One of the most common questions I receive from members of my Facebook community is:
“What specific skills do I need to succeed as a Content Strategist today?”
And while I could easily rattle off dozens of skills to answer this question, doing so would almost certainly cause a majority of budding strategists to become overwhelmed with the thought of what they have yet to learn.
But here’s the thing.
You don’t need to master EVERY skill.
In fact, attempting to do so would be a major waste of time considering the top content strategy skills to know in 2018 are MUCH different than they were just 8 years ago.
Just take a look at this job posting for a content strategist in 2010:
I think it’s safe to say that you’re not going to see too many content strategist job postings that look like this today.
But while you don’t need to be a master of every skill, there are a few specific content strategy skills that you should focus on to succeed in 2018 and beyond.
Let’s dive in and find out what they are.
The Top 5 Content Strategy Skills You Should Know This Year
1. The Ability to Become an Expert-Generalist
As content marketers, we’ve all been sold on the myth of the need to become a specialist.
Specialize in writing blogs for insurance companies. Specialize in writing white papers for the SaaS industry. Specialize in content promotion on Facebook.
After all, it’s the only way to make money in content marketing these days, right?
The thing is, this simply doesn’t work for content strategists.
*Note of Caution: I am not, by any means, suggesting that you shouldn’t specialize when it comes to the content that you put out for your audience or the industry you serve. Having a Content Differentiation Factor (CDF) is crucial to content marketing success. Specialization in a certain skill as a content strategist, however, can severely limit your potential.
To succeed as a content strategist, you need a very broad set of skills. And, as we’ve mentioned, many of those skills change frequently.
If you focus on one skill, and you pick the wrong one, you could be left without a career when that skill becomes irrelevant.
So what should you do instead of specializing? Become an expert-generalist.
Orit Gadiesh, a chairman at Bain & Co and the creator of the term, says an expert-generalist is:
“Someone who has the ability and curiousity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, topics, etc.”
The graphic below puts this definition into perspective:
As a content strategist, you can’t JUST be great at creating content and ignore content promotion, sales funnel mapping, and building customer personas.
You need to have a strong understanding of each of these skills (you don’t need to master them all, but you do need to have a strong understanding).
Takeaway: Break down the component parts of becoming a top content strategist. Then, become an expert-generalist by continually making marginal but meaningful improvements in each of those areas.
2. The Ability to Create Long Form, Comprehensive Content
The ability to create long form, comprehensive content is as important as it has ever been.
And there are plenty of statistics to support this:
- Content that is over 1,000 words is shared 16x more than content that is < 1,000 words. (Source)
- In a study by CrazyEgg, they found that long form content converted 30% higher than short form content. (Source)
- In an experiment by WordStream, they found that long form content increased their average on-page time from 1:35 to 4:33. (Source)
Unsurprisingly, the amount of organic traffic earned from long form content (more than 1,750 words) is also significantly higher than short form content.
If these statistics aren’t convincing enough, think of your own search habits.
When you perform a search with a question, are you clicking the link and going to the website with the hope that your question will be answered thoroughly and completely?
Or, are you looking for a short post that briefly answers your question and links out to a dozen other resources that also briefly answer your question (and crowd your browser with even more tabs)?
If you’re like me, the former is a MUCH more desirable scenario.
Takeaway: Develop your ability to create comprehensive long form content that serves as a “one-stop-shop” for answering the reader’s question and/or solving their problem.
3. A Constant ROI-Driven Mindset
As a content strategist, your job is to help your client build a successful, high-ROI content marketing strategy.
If you’re pitching to a client to handle their strategy, it’s important to realize that their thought process for hiring you is ROI-driven.
This is also the case if you’re working for a brand and pitching content strategy to management.
Essentially, even if they don’t say it outright, they want you to be able to answer this question:
“If I’m spending $1,500/month to have you create/manage our strategy and content, how much revenue is that going to generate for our business?”
In order to answer this question, your job is to help them understand the potential traffic and, more importantly, high quality leads that you can help them generate through their content strategy.
From there, convincing your client of the value of your services comes down to helping them realize just how valuable those high quality leads can be once a strong process is in place for converting them.
For example, according to SEMRush results, the organic traffic from our content marketing efforts at Express Writers is currently worth over $57,000/month (the amount we’d have to pay for the same traffic results via Google Adwords).
But while we generate 30,000+ visitors/month, that number is fairly irrelevant on its own. It’s the QUALITY of that traffic that’s important to us.
When those visitors come to our site and schedule a free content strategy consultation call with one of our Content Strategists or Content Director, our conversion rate is over 80%.
And while that number certainly has a lot to do with the strength of our team and process, even Dale Carnegie himself wouldn’t dream of consistently reaching an 80% conversion rate on his own.
The reason that we’re able to achieve an 80% conversion rate is because of the quality of the traffic, and warm leads, that are coming to our site.
And those warm leads are coming to our site because of the consistent, high quality content that we create.
That potential is exactly what you need to communicate to your client.
Takeaway: Develop your ability to think in terms of ROI when communicating with clients and management.
While this is nothing new, having the ability to find high ROI long tail keywords to build your content around is more important than ever.
There are several reasons for this:
- Long tail keywords drive more targeted traffic and convert at a much higher rate. In fact, some studies have shown that the conversion rate is 2.5x higher for long tail terms. (Source)
- The competition is lower. Using tools like SEMRush and KWFinder, you’ll quickly find that there are hundreds of long tail keywords with low competition (score below 40) that will be MUCH easier to rank in SERPs.
- A majority of searches are performed using long tail terms. In fact, over 70% of ALL searches are long tail. (Source)
In the end, long tail keywords are crucial to a successful content strategy because of the ROI potential that they offer.
And they will continue to play a major role in successful content strategies in 2018 and beyond.
Takeaway: Whether you’re building a content strategy for a large brand or small business, optimizing great content with long tail keywords is one of the best ways to deliver ROI.
5. The Ability to Effectively Promote Content
In 2018, creating great content is an expectation, not a differentiation factor.
The ability to effectively promote that content, however, can be a MAJOR differentiation factor.
And just to be clear, creating SEO-optimized content that is long form and comprehensive is NOT a promotion strategy.
You absolutely have to do that in order for your content strategy to succeed over the long term, but it can’t stop there.
My simple advice to become more effective at promoting your content…
Focus on it. Spend more time on it (many top content marketers recommend that you spend 80% of your time promoting content and 20% creating it).
In addition, never create a piece of content without a promotion strategy in place.
Takeaway: In 2018, the ability to successfully promote your content is just as, if not more, important than your ability to create great content.
Learning the Fundamental Content Strategy Career Skills That Don’t Change
When I created the Practical Content Strategy & Marketing Course, one of my main goals was to create a course that taught my students the fundamental skills that are crucial to a high ROI content strategy.
But I didn’t want to stop there.
I also wanted to ensure that a majority of the fundamental skills I taught were things that don’t change over time.
- How to build to core foundations of a high ROI content strategy
- How to develop audience personas, sales funnel maps, and brand content style guidelines
- How to find and use keywords that generate ROI
- How to build content cores for an authority presence online
- How to create 10x content
- How to promote, update, and maintain content
- How to create a consistent plan for content via an editorial calendar
And while I’m not so naïve that I believe all of the skills taught in my course will hold true 30 years from now, there’s little doubt that a majority of what my students learn through the course will be applicable in 2028 just as much as they are in 2018.