Content and SEO are equally as important… But which do you start with? We asked 60+ experts to share the strategy they prioritize—and why.
Content Marketing | Jun 25
Jessica Malnik on December 17, 2020 • 31 minute read
If you want to step up your content marketing efforts, one of the things you should focus on improving is your content team structure.
Because while a good content marketing team can bring you more qualified leads and sales, and ultimately high ROI, a poorly structured one may weigh down your efforts, and well, even lead to wasting marketing resources.
Ready to learn how to build your own prolific structure team?
In this post, we’re sharing tips on how to structure a successful content team regardless of your company size and budget. Let’s dig in.
From writers and editors to social media managers, content marketing coordinators, and designers, prolific content teams come in all sizes.
Of the marketers we reached out to, 51% of them had between 2-5 full-time employees on their content team.
Darina Lynkova of Reach Marketing LP says, “In my experience as a content manager and an SEO writer I believe a high-performing content team consists of ten people. This number is scalable, of course.
The perfect team should include five content creators, one senior editor, a QA/proofreader, a junior developer to publish the content and take care of technical issues, an SEO specialist to provide a quality keyword research and performance analysis, and a content manager to overlook the process and come up with hot topics.
In my experience, more than five writers per editor means that both the editor and the SEO specialist will be overloaded. With content creation, avoiding burnouts is part of the working process.”
However, of the people we surveyed, less than 7% had more than 10 people on their content team.
It is clear that you can do content marketing well in 2020 with a small team.
In fact, one of the most cost-effective ways to scale your content marketing production is to outsource key roles to freelancers and/or agencies.
The most common responsibility that gets outsourced is the actual writing.
A great content team has the following roles covered using a mix of in-house and outsourced talent. Keep in mind, it is possible to have one person fill multiple roles.
Between blogs and ebooks, written content is the most popular form of content that companies create.
So, it is important to have great writers on your content team.
“Get good writers,” says Chris Wilks of BrandExtract. There’s really no big trick to it.
If you hire good writers, you can teach them the basics of SEO and content marketing but the most important thing is to hire someone who knows how to tell a story and cover a topic. Google values helpful, valuable content. If you have writers who can help Google deliver quality content to its users, then your content marketing will perform.”
Sam Olmsted of Digital Marketing DC says, “My best advice for structuring a high-performing content team is to look for strong writers first. Content marketing and SEO best practices can be taught relatively easily.
However, unlike marketing tactics, critical thinking and professional writing skills cannot be taught as easily in a short timespan. If you find a team that loves to write, writes independently, and takes a writing-first approach, you’ll see that the quality is far above that of a traditional content marketing team.”
Mudassir Ahmed of Blogging Explained adds, “Look for these qualities when hiring writers:
The final important thing to consider when you’re structuring a high-performing content team is where you’re looking. See if your friends can refer you to a content marketer, or post a requirement on Twitter or LinkedIn. I’m sure you can find really good writers there within your budget.”
Another critical role is to have a managing editor. This person acts as a content team lead and ensures all of the content you produce meets your brand style and quality guidelines.
Tony Monisse of Brentnalls says, “Find the best content managing editor/team leader.
The content managing editor is also the team leader. So find someone who pays attention to every small detail in an organized manner. The content managing editor should be able to project the vision on to the writer and get the best write-up in return.”
Another key role is content or SEO strategist.
“Hire a strategic thinker, who can also write,” says Anthony Gomes of 18squared. “Their job is to plan the content based on the theme. Make sure to repurpose your large content into smaller pieces like blogs and infographics that can be shared in nurture campaigns and social media.
“Like a lot of things in marketing, the key to a great content team is agility. You need to be able to plan, build, design, and then scrap and start over if for example, your eBook isn’t generating clicks.”
Even if 90% of your content is written, there is a good chance you’ll still need custom graphics, illustrations, ebook covers, and more.
Having a great designer that can create custom images that will make your blog posts and lead magnets can make your content stand out and be easier to consume.
Social media management is like driving a car. Most people think they are better at it than they actually are.
However, an experienced social media manager is worth their weight in gold. They can help you get the word out for each piece of content you create.
Content marketing coordinators, outreach specialists, promotion specialists, and link builders – it seems like every company has their own unique job title for this role. However, this role is an essential distribution role designed to build relationships and get the word out about your content.
For example, Jake Rheude of Red Stag Fulfillment says, “For the past five years, we’ve used more or less the same model when it comes to content production.
We have a small team of outreach specialists, all outside contractors, who pitch guest article ideas to editors and content managers in a variety of niches related to our industry, such as eCommerce, logistics, and digital marketing.
Every time they successfully pitch a topic, we assign one of our writers–also outside contractors–to write that article. When the article has been finished, either I or our in-house director of SEO takes a quick pass to make sure that it reads well and includes properly attributed backlinks to power pages on our website. An average month sees anywhere between 6-12 articles published this way.
Additionally, we have other teams that handle PR and outreach through HARO, where we get another half-dozen to dozen wins every month as well.
I know that some marketing teams have bigger budgets than ours and some have less, but I think a common thread to a successful content strategy is to create a team so that everyone builds on each others’ strengths.
We have writers who have formal backgrounds in journalism and are published in their own right. Some of our writers have backgrounds in supply chain/logistics (which is useful since that’s our main niche) and can bring technical knowledge on the subject.
Other writers are less attuned to creating long-form content but outstanding at cold pitching editors and blog managers — the ability to write a subject line is not quite the same as a 2,000 word, thoroughly researched article, but both are key to achieving the team’s goal.”
This role is fairly self-explanatory. If you have a branded podcast or Youtube channel, you are going to need someone who can edit audio and video.
What’s the ROI of your content marketing efforts? While everyone should be aligned on the same KPIs, a marketing analytics person can help you visualize the impact of your content marketing efforts at scale.
Ted Fay of 2 Find Marketing says, “There are 4 key areas to consider in developing a high performing content team, plus overall management and planning. In order from “left brain” to “right brain”, they are:
The starting point in structuring your own team is to understand the volume of work possible and internal staff skills and capabilities. I have always outsourced everything but product detail content to start. Product detail content often is most effective written in-house as it requires unique product knowledge, but you may outsource this as well.
Build the plan, based around analytics, and measure. Then identify which roles over time make sense for you to bring in house.”
Editor’s Note: Looking for a quick way to visualize your content marketing efforts, use this HubSpot and Google Analytics Website Performance Dashboard.
In addition to the key content roles, here are some additional tips to consider when building and managing your content team.
The fastest way to blow through your marketing budget is to start hiring your content team before you have a content strategy, plan, and processes in place.
“The best advice in building a high-performing content team is developing a strategy,” says Stewart Dunlop of LinkBuilder.io. ”It’s critical to understand what is your main message as a brand, who will be reading your content, what is the main call to action, as even if you can gather the best people if they are not united by the strategy, your plan is doomed.
The strategy is not something set in stone as it needs to change according to the needs of your target audience. Only that way you will be able to keep your team members motivated and your content performing its main functions – reaching the end reader.”
David Ciccarelli of Voices.com says, “Take the time to develop quarterly themes, overarching topics you’d like to research, write about and promote extensively over a three month period.
How do you uncover themes? Consider running an annual survey and ask your customers what trends they’ve observed over the last year.
Our annual trends report revealed some key trends that helped shape our quarterly content themes which for us are; the future of work, flexible media strategy, voice technology, and customer success stories.
As you can see, there’s plenty of leeway in each quarter allowing for writers to conduct keyword research for in-depth ‘evergreen’ articles but also the ability to respond to current events and write with time-sensitive relevance.
William Taylor of VelvetJobs adds, “Start with a comprehensive content strategy, a formal structure of your content team, and clearly defined job roles for each member of the team, before you start hiring people to join the team.
When these features are in place, it becomes easier to hire the right people for each role, and there is no overlap in terms of duties and responsibilities. Everyone is prolific at what they do, and they know their role in the team, which makes the team highly efficient.”
“I’d suggest structuring your content team incrementally, based on your own resources,” says Matteo Duo of Kinsta. “Freelance writers + in-house editor is the foundation of a content team.
The more your budget grows, the faster you should start growing into a more structured team such as:
If you’d like to go even further and make it a stronger team, I’d go with:
“Give as much autonomy as possible,” says Alice Stevens of Best Company. “The more your team members are invested in the overall strategy development, the more ownership they’ll take on their projects.
Striking a good balance between independent projects and collaborative projects will also help keep your team engaged.”
“A high-performing content team has to have a good blend of the art & science of content,” says Julia Borgini of Spacebarpress Media. “That is, copywriters & content marketers who understand the power of words and how to wield them, and the SEO/data marketers who can provide the stats to back up the creative.
Plus, a manager who understands that results don’t happen overnight. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
“To structure a high-performing content team, you want to hire people with complementary skills,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers Agency.
“For instance, you don’t want to hire 4 blog content writers. Instead, you could have a blog writer, an email copywriter, a video creator, and a visual creator.
By having complementary skills, you will be able to work on different aspects of your marketing at the same time.
For example, you could write a great blog post, illustrate it with a few images and a video and have your email copywriter craft an email promoting the blog post to your subscribers.”
“Have regular meetings and check-in with your team,” says Andre Oentoro of Milkwhale. “Communication is super important and the key to achieving goals.”
Cécilien Dambon of Mailbird adds, “Don’t neglect small talk with your team.
There is the dreamy one who likes to imagine “what if” in the most creative ways.
There is the chatty and cheerful one who likes to connect and catch up with people.
Or even the one that worries too much about how our content is performing and if we did the right thing.
Those are not even skills, they’re character traits. And they might be your best ally when it comes to structuring a high-performing content team.
My advice: don’t neglect small talk with your team.
They’re full of signals that, with a bit of scanning, will help you identify your team’s main strengths and interests, and how each member could perform when given specific responsibilities: developing partnerships, performing analysis, experimenting with new formats, running webinars, conducting deep research, etc.”
“In our experience, it all comes down to effective processes,” says Reda Elmardi of Strong Chap. “Creating high-end content is very hard and requires multiple skill sets. We’ve found that it’s best to have great SEOs do keyword research, great writers craft content, great editors tweak each piece, etc.
In order to be efficient with multiple people working together, we use Airtable. It’s an awesome tool (with a free plan) that allows us to have each expert accomplish its task, add their work to Airtable, and ping the next person in the production chain. That way, we always know where each piece is in the chain, identify potential bottlenecks, and improve efficiencies.
This tool has allowed us to double the number of high performing pieces of content published each month.”
“Know everyone’s strength and let them work on projects accordingly,” says Daisy Jing of Banish. “Don’t just delegate tasks without knowing your team’s strengths and what they’re capable of. Let them do the things they love.“
Timmy Yanchun of LTHR Shaving says, “To structure your content team, be sure that each person is in the role where they will perform at their best. Look for team members who are professionals at writing, editing, SEO, and sourcing images. Additionally, don’t forget about team members that will focus on content AFTER it’s written. Social media and email marketing are also important when it comes to promoting your content.”
Casey Crane of SectigoStore.com adds, “I think one of the most important factors for creating a high-performance content team is identifying each team member’s individual strengths and encouraging them to grow beyond their weaknesses. This may mean being fluid in terms of initially outlining their responsibilities and providing them with the means to grow their knowledge or skill sets in other areas.
For example, if you have someone who’s a great copywriter but they’re not as strong a blogger, use them on website copy. Likewise, if you have someone who’s great at writing content but they’re not a confident public speaker, leave the podcasts or webinars to someone else. Capitalize on those strengths to apply them in the most effective ways.
By capitalizing on your team members’ strengths, you’re making the best use of your employees’ diverse skill sets and get the best performance out of them.
Another important key element of a high-performing team is passion and engagement. If you have someone who’s genuinely excited about what your company does, then they’re more willing and interested in applying themselves to the work and growing their knowledge. If they’re not — if they’re just “going through the motions” and doing the minimum — that will likely come across in their work.”
“In our world of content, we like to utilize people who can easily wear different hats,” says Joey Campbell of Sundae. “In other words, rather than passing one blog post through five different people, it’s more timely to assign a post to one to two people.
A writer can write, research, and prepare the piece for SEO, while an editor can proofread, source for images and upload to WordPress. It’s also nice when the writer and editor can interchange tasks when needed, and still keep the flow going.”
Sally Rong of RELLERY says, “Your content team should be skilled in several different ways, which you’ll need to keep in mind when you’re in the structuring phase. It’s best to look for content specialists who can wear more than one hat. In other words, those who can write, edit, work within WordPress and know basic SEO strategies.
You’ll find that your content team will be more productive when everyone is in the best role for their individual skills, but are still able to lend a hand in other areas when needed.
But, if you only have the budget for one or two content strategists, there are highly-skilled individuals out there who can definitely take care of all of your content needs.”
Andrea Loubier of Mailbird adds, “When you’re building your content team, you have to remember that these people are more than just marketers. They’re innovative thinkers, proofreaders, marketers who know just how to bring special attention to an offer, and SEOs who understand exactly where to place the keywords.
In other words, look for people who are multi-talented and can handle a variety of responsibilities. You’ll want team members who can effortlessly flow from writing a how-to guide to crafting content for a social media campaign. Then, you’ll find that your content team can bring much more to the table than you ever envisioned!”
Anna Caldwell of Beyond Finance agrees, “Content creation is a collaborative effort that requires all members of the team to stay up to date on the latest messaging and marketing strategies.
As a small in-house department, the members of our content marketing team do a little bit of everything.
We find that this method allows us to balance our workload evenly and unify our brand voice so that our SEO, blogs, and landing page copy always feel connected to our core messaging.”
In addition, one of the biggest traps that content marketers can fall into when hiring content generalists is hiring more people but at cheaper prices. This is a big mistake.
Travis Killian of Everlasting Comfort says, “If you want to be sure to have value from your investment, keep your content team small, but be ready and willing to pay for professionals. Keep in mind that one good content writer or marketer can often do the work of three to four average performers, so remember that when hiring or assigning tasks.”
Greg Kozera of ELM Learning adds, “When you are hoping to build a rock star content team, you’ll need a professional writer or two, a proofreader, someone versed in SEO, and an individual who can effectively market the final results. While you may find team members who can hold several of these roles at once, if you’re churning out a lot of content and your budget allows for it, individual roles will create an environment where everyone is completing the job suited to their individual skills.”
“Make sure you give responsibility to a team member for each of the basic tasks, such as ideation, writing, reviewing, publishing, and distribution,” says Nicolas Jacobeus of SaaSpirin. “This doesn’t mean they have to be the one to do all the work, but they should know it’s their responsibility to see that the work happens. This clarity helps the work progress smoothly.”
Austin Mullins of Conversion Media says, “You need to plan out the entire timeline for each piece of content, and have due dates for each role. For instance, when we build out our editorial calendars, we have separate due dates for the outline, first draft, first-round edits, revisions, second-round edits, and a target go-live date. Combined with tracking the current stage, this makes it easy for team members to prioritize, and any bottlenecks can be easily identified.”
Kristina Witmer of Witmer Group adds, “Creating a high-performing content team requires:
“Content inspiration is everyone’s job, and ideas beget ideas,” says TJ Kelly. “Create an editable Google doc or sheet. The whole team logs into it at the same time—ANONYMOUSLY.
The anonymous part is important if you want everyone to throw out ANY idea, now matter how crazy it may seem.
Start with a few seed topics on the doc, generated by keyword research. Everyone adds comments, questions, and sub-topic ideas as much as they can.
One person’s wacky idea or silly joke may inspire someone else’s million-dollar content idea.
Do this process once a month or so, and your content generation will never run dry!”
“Focus on the quality of the writers on the team,” says Liam Carnahan of Inkwell Content Services. “A handful of quality writers, who don’t need lots of editing and training, will be far more time-efficient than a larger team of sloppy writers.”
Scott Rehnberg of Improve & Grow, LLC ads, “Be willing to search for a good writer. Despite what Fiverr might tell you, they’re not a dime a dozen. A good writer with experience in journalism, editing, SEO, and content dev. can be difficult to find, but worth every minute of searching for them
Hire writers whose goals and portfolio align with your team’s mission. This one is easy to overlook, but will be a game-changer. A writer is not just a writer. They’re an extension of your team and need to have the same vision.
Have more than one writer with diverse backgrounds. Not all clients are the same, not all campaigns are the same, and writers have different strengths they’ll lend themselves to. If you need different types of content, cross-industries, or have tailored needs, having writers with some diversity in their background will help ensure your content goes beyond standard expectations.”
“There’s no best number for how many people should be on your content team – some of the best ones are actually only 2-5 people,” says Katrina Dalao of Referral Rock. “In my experience, what’s important is having a core content team that’s familiar with the company’s strategy and goals. Those who know your business/industry extremely well, and can come up with strong ideas to move the company forward.
For writing or other project-based tasks, you can find the right person for the right task. There’s a lot of great independent talent that can help round out and assist with the team’s strategy.”
“High-performance content teams, and therefore content, are successful when there is a clear organizational structure,” says Daniel E. Lofaso of DigitalElevator.
“We build our content teams around a central Content Marketing Specialist who understands client goals, budgets, and expectations. This person will perform a competitive analysis to determine the type(s) of content that should be created for maximum impact before involving additional members of the team such as graphic designers or website developers.
If a company wants to create a prolific content team, they first have to decide how many layers of content they will offer to clients. While every agency can write a blog, not every agency can create custom graphics, do custom web dev, or layer in animation or video production. So, I’d encourage agencies to build their content teams around the service offerings they think will most benefit their clients, but that also coincide with their expertise.”
Olena Herasymchuk of Cloudprinter says, “As a Content Manager with 3+ years of experience, I can tell that structuring a high-performing content team isn’t about the number of copywriters you hire, but rather about the clear content vision and strategy you outline straight from the beginning.
You can hire only one or two copywriters and reach a considerable conversion rate growth in only a few months. However, increasing the number of copywriters you hire at a time doesn’t guarantee a directly proportional growth.
Bear in mind that a highly-performing content team isn’t the team that blindly produces 10 articles per week, but the one that can hit the spot with even one well-thought-out blog post.
Thus, while structuring a content team from scratch, make sure to first hire a Digital/Content Marketing Manager who’ll build the following content steps based on your business vision.
Then, create a test task and find copywriters that are able to perform it in accordance with your outlook. Hire one or two copywriters and make sure they keep pace with your business.
It’s also useful to focus both on internal and external publications, so as to increase your media coverage and bring your website higher credibility via acquiring more backlinks.”
Evgenia Evseeva of Brand North adds, “The factor that determines the efficiency of any high-performing content team is the flexibility in structure, which is determined by interchangeability and T-shaped knowledge of team members.
Undoubtedly, everyone should have a clearly defined area of responsibility and high qualifications in their field. But at the same time, it is necessary to expand the professional competence of content specialists in areas related to their activities.
Didn’t you go through the time pressure associated with the vacation of your editor and when no one can be assigned to review the content before its publication?
Or when due to the absence of an SEO manager no one in the team is not able to set the right task assignment with the right keywords to optimize, and as a result, you get high-quality content that does not rank organically and is buried in search engine results.
These situations precisely explain why you need to be guided by the rule that there should not be irreplaceable people in your content department and why continuous employee qualification training programs is a must.
This would motivate members of the content department to master related areas and force them to expand the range of their professional capabilities, maximize any content marketing efforts.
This is beneficial for team members, and it is also beneficial for the successful performance of a structured content department and the overall content marketing strategy in your company.”
“I think that I’d recommend that you don’t keep everything in-house,” says Charlie Worrall of Imaginaire. “By using freelancers, you’re able to get a much better range of abilities for your needs because they don’t need to be close to your office. What’s more, there are thousands of freelancers out there needing work and so if we can help those people and stay efficient ourselves, it’s a win-win.”
“A high-performing, cost-effective content team should be structured with an in-house editor, an in-house SEO strategist, then freelance remote writers,” says Danny Grainger. “This structure ensures consistency in brand tone and voice by going through the same editor, while ensuring the content strategy is optimized for SEO and is sustainable.
Using freelance writers is beneficial in that an organization doesn’t need to pay extra benefits, and the number of freelancer writers can be scaled according to content demand, which keeps overheads to a minimum.”
Alex Hamilton of SEO Is OK adds, “One way you can streamline the process and create a high-performing content team is to split up the roles based on expertise, while also outsourcing work where appropriate. My advice would be to keep the content formatting, keyword research and editing in-house, while outsourcing the content writing step (and publishing where appropriate). This will keep the final content consistent due to inhouse editing while allowing you to outsource one of the most time-consuming steps.”
For example, Charles Wenger of Level Up Chess says, “The way we do things is to have one editor managing about five writers. The editor decides on the topics we’re going to cover and assigns a topic to a particular writer.
The writers do their research and write the articles, where the editor then checks over the content for basic errors as well as the overall flow of the article.
The editor is responsible for the publishing of the guide as well as managing their writers in terms of performance. By hiring a really good editor we’re able to spend a little less on writers and still end up with really good content.”
This admittedly won’t work for every company, but making content/editorial its own department can work wonders for keeping your team focused and generating consistent results.
Mike Sadowski of Brand24 says, “We’re quite a big business now, and having a great content team is a must.
We’ve been scratching our heads about how to get to it for a while, but we managed to build a team that performs excellently.
We’ve decided to create a centralized department that’s responsible for content. With it, it’s much easier to organize our content efforts across the entire company.
Having clearly defined roles for each member of the team and a qualified leader that can coordinate everything has let us create an amazing content team.”
“Look, it’s going to vary based on your context,” says Alex Birkett of Omniscient Digital. “But I’ve found a few components non-negotiable for a long term, high functioning content team. First, you need someone directly responsible for content marketing. This isn’t as obvious as it sounds.
Many companies have a general marketing manager looking after it part-time, but things become chaotic and you naturally miss opportunities.
Second, I recommend having at least one person — either internally or an agency or consultant — who can see to the SEO-side of things. If you’re not optimizing for search, you’re missing out on acquisition potential, even if it’s marginal.
Finally, I love to have a mixture of in-house writers and freelancers, and guest writers. This way you can maximize your production cadence while centralizing editorial efforts, which solves the whole quality vs. quantity issue (which is really a made-up dichotomy).”
“After managing several content teams over the past 10 years, one of my key learnings is to focus on a single key metric across the team,” says Seema Nayak of AdChina.io.
“It could be traffic, email sign-ups, leads or something else. If everyone in your team is optimizing for a different metric, it often results in the overall team goal not being met. So it helps to have everyone from the writers to the strategist measured by the growth of the same KPIs.”
Editor’s Note: For example, if one of your KPIs is organic search traffic, you can use this Organic Blog Traffic Dashboard to monitor your results.
“I don’t hire anyone as a full-time employee until they have worked as a subcontractor for at least six to nine months,” says Vanessa Gordon of East End Taste Magazine.
“Another in particular is to be well-read—being up to date with the latest insights in terms of SEO and social media growth. I also cannot emphasize enough to network with your peers and fellow businesses as well as ask for second and third opinions when it comes to business goals and growth projections.”
“A well-defined hierarchical system where everyone knows their job roles fully is perhaps the most important element of any high-performing content team,” says Ramish Hassan of InvoZone.
“This, along with an emphasis on hiring writers with journalistic backgrounds can go a long way. Their researching techniques, critical faculties, and writing styles all favor a creative and multi-faceted approach to content development.”
This will help you find the best people for each role.
For example, Kateryna Reshetilo of Greenice adds, “A great content creator knows what she writes about (if she doesn’t know, she can find people who know and get all the necessary information from them). Secondly, this person likes and is good at writing.
For us, ‘the right people’ are those who already have some background in IT, like reading and writing (the two usually go together), are independent self-starters with great interpersonal skills.”
You don’t need a multi-million dollar budget and dozens of full-time employees to do content marketing well at scale. In fact, if you have the right content strategy, systems and processes in place, lean content marketing teams are often way more efficient and better at driving results since they can be agile and adapt to changes faster.
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