Content Marketing Basics: What is a Content Manager?

Content managers seem to be popping up everywhere; marketing teams from large and small companies alike want to hire one. But, what exactly do content managers do? More importantly, what do you need to know before hiring a content manager and expanding your marketing team?

Let's start with the basics:

Content Manager Job Description:

Since content marketing varies from company to company, typical content manager responsibilities also tend to vary depending on the sector, the niche and the company's content plans and big-picture goals.

Some companies expect a more SEO-forward content manager with the aim of boosting organic website traffic, some e-commerce, others prefer that their content team focus solely on web content, others need someone to take over their content management system, website analytics and create a cross platform strategy based on their findings.

What skills do good content mangers have?

  • Big-Picture thinking: a successful content marketing manager has the ability to zoom out and take a 360º approach to content creation. More often than not, you'll be working across platforms--Linkedin, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, IG and even TikTok-- so how can you as a content manager create a strategy that fits in with marketing campaigns, meets company goals and provides value to your audience?
  • Creativity and a strong filter: most hiring managers want a content manager who can keep the fresh ideas coming, but also know when to filter, trim and edit. If your content production budget is not the same as the Grammy's, for example, can you still create an impactful content strategy? Time to get creative!
  • Analytical: a superb content manager has above average verbal communication skills and feels translating their findings from market research or even Google analytics into digestible bites. Since they often work closely with the other members of the marketing team and sometimes the sales team, it's important that they're able to speak and write clearly.

Does your marketing department need a content manager?

Generally speaking, a content manager oversees the editorial calendar, the production of digital content (multimedia content in some cases) and manages your website's content.

A content manager's work includes creating content, publishing content, monitoring web traffic to measure the success of marketing campaigns and updating any content strategies in the works.

This in itself is a lot of work, which is why most companies have a content team, not just one person. If we stop at the first responsibility listed--creating content-- that in itself is nuanced.

Do you want your content manager to also be an SEO specialist? How do they develop content? Are they more experienced leading a content team--taking care of the strategic planning-- or are they the person responsible for writing the content itself?

It takes superb time management skills, writing skills, editing skills and overall, a dedicated person who is committed and enthusiastic about the job and all it entails.

What do content managers actually do?

Research, Analyze, Implement:

Content managers look at existing content to get a deeper understanding of its effectiveness and impact. They then go on to look more closely at web analytics, collaborate across teams to understand the big-picture goals of the company and create a strategy.

Most content managers understand the need for a cross platform strategy since most of these areas are dependent on one another.

It's great when you can tweak and repurpose existing content as it makes a content manager's job a tiny bit easier.

For example, creating a promotional video that works for both an IG reel and TikTok, or a long-form caption for Facebook that pulls from a recent blog article.

Naturally, it'd be nice if your content manager was also adept in social media management and search engine optimization, but to be clear these are usually different roles. Creating SEO friendly blogs is a skill that must be developed.

Learn more about technical SEO here!

Communicate, Lead and Manage:

Content managers usually take the lead on generating web content (since almost all brands have an online presence that requires nurturing), a company's content management software (or CMS) and they use their leadership skills to communicate with the rest of the team.

It's more than content promotion, or boosting organic traffic to your website or blog. Content managers need to see the data, analyze it, and then create a strategy which aligns with the goals of the team and company.

So, yes, it's more than creative writing, proofreading content, and creating an editorial calendar.

Successful content managers have advanced knowledge of social media channels, are familiar with developing and implementing brand voice and at least have a general idea as to how search engines operate.

While they do create high-value web content, it's all a part of the overall cross platform content strategy.

Monitor, promote and optimize:

How do you know if the article you published is a hit or not? You monitor it, of course! Web content doesn't just promote itself. It needs a push, hey SEO, and there are other ways to make sure it reaches other interested eyes.

This is something that a content manger factors in when writing ew articles or creating a content calendar.

It's not enough to write a post and let it be. Surfer's Audit tool makes monitoring web content after it's been published even easier with comprehensive reports and action items.

5 Questions to ask yourself if you want to become a successful content manager:

  1. Are there content manager positions in a sector that you have experience in? A bank's content plans look every different from, for example, a local real estate agency or a million dollar skincare company.
  2. Can you create a brand identity with your content? What does a consistent brand identity mean to you? It's not just using consistent tone of voice across a variety of platforms. It's about being able to shape a brand's outbound personality. Can you create content that matches that mission?
  3. Does your education and/or work experience match the needs of the company you want to work at? Not every content manager needs to have a bachelor's degree or a degree in media studies, but relevant experience and a proven track record will come in handy. Since content managers often work in a variety of areas, it's important that you're comfortable being flexible.
  4. Will you be a hands-on web content manager or take a more hands-off supervisor role?  Will you write content or develop the strategy? Will you optimize the articles yourself, or delegate after having interpreted the data? These are very different skill sets! One requiring more leadership skills and communication skills. Web content managers handle everything from writing, publishing and optimizing web content. You may need to learn a variety of interfaces to make that happen. These are the questions a content manager asks themselves.
  5. Do you believe in the vision of the company? A content manager 's main responsibility is to produce valuable and engaging content which further extends the organic (and inorganic) reach of the business. If you can't think of ways to make people care about organic cleaning products, then you may want to apply for a different agency. The company's content strategy varies. Ecommerce, software, events, there's a niche for everyone. Web content managers, choose wisely.

After reading this article, do you still want to be a web content manager? I really hope so! It's such a dynamic job that always keeps you on your toes. It combines knowledge across so many areas from writing to proofreading and editing to data analysis to traditional marketing campaigns.

While the ideal is to have a team to rely on (with a graphic designer, social media manager, copywriter, and marketing manager) this all depends on the structure, size and budget of the company.

The most attractive asset any web content manager could possess is an eagerness to get the job done, and to figure it out when they reach the inevitable snag. It's a lot of trial and error since the marketing world is so volatile.

What worked for one article may not work for the other. One post that took off on one platform, may flop on another. This is why there's a push to monitor engagement, keep ideas fresh and have a deep understanding of the brand's vision, voice and goals.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics