Modern content marketers can’t get by on a limited knowledge base these days. Along with insights around their brand and product, they have to have skills that help them deliver top-quality, valuable content to the target audience that drive results.

The reason: More than 2 million (yes, million) blog posts are published every single day. With so much competition and noise in the content marketing environment, content marketers have to go above and beyond if they want to stand out (and be remembered.)

But what are the specific skills a modern content marketer needs to succeed within his or her role? Let’s take a look at five specific areas of expertise that are essential today, as well as some expert insight and resources to help develop them as well.

1. Effective Communication

According to 2017 data from Content Marketing Institute, the number one factor contributing to marketers’ increased success over the past year is higher quality content creation. In short, that means the marketers driving better results are the ones who have gotten better at telling stories and sharing valuable material that the audience actually cares about.

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Better content means potential leads and customers get more value out of the blog posts being shared. They’re learning something new. They’re being taught how to solve a problem. They’re leveraging the information shared to relieve pain points within their lives and/or work.

Ann Handley, Head of MarketingProfs, said,

“Content marketers today have to have the ability to write clearly, which helps with understanding how best to build content assets and campaigns that your customers will enjoy and value.”

So what’s the secret sauce for this “better quality” content, anyway? Let’s do a quick dive into Communications 101 and look at two key elements around stellar content that produces results:

  1. Storytelling. Scientific research shows that stories not only produce an emotional response within the brain, but it also produces a phenomenon called neural coupling, in which the brain waves in the listener to mirror those of the storyteller. By telling stories in content and pairing it with an interactive element, you can build immersive experiences for your audience that are memorable and impactful.
  2. Knowing your audience. When you truly understand who you’re writing for, the challenges they face, and what they need/want to hear from you, your ability to effectively communicate improves by leaps and bounds. Marketer Andy Newman said, “The ability to filter out the noise and understand what really matters to people is essential for effective content marketing today.”

Looking for a few resources to improve your communication efforts? Try these:

  • Copyhackers: Great for advanced copywriting advice to drive sales efforts
  • Copyblogger: Storytelling and writing insights for content marketers at any level
  • Enchanting Marketing: Beginner level, easy-to-digest tips on storytelling and communication

2. Research Prowess

The best content marketers love learning and know the value of high-quality research.

By pouring over data and new scientific findings, they share important data with readers–and can quickly build their ethos so they’re seen an expert. But this also means that the highly skilled content marketers often question current best practices. They rely on data and tested hypotheses over assumptions and following the status quo.

Marketing experts like Jay Acunzo say this gives them a competitive advantage:

“In questioning best practices, marketers act like investigators. The goal of their work isn’t to understand what worked best for others. Instead, their goal is to know what will work best for THEM, as quickly as possible, and in as tailored a manner as possible. Experts may care about absolutes and theory, but investigators care about evidence. That’s the hallmark of any great content marketer today.”

So where can content marketers turn for reliable, authority-building research?

  • Their own marketing experiments. By conducting original research, they can get hands-on with experimentation and showcase never-before-seen findings around what they learned in the process.
  • Google Scholar. This resource has up-to-date scientific data published in trusted publications that are peer-reviewed.
  • JSTOR. This digital library has a catalog of esteemed journals, magazines, and books.

3. Grasp on Customer Experience/UX

With Forrester research showing more than 90% of marketers say that a good customer experience is critical to their success, you can understand why customer experience and user experience (UX) skills are a top priority for content marketers today.

But keeping a firm grasp on what customers need and want out of brand interactions is no easy task. It requires the creation of an ongoing feedback loop through surveys, quizzes, and other interactive experiences–and then action based on the data collected.

“Remember that every interaction is a chance to make it or break it with customers,” said marketer Holly Landis. “Interview/survey your audience to find out what their REAL problems are–don’t just assume. Tailor content based on those findings.”

Resources for strengthening customer experience skills include:

  • Survey tools like SurveyMoney and GetFeedback. This software allows you to conduct email surveys on an ongoing basis so you always know what your audience wants and needs.
  • Interactive quizzes and assessments. These resources allows you to build these data-collecting assets for improved customer experience.

4. Metrics/Analytics and Data Synthesis

Today, content marketers have to be skilled in not only looking at analytics, but also in synthesizing multiple pieces of data to draw conclusions and make smart marketing decisions. And there are many, many different metrics a content marketer has to study in that process.

A few of the key content marketing metrics skilled marketers need to study today are:

  • Pageviews
  • Average time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Social shares
  • Lead submission rate

By understanding the numbers around content marketing efforts, content marketers can better report on their efforts to the leadership team, translating day-to-day work into real, tangible results. This data synthesis also helps an expert marketers connect the dots between different marketing activities and the conversion-driving results everyone is working toward.

Marketing writer Alexander Lewis echoed this when he said,

“Knowing how to find primary sources is crucial. Content marketers should publish idea and information they receive directly from a source and learn some basics about interpreting data. Many blogs are just regurgitated information gleaned from other topical articles.”

There are many tools out there today that make strengthening this particular skill ultra-easy:

  • Google Analytics. This basic tool provides baseline insight into website performance, lead generation, and customer acquisition.
  • Buzzsumo. This tool allows marketers to look at in-depth analytics around content marketing performance across channels.
  • Hotjar. This tool lets you take a behind-the-scenes peek at website visitors’ real-time interactions with your content marketing efforts.

5. SEO

SearchEngineLand data says that search engine optimization (SEO) skills paired with content marketing can supercharge marketing efforts for maximum results.

Here’s why: Not only do SEO skills help content become more organically discoverable, but it also adds synergy to an ongoing PPC strategy, too. When these two efforts work together, both aspects of marketing become more powerful and impactful for the business.

SEO expert Brendan Hufford had a lot to say about this:

“Content marketers need to learn SEO skills for two primary reasons: First, unlike every other method of marketing your content, organic search traffic is the only time people are actively looking for your products and services. Second, SEO transforms ordinary content into assets that stack on top of each other, multiplying the impact of your efforts,” he said.

Even if you’re not an SEO expert, there are plenty of resources that can get you up to speed in little to no time:

  • Moz’s SEO resource center. This information hub is jam-packed with free lessons on SEO and how to leverage it in content marketing efforts.
  • SearchEngineJournal. This site has all of the up-to-date news and trends on SEO to keep you on the cutting edge of this realm.
  • Hubspot’s SEO resources. Hubspot has a collection of lessons and posts that can help even the most beginner-level learner rise to expert status via actionable material.

Skills Content Marketers Need Today: Are You Up to Par?

With so many skills needed for effective content marketing today, it can feel slightly overwhelming when you try to think about how you’ll prioritize your education efforts–but with this shortlist of the most necessary skills for content marketers today, we hope this will take some of the guesswork out of your training.

Read more: Why UK VCs Should Be Content Marketers