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What is content marketing?
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) defines content marketing as the “strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”¹ In simpler terms, content marketing connects a target audience with useful information or delightful stories related to a product or service the audience needs. The goal is to prompt buyers into action by reaching them in a way that feels organic.²
A historical example of content marketing before the digital era is “The Michelin Guide,” a travel guide founded in the early 1900s by the tire company to raise interest in automobiles.³ The guide has become a highly regarded reference for diners looking for restaurant recommendations, and the brand is linked to the guide’s reputation for excellence.
A more modern approach to content marketing can include creating content to target specific keywords that a potential customer may be searching for. For example, a clothing retailer may want to emphasize that they carry in-demand sustainable brands to reach the growing eco-conscious segment of consumers. While they can use direct marketing tactics to highlight their offerings, they may also drive customers to their sites by creating original content that explores what brands are doing to promote sustainability and which sustainable brands are particularly in style for the season. These pages are optimized for the Google search engine, so that when a buyer is searching for the term “sustainable fashion,” this page appears high in the search results. Once the retailer has the customer on their site, they can push customers to specific product offerings and convert them into a buyer.
Content marketing involves content creation, which can include content planning, keyword research, copywriting, email marketing, video production, podcast production, and content promotion. Content marketers understand the importance of metrics-driven optimization of high-quality content in order to achieve conversions from their target audience.
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Content marketing course curriculum
For learners who want to take online content marketing courses, there are various options available to help them better understand how to create strategic content. Content marketing is a specialty area of digital marketing and may be part of a curriculum for a broader degree in marketing or a related field. But even those who choose to take free marketing courses or more targeted tutorials solely focused on content marketing can learn about topics such as:
How to create a content strategy and lead generation framework.
How to create a content calendar.
How to choose the right content topics.
How to write for a specific audience.
How to conduct keyword research.
How to conduct a competitor analysis.
How to optimize content for Google search.
How to use digital analytics and track meaningful metrics.
How to promote content on social media and other platforms.
How to generate earned media with content.
Jobs in content marketing
Content marketing team members have various roles.⁴ Key roles and their functions include:
Director of Content Marketing: The leader of the content marketing team may be responsible for the strategy, tone, and execution of its online content efforts. As the liaison between the content marketing team and other marketing or executive leadership, they ensure that the teams responsible for content creation, including copywriting, blogs, videos, podcasts, social media promotion, and email marketing, stay on task.
Content Marketing Manager: These managers are focused on the operations of their content marketing teams. They typically delegate tasks and define team goals, performing high-level content planning that will ensure those goals are met based on metrics and the needs of the target audience.
Content Editor: These experts in the language of content, marketing, and communications ensure that the team is consistently producing high-quality content that adheres to the organization’s style and tone. Some teams have copy editors who also check copy for grammar, spelling, copyright issues, and more.
Content Producer: These creators can pitch content ideas or execute others’ ideas, developing effective content for the target audience. They can be writers, videographers or podcasters, or anyone with a keen ability for storytelling.
Community or Social Media Manager: These managers aim to raise brand awareness and typically work on promoting content and engaging readers on various social media platforms, answering their questions and responding to their comments. These managers know what platforms the target audience uses.
Analytics Specialist: This expert advises the team on trends and results. They examine the team’s content and compare that data to search engine optimization (SEO) results of competitors’ content. These analysts can also assess how the team’s content is performing based on conversion metrics.
Become a content marketer
Careers in content marketing include roles that range from storytellers to SEO analysts. There is no specific path to becoming a content marketer and many professionals in creative positions are able to pursue employment without degrees from higher education institutions. For example, copywriters may only be required to have a proven ability to write clear, error-free content on a deadline. They may benefit from understanding keyword research and SEO optimization strategies, but those skills can be taught through specialized courses and training.
However, some employers may prefer that job candidates have a bachelor’s degree in fields such as English, journalism, business, marketing, or advertising, particularly if they want to pursue management positions as they advance in their careers. Similarly, candidates seeking out positions focused more on the analysis of metrics may be able to stand out from the pool of job applicants with degrees or boot camp certificates in fields such as data analytics, applied statistics, digital marketing, or business intelligence.
The level of education needed depends on an individual’s career goals. If they want to work as a freelancer for the duration of their career, professionals in this space may only ever need training on the latest SEO tools. If they want to open their own content marketing agency, professionals may find that a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) is what they need to help them achieve their goals.