This post was originally published in November, 2018 and updated in April, 2020.
More than likely, you’ve landed here because you’re thinking about taking an online content marketing course.
Or, maybe you’re just interested in the job description and skills involved with being an online content strategist/marketer.
First of all, congrats!
This is a huge step towards leveling up your skills and expertise.
It’s also a giant leap closer to becoming more profitable in the industry.
Content strategy is an effective, proven way to power your content marketing.
According the latest report from Content Marketing Institute, 33% of companies say they have a documented content marketing strategy. Meanwhile, 29% would call their content marketing extremely successful.
Hm, there’s definitely a correlation there!
If you can implement, manage, and maintain a brand content strategy, you’ll always be in demand.
That said, your next question is probably along these lines:
“Will the content marketing course I’m considering cover all the topics I need to advance as a content strategist or marketer? What skills are CRITICAL for me to learn?”
Answer 1: That depends.
Answer 2: Do you have a minute? Get comfortable and I’ll explain.
Any practical content marketing course should cover a minimum of topics you must understand to succeed and advance in the industry.
In this post, we’ll break down each category and let you know exactly what kind of knowledge any course worth your time should be offering.
Then, you can:
- Evaluate the curriculum from each course you’re considering.
- Invest in the one that will give you the best bang for your buck.
Ready? After studying the industry, we’ve outlined all 10 big ideas, tools, and concepts that a solid content marketing course should teach you.
Note: This blog contains affiliate links. However, I don’t recommend anything I don’t personally use.
10 Ideas, Tools, and Topics a Useful Content Marketing Course Should Cover
1. Planning, Strategizing, and Goal Setting from a Content Marketing Course
2. Audience Discovery and Persona Building from a Content Marketing Course
3. Search Engine Optimization from a Content Marketing Course
4. SEO Keyword and Topic Research from a Content Marketing Course
5. Content Creation and Promotion from a Content Marketing Course
6. Guest Blogging Basics from a Content Marketing Course
7. Budgeting for Content Marketing from a Content Marketing Course
8. Social Media Best Practices from a Content Marketing Course
9. Content Promotion Techniques from a Content Marketing Course
10. Content Auditing, Maintenance, and Measurement from a Content Marketing Course
11. Learning How to Use the Right Tools from a Content Marketing Course
10 Knowledge Categories Every Solid Content Marketing Course Should Cover
A content marketing strategy is the baby of content marketing and content strategy.
Where the two overlap is exactly where you need to position yourself, as this chart from Moz shows:
As you can see, you need skills and knowledge that fall under all three overlapping categories.
Top publications like Forbes, CMI, and Search Engine Journal concur with this assessment of what you need to know to effectively create and maintain your content marketing strategy. They all mention strategy and planning, goal setting, data measurement, promotion and distribution, creative content creation, and thorough research.
Now that we’ve established an industry consensus about the skills and concepts you need to master, let’s break them down.
1. Planning, Strategizing, and Goal Setting
Every successful content marketing strategy begins with planning and goal setting. It’s during this stage that you map out some key fundamentals:
- Setting goals for what you want to achieve with content marketing
- Defining what makes your brand/business/client different from every other industry competitor
- Outlining your area of expertise, where you can confidently create thought-leadership-level content
- Laying out how you will measure and track your ROI
If your chosen content marketing course doesn’t include these concepts, just move on. You have plenty of other courses to choose from.
2. Audience Discovery and Persona Building
The next category of knowledge any useful content marketing course should teach you revolves entirely around your audience.
Who are they? How can you reach them? What information need can you fulfill for them? What questions are they asking about your industry?
A solid content marketing course will teach you how to answer all these questions, plus provide guidance on how to build buyer personas that are accurate representations of your various audience niches.
As CMI demonstrates, the definition of content marketing is wrapped up with your audience. You cannot separate the two.
Great content marketing begins and ends with your audience, so this is a key knowledge category you MUST learn and understand to succeed.
Look at it this way. Let’s say you run a website that sells athletic shoes. A blog explaining how to properly stretch after a run would fit perfectly with your audience. However, a blog about choosing the right dress shoes for different events wouldn’t make any sense.
Even though the blog about dress shoes is still about shoes (which you sell), it doesn’t apply to your fitness-centric audience. Although the stretching blog has absolutely nothing to do with shoes, it still works well because it’s relevant.
3. Search Engine Optimization
SEO is how you get noticed online organically. It’s how you drive targeted traffic (from your audience personas) to your website and content.
Without a working knowledge of SEO techniques, standards, and best practices, you won’t be able to leverage it as a content marketer or strategist. You won’t draw more warm leads into your fold.
Thus, SEO should be a crucial piece of any content marketing training you encounter.
Effective content marketing strategists incorporate SEO into everything they create. While you never want to create content just to please search engines, SEO should still play an active role in:
- Blog writing
- Landing page copy
- On-site images (like ALT tags)
- Social media copy
- YouTube descriptions and tags
4. SEO Keyword and Topic Research
You might understand how to optimize content for search. You might know how to use keywords and how to put together a user-friendly website that Google can easily crawl.
Still, none of that gives you a starting point for SEO content creation.
For that, you need to know how to do SEO keyword and topic research. Both involve:
- Knowing what tools are out there to make your life easier (both paid and free) AND how to use them
- Understanding how keyword research informs topic research, and vice versa
- Knowing how to leverage your audience insights to find profitable keyword opportunities mapped to the sales cycle
Without SEO research know-how, you won’t be able to produce content that hits your target audience’s sweet spot – a must for any successful content marketer.
A useful content marketing course should also explain in-depth how to choose the best keywords for each piece of content you create.
The fact is, new sites won’t rank organically for broad (short) keywords like “hat” or even “red hat.” When you choose broad keywords, you’re usually competing against several hundred-million already established pages.
Plus, short keywords aren’t the most profitable because they’re too general.
What about “hat”? How it’s made? How to choose the right fit? The different types?
Instead, a content marketing course should teach you how to choose the best long-tail keywords. Phrases of three words or more, long-tail keywords tell you more about the searcher’s intent so you can create super relevant content.
I take students through a deep dive into keyword research in my Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
5. Content Creation and Production
This next knowledge category is a biggie.
A content marketing course worth its salt should help you answer the following questions about content creation and production:
- What does bad/good/great/amazing content look like?
- What are the various content formats, and which will you focus on publishing?
- How do you create content that wins? What’s the process, from first draft stage to publishable piece?
- Where should you publish content?
As this graphic from HubSpot shows, there are a dizzying array of content formats you could potentially create. Your chosen content marketing training should cover at least the top formats and what they entail.
Without this knowledge, you won’t be able to create content that gets traction with your readers. And that’s a big deal.
Think of your brand’s website as a house. A house starts with a solid foundation, expertly written and optimized blog posts, ongoing content maintenance, and much more.
You can learn more about building your content house when you register as a student for the Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
6. Guest Blogging Basics
In content marketing, one of the major ways to build online authority in any industry is to seek out guest blogging opportunities. According to expert marketer Neil Patel, guest blogging helps you:
- Position yourself (or a brand) as an industry expert
- Build backlinks, which are authority signals to Google
- Get your name or a brand’s name more exposure
If the content marketing course you’re looking at doesn’t cover it, look elsewhere for training. This is a major industry activity that most brands swear by.
7. Budgeting for Content Marketing
Pricing and budgeting are two huge factors for any brand thinking about diving into content marketing. They want to know:
- What will content marketing cost?
- What will the ROI look like?
- What should we budget for our content marketing endeavors?
If you don’t understand how to budget your resources for yourself or outside clients, you can forget about getting buy-in for your efforts, let alone getting paid at the end of the day.
Part of becoming a successful content marketer means understanding your own worth and labor value. Selling yourself short doesn’t just hurt your own paycheck – it lowers the standard industry cost for other content strategists at all skill levels.
A content marketing course should familiarize you with the business side of things as well. It should help you understand how to price your services and market yourself as a content marketing strategist.
8. Social Media Best Practices
Online marketing requires meeting people where they hang out – search, email, social media, and more. Thus, your content marketing education also needs to cover best practices for maintaining and posting to various channels other than your website.
According to CMI’s B2C Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report for 2020, 94% of marketers used social media posts for content marketing purposes.
Each social media platform is its own world that you must know how to navigate successfully. You’ll have to consider:
- Optimal post length
- Proper image sizes
- How voice differs across platforms
- Ideal post frequency for each platform
Plus, the most popular platforms change over time. (Remember Myspace?) If you’re not up to date on this piece of the content marketing puzzle, you’ll be at a disadvantage.
It’s also critical to understand which platforms are the best fit for your brand or client’s brand.
Almost every brand has a Facebook page. Aside from that, you’ll want to choose the best platforms to spread your resources. It depends entirely on your audience and industry whether you pick LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, or Twitter.
9. Content Promotion Techniques
Content promotion is equally if not more important than content creation.
However, according to Moz, this is the part of content marketing where most businesses fail.
You cannot, I repeat, cannot just publish content and do nothing.
The most effective content marketers instead understand the best ways to get more eyes on their content. They promote, promote, promote, and promote some more. It’s a never-ending process, but it’s vital.
While social signals don’t directly impact SEO, there is a correlation between a brand’s social media engagement/activity and search engine rankings. In other words, promotion isn’t just for traffic and brand building, it also fits into a well-rounded SEO strategy.
Effective content marketers also understand that content shock is real: The demand for content is fixed yet the supply keeps increasing. Plus, most audiences are distracted. You need to understand when, how, and where to promote your content so it gets in front of the right sets of eyes at the ideal time.
Will the content marketing course you’re considering cover promotion and distribution techniques? If not, move on.
10. Content Auditing, Maintenance, and Measurement
How is your content performing? Why should you/your client keep budgeting for content marketing? Is it viable?
If you understand how to do content audits and measure your content performance, you’ll be able to answer all these questions confidently.
This knowledge category is mega-important for mapping your content marketing to ROI – and most clients need this information to keep funding their content.
There’s no magic equation for calculating the ROI of content marketing because each brand/business/organization is unique. It’s not all about hard conversions – you also must consider branding, website traffic, and general visibility too. Sometimes, these won’t translate into hard sales immediately.
A useful content marketing course should, therefore, teach you:
- How to measure content performance (traffic, clicks, engagements, shares, conversions, etc.)
- Which tools to use for content performance measurement
- How to leverage and update old content to improve performance
- How to plan for future content endeavors
These are the final elements you need to have a working knowledge, as well as be competitive as a content strategist or content marketer.
11. How to Use Content Marketing Tools
You can’t build a successful content marketing strategy without the right tools.
Yes, Google does offer some free keyword research tools but they aren’t the most accurate or in-depth.
- Finding long-tail, relevant, high-value keywords
- Seeing what keywords your competitors rank for
- Checking backlinks for yourself and competitor websites
- Developing topic ideas
BuzzSumo is a must-have for researching topics – both trending and evergreen (classic) – to see what performs well and what doesn’t. Meanwhile, you’ll also want to check out Airtable: an interactive spreadsheet tool with tons of cool features. Airtable will help you build and maintain an ongoing content calendar.
If a content marketing course doesn’t explain how to use these tools and what they’re for, look for something else.
Learn Comprehensive, Up-to-Date Industry Knowledge and Skills with The Content Strategy & Marketing Course
So, you’re looking for comprehensive, complete, actionable content marketing training…
Good news. You’ve just found it.
The Content Marketing & Strategy Course covers every single knowledge category we’ve listed above and more. Take a look:
This is a well-rounded content marketing course that will position you as an expert marketer or strategist once you finish the final lesson.
To see for yourself, check out the curriculum, then make an investment in your content marketing and strategy education and enroll today.