A few years ago, I got hired as a content marketer at a small web design company.
At the time, I thought one skill — and one skill only — would serve me well enough to succeed: the ability to write.
I was a proud English graduate who had no idea how to make it successfully as a content marketer.
Fortunately, I've picked up some critical skills over the years that've enabled me to grow as a content marketer. Most of those skills have nothing to do with writing.
Whether you've been a content marketer for years or you're looking to get hired for your first content marketing role, you're in luck. Here, let's explore the skills you'll need to hone to excel as a content marketer in 2021 and beyond.
Content Marketing Skills
More likely than not, the vast majority of your role as a content marketer requires you to create content that converts leads and drives sales. To do this successfully, you need to be a good copywriter.
However, it's important to note — copywriting for marketing purposes requires different skills than it might if you were writing for non-business purposes.
For one, copywriting for a business requires a consistent commitment to writing in a brand's unique voice.
This can get particularly difficult if you're a freelance content marketer who creates content for different businesses and industries. However, it's critical you develop the ability to write in different styles depending on the needs of a business.
For a sales blog, for instance, you might need to write short, concise, straightforward sentences, since salespeople are often strapped for time and need answers immediately.
Marketers, on the other hand, have a bit more time to appreciate writing for writing's sake, so you can take the time to use more creative, long-form sentences.
Additionally, how you write a video script for an insurance company varies significantly from how you write social copy for an e-commerce business.
Developing a brand voice — and knowing how to alter your writing style depending on business needs and audience persona — is a critical skill in content marketing.
2. Editing Skills
Along similar lines as copywriting, it's vital you become a proficient editor if you want to succeed as a content marketer.
Good, clear writing can be powerful enough to persuade hesitant prospects to buy. And, on the flip side, messy, error-prone writing could cause new visitors and prospects to abandon your site entirely.
In short, the ability to edit is the difference between mediocre writing and compelling, engaging, high-converting content.
No pressure, right?
Learning how to create content quickly is a critical skill of any content marketer, particularly if you're responsible for creating content across a variety of channels for your business. Editing, then, is a mandatory step for cleaning up that copy and making it sound as professional and polished as possible.
3. SEO Skills
This skill was a tricky one for me to master, but it is vital for ensuring my content ranks online and reaches the right audience when they need it most.
As a content marketer, your role isn't just to create high-quality content. It's also to create content that converts readers, listeners, or watchers into customers.
And to do this, you need a basic understanding of SEO.
For instance, if you're a content marketer who's in charge of your company's YouTube page, you'll want to know how to conduct keyword research to discern what people are looking for on YouTube, and then write compelling, SEO-optimized titles and video descriptions to attract viewers to those videos.
Alternatively, as a blogger, you'll need to know how to create SEO-optimized content — including using appropriate alt-text in your images, using relevant keywords in your section titles, and thoughtfully incorporating keywords throughout your content (rather than keyword-stuffing).
Ultimately, SEO ensures the content you work hard to create is served to the right audiences, at the right time. Without an SEO foundation, then, it will be difficult to succeed as a content marketer.
4. A Talent for Interviewing
As a content marketer, you're often tasked with creating content around unfamiliar or complex topics.
It can feel daunting to do the research necessary to create an informative, helpful piece of content on a topic for which you're a novice at best. This is where interviewing can help you level up as a content marketer.
For instance, when I needed to write about Google's rel=nofollow announcement last year, I knew I'd have a hard time determining why it mattered to our audience if I didn't speak to an SEO strategist. Which is why I interviewed my colleague, Victor Pan, to add expert advice and help my audience understand the topic on a deeper level.
5. Time Management & Organization Skills
One of the most important skills any content marketer can foster is the skill to stay organized even under tight deadlines.
Being a content marketer means publishing content on a consistent, effective basis to ensure you're reaching and converting audiences into leads for your sales team every month. As such, being organized and adhering to a content calendar that aligns with your company's goals is a critical aspect of your role.
Additionally, writing can get tiring, so time management is important for avoiding burnout. For instance, if you're required to write four blog posts per week, it will be helpful if you can block off time in your calendar for "Writing Time" during your peak productivity hours. Writing those four blog posts the night before the posts are due won't set you up for success as a content marketer.
Consider using project management software to ensure your content remains organized even as your team scales.
6. Data & Analytics Skills
If you don't have the skills necessary to analyze how your content is performing, then it will be difficult — if not impossible — to iterate on your strategy over time and achieve new levels of growth.
A content marketer's role includes the ability to analyze industry trends, keep up-to-date on your audience's preferences and behavior, and use all that information to make strategic decisions and expand your brand's reach.
When I first started creating content for HubSpot's Blog, I was vehemently opposed to data. I enjoyed the creativity of content creation, and data felt like the exact opposite of all that.
However, over time I realized it didn't matter how creative or unique my content was if no one read it.
This is where data came into play. It helped me iterate on the types of content I was writing, choose new topics to tackle that I knew my audience liked best, and stay ahead of industry trends to ensure my content aligned with conversions happening with marketers across the globe.
Ultimately, data is vital for ensuring you have a strong, effective content strategy.
These are just a few skills you'll need to master as you level up as a content marketer. Ultimately, the ability to remain flexible and figure out the needs of your own company's unique goals is critical to succeeding as a content marketer for the long-haul.