There’s no set formula (or content strategy) you can follow to guarantee your content will be successful. Sometimes a piece of content works really well and sometimes it’s a failure. After all, who among us hasn’t written something we thought was really good, only to see it fail to produce the traffic, engagement, and leads we thought it would?

While it can be difficult to put your finger on what leads to content marketing success, the reasons for content failure are often easier to identify. In fact, if your content does fail, it could be because you simply didn’t: 

1. Hook your reader straight away.

You’ve got a second or two at most to catch readers’ attention. If you don’t have an evocative image, they might scroll right past you. If your headline fails to be compelling, they might not click on it. If your first sentence or two fails to generate their interest, they probably won’t keep reading. Simply put, you need to do everything you can to quickly hook your reader, or you run the risk of having them not give your content the attention it deserves.

2. Have a clear purpose.

Every piece of content needs to serve a purpose. Whether that’s explaining a complex topic or providing step-by-step instructions, be clear about your content’s purpose, so that readers can quickly assess if it’s what they need.

3. Provide value.

Your latest blog post, content marketing asset, or product overview isn’t a Stephen King novel. No one’s reading it for fun. The reason people read business content is to get the information they need to solve a problem or further their strategy. So if your content fails to provide real value and help your readers solve their problems, it may be a waste of their time.

4. Write with your audience in mind.

Anytime you write, it’s easy to get caught up trying to communicate your key messages rather than thinking about what’s going to resonate most with your audience. Are you writing content for marketers, product developers, or customer support? Make sure you put yourself in your readers’ shoes. Resist the temptation to deliver what you think is best for them and instead try to give them what they actually want.

5. Use a distinctive tone of voice.

Never underestimate the value of having a compelling tone of voice. It’s critical for success that you create compelling content your audience will actually want to read. If your default is a generic corporate tone, reading your marketing content, for example, is going to be a chore, so make an effort to keep your tone distinctive and engaging.

6. Be credible.

If you want buyers to take your content seriously, you need to convince them that it’s credible. The key to doing so isn’t just offering up opinions and broad generalizations. Rather, you have to do your homework, share statistics and facts, site credible sources, and, wherever possible, rely on your company’s own proprietary research. In the world of fake news, sourcing credible information only builds your authority.

7. Say something new or novel.

While there’s always value in sharing information with your audience, if that information is practically identical to what they could get from countless other sources, what’s the point? While not every piece of content you create is going to be groundbreaking, you do need to try to take, at the very least, a fresh, novel approach to how you present the information you want to share.

8. Value your audience’s time.

We all know that time is precious, yet we sometimes fail to demonstrate that in our content. If you’re not making it a priority to keep your content clear and concise, you’re wasting your reader’s time. Unnecessarily long, meandering text isn’t helpful. Neither is content that’s ambiguous to the point that the reader might not actually be sure what you mean. Be respectful of your reader’s time and edit vigorously.

9. Make your content scannable.

Given how short people’s attention spans are, they’re not always going to read every word you write front to back. Instead, they’re going to skip right to the information they’re looking for. If you’re not making that easy for them, by using headers, bulleted lists, call out boxes, and other devices that make your content easier to navigate, you’re doing them a disservice.

10. Offer a clear point of view.

While business or marketing content isn’t the place to share opinions, it’s important to offer a point of view. Your prospects and customers are looking to you for your expert advice, so failure to be authoritative and share your perspective is a mistake.

11. Ensure the accuracy of your content. 

Accuracy is critical, both in terms of making sure your content is factually correct and error free. It’s important to instill confidence in your readers. Sharing inconsistent, inaccurate information or publishing content with typos or grammatical mistakes is the fast lane to failure and will undercut your authority.

12. Optimize your content for search.

To be effective, people have to be able to find your content. If you fail to optimize your content for relevant keywords, far fewer people will find it organically. Make sure you take the time to prepare your content to maximize its chances of ranking in your audience’s online searches.

13. Promote it vigorously.

Companies often fail to properly promote their content. Simply publishing a blog post to your website and sharing it once or twice on social media isn’t going to cut it. If you want to get great results, you need to put your content in front of as many people as possible. That means promoting it regularly on as many different channels as possible. Consider building ongoing content campaigns to promote via your social accounts. Avoid becoming complacent about promotion because you won’t get the results you’re looking for.

While there’s no magic strategy when it comes to creating successful content, by avoiding the failures above, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of producing content that gets results.