Content Strategist: Job Description & Salary In USA 
Mihael D. Cacic
Published 9 June 2021
Updated 3 November 2021
Looking to hire an in-house content strategist?
In this guide, I’m going to walk you through exactly what you can expect from your first hire and how much you can expect to pay based on variables like location, experience, and industry.
Having worked as a content marketing strategist in high-octane companies myself, I’m also going to explain exactly which skills and even personality traits to look for in your future strategist to make the best possible hiring decision.
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Note: If after reading this article you aren’t convinced that hiring, onboarding, and training a new strategist is worth the hassle — then reach out to me here and my ready-to-deliver content team will get you leads & signups in half the time and cost.
What Does a Content Strategist Do?
Simply put, a content strategist decides what content you should add on your website to attract more customers to your business.
Sounds pretty easy, but in reality it’s one of the most difficult things to pull off…
You see, to create effective content —content that gets you actual customers, not just traffic— a strategist has to:
- Deeply understand the pain points of your audience,
- Analyze & identify exactly which topics are most likely to attract wallet-ready leads,
- Know how to optimize and promote the content to get traction on Google or social media,
- And have an eye for quality writing that impresses your ideal customers and hooks them in right from the beginning and to the end.
Because of this, a strategist has to have a wide skillset of technical as well as creative abilities. She has to have a deep love for numbers, spreadsheets, and statistical analysis, as well as passion for writing, design, and user experience.
A strategist is an engineer with the heart of an artist.
And if your content strategist makes even the smallest mistake with any of the points I’ve mentioned above, your campaign results will take a huge blow in the gut and you won’t see the ROI you’re hoping for.
Content Strategist’s Duties, Expectations, and Responsibilities
The duty of the content strategist is to attract:
- the right customer,
- at just the right time,
- in the most cost-effective way possible.
To achieve this, the strategist creates editorial calendars and fills them with content ideas that are most likely to achieve all three points.
He then considers the best way to distribute each article and writes content briefs where he specifies the reader’s persona, table of content, and other directions that will help the writers write an article as he imagined it.
Sounds like a lot, so let’s go through it step by step.
1. Customer Research & Topic Ideation
To fill the content calendar with high-converting topic ideas, a good content strategist should first interview as many people in the company as possible — the CEO, founder, customer support person, salesperson, and anyone else dealing with the company’s vision or customers on a daily basis.
This will give her insights into who the customers are, which customers are the least difficult to work with, why the company has started, who the target audience is, how the company is trying to solve the audience’s pain points, and in what unique way are they trying to achieve this.
After that, the content strategist should, if possible, interview or survey the customers themselves. She should ask the customer’s about their frustrations and what kind of content will help them out.
Using these findings, the content strategist brainstorms meaningful topic ideas and starts adding them to the content calendar: prioritizing ideas that have the highest likelihood of attracting and converting your ideal customer.
2. Performing Content & SEO Audits
While you might think your current content is the best in the world, there is always room for improvement.
There isn’t a content marketing team in the world that can produce world-class content right out of the gate. That’s because Search Engine Optimization rules and content standards are constantly changing, so even if your post performed well in 2018, doesn’t mean it will keep its ranking in 2021.
In my experience working with clients, I always see a significant improvement in traffic after a good content update.
That’s why a big part of a content strategist’s job is doing frequent content audits and SEO audits of your website, with the goal to spot opportunities to rank higher for new and old keywords.
In my opinion, updating old content is even more profitable than creating new one, so you can easily spot a “below standard” strategist if all he wants to do is churn out new content and have no regard for improving what you already have.
So for each new article in your content calendar, you should see a brief for updating one old article.
Speaking of briefs…
3. Writing Content Briefs
Deciding on profitable topic ideas is only one part of the equation.
Now, the strategist has to convey her vision for the new and old content by creating a content brief for each idea. If she doesn’t do this, the content calendar becomes pretty useless as the writers won’t know what the goals and standards are for each article.
The brief should at least contain:
- Table of content
- Target keyword(s)
- Title of the blog post
- Approximate word count
- Examples of articles for inspiration
- Description of the reader’s persona
- How the content is going to be distributed
And it can get even more detailed depending on your relationship and the skill level of your writers.
One common mistake I’ve noticed while working with clients is that they’re trying to attract enterprise-level clients… with entry-level content.
(It can also happen that a company is trying to attract industry novices with articles that are too technical — for example, an AI software development company trying to attract business people with articles that go way too in-depth on the theory of how to code an AI software.)
Mismatches like this happen because the writers don’t know (or don’t care) who is going to read the article. Or simply because they aren’t subject matter experts themselves, and they didn’t properly interview an expert before writing.
Whatever the case, it leads to a bad content-market fit that leaves your target audience either unimpressed or confused.
And you get 0 conversions.
So one big responsibility of the content strategist is not only to find great topic ideas, but to make sure the articles are written at the appropriate expertise level for the target audience.
4. Deciding On The Distribution & Promotion Strategy
Many companies think distribution & promotion strategy is something you decide on once the article is written.
That’s a mistake.
In reality, the distribution is baked in the content itself. So if the strategist only begins thinking about how he’s going to get eyeballs to the article after it’s published, it’s way too late.
For example, if you’re trying to get viral traffic from social media, how you’re going to structure, write, and even pick topic ideas is going to be fundamentally different than if you’re trying to create evergreen content for search engines.
That’s why it’s strategist’s job to envision how the article is best going to be distributed way before the brief even reaches the writers.
A good strategist will also tell you exactly how many backlinks you need to rank first page for your article. As well as guesstimate the traffic and signups you can expect 3, 6, and 12 months after publishing and promoting.
Finally, depending on your business goals, the strategist will also decide on the best way to monetize the article. Is it going to be…
- Immediate buy-now button?
- Content upgrades for email leads?
- A call-to-action leading to a demo signup?
And, after picking the best way, your strategist should also know exactly which metrics to track, how to set up tracking, and what to consider a successful campaign in a given time-span.
5. Monitoring Campaign Results
At the end of the day, content marketing it’s all about results.
Which means a big responsibility of the strategist is monitoring how well the content is performing and what are the overall results of the campaign.
It’s the strategist’s duty prepare weekly or monthly content reports where he explains how his efforts are impacting your business, what can be done to improve the results, and what results you can expect to see in the following months.
* * *
Now that you have a clear overview of the duties, responsibilities, and expectations of a good strategist, let’s discuss which skills & traits you should look for during job interviews with your applicants.
There should bubble up easily with well-worded content strategist interview questions.
What Skills & Traits Do Content Strategists Have?
Obviously, a thorough understanding of market research and SEO is crucial for a strategist.
Because he not only needs to figure out your customers’ problems and give them the answers, but he also must ensure that the answers are readily available exactly where the customer is searching.
Of course, if the strategist is to track the performance of his content, he must also be knowledgeable about campaign tracking software like Google Analytics and have a good understanding of UTM tracking links.
He must know how to analyze the data, draw meaningful conclusions from it, and convert it into actionable insights that help him adjust the strategy accordingly.
And since part of a content strategist’s job is to determine the content form, an artistic personality is extremely helpful in creating a good strategy. A creative content strategist will always be brimming up with new and unique ideas and will find efficient ways to produce and present your content.
Copywriting And Leadership Skills Go a Long Way.
In my opinion, a content strategist must also be an excellent copywriter.
That’s because his ultimate goal is to attract buyers, so he needs to have an understanding of how to sell things — and content.
Even if the strategist isn’t writing on a daily basis, he must have the vision and a bird’s-eye view of the campaign he’s going to create, and how he’s going to draw in readers via the blog.
Finally, because the strategist will sometimes also take the roles of a content manager and communicate extensively with content writers and promoters, strong leadership and communication skills are a big plus.
Now, let’s discuss how much would an individual with the technical skills of a computer geek and the artistic flair of a painter cost to hire.
What Is Content Strategist Salary?
There’s conflicting data about the average annual salary for a content strategist in the US.
It’s safe to assume that the true average annual content strategist salary would be around the $83k/year price point.
(Keep in mind, though, that this is only the base pay. It doesn’t include employee benefits, training, bonuses, commissions and additional cash compensations, taxes, physical space, and equipment that come with hiring in-house. I’ll cover these costs at the end of this section.)
Besides that, how much will your content strategist exactly cost you depends on several variables — the most important ones being experience, location, and the industry you work in.
1. Content Strategist’s Salary By Experience
The average salary (around $83,000 per year) is true for a mid-level strategist with around 10-20 years of experience. If you’re looking to hire more experienced strategists with 20+ years under the belt, expect to spend around $101,000 a year.
You might compromise on experience and go with a strategist with less than one year of experience, but that too is going to cost you around $48,000 a year.
2. Content Strategist’s Salary By Location
If you’re located in Georgia, Chicago, or Austin, Texas, you might have to spend a little less because content strategists in these areas charge a tad bit lower than the national average.
Meanwhile, content strategists in various California cities like Stanford, Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Francisco charge up to 30% higher than the national average. Feel free to explore the heatmap for yourself! (Courtesy of Zippia.com)
3. Content Strategists Salary By Industry
Finally, the industry you belong to can also have a significant impact on how much you’ll have to pay for a good content strategist.
If you work in the Internet and Tech or Banking and Financial niches, prepare to take a big hit because strategists charge considerably higher for these industries. For only a mid-level strategist, we’re talking about $120,000 to $136,000 a year.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you belong to the Marketing and Advertising or Recruiting and Staffing industries, your in-house strategist will cost you less, at around $75,000 a year.
The Hidden Costs
Finally, remember that an in-house strategist is a regular employee in your company.
And as all regular employees they need space, internet, electricity, transport allowance, healthcare coverage, bonuses, and even commissions depending on your company’s policy.
The bonuses and commissions can sometimes cost you significantly. For example, an average content strategist at Facebook earns around $10,000 in comissions every year, according to Comparably.
Pro Tip: To estimate how much it’ll cost you to maintain a full-time employee, multiply the base pay with 1.25 to 1.4. For example, if your content strategist’s base pay is $1000, it can cost you anywhere between $1250 and $1400 to actually maintain him as an employee.
But those are the costs involved after you’ve hired an in-house strategist.
Finding and on-boarding the right talent is a whole separate hassle — and an expensive one. You need time and money for reviewing applications, taking interviews, and assessing candidates for required skills…
Which can cost you up to $3500 per content strategist!
So when you’re calculating how much you’ll really have to pay a good in-house strategist, don’t forget to keep all these costs in mind.
Cheaper & Better Alternative To Hiring An In-House Strategist
After a quick calculation, it’s safe to assume that if you hire a new strategist, you’re looking at $3500 of onboarding costs + $10,000 of monthly maintenance costs at a minimum…
That’s a lot of money.
But for only half that cost, you can get my entire content team to not only prepare a content strategy for you, but also execute it with the burning passion of a thousand suns.
Just imagine that.
Instead of hiring one person for $10,000 a month (which you will have to manage), you can get my entire team of strategists, writers, link builders and promoters for a fraction of that.
You won’t have to manage anyone, hire anyone, or have any other responsibility regarding the content and results.
All that is on me.
You just reap the benefits.
If so, then throw me an email at [email protected] 🙂
‘Till next time,
Mihael D. Cacic —
Writer, Content Strategist, CEO of 21writers