surprised by the news about Google Hummingbird or any recent online developments, then it’s a sign that your content marketing strategy exists in a vacuum. You will never find content marketing success unless you have a way to hook your content into the hot topics of the day.

Did you notice how many people published posts about twerking and Miley Cyrus? If you can tie your content into something that’s trending, it’s got a better chance of being read and shared.

The fix: Use social media monitoring tools, but instead of just tracking the number of fans and followers you have, look at trending topics and use these to hook your readers. Social MentionGoogle Trends and Memebase are good places to start.

4. It’s Me-Too

Having said that, relying solely on trends alone can lose your audience too, because you risk producing content that is not unique. It’s fine to examine what works and repeat it, but do it too often and you’ll end up boring the same people you originally attracted.

The fix: Try taking two opposing concepts and seeing how they can be put together for inspiration, or do some mind mapping to help with brainstorming topics. There’s a good guide to doing this from Cathy Miller of Simply Stated Business.

5. It’s Self-Centered

Maybe your content marketing is failing because you’re focused only on the promotional channel that you feel most comfortable with and are producing the content that you like best. No one cares if you want to write lots of short posts on topics that interest you.

They want to know WIIFM (what’s in it for me). Some of today’s audience wants to be entertained with interactive content, humor, memes, video, infographics and even games. And others want long-form content that satisfies their hunger for a meaty read.


Image credit: Nicolas Raymond

The fix: Learn how to repurpose the info you love to write about into products your audience wants while avoiding overt promotion.

6. People Are Bouncing

If you have a high bounce rate, it means people aren’t sticking around to view your content. There are many technical reasons for a high bounce rate, but if you eliminate those, it could be the way your content is formatted.

Large blocks of text aren’t easy to navigate so you need to make it attractive and sticky.

The fix: Entice readers with great titles and subtitles, keep paragraphs short and simple, and link to authoritative resources (some of them on your own site). Make the package even better with appealing images, then people will want to stick around and your bounce rate should go down.

7. There’s No Call to Action

What do you want people to do when they read, view or listen to your content? Your content marketing strategy (see point two) should set this out.

If your readers are not doing what you want them to do, it could be because there’s no clear call to action—or the one you have just doesn’t appeal.

button with thumbs up and the words, call to action

Image credit: Sean MacEntee

The fix: Split test everything, then use what works.

8. It’s Not Socially Optimized

For web users, there’s nothing more annoying than wanting to share a piece of content and having to do it manually, or using the buttons on the site only to find they don’t work. Most people will only give you one chance to get this right before going elsewhere.

The fix: If you haven’t already, check your analytics and see where people are sharing your content, then make sure you have the appropriate buttons so they can share at will.

Check out how Backlinko has included social buttons to the side of their posts for easy sharing.

screenshot of blog post using social sharing buttons

And for goodness’ sake, please input your Twitter handle so people don’t have to type it in.

9. It’s Not Mobile Optimized

You haven’t taken note of mobile. It’s a fact—more and more people are using mobile devices to consume content. How does your content stack up? If you’re still creating content optimized only for desktop viewing than you’re a dinosaur.

The fix: Make sure your content looks its best by putting a responsive WordPress theme on your site so it looks good on any device, or create a mobile adapted site that’s easy to navigate from a touch screen. Smartphone and tablet users will thank you.

Final Thoughts: You’re Not Tracking Results

When you put out content, do you know what reaction it is getting? There are dozens of tools out there to help you figure out what works and what doesn’t based on comments, social shares and general virality.

The fix: Whether you use Google Analytics, an enterprise social analytics tool, the tools built into the main networks or a stand-alone social monitoring tool, you need to keep track of engagement and reach to see how you are connecting with your audience—and which pieces of content have and haven’t hit the mark.

Address these ten issues and you have a better-than-average chance of rescuing a stagnant content marketing campaign or, better yet, creating one that your competitors will envy.



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Chris Kilbourn

Chris Kilbourn is a content strategist at Qzzr, an online quiz tool that allows you to create quizzes and post them anywhere. In past lives, he was a professional rock star (seriously), and he built and sold 2 successful companies from the ground up. You can connect with him via email at chris.kilbourn@qzzr.com.


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  1. May 28, 2014 at 10:16 am

    I have been surfing online more than 3 hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It is pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the net will be much more useful than ever before.

    • neil says:
      May 28, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Sahibinden, glad we could help. Thanks for the feedback 🙂

  2. Steve Peck says:
    October 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm

    Chris – Best post I’ve read all day (out of the two I’ve read so far).

    But seriously, each sign is something that is so critical to delivering effective content. 1-5 are arguably the most important, as if you don’t first build unique, value-add, in-context content that is geared toward your target audience, then the rest of the rest of the tips won’t matter much as people won’t share/engage.

    That said, if you are able to develop quality content, then tips 6-9 and the Final Thought become imperative and is the basis of what we’ve built Docalytics around. We focus on document based content and allow marketers to gague bounce rates (#6), present calls-to-action in document (#7), share from within the PDF (#8), optimize content based on device used to access (#9) and track how users consume the informatino at the individual and aggregate level (Final Thoughts).

    Paired with great content, these slight adjustments provide insights to help modify content to increase averge pages consumed, social sharing and the overall livlihood of the content.

    Thanks again for listing this all so susinctly and calling out meaninful actions to take around each item. Would certainly love to continue the discussion and share some of the metrics we are tracking around each of these ‘signs’

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Really easy to understand the user behavior with the new @CrazyEgg reports! @qubitTV #UX #prodmgmt

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