In a world of ad blockers and AI automation, content marketing is essential to your marketing plan.
For example, the number of people using ad blockers has risen by 10% in six years. No matter how much you spend on your paid advertisements, there’s a 26% chance your target audience won’t even see them.
Voice search is growing. To date, there are 4.08 million voice assistants in use worldwide. This means users can get answers to their online queries without even visiting a website. In the future, the only content people will read is authority content written by experts.
So, now it’s time to focus all your energy on content marketing!
Not so fast.
Because there’s content marketing that works. And there’s content marketing that doesn’t.
To achieve the former, you first need to master the right content marketing skills for success.
What are these skills?
The Top 10 Content Marketing Skills to Learn for Greater Brand Success
The good news is you don’t need a special degree or inborn talent to master these 10 essential content marketing skills. All you need is to know what these skills are and to practice until you’ve mastered them.
Let’s get started!
Skill 1: Detective Work – Digging Up Facts About Your Audience
No matter how compelling your content is, you won’t convert anyone if you don’t know exactly who you’re speaking to.
For instance, look at this content from Vixen Daily’s email campaign.
The email holds enticing promise to readers who want to move on after a breakup. But what makes it compelling isn’t fancy wording or clever phrases. It’s simply that Nick Bastion knew his audience’s pain and need before writing it.
When you know your audience intimately, producing content they’ll devour becomes easy.
Here are a five powerful ways to put on your detective’s cap and dig up clues about your audience:
- Use Google Analytics to find out who’s visiting your website. Analytics gives you information like the names, ages, and genders of your site visitors.
- Go on Quora or Reddit and research topics around your niche. What are people saying? What are their fears/desires/dreams? Reading what they talk about will help you understand them on a deeper level.
- Take note of how users respond to your content. With a tool like BuzzSumo, you can learn how people are reacting to what you write. Analyze your top engaged posts and discover what made them appealing to your audience.
- Offer surveys (with incentives like free downloads – a mini e-book or cheat sheet work great).
- Engage with people in the comment section of your blog. Listen to what they’re saying and respond personally and directly.
Remember, speaking to your audience should be like conversing with a friend. The better you know this friend, the more personal and appealing your message will be.
Skill 2: The Art of Subject Matter Expert Interviewing
To write amazing content, you need to be an expert on your topic.
Does this mean you need to enter medical school to write a blog about health issues and treatments?
Not necessarily. When you master the art of conducting subject matter expert interviews, you can produce authority content even if you don’t have a degree in the niche you write in.
But you can’t just jump into an interview with an expert and ask any question that comes to your mind. Remember, the value of the information you get depends on the quality of your questions.
Here are five tips to make your interviews seamless and value-rich:
- Be prepared. You don’t want to come to an interview with absolutely no idea on the topic. Rather, you want the interview to be a deep dive into the topic. So, before you call your SME (Subject Matter Expert), do as much research as you can. From your research, make a list of questions you can’t find the answers for online.
- Skip the dead air with open-ended questions. You want your SME to gush over the topic. You want them to feel excited. To do that, whet their appetite with unusual questions. For instance, instead of asking, “Is your profession inspiring?” you can ask, “Can you give me some facts most people don’t know about your profession?”
- Bring your content outline with you when you interview. Asking a bunch of random, unrelated questions wastes time. To avoid this, base your questions on the outline you prepare for your content. This will help you ask specific, driven questions you can use in your writing. For instance, if you’re going to interview a psychiatrist about Bipolar disorder, it’s best to skip questions about other types of mental illness.
- Record your conversation. Later on, you’ll want to go back over the exact words your SME said during the interview. Also, keeping busy catching up with notes will distract you from what the SME is saying in the moment.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. If there’s something you don’t understand during the interview, ask! This can open doors for an even deeper dive into the topic.
When you approach interviews with a genuine passion for your topic, there’s nothing you can’t dig up from the experts’ knowledge banks.
Skill 3: Writing Each Piece of Content with a Goal in Mind
Writing random content wastes time without doing much for your brand. What you need to do is attach a specific goal to every single piece you write.
For instance, look at this sales copy from AWAI.
The lead is interesting and informative, but this piece has a main goal: to compel readers to buy the How to Make Money as a Social Media Expert course at half its usual price.
Remember, goals aren’t only specific to selling products or services. For instance, you can write a lead magnet to grow your email list. You can write an email series with links to different blogs on your website.
You can write an authority blog to gain your audience’s trust. And so on. The secret is to determine the goal of every single piece of content you write.
Skill 4: Knowing How to Stand Out
Your goal is to compel your audience to read your content instead of your competitor’s. How do you do that? By providing content you can’t find anywhere else online.
Here’s how to come up with this content:
- Spy on your competition. What are they doing right? What’s missing in their content that you can add to yours?
- Present content uniquely. Your content can be similar to what your competitors are saying (because who can change facts?), but if you package it differently, it’ll always look like something new.
- Develop your own personal style. You’ll be surprised to find how many people will keep reading what you write because of the way you write it. For instance, maybe you take technical subjects like best SEO practices and write about them in a way that’s fun, engaging, and easy-to-follow. People will read your blog instead of blogs packed with jargon and long paragraphs of text.
Remember, though, not to go too far with uniqueness. Sometimes, there’s a reason why your competition isn’t doing something.
Skill 5: Keyword Research Savviness
Keywords don’t only help you rank higher on Google, they act as the spine of your content. Keywords direct what you say and allow you to stay relevant with what people want to read.
So, how do you choose keywords to use in your content?
- Go for long-tail keywords. For example, instead of choosing “dress,” go for “Walt Disney princess dresses for kids.” Keywords like this help direct quality traffic to your site.
- Choose low competition keywords. If you go for a keyword like “shoes,” you’ll find yourself up against content from huge brands like Adidas and Nike. As a rule of thumb, go for keywords with a score below 50.
- It’s OK to select a keyword with low search volume. As long as there are people searching for this keyword, creating content around it will get you results.
Skill 6: Looking Ahead – Planning Content Way Ahead of Time
You don’t want to wake up one morning panicking because you have to produce content but have no idea what to write. To avoid this, create a content calendar.
For example, here’s what Buffer’s content calendar looks like.
With a content calendar, you’ll avoid problems like repetitive content and stay up-to-date with events like holidays and special occasions.
Always remember, however, to leave room for spontaneity. For example, if a relevant question from one of your followers suddenly pops up on your Twitter account, why not address it at length in a blog?
Skill 7: The Ability to Repackage Content
The goal above begs the question, “How on earth can I come up with enough new topics to fill an entire calendar?”
The good news is you don’t have to. You can take older content you produced and simply repackage it.
For instance, you can take a 3,000-word guide and turn it into three separate blog posts. You can turn those three posts into videos.
You can take the sub-headers in a long blog and turn each one into a separate post. You can update an old post with new stats and tips.
The key is to be creative. In no time, you’ll have enough content to flood your yearly content calendar!
Skill 8: Optimizing for Voice Search & AI
As mentioned earlier, voice search is a major trend to watch out for. If your content isn’t optimized for voice search, chances are low Google will choose it to answer a searcher’s query.
So, what are the best practices to follow when optimizing for voice search?
Here are a few:
- Use whole questions instead of phrases. According to Google, 41% of people imagine themselves talking to a friend when addressing their voice assistants. When addressing friends, we don’t go “Hey Bert…restaurant near me.” Instead, we use question phrases with words like where, when, which, and how. Use whole questions in your content to optimize it for voice search.
- Structure your content to be featured in snippets. With voice search, users no longer need to click through to a website to get questions answered. Google will find the answer for them via their voice assistant. The good news is the answer they get can come from your site. To increase this chance, divide your content into relevant H2s and H3s and use your keywords in them. Also, use numbered and bulleted lists.
Skill 9: Using Links for Higher Authority & Relevance
Links are essential to your content. They can:
- Help Google understand what your site is about by connecting it with high-authority sites in the same niche.
- Show Google which of your pages are most important (by linking to them).
- Invite other influencers to link to you (if your content is stellar).
The key to choosing the best links is to analyze them with Alexa’s free tool. If the site ranks below 100,000 it’s good to go to use in content.
Skill 10: Measuring Your Content’s Success
Attaching metrics to your content will help you determine whether the content is successful or needs improvement. Here are three great ways to measure content success:
- Email click-through rate. If people are clicking the links in your email series, take note of what makes this series different from others.
- Bounce rate. Do people leave your site without clicking through to other pages? The rate at which they do so is your bounce rate. If people click away more than 70% of the time, you need to improve your content.
- Scroll depth. Do people read your introduction and then leave the page? Or do they scroll all the way to the bottom? At what point do they stop reading? When you analyze what’s working and what’s not, you’ll be able to strengthen your content.
Mastering Content Marketing Skills for Your Brand’s Future Success
Content marketing is powerful, but that’s only if it’s done right.
And doing it right doesn’t mean taking the web by storm with a flood of random blog posts and web pages.
Rather, it’s digging up what your specific audience wants to know. It’s talking to them as a friend, in your own unique way and voice. It’s keeping up with current trends in technology, but only so you can serve your audience better.
When you master these skills, your content strategy will lift you to success in no time.
All screenshots taken by author, February 2020
Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and bestselling author. She founded a multi-million dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, her team has nearly 100 expert content creators on staff, and serves thousands of clients around the world. She’s earned her way to the top 30 worldwide content marketers, and has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia also hosts The Write Podcast on iTunes.