When it comes to content marketing, few things are more unsettling than the feeling that you’re shouting into a bottomless pit — not only does no one care; they don’t even notice. You feel like you could offer to give all of your stuff away without arousing the first flicker of interest.

The truth is, that’s not the worst thing that can happen. What’s far worse is when your content annoys the heck out of the very people you’re trying to engage.

Businesses that publish bad content are 27% less likely to be considered, and they’re 40% less likely to get the sale. (And those are 2012 numbers; they’re almost certainly higher now due to higher audience expectations.)

Bad content weakens your credibility…people expect that your product or service will be just as lousy as your writing. Bad content can confuse high-quality leads and drive them away, while attracting low-quality leads that just take up your sales staff’s time and have no hope whatsoever of leading to a sale.  Bad content can irritate readers so much that they share it with their entire social network — as an example of an annoying website.

Being hated is worse than being ignored.

Which content mistakes get you on the list of “worst websites ever”?

The bad news is that the list is kind of long. The good news is that the things on the list are pretty easy to avoid if you’re paying attention. Some of the items are from Hubspot, while others are…well, let’s just say they’re common sense, depending on which side of the keyboard you’re on.

Your site takes forever to load.

It’s just too easy these days to improve your site’s load speed.

Not only do slow pages annoy your audience, they annoy Google. And, for now, Google makes the rules. The search engine’s algorithms factor in load speed when they’re deciding where to put you in their search results (SERPs). If your website is too slow, you’ll wind up on page 5 — and, trust me, nobody makes it that far.

It’s not mobile-friendly.


More people are going to visit your site from a mobile device than from a desktop or laptop: 51% to 42%. And they don’t want to spend more time scrolling around your site than they do reading.

Just as with sites that are slow to load, visitors will give up in frustration long before they convert. Google doesn’t like it, either: Your SERP will suffer if your website isn’t optimized (the buzzword is “responsive”) for mobile. Again, it’s just too easy to fix. Almost all website themes coming out today are mobile responsive.

It’s ugly.

Would you go to a job interview with bed head and morning breath? (I sure hope not.) Well, throwing an ugly website out there and expecting it to attract customers is no different. An ugly website is actually kind of insulting to your audience, because it screams that you didn’t care enough about their opinion to make an effort.

Once upon a time you needed to know some coding to create an attractive, user-friendly website. But now there are just too many WYSIWYG (pronounced “wizzy-wig,” for “what you see is what you get”) themes for lack of coding knowledge to be a good excuse for bad design. Comb your hair and brush your teeth, already.

Pro tip: Make sure your type isn’t going to give your readers a migraine. When I click away from a site as soon as I get there, it’s almost always because the type is so small or faint I have to strain to read it. With other sites undoubtedly offering the same information, I see no reason to work that hard to read yours.

Your video autoplays at the worst possible moment.

You don’t know where a given customer is or what they’re doing when they access your content. Maybe she’s trying to keep her eyes open at a boring conference and doesn’t want her boss in the next row to know she’s surfing. Maybe his wife is in labor. He’s nervous, it’s taking forever, and he’s just trying to distract himself. But that doesn’t mean his wife is going to understand why he’s online when he’s supposed to be thinking about her and their new bundle of joy.

It’s never a good idea to take what somebody thought was private and make it public without their permission.

It’s hard to navigate.

hard to navigate

The most effective websites are also the easiest to use. They make sense. The menus are easy to find, and the various types of content are right where you’d expect them to be.

Your visitors aren’t going to stop and ask for directions — they’ll just leave and go somewhere else — so make sure it it’s easy for people to find what they’re looking for.

You content is full of logical fallacies.

Nobody likes to be treated like they’re stupid. But that’s exactly the message you send when you use logical fallacies in your content.

What’s a logical fallacy? An argument or claim that sounds good on the surface but doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

Some logical fallacies are just part and parcel of marketing. One example is that, if everybody else is doing it, it must be good: “All of your friends are using our app, so you should be using it, too.” That one is so ingrained in our psyche that most people don’t even catch it.

logical fallacy

On the other hand, there’s the logical fallacy of equating correlation to causation. For example, did you know that there’s a 95% correlation between per capita cheese consumption and the number of people who die from getting tangled up in their bedsheets? It’s a fact. But urging people to buy your sheets so “You can eat all the cheese you want without getting tangled and dying” would be a logical fallacy.

Just be careful about knowingly using a logical fallacy. It’s pretty insulting.

Your popups are, well, rude.

Cue the collective groan and bring out the root canal analogy: Everybody hates popups.

And yet…when done right, they work:

  • In one case study, a popup subscription form was 1375% more effective than a similar form in the sidebar.
  • When Darren Rowse swtiched to a popup subscription form, his average subscriber rate went from 40 per day to 400 per day.
  • On another site, switching to a popup opt-in form increased the subscription rate by 1000%.

But….(you knew that was coming, right?)

The way people complain about popups, you get the impression they’re about as welcome as Cousin Eddie would be if he showed up at the family reunion after a week-long bender. (And, sadly, not after a shower.)

The difference is in the execution. Way too many businesses subject their website visitors to popups that are simply rude, crude, and socially unacceptable. They show up too soon and stay too long…sometimes even refusing to leave when asked. They bounce up and down over the content the person is trying to read, jiggle, flash, and, in general, act like a spoiled toddler who has to be the center of attention. They interrupt the conversation the customer is already having with you to bring up something totally irrelevant (from the reader’s perspective, at least).

content marketing popups

They’re pushy, asking for your hand in marriage when all you were doing is checking out the scenery.

The bottom line is that popups can be very effective when it comes to conversions, but pay attention to current best practices.

Your mama never taught you not to pull a bait-and-switch.

Few things annoy me more (in the digital realm, at least) than clicking on a link that I think is going to take me to an informative, useful article, but instead dumps me onto a landing page where I have to give up my life history to read it.

Don’t get me wrong: Landing pages are crucial to conversion. Just don’t be sneaky about them. If your link leads to a download or to gated content, say so. Likewise, when people click on a link, they should be taken somewhere directly relevant to said link rather than to your home page.

The only way to contact you is through a form.

It’s not that forms are bad. It’s just that sometimes people need a question answered now. And they’re exactly the people who are most likely ready to make a purchasing decision. Give those folks an option.

I’m sure there are more (please feel free to tell me yours in the comments). The important thing to remember is that, while it’s bad to not have any content, it’s even worse to have bad content. If you felt little prickles of recognition reading this, you might have some work to do. If I can help, just let me know.


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