Earned a journalist degree — check. Built a freelancing side hustle you’re mega proud of — done. Want to expand your services and maintain long-term contracts instead of one-off gigs — err, how?
No matter how long you have been in business, so to speak, if you want to scale and grow your client base into more anchor gigs, you must invest in various skills. Especially since content marketing is an ever-changing, evolving sector of writing, the more time you give to enrichen your database of knowledge, the more success you will find.
As you start to map out your game plan and set goals, look into various classes or courses that could improve these various skills that experts say are necessary to long-term success within content marketing.
Here are five essential skills to develop for long-term content marketing success:
Before anyone ever paid you to write a single word — you were scribbling away in notebooks as a kiddo. You loved English class in school. And though it’s something you would do for free, you like to do it night-and-day as your source of income. Even so, everyone needs a refresher every once in a while — and there’s no harm in figuring out areas where your copywriting tactics are perhaps outdated.
Kelly Chase, the director of content marketing for Fracture says it’s vital for writers to stay on top of new and emerging trends, and following along with how content is developed for various mediums. After all, what you write for social isn’t the same language you’d use for an SEO post:
From the rise of video and voice search, to constantly evolving social platforms, there is always a shiny new way to connect with your customer base. At the end of the day, great copywriting will always be the bread and butter of almost any successful content marketing strategy.
2. SEO writing
You probably keep hearing about search-engine-optimization writing — but do you know how to do it? Have you researched? If not, it’s time to dive deep into this sector of content marketing, since it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, according to Michael Alexis, the CMO of Museum Hack and The Great Guac Off.
Having a solid SEO background that you can pitch to clients not only will show off your expertise, but it gives you time. Most SEO success takes months to see results, and they’ll need to have you on retainer to analyze the data once it takes off.
Since Alexis shares that no brand can rely on ‘viral’ content that’s unpredictable, SEO is a smart place to double-down efforts, since it has legs:
You can reliably produce high-traffic and valuable content by developing skills and best practice in search engine optimization. Many writers know the basics, like including keywords in your article. To be truly effective, you need to consider reviewing and updating existing content, internal linking, external linking, URL structure, page speed, image attributes and more.
3. Relationship building
Think about what happens with your copy once it’s been molded, edited and optimized for production: it goes live! And well, the hope is people read it. What is easy to forget is just how far great content can stretch — and how it centers around connecting people.
Chase shares the wordsmiths who invest in relationship building, both with the audience and client, are often the most sought after. No matter what texts and images go along with messaging, readers will still look for context.
Nine times out of 10, your video still needs a script and your image still needs a great caption with a compelling call to action. Words are at the center of everything that a content marketer does.
So take time to explain your word choices, be proactive in improving copy throughout your client’s digital platform — and be great to work with. Friendliness goes a long way in cementing a client to their freelancer.
4. Publicist skills
Sure in journalism, publicists are considered the dark side. But some of their strategies and approaches directly relate to content marketing, according to Chase.
“From raising brand awareness to building your backlink profile to connecting with thought leaders and influencers in your industry, a solid PR game plan can go a long way toward amplifying your message and your reach,” she explains.
Even if you aren’t actually doing the outreach or creating brand awareness with publications or media professionals, smart copy and a forward-thinking mindset can make you invaluable to a company. Especially if you’re also a reporter, you know firsthand how to reach other writers — and that inside knowledge is super helpful.
As Chase says:
Thinking like a PR pro and keeping those questions in the forefront of your mind from the beginning is one of the main keys to content marketing success. It’s not enough to just rank for a bunch of keywords to drive organic traffic to your site or run a great influencer campaign on Instagram. You must know both how to get your audience’s attention, and how to keep it. In other words — why should they care? Why should they remember your brand over anyone else’s? Why should they do business with you and not someone else?
5. Data focus
Wouldn’t it be stellar if you could prescribe the same magic pill for every client and they would see mega results in content marketing right from the get-go? Of course it would be, but Chase reminds writers it’s better to start from scratch each time.
To tell the story of your new client, she suggests turning to data, which can definitely be more convincing than a long-winded, thoughtful blog post that doesn’t explain the ‘why’ or the ‘how’ or the ‘what.’ You don’t want to do anything half-way, and if you aren’t backing your proposal with cold, hard facts, they aren’t likely to keep you around for the long haul.
As Chase notes:
A lot of what content marketers do is to create a strategy around their best guess as to what will lead to success, but inevitably that approach needs to be tweaked along the way once you’re able to look at the numbers. That’s why it’s important for a content marketer to not only know how to access and read the relevant analytics for their campaigns, but how to interpret them to identify opportunities and plan next steps.