The Most Important Skills For Content Marketing

The Most Important Skills For Content Marketing

What do you do when you want to be a content marketer? The best content marketers all have this skill… This first skill might be the most important. As a marketer who is still finding your way, you’ll be spending a lot of time learning about different tactics you can use to promote your content. Reason #1 – To understand your customer: If you want to be a good content marketer, you need to understand the type of reader you’re trying to attract. Finally, and most importantly, a great content marketer knows how to research content topics. Now, most content marketers don’t know how to create one of their own. One of the things it applies to is content promotion: 80% of your traffic will come from 20% of the links 80% of your links and traffic will come from 20% of your promotion tactics In almost all cases, if a sample size is large enough, these numbers will be fairly accurate. If you don’t, spend a bit of time Googling and learning how to make the most of modern writing tools. It’s another one of those skills that help you understand when certain tactics should be used. However, as far as the overall content marketing effectiveness goes, content promotion is often more important.

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Some jobs are easy to define and prepare for:

Want to be an engineer? Go to school and get an engineering degree.

Want to code for Google? Go to school and study computer science.

What do you do when you want to be a content marketer?

Go to school and study content marketing? Hmm…there doesn’t seem to be a program for that, please try again.

Sure, it wouldn’t hurt to study general business or marketing, but that’s not enough either. You’ll end up learning many things you don’t really need and not learning those you do need.

All the top content marketers I know have a wide variety of useful skills that closely relate to content marketing.

This is largely out of necessity.

Content marketing—the modern version of it—didn’t really become popular until the last few years.

If you really want to be a great content marketer, there’s only one place for you to get your education:

The real world.

But do note that the bar has been raised.

Creating great content isn’t enough anymore if you want your content marketing to be successful.

Today, you need to not only create that content but also promote it.

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Many marketers have started to wake up to this fact, which is a good thing.

However, just because they recognize that promotion is important doesn’t mean they know how to do it effectively.

In my experience, only a small percentage of marketers possess the skills that make them effective promoters as well.

The big problem is that if you don’t have these skills, you’ll struggle to learn how to promote effectively.

The reason for this is that there isn’t much help out there.

When it comes to creating great content, you can study the content your favorite blogs publish and attempt to replicate it.

But it’s next to impossible to understand all the work that goes on behind the scenes to promote that content unless the creators are generous enough to share it with you.

It takes a special kind of marketer—the cream of the crop—to learn both from resources (like blog posts) and experience.

These are the complete content marketers that get the results everyone else wants.

In this post, I’ll explain in detail the most important skills that I believe all great content marketers need.

Let’s dive in.

1. The best content marketers all have this skill…

This first skill might be the most important.

Critical thinking.

As a marketer who is still finding your way, you’ll be spending a lot of time learning about different tactics you can use to promote your content.

These might be email outreach tactics, link building tactics, or social media tactics…you get the picture.

But not all marketers who try a specific tactic will succeed with it. You probably know that already from firsthand experience.

It’s not because of luck or skill. Although these factors may play a role, the main factor that determines how successful you are with a tactic is fit.

Some tactics work in some niches and situations better than in others.

If you blindly try different tactics, you’ll have some success but not as much as you’d like.

The really good marketers, or the ones who seem to “get it” really quickly, are the ones who can critically think about a tactic.

They don’t just read a blog post and think, “This is pretty cool; I’d better try it!”

Instead, they think about questions like these:

  • Why does this tactic work?
  • What niches would it work best in? why?
  • Will this work for my content?
  • Can I can tweak it in any way to make it even more effective?
  • How can I test this?

Understanding a tactic before using it is different from just applying it blindly. I hope the reason behind those questions is clear.

Once you truly understand the tactics you learn, all of a sudden you are able to see where they fit together in an overall strategy.

The good news is that no one is born with critical thinking skills—these skills are developed.

And even better news is that you probably already have some, but maybe just need to consciously use them more often.

Regardless of where you are, let’s go through a complete example of how you would approach a tactic in real life.

Examining infographics with critical thinking: Here’s the situation: you come across an article I wrote about creating and promoting infographics.

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Of course, your first reaction is excitement when I explain how infographics can be used to get thousands of visits.

And they can, for sure. But not in all situations.

After you read the post, you want to ask yourself the same questions I listed above.

Q: Why does this tactic work?

Infographics work because they are attractive, easy to consume, and can convey complex information quickly.

On top of that, really good ones stand out and get extra attention.

Because infographics are so shareable, you’ll get a ton of traffic if you can get the initial views to them. Providing an embed code underneath the infographic makes it easy to share (and gets you extra links).

Q: What niches would it work best in? Why?

Infographics are an image-based type of content. Therefore, they probably work best in image dominated niches. Think clothing, design, food, and even marketing to a degree.

The most important factor mentioned was that the topic needs to be interesting, which means that viewers need to care about it.

In “boring” niches like heating or bug removal, which are not that interesting to people (in general), it’s going to be tough to get the infographic to spread.

Q: Can I tweak it in any way to make it even more effective?

The reason why the effectiveness of infographics seems to be declining is that they’re becoming more commonplace.

So, if I can come up with a way to make mine more unique, I should be able to get better results. Perhaps, I can make a gifographic instead.

Q: How can I test this?

To test this tactic fairly, I would need to produce at least 5-10 professionally designed infographics.

This means I’ll likely need a budget of around $2,000-4,000.

I will then determine its effectiveness by looking at a few key metrics:

  • cost per subscriber
  • cost per link
  • cost per visit

Then, I will compare those metrics to the metrics of other tactics I’ve used to determine if I should produce more infographics.

End questions. In reality, you’d probably want to ask yourself even more questions.

How many readers of this blog or any other marketing blog honestly do this after reading about a tactic?

While I have some of the most active readers I’ve ever seen, which is great, I would guess far fewer than half of the readers who read a post do this.

If you want to develop critical thinking skills, you simply need to practice thinking. Ask yourself hard questions and try to get the best answers you can.

It’s okay if they’re not perfect; you’ll get better over time.

2. A love for data analysis sets you apart

A great content marketer is a lover of both content and numbers, which is a rare package.

A great content marketer is results-based: It starts with knowing that you need a way of measuring your results.

To do this, you need to understand the role of metrics in a business. These metrics are also being called key performance indicators (KPIs).

Metrics are a way of describing goals.

If your goal is to increase readership, the metrics you’ll be concerned with are traffic and subscribers.

You can monitor metrics over time to see if you are making progress. If the progress is too slow, you can test different approaches and look at the metrics to see if they are working.

Although every content marketing plan has its own goals, there are a few metrics that are important in nearly every scenario.

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You’ll notice that those metrics cover numbers both before and after a sale.

The most common purpose of content marketing is to improve sales, so you’d better see an increase in revenue if you’re doing it right.

Data collection and analysis are the basic skills a content marketer needs: The first step is realizing that metrics are a necessary part of business.

You don’t need to obsess over them, but you do need to make sure you know how to track and analyze them.

Tracking is very simple.

Know how to install something like Google Analytics or KISSmetrics.

Analytics software not only tracks your readers’ behavior but also provides you with a dashboard for quickly organizing and analyzing it.

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The first big obstacle content marketers need to overcome is learning how to use the analytics software.

You can find tutorials online to help with this, but the simplest way is to simply play around with it yourself and look through different tabs and settings.

The second obstacle is much larger.

You need to learn how to analyze that data.

You can get the basics of this pretty quickly:

  • choose your metrics
  • look at them over a valid time period
  • assess whether the metrics have improved or worsened

The hard part is knowing how to analyze data properly.

Really good content marketers know how to look at the situation, conduct very specific tests, and segment the analytics data to provide meaningful information.

Often, new marketers will make decisions based on analytics, but they don’t look at the right set of users.

For example, if you had two versions of a blog layout and saw that one had a better time on-page, you might conclude that it’s better.

However, it’s possible that it’s really not if you dig into things like:

  • browser
  • returning visitors
  • time of week

It may turn out that the second page performs better in all browsers except Internet Explorer.

That would lead you to investigate why that is, and you’d probably find out that it’s not showing up correctly. Fixing the errors would change the results of your experiment.

By having more experience and knowledge, that content marketer may have just made his or her business tens of thousands of dollars. Repeat that over the course of several years, and you see why a good content marketer is worth a lot.

This is a skill that needs to be developed through experience or mentorship by an expert. There are no shortcuts, e.g., you can’t just read a blog post about it and become an expert.

Every marketer should be able to do basic A/B testing: I’ve already mentioned testing a few times.

While there are a few types of experiments you can run, the most basic is an A/B split test.

First, you should understand what split tests are and why they are valuable.

They allow you to test two different versions of content to see which one leads to better metrics.

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Split-testing is very useful for gaining continual small improvements in metrics such as conversion rate.

These small improvements add up to impressive results over time.

Second, you need to know how to run split tests and analyze the results.

Fortunately, it’s very simple now with modern software.

If you want a more detailed look at running a split test, you can refer to my guide on conversion optimization. Otherwise, there are just a few main steps.

First, you’ll need to pick a piece of software to help set up the test and track the results. For example, you can use Optimizely.

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Then, you’ll need to create a hypothesis for a test.

The best split testers know how to test something that is likely to have a big impact on the metric you’re trying to improve.

These aren’t usually pulled out of thin air. Instead, they are determined based on analyzing analytics and user behavior data.

Software like Crazy Egg can show you how visitors use your website. You can use that information to make an educated guess about how to improve the clarity of your content.

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Finally, you’ll need to determine a significant sample size and collect data. Most types of software do this for you nowadays.

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At the end, you pick the winner and start again.

It will be a big benefit to understand the statistics behind split testing to spot mistakes and set up useful tests.

If you’ve never taken a statistics class, you can take one online free.

There are many, but here one popular class is Intro to Statistics: Making Decisions Based on Data

It’s not mandatory, but it’s a nice asset to have.

3. How far can you dig?

One question that I get all the time is: “How long does it take you to write your posts?”

Truthfully, it doesn’t take that long. Typically, I can do the actual writing in about 3 hours plus some time for editing.

But creating a post takes longer than that. It also takes a lot of research. Some posts, of course, will require more research than others.

Research is one of the most undervalued skills in a content marketer.

With respect to content marketing, there are a few main reasons why your ability to research effectively is so important.

Reason #1 – To understand your customer: If you want to be a good content marketer, you need to understand the type of reader you’re trying to attract.

If you don’t, you can’t produce content that they will be interested in.

You won’t be able to write about the right topics, and you won’t know how your readers enjoy consuming the information.

If you don’t research your target reader and understand them, you’re basically just guessing what they might like.

It can still work, but be prepared to produce hundreds of pieces of content until you learn what works.

Or do some research, and get it right the first time. Clients don’t want to pay you for months on end while you figure things out by trial and error.

So, how do you actually research your reader and customer?

There are tons of ways.

And there are no wrong answers.

You might start by paying attention to what readers are saying in the comments of your, or your competitor’s, website.

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Answer questions like:

  • what do they like about the content?
  • what don’t they like?
  • what other subjects are they interested in?
  • what kind of job/life do they have (readers will often tell you)?

Or you can hunt down small niche forums and spend time digging into threads:

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This is a great way to find out about their problems, which make great content ideas.

Or you can research demographic data using sites like Alexa.

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Demographics are a key part of building a reader profile.

These are three of many options.

Great content marketers keep digging until they have as clear of a picture of their reader as possible.

They do this before they ever start writing.

An hour of research here might save several hours of work in the future.

Research #2 – To understand your product: Selling products isn’t an accident. You need to have a plan to effectively sell anything with content marketing.

Many inexperienced content marketers will say, “I’ll worry about the product later,” and focus on just producing content.

BIG mistake. Why?

Because when you do that, you don’t ensure that your product matches your audience’s needs.

This is called product-market fit.

Instead, you need to figure out how your content should relate to and add to the promotion of any products you sell.

This is where research comes in.

There are two main scenarios that you’ll need to be comfortable in.

The first is when you’re hired by a company that already sells a product. You need to research the product and understand what it does (and sometimes how it does it).

Pretend I hired you to manage the Crazy Egg blog. How could you do it without understanding the product?

You wouldn’t be able to create product tutorials or content that features the software until you get familiar with it:

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While that’s far from the only content produced on the blog, it’s a type of content that plays an important role in the sales process.

The other scenario is when you don’t have a product yet.

Research is even more important in this case.

You’ll need to find out which products your audience will pay for and potentially how to create those products as well.

Finally, and most importantly, a great content marketer knows how to research content topics.

You need to know what you’re talking about in order to write a high quality article.

This involves knowing how to look up high quality journal articles as well as other resources:

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It also involves spending the time understanding those resources.

If you’re writing about advanced topics, this takes considerable persistence, and many weak content marketers will simply find a lower quality resource instead.

Great content marketers aren’t lazy.

Reason #3 – To solve problems independently: The final main reason why research is an important skill for content marketers to have is because without it, you’ll often get stuck.

Content marketers will always be faced with questions and problems:

  • What should I write about?
  • What’s the best format for this content?
  • How do I create this form of content?
  • I don’t understand this topic, so what do I do?

Let me give you a realistic scenario…

Let’s say you’re keeping up with the latest SEO posts, and you see this filter before a list of tools on Backlinko:

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And you think: “A filter like that would really improve a piece of content I’m working on.”

Here’s…

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