This guide will show you exactly how to become a content marketing specialist.
I’ve been working as a content marketing manager for the last 10 years and in this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about starting a career in content marketing.
I will explain what a content marketing specialist is, what skills are needed to become one, what jobs you can get, and how much money you can make as a content marketing expert.
- What is a Content Specialist?
- What Skills Should a Content Marketing Specialist Know?
- How Do You Become a Content Specialist?
- How Much do Content Specialists Make?
- What Jobs can you get as a Content Marketing Expert?
What is a Content Specialist?
A content specialist (also known as a “Content Marketing Specialist”) is the person responsible for writing, editing, and developing content for the needs of digital campaigns.
Content marketing specialists work in close co-operation with the SEO and Digital marketing professionals to ensure that the produced content is aligned with the overall goals of a digital marketing campaign.
Depending on the skills and experience, the content marketing specialist role has different variations.
For big companies, this also defines the career path of a content marketing professional.
The most important are:
- Content Marketing Specialist – Researching and writing content.
- Content Marketing Strategist – Designing the overall content marketing strategy of a company.
- Content Marketing Manager or Content Marketing Director – Responsible for the smooth running of the content marketing department.
- Content Marketer and Content Marketing Expert – professionals with years of experience in content marketing campaigns. May work in a company or as freelancers.
- Content Marketing Consultant – Established content marketing experts who provide consultancy on how businesses can use content marketing to increase their traffic and sales.
What Skills Should a Content Marketing Specialist Know?
To become a content marketing specialist, you need to have the following qualifications and skills:
College degree – Optional if you plan to work as a freelancer but a requirement if you want to work in a company. Usually, it is required to have a Bachelor’s degree in marketing, journalism, or communications.
Content marketing certification – Optional but can increase your chances of finding a job when you have no experience or success stories to showcase in your CV. The best way to get certified is to follow a content marketing course.
Writing skills – A large portion of your time will be spent in content writing (whether this is blog posts, video scripts, or ad copies), and thus is important to have basic writing skills and of course enjoy writing!
Keyword research skills – Writing for the web starts with a keyword. To succeed as a content specialist, you need to know how to do keyword research to find out the content needs of online users so that you can create content to satisfy their intent.
Basic SEO skills – If you work as part of a content marketing or digital marketing team, then most probably the SEO specialist will take care of optimizing the content for the web but nevertheless, it is necessary to have some basic SEO skills.
Web analytical skills – This is a critical skill for content marketing managers and consultants. They know to know how to analyze the data and effectiveness of a campaign and how to create reports to present their findings to the management or clients.
How Do You Become a Content Specialist?
These are the steps to follow to become a content marketing specialist in 2021.
- Understand what content marketing is and how it works
- Improve your writing skills
- Learn how to use content marketing tools
- Master the keyword research process
- Learn SEO copywriting
- Start your own blog
- Apply to work in a digital marketing agency
- Work as a content marketing freelancer
- Publish your written work on reputable websites
- Stay current with the latest trends in content marketing
1. Understand what content marketing is and how it works
If you’re a beginner, you might think that content marketing is the same as blogging or writing content for the web, but it’s more than that.
Content marketing is an on-going process that involves understanding your target audience and creating the right type of content that can satisfy their intent at the different stages of their journey.
So, as a content specialist, your job is not just to throw words on a page and hit the publish button but to make sure that whatever you write or create has a specific purpose and goal.
To do that, you need to know the bigger picture which is the driving force behind any online marketing campaign and this is digital marketing.
The digital marketing strategy of a company will define the content needs for each of the channels participating in a campaign. It’s the job of the digital marketing manager to design the strategy and the job of the content marketing manager to implement the strategy with content.
In big companies, these roles are clearly defined but if you work in a small team or as a freelancer, you’ll have to play both roles.
So, if you want to get into content marketing and gradually advance from a content marketing specialist to a content strategist or even a digital marketing expert, you need to learn digital marketing and not just how to create content for the web.
Resources to Learn More About Content Marketing
2. Improve your writing skills
As a content marketing specialist, you’ll be asked to write content for different audiences and content platforms. To execute this task successfully, you need to have good writing skills.
This means good knowledge of the English language (or the target language of your audience) and the ability to write content that is free of spelling and grammar mistakes.
From experience, this is a skill that can be improved through practice. Some people are born to be writers and they can produce great content with minimum effort but for others, its a tedious task.
The best way to learn how to write better content is to read other blogs or books related to your chosen niche and to do a lot of writing.
In the beginning, it may take you 3-4 hours to write 1000 words but as you become more experienced, this rate will dramatically improve.
Resources to Improve your Writing Skills
- How to Improve Writing Skills in 15 Easy Steps – A nice guide by Grammarly outlining ways to get better in writing.
3. Learn how to use content marketing tools
If you want to be a content specialist, you MUST know how to use tools.
In fact, experience with tools is so important that most content marketing related job postings list “experience with content marketing tools” as a requirement:
There are a lot of tools in the market and each company is using its own set of marketing tools, but some tools/platforms are common to all like:
- Microsoft Office Products (Word, Excel, Powerpoint)
- Google G Suite Products (Docs, Sheets, etc)
- Google Analytics
- Google Trends
- Google Keyword Tool
- Google Data Studio
- Google Search Console
Other popular tools that most companies and freelancers use are:
The best way to learn a tool is to use it in real-life scenarios and you can easily do that with free tools like Google docs, Google Analytics, Google Keyword Tool, and WordPress.
Other premium tools like Semrush, have a number of resources and online courses to help you learn how to use them.
4. Master the keyword research process
A skill that you definitely need to master is topic and keyword research. The outcome of keyword research is used in all stages of the content marketing lifecycle.
From campaign design to creating the actual content, keywords play a vital role in the success or not of a campaign.
To give you an idea of what we mean by keyword and topic research, here is an outline of the process:
Find content topic ideas – Through researching your competitors and using a number of tools, you create a list of topics that are aligned with your digital marketing goals.
Examine the user intent – For each of the keywords identified from keyword research, find out what kind of content you need to create to satisfy the intent of the user.
A great way to learn keyword research fast is to follow a good course, like the ones listed below.
Resources to Learn More About Keyword Research
- Keyword Research Courses – 5 highly actionable courses to learn the secrets of keyword research.
5. Learn SEO copywriting
As a content marketing specialist, you don’t have to be an SEO expert but you need to have excellent SEO copywriting skills. SEO copywriting is the process of writing content that search engines can understand.
There are various techniques you can use while writing for the web to help search engine spiders understand what your content is all about.
This does not mean stuffing keywords into your copy but using keywords intelligently in a way that will make your writing friendlier to both users and search engines.
The most important SEO writing principles are:
- Adding your main keywords in the page title
- Including keywords in the page URL
- Mentioning your keywords in the opening paragraph
- Adding related keywords in your section headings
- Adding LSI keywords in your content
- Adding relevant ALT text to images
- Linking to other pages of your site using optimized anchor text
- Linking to other authoritative websites
When you apply the above principles while writing the content of a page, you increase your chances of achieving high search engine rankings for your desired keywords.
You need to know how SEO copywriting works, even if you’re not the person writing the content.
As a content marketing manager or consultant, you’ll have to review and approve content before it’s published.
Resources to Learn More about SEO Copywriting
6. Start your own blog
One of the most efficient ways to learn any digital marketing discipline, including SEO and content marketing, is to practice.
Through a course you can learn the theory and go through examples, senior content marketing professionals in your team can help you with the process but the best way to find out what you really know is to start a website and publish content.
Creating your own blog will benefit you in a number of ways:
- It’s a great way to practice what you have learned in a course
- By writing, you will gradually improve your skills and become faster and better
- It’s a great way to showcase your skills to potential clients or employers
- It’s a great way to make money online
- You’ll have a website to experiment with different SEO techniques and tools
In addition, when applying to work as a freelance writer, potential clients will need to see samples of your work.
If you have no other experience, showing blogs from your website will help you a lot in securing the job.
Resources to Learn More about Blogging
7. Apply to work in a digital marketing agency
Digital marketing agencies are always looking for good content specialists. I know this from experience. In our agency, we’re always in search of passionate content marketing specialists and sometimes we consider applications even if we don’t have any job openings.
There are many advantages of working in a digital marketing agency regardless of your experience and job title:
If you’re starting out now, you’ll get a chance to see how content marketing works in real-life scenarios – Established agencies have processes in place, dedicated job roles for each task and this will help you understand how content marketing works.
You can advance the ladder and make more money – You may get an entry-level job as a content marketing specialist and then become a content strategist and eventually a content marketing manager.
If you don’t want to work for an employer but want to become your own boss, then why not start your own digital marketing agency. It’s not easy if you’re new to the digital marketing world, but it’s not impossible either.
8. Work as a content marketing freelancer
One of the most popular ways to start a career in content marketing is to become a content writer and work as a freelancer.
If you search job posting sites like FlexiJobs, UpWork, and Problogger Job Board, you’ll see hundreds of jobs related to content writing. It’s perhaps the most wanted job in the market today.
What are the benefits of becoming a content marketing freelancer?
- You’ll earn money and depending on how fast you can work, a lot of money
- You can work from home
- You can build references for your CV if you decide to work for a company or agency
- You’ll build the skills the experience needed to secure bigger projects
- It’s the first step in setting up your own content marketing agency
Three tips for you:
1. As mentioned above, when you apply for a job, you’ll be certainly asked to provide samples of your previous work so make sure that you have some great articles published on your blog.
2. Apply for job postings fast and provide accurate information. When you post a content marketing related job on any site, you get hundreds of responses in a matter of hours. To increase your chances of being considered for the job, reply as fast as possible, and answer any questions precisely.
3. Be prepared to participate in a pilot project. Employers before hiring a content marketer, ask for writing samples on their chosen topics so be prepared to accept the invitation and deliver the work fast.
9. Publish your written work on reputable websites
If you want to differentiate yourself from other content marketing specialists and become a true expert, then you need to get published by reputable websites.
Publishing content on your own blog is great but that limits your reach and reputation to your blog audience.
What companies and clients want is to work with professionals that are recognized as experts in their field and one of the ways to do this is to get featured on well-known and big websites.
For example, if your work is published on Forbes, Entrepreneur, or other popular publications, it will be very easy for you to get hired by a company or get paid a higher rate for your work as a freelancer.
The process is not easy, there are hundreds of people that need to be featured on famous websites but it can really make a huge difference in your career.
Here are some tips that helped me get featured on websites like the Content Marketing Institute.
1. Find websites that accept contributions from guest authors. You can easily find them by searching Google for terms like “Write for Us”, “Blog Contributors”, “Guest Post Authors”
2. Start by pitching websites that are less popular than Forbes or CMI. Your goal at this stage is to build references so that you can gradually apply to bigger websites.
3. Read their requirements carefully and apply to become a guest author.
4. Once accepted, write your best content and send it for approval.
5. Once you have a couple of published articles, try to find out the details (email, Twitter, LinkedIn) of authors and editors of the sites you want to be featured.
6. Connect with them on Twitter and LinkedIn, read their author requirements carefully, and send your pitch.
Some will not even reply but a few will give you a chance to send them a sample.
If the above process sounds like too much work, it’s because it is but in the end can be a huge difference in how much you can get paid, especially if you work as a freelancer.
Writers that have a good reputation may get paid $2000 for a 2000 word article, compared to $300 for writers that have not taken the effort to promote their personal brand.
10. Stay current with the latest trends in content marketing
If you ask any successful content marketing expert on what is important to do on a daily basis in order to survive in the industry, they will tell you to stay informed of the latest trends in content marketing and digital marketing in general.
The digital marketing industry is not a static industry but it’s continuously evolving. New content platforms rise to the surface, SEO ranking factors are changing and you need to follow these changes if you want to become more than just a content writer.
The best way to do this is to follow websites that cover the changes in our industry. If there is something happening, you’ll be the first to know it. These are the websites that I follow and visit on a daily basis:
- Content Marketing Institute
- Search Engine Roundtable
- Search Engine Land
- Marketing Land
- Google Blog
How Much do Content Marketing Specialist Make?
The average salary of a content marketing specialist is between $35K and $62K per year. This can rise to $59K-$139K for a content marketing director.
The salary of content marketing professionals depends on three factors: skills, experience, and location.
According to payscale.com, the average annual salary of content marketing professionals per job role is the following:
- An Online Marketing Content Writer, Copywriter, and Web Content specialist typically make between $35k – $72k.
- A Content Marketer typically makes between $36k – $81k.
- A Content Strategist typically makes between $41k – $95k.
- A Content Marketing Manager typically makes between $46k – $98k.
- A Content Marketing Director typically makes between $59k – $139k.
What Jobs can you get as a Content Marketing Expert?
When you search for “Content marketing jobs” in popular sites like FlexiJobs, Payscale, and Glassdoor, you’ll get a number of marketing jobs with different titles.
To avoid confusion, these are the most popular content marketing job types and their meaning.
Web Content Specialist / Content Writer / Content Marketing Specialist – They are looking for writers that can write, edit, and develop web site content.
Content Strategists – Content strategists typically develop a content marketing plan and oversee a team of content writers.
Content Marketing Managers / Content Marketing Directors – Responsible for designing a content marketing strategy and coordinating with other teams (SEO team, social media management team).
Becoming a content marketing specialist is a great career option. Content marketing professionals can work from home as freelancers, start their own digital marketing agency, work for a digital agency, or work in any kind of business that uses content marketing.
The process is straightforward and can be summarized in three steps:
- Learn how to write great content that online audiences will love to read.
- Improve your analytical skills and learn how to use content marketing tools.
- Build your portfolio and establish yourself as a content marketing expert.
When you do the above, you can get a job at any level of the ladder and earn a good salary for doing what you love.
I hope this guide helped show you how to become a content marketing specialist. If you have any questions or need help with a specific step, let me know in the comments below.