Authored By: Julia McCoy & Ashley W., Content Strategist at Express Writers
What is a content strategist?
What do they do?
How do you become one?
What does their typical day look like?
While content marketing has been a part of the marketing vocabulary for over a decade now, the marketing world is still having trouble wrapping its head around the concept of a content strategist.
The goal of this guide is to provide real answers to what a content strategist is, what they do, how you can become one, and the type of salary you can expect when you get there.
Let’s dive right in.
What is the Definition of a Content Strategist?
The short definition:
“A content strategist is a marketer responsible for building and/or managing a brand’s content strategy.”
The long definition:
“A content strategist is an inbound marketer with a broad set of content marketing skills (i.e. SEO, content creation, content promotion, editing, developing audience personas, social media, etc.) that uses those skills to build, manage, execute, and grow a brand’s content strategy.”
A web content strategist is, first and foremost, an inbound marketer.
They use their knowledge, skills, and talents to help brands earn attention organically.
The traditional marketer, on the other hand, is typically labeled as an interruption marketer.
They spend their time competing with millions of other businesses to interrupt and gain attention from consumers.
This graphic gives a visual representation of how a strategist’s focus differs from that of a traditional marketer:
To break this down one step further, we can also think of a content strategist as an audience-centric marketer.
They work to understand their audience and use that knowledge to build a content marketing strategy that focuses on the wants, needs, and desires of that audience.
What is a Content Strategist’s Primary Job?
The goal of a content strategist in the B2B or B2C world is simple…develop a content strategy that drives targeted inbound traffic and guides visitors through the sales funnel.
Their primary objective is to increase revenue and profitability (which is the same objective of any B2B or B2C marketer).
This (the customer retention part) is yet another key difference between inbound marketing (aka content marketing) and interruption marketing (aka traditional marketing).
When you develop a content strategy, your initial goal is obviously to drive traffic.
From there, you want to turn that traffic into leads.
And, from there, to turn those leads into sales.
But once the sale is made and a lead becomes a client/customer, a strong content strategy is needed to keep those clients/customers on board for the long haul.
So, in essence, a content strategist’s objective is to use content to optimize the four essential parts of the inbound sales funnel:
- Drive inbound traffic
- Convert traffic to leads
- Convert leads to sales
- Optimize customer retention efforts
What is the Average Content Strategist Salary? (It’s More Than You Think)
It’s pretty darn high.
Especially if you’re good at what you do.
According to The Creative Group’s 2018 Salary Guide, the best of the best earn well over $100,000 while the average content strategist earns $73,000 per year.
Senior content strategists earn six figures and beyond…
Even if you’re just starting out and have a few years of content marketing experience, you can earn $60,000+.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of full-time professionals in the US is $44,564.
Becoming a brand content strategist puts you well above that threshold from the jump.
To illustrate this point even further, let’s take a look at a few real life examples of content strategist jobs from around the web.
Here’s a look at a job post on Indeed for an entry level content strategist:
As you can see, the position starts at over $40,000 and the barrier for entry is nothing more than a year of professional writing, editing, and content strategy experience.
What about the salary potential after 3-5 years of experience?
Here’s a position offering $60,000-$70,000 after just 4 years of experience:
What Does a Content Strategist’s Typical Day Look Like? (An Inside Look)
One of the intriguing aspects of being a content strategist is that no two days are the same.
As a strategist at Express Writers, I work with several different types of clients throughout each day.
I might start my day talking to a small business owner from Kansas about increasing their local exposure and end my day talking to a large e-commerce business that’s sick of paying tens of thousands of dollars per month on paid ads to drive traffic that isn’t converting (and therefore wants to increase their organic traffic).
Let’s do a quick breakdown of what a typical day in my life as a content strategist at EW looks like:
8:00 AM – 9:00 AM
Check emails. Answer specific questions from clients, via email, about their content strategy. Prepare for upcoming call.
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Phone call w/ current or potential client. Work with them to understand and improve upon their current content strategy (I’m usually on SEMrush during the call so we’re able to get a live view of where they are and what can be improved). Help them to identify the type of content they need to accomplish their inbound goals.
Send a call recap email to client and, if applicable, get them setup with a cart for the content they need.
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Continue to follow up, via email, with leads and clients that have reached out for content strategy assistance. Cover Drift (live chat) to assist anyone reaching out for content help there. Prepare for next call.
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
Another phone call w/ current or potential client. Repeat steps from 1st call.
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Using tools like SEMrush and KW Finder, I’ll begin laying out initial content action plans for clients. In some cases, I’ll have a quick call with a client to go over a plan that has previously been laid out and to ask/answer any questions that either I or the client has.
2:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Respond to any emails and answer any questions that may have come through during the day. I may also continue working on content strategy action plans for clients or begin preparing for the next day.
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Dedicated writing time. Working on different types of content for Express Writers, clients, and/or Julia’s Content Strategy Course. Sometimes I’ll choose to write between 6:00 AM – 8:00 AM instead of the afternoon.
End of the Day
If you’re a strategist for an e-commerce brand that sells swimsuits, for example, you probably won’t be spending much time on the phone walking clients through content strategy (that wouldn’t make much sense).
Instead, you’ll likely be spending your time doing things like:
- Creating, optimizing, tracking, updating, and editing content
- Promoting content
- Developing new content ideas
- Communicating with your team (if you’re lucky enough to have one)
- Researching keyword opportunities
- Building on your audience personas
- Improving sales cycle related content
- Updating your editorial calendar
If you’d like to see what it’s like to work as a strategist for enterprise brands, take a look at a day in the life of NewsCred’s Jamie Maddison.
How Do You Become a Content Strategist? (The Fast Track)
Take and go through Julia’s Content Strategy Course :).
Ok, I might be a little biased on that.
But really, if a career in content strategy is something you’d like to pursue (or improve in), then you’d be hard pressed to find a better resource to help get you there.
Because the course is built on the principle of execution.
Let me break it down for you.
At this point in my content marketing career, I’ve enrolled in 10+ courses related to the industry (and have spent $5,000+ on those courses).
And one of the things that continues to disappoint me about a majority of these courses is that they rarely, if ever, talk about execution.
They babble on and on about jargon that my grandmother could find with a Google search.
And even if it’s great information, these courses always leave me thinking, “…ok, what do I do now?”
This course is different for the simple reason that it tells you what to do now, tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, and three years from now.
It’s literally a blueprint showing you how Julia created a content strategy that allowed her to to build a $4 million+ business with a $75 investment.
No ads. No interruption marketing.
Just a ton of trial and error over 5+ years while optimizing a content strategy that she’s now sharing with all of us.
And that, to me at least, makes it worth far more than the price of admission (which, at $99/month for 12 months, is a bargain).
Not ready to commit your time and money to the course yet?
Julia’s book (Practical Content Strategy & Marketing) is a solid consolation prize.
While it was designed to serve as a guidebook for course students, it has a TON of standalone value.
And I’m not the only one that thinks that (it has a whole lot of 5-star feedback from major players in the content marketing industry).
While it won’t give you the luxury ride in the Cadillac that the course will on your journey to building a content strategy that brings in $1 million+, the book can serve as a bus ride to get you started.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Successful Content Strategist?
It’s hard to say exactly which skills are needed for the simple fact that the responsibilities of a web content strategist vary depending on factors like:
- Your specific role in the marketing hierarchy of the company you work for and/or with
- Whether you’re working for a single brand (in-house strategist) or multiple brands (working for an agency or as a freelancer)
- The specific goals of the company you’re working for and/or with
Regardless of your situation, however, the profitable brand content strategy cores remain the same.
To use these strategy cores to succeed, you’ll need a variety of different skills.
Let’s take a look at what they are:
Skills Needed for Core #1 – Knowing Your Foundations
- Ability to properly define a Content Differentiation Factor (CDF)
- An understanding of how to define, track, and generate ROI within a content strategy
- Ability to define a niche and topic where your content can make you and/or your brand an authority
Skills Needed for Core #2 – Audience Discovery & Brand Position
- Ability to identify and create audience personas for your target audience
- Ability to map audience personas to stages of awareness in sales funnel
- An understanding of how to create and maintain a brand style for consistency
Skills Needed for Core #3 – Understanding Keywords
- An understanding of how to perform keyword research
- Ability to define content strategy goals and choose the correct keywords to target based on those goals
- An understanding of local SEO (if applicable)
- An understanding of SEO ranking factors
- An understanding of how different types of keywords (long-tail, medium-tail, etc.) correlate with different stages of the sales funnel
Skills Needed for Core #4 – Building Authority
- Ability to create 10x evergreen content that generates compounding organic traffic
- An understanding of how to structure authority content
- An understanding of how to properly link (both internally and externally)
- Ability to utilize social media to properly promote content (and build backlinks)
- An understanding of how to guest blog in a way that yields ROI
Skills Needed for Core #5 – Practical Content Creation
- Ability to consistently generate popular content ideas
- An understanding of how to use tools that can improve content creation efficiency
- Ability to create content for each stage of the sales funnel
- Ability to create content that has SEO value AND builds brand awareness
Skills Needed for Core #6 – Editorial Calendar & Post-Publishing
- Ability to successfully promote content
- An understanding of how social media and email marketing work together with content marketing
- Ability to set proper content budgets
- Ability to create an editorial calendar
- Ability to properly track and update content over time
- Ability to perform a content audit
- Ability to manage a content team (if applicable)
Is Becoming a Content Strategist Difficult?
It sure can be.
Especially if you try to go at it alone.
Becoming a content strategist means much more than developing a general understanding of content marketing and the strategy that surrounds it.
Instead, it’s about diving deep and understanding how each part of the content marketing cycle works together.
After all, your primary objective is to increase revenue and profitability.
If that were easy, there wouldn’t be 530 million results for the Google search ‘how to increase revenue’.
And while you certainly don’t need to be have an IQ of 160 to understand content strategy, you do need a growth-mindset and the willingness to learn how everything works together.
Are Businesses Actually Hiring Content Strategists in 2018?
You bet they are.
Just take a look at the amount of available content strategist jobs listed on Glassdoor:
5,379 content strategist jobs currently listed on Glassdoor…
Not to mention indeed.com, which has 40,000+ jobs related to content strategy listed on their job board:
42,960 content strategy jobs are listed on Indeed…
According to The Creative Group, 45% of marketing executives claim that they’re having quite a bit of trouble finding talented creative professionals to fill these roles.
So not only are there are a whole lot of jobs available, there aren’t enough professionally trained strategists to fill those jobs.
Are you ready to step in and fill the void?