In online marketing, you can find a slew of content marketers all across the spectrum, ranging from freelancers who focus on blogs, to agency professionals handing the content for Fortune 500 companies. Regardless of who’s producing it and why, it results in a flood of content – all at varying levels of quality – pushed across every online channel.
It’s easy to see content that’s produced by a novice content marketer compared to an expert. Typically, the content that stands out and resonates the most with audiences comes from content marketers who’ve mastered their skillset.
If you want to be able to compete and carve your place in the market as one of the best content marketers – or if you want to make sure you’re hiring a top-notch content marketer to handle your campaigns, these are the skills you must master.
Even if you have a great deal of knowledge on the niche you’re working in, you’re still going to want to take time to research. Anyone can look through the most popular websites on a subject, do a little research, and then come up with a list of topics. Better content marketers, however, will dig deep to make sure they:
- Thoroughly understand the target audience so they know both their interests and their pain points – allowing them to better structure content ideas to address them.
- Know the terminology their audience uses to search for content, so they can include it in their topics and copy.
- Find the channels the audience pays attention to, so they can develop the most effective plan for distribution and promotion
- Identify various audience segments to make sure they’re developing a content strategy that addresses all of them appropriately
- Track trends in marketing and their industry
- Determine the best content formats for maximum reach and engagement
- Find link popularity for different content with a tool like Ahrefs
- Find the most popular content for a subject, with a tool like BuzzSumo, so they can mimic the success of others, while still coming up with their own unique topic ideas
- Find the search queries their audience uses to find answers
Content marketers in search of stellar results will research until they have an exhaustive amount of data that allows them to craft the ideal strategy and campaign to reach their goals. That’s what makes the difference between an average content marketer and one of the best.
Understanding of Data and Analytics
As a writer, being able to tell a story is a critical skill, but it’s even more important to know what to do with that story. Every piece of content serves a purpose, and the best content marketers know how to analyze data to make sure goals are being met and the content is doing well.
Looking through a lot of data can be time consuming and exhausting, not to mention cause your efficiency to plummet. The metrics content marketers should pay attention to will change depending on the goals of the campaign. To determine the most important metrics, and efficient process for data interpretation is only possible if you understand the data you’re looking at.
Knowing how to read data helps decide which topics to get rid of, and which topics are performing the best, so you can repurpose them into new content to generate more traffic.
Writing and Communication Skills
We’re all taught from a young age how to read and write, so while it’s technically a skill the vast majority of people have, it’s not something everyone can do well. To be successful as a content marketer, you must be able to write well. This is a skill honed over time, through grammar studies, practice, and reading others. If you want more ideas on how to become a better writer, check out my post, How to Write Faster to Supercharge Your Content Marketing. Yes, it is possible to write both fast, and well.
When you write, focus on:
- Creating content that’s easy to read.
- Simplifying complex sentences.
- Crafting an opener that grabs reader attention.
- Crafting conclusions that solidify the messaging.
Beyond writing, a content marketer must have a solid grasp on communication skills, too. It’s important to know how to effectively communicate your messaging in a way that will resonate with your audience. Content plays a role in everything from educating the buyer to motivating them to make a purchase – so converting at each of these levels is critical – and how to get the message across will vary from stage to stage.
Headlines that entice people to click and read your content are just as important as creating quality content. Writing headlines is an entirely different task, and many writers who excel at creating stellar content still struggle with the headlines.
Studies show 80% of people read your headline, but not the body copy. Heat maps generally show that people pay attention to the images and headline.
Want to write a great headline? Use these tips:
- Keep them unique – readers don’t want the same thing over and over again
- Keep them short – search engines don’t display more than 65 characters
- Customize them for distribution – a Facebook audience may not respond the same way a Twitter audience would
- Use numbers–those headlines are predictably clickable and work well for many websites
Test headlines with a tool like Coschedule’s Headline Analyzer. Enter your headline and get a score. Learn whether the headline is the right length, and the kind of words it includes, so you can get ideas for ways to improve it. For instance, headlines with emotional or power words tend to do better than those that only use common words.
Understanding of User Experience
Writing content, when it comes down to it, is far more than simply putting words on the screen. It’s knowing where the words show up – on a mobile device, on a social media platform, on a blog template – and making them fit into both digital and cognitive context – or the user experience.
Making sure your writers understand the user experience and how their copy fits into it is key to creating a positive experience for your users. A positive experience plays an important role in conversion.
In the past, content production was as simple as hiring a freelance writer from Craigslist. You could get great results for little money. While some writers can learn about an industry and produce expert-level content quickly, writers who don’t really know the niche can’t produce an effective content strategy. Look to content marketers who understand the industry you’re in, as well as marketing itself.
Knowing how to leverage marketing automation tools, and which ones to use when and where, can impact the success of any content marketing campaign. Learning how to effectively use automated workflows that nurture leads through content and email isn’t easy, but studies show it can increase sales productivity by up to 14.5%, while also reducing marketing overhead by 12.2%.
Trends are found in every industry – and they are important to follow not just in marketing, but in whatever industry you’re working on a strategy for, as well. Smart content marketers keep their eyes on the trends so they can stay ahead of the competition. If you’re the first to jump on a new trend as part of your content marketing effort, it’s a wonderful way to get in front of your specific audience. But, this doesn’t mean you can neglect other trending topics that make it to the top of the news, and earn their way to the trends list on social media channels with hashtags.
There will be trends that are completely irrelevant to your business, but some of them will be easy to correlate. When this happens, your business makes it to a much larger audience. However, take the time to research hashtags to make sure you’re making a viable correlation before jumping on the bandwagon. If you don’t, your business can suffer.
Take for instance the story of Digiorno Pizza, and the #whyIstayed hashtag. Without realizing it was a hashtag dedicated to sharing stories of domestic violence and why the abused chose to stay with their abuser, they posted a tweet, “#whyIstayed you had pizza.” Without meaning to be, it was highly insensitive. Though the company removed the tweet and issued an apology shortly after, screenshots still exist.
Content Marketers Need Flexibility and Continuing Education
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of skills content marketers should have, it’s a place to start. Mastering these skills ensures you’re taking average content to the next level before it is published for your audience to see. When you master these skills, keep learning. Focus on image creation, collaboration, story-telling, and effective distribution and promotion. As a content marketer, you’re never done learning.
What skill do you think is most critical for getting results? Which skill did you struggle with the most? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!