This post was originally published in March 2018 and updated in August 2020.
Let’s say you’re on a quest to find out this year’s top content strategy skills. (It’s a digital world these days, with Google’s search traffic alone ballooned up to double, and the pandemic still upon us.)
You start with Google.
Here’s what you find:
- You need a bachelor’s degree in marketing, communications, journalism, or information management.
- You need five years’ experience as a digital content manager or web writer.
- You need 20+ content strategy skills, attitudes, and vague jargon like “empathy.”
Back in 2010, content strategy job requirements looked something like this. (Say what?😲)
Source: 2010 job posting for a web content strategist manager, via intentionaldesign.ca
So, what the heck do you actually need in order to fulfill on the content strategy job requirements of today’s digital world?
I can tell you myself that I DIY’ed content strategy without a degree or five years’ experience as a content manager…
…and turned my $75 startup into a thriving agency worth $5 million, once I got clear on my content strategy.
So, which content strategy skills helped me accomplish all this?
I’ll keep it simple (yup! no more information overload) and name five essential content strategy skills you need to grow your (or your client’s) brand.
Ready to dive in?
Content Strategy Skills: The Top 5 You Need to Get Started
So will five years’ experience as a web writer.
But do you absolutely need these types of skills and experience to get started as a content strategist?
Here are five you do need.
Content Strategy Skill #1: The Ability to See the Bigger Picture
As a content strategist, you need to think like a magazine editor.
I’m not saying you have to go through the rigorous process of becoming an editor.
I’m saying you need an editor’s ability to see the bigger picture.
Here’s a general idea of what editors do:
- Plan each new magazine issue, including themes, content types, and sections.
- Review submissions from contributors, selecting the ones that fit the style and theme of the new issue.
- Determine which material is most likely to please readers.
- Coordinate for the publication of new issues.
As a content strategist, you’ll be working along the same lines. You’ll:
- Plan the content a brand publishes (including content types like blogs, emails, web pages, etc.).
- Perform content audits to see how well each piece of content is doing for your overall strategy.
- Create audience personas to map out what kind of content your audience wants.
- Plan for content promotion.
See the similarities?
An editor’s job is to make sure all content pieces work together for a perfect magazine issue that subscribers will love.
A content strategist’s job is to make sure all content pieces work together to achieve a company’s content marketing goals.
If it sounds complex, don’t worry.
Seeing the bigger picture isn’t as difficult as it seems.
In fact, I bet you’ve already done it hundreds of times in your life.
For example, have you ever planned a little kid’s birthday party?
If you have, this involved:
- Baking the birthday cake
- Coordinating with the local taco truck
- Cutting out thousands of paper dolls
- Drawing a donkey for pin-the-tail
- Picking up the goodie bags and party hats
When looked at individually, all these small moving parts seem irrelevant to each other…
…but when you see the bigger picture?
You see a fantastic, successful birthday party.
The work of a content strategist isn’t any different:
You need to see how all the tiny moving parts of content work together to achieve one goal: content marketing success.
Content Strategy Skill #2: The Ability to Create Long-Form, Comprehensive Content
Ever scour the web in search of information and land on a light, thin piece of content?
You know, something like this.
After reading it you probably thought, “MEH. I already know all that.”
(I mean, create a business name? If you didn’t know you need a business name, you’ve probably been living under a rock for like…centuries. 😂)
Now, as a content strategist, your mission is to NEVER give readers the chance to say this about your content.
You want them to say, “Wow. I learned something new today,” or “Never heard that before.” And especially, “This answered all my questions.”
Your mission is to inspire, educate, and build loyalty with content.
Since there are hundreds of ways to do this, let’s keep it simple with this rule:
Learn how to create long-form, comprehensive content.
Well, you can’t do much with a 500-word piece. (If you create a 500-word ultimate guide, chances are it won’t be enough to give your audience a one-stop-shop with all the knowledge they need on the topic.)
But here’s an even better reason to create long-form, comprehensive content:
- In a study by CrazyEgg, they found that long-form content outperformed short content by 30%. (Source)
- WordStream found that long-form content tripled their time-on-page – from 1:33 to 4:35. (Source)
- Plus, the amount of organic traffic earned from long-form content is higher than short-form content.
By now you’re thinking, “But what if I’m not a talented wordsmith? Does that mean I can’t be a content strategist?”
You don’t need to be a Dickens or Wilde to create long-form content that works.
Remember, content strategy is not magic. It’s math.
You’re not required to coin brand-new words or craft gut-wrenching satires.
All you need is to know how to create high-quality content that’s a one-stop-shop for your audience, and you’re good.
Content Strategy Skill #3: A Constant ROI-Driven Mindset
As a content strategist, you need to think like a CEO.
This means your job will be less about falling in love with poetic words…
…and more about coming up with a high-ROI content marketing strategy for your brand.
Example: when applying for content strategist at a big agency or pitching to a prospective client, you need to realize they’ll be thinking:
Here are three steps to showing your ROI-driven mindset to prospects.
Step #1: Show them how content strategy can pull in a ton of organic traffic.
Now, imagine your prospect is doing paid ads and you tell him you can save him $56,000 a month by doing content marketing instead.
Would he be convinced to pay you $1,500 per month? $3,000? Even $5,000?
Step #2: Show them how quality content converts qualified warm leads.
Here’s a hard fact:
Traffic doesn’t equal revenue.
So even if you get 1,000,000 site visitors per month:
The numbers mean nothing if you can’t make a single sale.
But what if you had a strong process in place for converting leads…
…so 80% of them ended up buying your products?
Now we’re talking.
And I’m not mentioning the happy dream about conversion numbers I had last night. (Because we all have those, right? 😀)
I’m talking about real numbers from my content agency, Express Writers.
When prospects visit our site and schedule a free content strategy consultation call, 80% of them convert.
Of course, we could never do it without our great team.
But our customer-brand relationships begin waaay before our prospects ever contact our team.
It begins when people come to our site to consume the consistent, high-quality content we create.
That potential is exactly what you need to communicate to your client.
Step #3: Show them the power of content by using the content marketing ROI formula.
Here’s the exact formula:
Monthly traffic X traffic-to-lead conversions X lead-to-sales conversions.
So, let’s say you can pull in 20,000 site visitors per month with your content strategy skills.
Multiply that number by organic traffic-to-lead conversions (16% according to MarketingSherpa). That’s 3,200 leads.
Multiply that by the number of lead-to-sales conversions (14.6% based on a HubSpot study). That’s 448 sales.
Now, if your client’s products are priced at $100 apiece, he’ll get $44,800 in one month.
Telling your client the results of their content marketing with the ROI formula will show him you’re not just in it to create beautiful words.
You’re in it to increase their ROI.
And clients LOVE that.
To dive deeper into this formula, watch the YouTube video I created on the topic.
Content Strategy Skill #4: The Ability to Find & Build Content Around High ROI, Long-Tail Keywords
As a content strategist, one of your major roles will be finding high-ROI, long-tail keywords for your boss or client.
Why long-tail keywords?
- It’s easier to rank for long-tail keywords (you’ll find hundreds of profitable long-tail keywords with a keyword difficulty score below 40).
- 70% of searches are done using long-tail keywords…
- …and their average conversion rate is 36%.
To learn more, read my post on the best keyword research tools and how to use them to find high-ROI keywords.
Content Strategy Skill #5: The Ability to Effectively Promote Content
As a content strategist, promotion has to be at the back of your mind. With. Every. Single. Piece. Of. Content. You. Create.
In other words, never create content without first knowing exactly how you’ll promote it.
(Many marketers recommend that you spend 20% of your time creating content and 80% promoting it.)
Here are 11 great content promotion strategies from Buffer.
Learning the Fundamental Content Strategy Skills That Don’t Change
I know, digging up the top content strategy skills you need can be challenging.
For example, do you really need to be a tech genius?
Do you need a bachelor’s degree in marketing plus 5 years of experience as a content manager?
I mean, information overload, right?
If this is you, you’ll love my Practical Content Strategy & Marketing Course.
This is not an information overload course.
I don’t list down the top content strategy skills and say, “Go ahead and learn them yourself!” as other courses do. (Unfortunately.)
I don’t argue which skills you need and which you don’t.
What I do is help you build your own content strategy. Step by step.
When you complete the course, you’ll be an expert content strategist with a powerful content strategy you made yourself.
(Yup! It’s like those amazing arts and crafts workshops where you end up with your own handcrafted masterpiece afterwards, instead of a long list of jargon you’ll soon forget.)
Here’s just a sneak peek into the great stuff I teach in this course:
- How to build the 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 naive that I believe all of the skills taught in my course will hold true 30 years from now, there’s little doubt a majority of what my students learn through the course will be applicable in 2030 just as much as they are in 2020. I update my course every single year to guarantee this!