What Is a Content Manager? Your Guide to This Essential Marketing Role

Are you a marketer looking for your next career move? Content management may be the perfect fit. Content managers play a crucial role in planning, creating, and promoting content that attracts and engages audiences. But what exactly does this job entail and how can you position yourself for success?

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover:

  • The day-to-day responsibilities of content managers
  • The skills and qualifications you need to succeed
  • How to launch and grow your content management career
  • Real-world examples and advice from seasoned pros

Whether you‘re just starting out or looking to level up, read on to learn how you can master the art and science of content management.

What is a Content Manager?

First, let‘s define what exactly a content manager does. A content manager is responsible for overseeing the entire content lifecycle from ideation to creation to distribution. The goal is to produce valuable, relevant content that attracts the right audience and drives meaningful actions.

Content managers take a strategic approach to storytelling. Rather than just churning out blog posts, they think holistically about how each piece of content supports larger business objectives. This requires a deep understanding of the target audience, competitive landscape, and key performance indicators.

Content manager role

According to the Content Marketing Institute, the top five goals that content managers focus on are:

  1. Creating brand awareness (86%)
  2. Educating audiences (79%)
  3. Building credibility/trust (75%)
  4. Generating demand/leads (70%)
  5. Nurturing subscribers/audiences/leads (68%)

To achieve these goals, content managers oversee the creation of a wide range of formats, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Ebooks
  • Case studies
  • Infographics
  • Social media posts
  • Email newsletters

As digital content continues to proliferate, the demand for skilled content managers is on the rise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for marketing managers, which includes content managers, will grow by 10% from 2020 to 2030.

Content Manager Responsibilities

So what does a typical day look like for a content manager? While the specifics can vary based on industry and team size, most content managers juggle a variety of responsibilities:

Responsibility Description
Content strategy Defining target audiences, setting goals and KPIs, researching topics and keywords, deciding on content formats and channels
Editorial planning Building out quarterly/monthly content calendars, assigning projects to writers and designers, managing submission deadlines
SEO optimization Conducting keyword research, optimizing headlines and body copy, building internal and external links
Editing and publishing Providing feedback on drafts, formatting and uploading content to CMS, scheduling social media posts
Analytics and reporting Tracking traffic and engagement metrics, identifying top performing content, making data-driven optimizations
Team leadership Hiring and managing writers and editors, providing creative feedback and direction, advocating for resources and budget

Let‘s dig into a few of these areas in more detail.

Content strategy

Every effective content program starts with a clear strategy. Content managers are responsible for developing this north star and getting buy-in from key stakeholders.

The first step is understanding your target audience inside and out. Content managers conduct market research, build buyer personas, and analyze user data to identify pain points, interests, and content preferences.

From there, they define specific and measurable goals for the content program. These could include increasing organic traffic, generating leads, or improving customer retention.

Finally, content managers decide which topics, formats, and channels to prioritize based on audience needs and business objectives. They often create a content matrix to map each piece of content to a specific goal and funnel stage.

Editorial planning

With a strategy in place, content managers shift into execution mode. Most rely on an editorial calendar to plan out content a month or quarter in advance.

Using a tool like Google Sheets or Airtable, content managers plot out publish dates, titles, authors, and promotion channels for each piece. This keeps the team organized and ensures a steady cadence of fresh content.

Content managers also provide creative briefs for each assignment, outlining target keywords, desired length, internal linking opportunities, and calls-to-action. The more specific the brief, the less editing required on the back end.

Team leadership

Depending on the size of the organization, a content manager may be a team of one or oversee a dozen writers and editors. Either way, people management is a key part of the job.

Content managers are responsible for hiring top talent, often starting with a writing test to assess skills. From there, they onboard new team members and provide ongoing coaching and development.

The best content managers know how to give constructive feedback and keep their team motivated. They advocate for their team‘s needs and remove blockers to productivity. Content managers also stay in close communication with designers, web developers, and other cross-functional partners.

Skills for Content Management Success

To juggle all of these responsibilities, content managers need a unique blend of creative and analytical skills. Here are some of the most important competencies to develop:

1. Writing and editing

First and foremost, content managers need to be exceptional writers and editors. They should have a knack for crafting compelling headlines, structuring persuasive arguments, and adhering to brand voice guidelines.

Even if you don‘t do much hands-on writing as a content manager, you‘ll still need to provide feedback on others‘ work. Look for opportunities to practice editing long-form content like blog posts and ebooks.

It‘s also important to adapt your writing style for different formats and channels. For example, a Twitter post should be much more concise and casual than a research report.

2. Search engine optimization

To succeed as a content manager, you need to know how to create content that ranks on Google. That means understanding keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and technical SEO.

Start by familiarizing yourself with popular keyword research tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz Keyword Explorer. Use these to identify high-volume, low-competition keywords to target in your content.

From there, learn SEO copywriting best practices like incorporating keywords naturally, using descriptive H2s and H3s, and including relevant internal and external links.

You should also understand how site speed, mobile friendliness, and other technical factors impact search rankings. Consider earning a certification from Google Analytics or HubSpot to deepen your knowledge.

3. Data analysis

Modern content managers are increasingly data-driven. They rely on analytics to measure the performance of their content and make informed optimizations.

At a minimum, content managers should be comfortable tracking key metrics like:

  • Pageviews
  • Average time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Social shares
  • Backlinks

Tools like Google Analytics, Parse.ly, and Chartbeat make it easy to access this data and create custom reports. The key is knowing what levers to pull based on the numbers.

For example, if a blog post has a high bounce rate, that could signal the headline doesn‘t match the content or the intro is too long. If a page has a high conversion rate, you might promote it more heavily on social or repurpose it into other formats.

4. Project management

Successful content managers are master organizers. They have to juggle multiple projects, deadlines, and stakeholder needs without missing a beat.

Project management tools like Asana, Trello, and CoSchedule are a content manager‘s best friend. Look for opportunities to streamline your workflows and automate repetitive tasks. For example, you can set up Zapier to automatically publish new blog posts on social media or ping writers when a deadline is approaching.

Strong communication is also essential. Make a habit of proactively sharing status updates with your team and leadership. Don‘t hesitate to ask for help when you need it.

5. Strategic thinking

The best content managers are always thinking one step ahead. They have a keen sense of how each piece of content fits into a larger narrative and customer journey.

This requires zooming out and thinking strategically about your content goals and metrics. For example, a viral blog post might drive a ton of traffic but if those visitors don‘t convert, it may not be worth the effort. On the flip side, a thorough case study may not get many views but could be invaluable for the sales team.

Cultivate a habit of questioning assumptions and testing new ideas through A/B testing and user research. The digital landscape is always changing so what worked last year may not work now.

Becoming a Content Manager

So you‘re sold on content management as a career. But how do you actually land the job? Here are some concrete steps you can take:

1. Build your writing portfolio

Content managers almost always start their careers as writers or editors. The more bylines and content samples you have, the more competitive you‘ll be for content management roles down the line.

Look for opportunities to write for your company‘s blog, volunteer for a nonprofit, or pitch guest posts to industry publications. The key is to showcase your versatility and ability to write for different audiences and formats.

As you publish more pieces, curate your strongest samples into an online writing portfolio. This could be as simple as a Google Doc or as robust as a personal website.

2. Develop adjacent skills

As we covered above, writing is just one piece of the content management puzzle. Hiring managers also look for candidates with experience in SEO, analytics, and project management.

If you don‘t currently use tools like Google Analytics or Asana in your day job, consider taking an online course or earning a certification. Platforms like Coursera, HubSpot Academy, and LinkedIn Learning offer a wide range of affordable and self-paced options.

You can also volunteer to help with content audits, keyword research, or editorial planning in your current role. The more you can demonstrate your ability to think strategically about content, the better.

3. Network with other content marketers

Building relationships with other content professionals is one of the best ways to learn about job opportunities and get your foot in the door.

Start by following content marketers you admire on Twitter and LinkedIn. Don‘t hesitate to reach out with thoughtful questions or comments on their work. You never know when a casual connection could turn into a career opportunity.

Look for ways to engage with the broader content community as well. This could include:

  • Attending local meetups or conferences like Content Marketing World
  • Joining online communities like Superpath or the Content Marketing Institute LinkedIn group
  • Participating in Twitter chats and AMAs
  • Guesting on industry podcasts or webinars

4. Apply for content manager jobs

Once you have a strong portfolio and network, start actively applying for content manager roles.

Focus on jobs that align with your skills and interests. For example, if you have a background in B2B SaaS, you may be a stronger fit for a content manager role at a tech startup than a consumer brand.

In addition to submitting online applications, reach out to your network for referrals and introductions. According to LinkedIn, over 70% of professionals get hired at companies where they have a personal connection.

When crafting your resume and cover letter, emphasize your most relevant experiences and accomplishments. Use data points wherever possible to quantify your impact. For example:

  • Grew blog traffic from 10,000 to 50,000 pageviews per month
  • Managed a team of 6 freelance writers and increased output by 20%
  • Created an SEO-driven content strategy that increased organic leads by 15%

Finally, prepare for common content manager interview questions like:

  • How do you approach developing a content strategy?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had to manage a challenging project?
  • How do you measure the success of your content initiatives?
  • What‘s your approach to managing and motivating a team of writers?

With the right combination of skills, experience, and persistence, you can break into the exciting world of content management.

Content Manager Career Paths

So where can a content management career take you? The short answer is: pretty much anywhere in marketing.

Many content managers start out as individual contributors writing and editing content. As they gain experience, they may take on people management responsibilities overseeing a team of writers and editors.

From there, some content managers specialize in a particular content area like SEO, editorial strategy, or content operations. Others make the jump to broader marketing leadership roles overseeing multiple functions like product marketing, demand generation, and brand.

According to Glassdoor, the average base pay for content managers in the United States is $73,065 per year. However, salaries can range from around $45,000 on the low end to over $120,000 for very experienced managers in competitive markets.

Of course, salary is just one piece of the puzzle. Many companies also offer benefits like flexible work arrangements, professional development budgets, and equity compensation.

The beauty of content management is that the skills you develop are highly transferable. Whether you want to climb the corporate ladder, start your own business, or freelance full-time, content will always be in demand.

Wrapping Up

Content management is a challenging but rewarding career path for marketers who love to write, think strategically, and wear many hats. It‘s a role that requires a unique blend of creativity and data savvy, with opportunities to make a real impact on a brand‘s bottom line.

To recap, aspiring content managers should focus on:

  1. Building a diverse writing portfolio
  2. Developing skills in SEO, analytics, and project management
  3. Networking with other content professionals
  4. Applying for jobs and showcasing relevant experience

The world of content is always evolving, so it‘s important to stay curious and never stop learning. With the right skills and mindset, you can become a master of the content craft.