In this episode I speak with Andy Crestodina. He founded Orbit Media 17 years ago and remains at the head of the company. Andy has an interesting marketing strategy where they use content not to generate leads in the form of downloads or subscribers to their content but to generate authority to help them rank their main website pages. This strategy helps them rank for highly competitive keywords in their niche. Andy uses simple tools to generate extraordinary results.

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Things we discussed in this episode that you should check out:

Content Chemistry – Book by Andy Crestodina

Audience questions → Answers → Evidence → Action
source: How to Increase Your Conversion Rate in 4 Steps

Audience questions → Answers → Evidence → Action

The Control F Test
Source: SEO Advice for Beginners

The Control F Test

Last 5 questions:

What’s your best piece of marketing advice?
It’s to take a little bit of time to really try to empathize with the audience. What stops them from hiring you? What are their hopes? What are their fears? How does this change their life? Marketing is a test of empathy, and the extent to which you understand your audience is the extent to which you’ll succeed. That is, without that, you are lost. Nothing will help you. That’s key.

Can you recommend a book to our listeners?
Google Analytics Breakthrough

What software tool couldn’t you live without?
Google Analytics
WordPress

What’s your favourite example of a marketing campaign?
Joe Pulizzi – Content Marketing Institute
https://www.contentmarketingworld.com
Joe Pulizzi Books

Which other podcasts do you listen to?
Experts on the Wire

Transcript

Matt Byrom:
Thank you all for joining me today for this episode of the Marketing Strategies podcast. I have the pleasure of being joined by Andy Crestodina today. Andy is chief marketing officer and co-founder of Orbit Media Studios where he’s been for an incredible 17 years. Orbit Media is a web design studio with over 1,000 web projects under their belt. Andy is a highly respected marketer and a true visionary in his field. But don’t take my word for it, Forbes called Andy one of the top 10 online marketing experts to watch. Entrepreneur said Andy is one of the top 50 marketing influencers, and Izea said Andy is one of the top 25 B2B influencers, and the list goes on and on and on. So I’m delighted to have some of Andy’s time today so we can understand the strategies that drive his own profile, his business and his clients. So hey, Andy, great to have you on the podcast today.

Andy Crestodina:
Thanks for having me, Matt. I’m glad to be here.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, it’s great to have you. I really appreciate your time today.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, this should be fun. I love this topic, the organic business growth, demand generation, this will touch on many of my favorite things.

Matt Byrom:
Me too, really well. So I wanted to start with something that I saw recently which is a company called Uberflip, I’m sure you’re aware. Personally, my business done some work with them, so I get their emails. One of the emails that I got last week was, “Andy Crestodina’s repurposing tactic is magic.” And I just thought, perfect, I’m speaking with Andy next week, so this is ideal timing, really. So I watched the video. It was a presentation you did at ConEx, which is a marketing event.

I was really blown away by your thoughts. You were saying that you get asked lots of questions by people within your business, people who connect with you or people you see around and about, and what you said is that you answer every question you get in extreme detail with the main idea of actually repurposing those questions. You said, you’d look back and you’d answered 171 questions in a super detailed way. Your outlook following this was that content marketing is a giant game of generosity and that you wanted to be … a fantastic position is the most generous person out there. What I was thinking, does this view really encapsulate your outlook on content marketing as a whole?

Andy Crestodina:
It absolutely does. If you start with the perspective of your audience and your visitor and your future prospect, they all have information needs, and for every person that asks you a question, there are many hundreds or thousands that also have that question that may be asking the question online somewhere, like in search. So content really needs to answer questions, that is almost the main reason why anybody visits any website. Then to the extent that we answer that question in a way that aligns with the key phrase, you can then attract visitors for many months or years by repurposing the detailed answer you gave to the person in email or wherever that conversation happened. The idea being, never waste a good conversation by having it in private. So right now this is … We’re making that magic right now because we’re having this conversation publicly, and we’re recording this, and we’re making it easy for people to get the value, right?

Matt Byrom:
Absolutely.

Andy Crestodina:
If this was you and I on a phone call, we wouldn’t be winning that that test of generosity.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, absolutely, and I totally agree. This is why I set this podcast up so that we can have these public conversations and the wider world can benefit from the strategies and thoughts of the people that we have on the podcast. So just to dive into that a little bit further. How do you actually keep hold of these ideas or the content that you write to repurpose them? Do you actually just hold it on email and then think about it for future, or do you actually post that somewhere and think that’s going to be a chapter in a future book or I’ll restructure this at a later date? How do you go about the keeping of those ideas?

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, there’s sort of the collection mechanism, then there’s the organization process and then there’s the creation of the content and then there’s the repurposing of the content by putting it into other formats, like you just mentioned sort of maybe in a book or video or many other ways you can make things beyond just an article. The collection mechanism for me is email, where if I’m responding in day-to-day email, it takes me only an extra second to, after sending the email, to then move it to a folder, or I’m using Gmail, so I’m adding a label, basically, that puts in my folders called content marketing. If the question is something … If it’s notes from a meeting, I retype those and email that to myself and put it in that folder. If I’m contributing maybe to a roundup and the person asked me to answer a question in a Google form, I will copy and paste it out of there and get it into that email folder.

So it’s just that extra little circuit we implant in our brains that make us say, “How can I keep this, because I just took time to answer it and give value to one person?” Maybe it’s a blog comment. How do I get that out of there and get it into this other place? You can use anything you want. Evernote or paper, it doesn’t matter. But then these things … Email became efficient for me because then when I later went back, the organization process involved looking through all these past emails and copying and pasting answers out into Google Documents. Then I had eight or more Google Documents each on a different topic.

That actually is a good reference check on your content strategy. How well do those things that you talk about offline or in email align with the categories on your blog? Then finally you can move those things, begin to refine those or process those into actual articles that have great headlines and target a key phrase and have a contributor quote and have compelling images. Now you’ve turned several emails into something that can rank and be found and help many hundreds or thousands of people instead of just those few people you are emailing with.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, it’s fantastic. In many ways that extra feedback loop, or the circuit, really, it’s a great productivity hack as much as anything because it’s helping you actually repurpose one hour, for example, into many different formats. So I can totally see the value in that.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah. It’s so much work to do all these things well that we should never miss an opportunity. So that’s for content marketing pages, usually are blog posts or articles. But the same hack can work from the other side, demand generation, by making pages that are better optimized to convert visitors into leads, by working with the sales team or if you’re in the sales process, answering questions related to your product or your service, and then moving the answers not into articles in a blog but onto the pages that sell that service.

So a visitor will become a lead on a website because they’ve found the answers to their questions and their objections were addressed. So if you’re inside a company that has multiple teams, a smart marketer will spend a lot of time listening to sales calls or going on sales meetings or just talking to the sales team to find out what are people asking you? What do they care about? Why might someone not use us as a service? How do we help people? How do we change their lives? Can you give me an example of where what we do made a difference? Then you take all of those answers and use that as content on the actual demand gen pages. That does wonders for your conversion rates.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah. Or I guess you could use those as canned responses for a support team and things like that as well.

Andy Crestodina:
Exactly, yeah. That’s another productivity hack, right? Why keep writing the same thing over and over?

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, exactly. It’s something we actually do in our own brand, Wyzowl. We actually have a whole folder, actually, that we call Wyzowl scripts, and we constantly write the same thing because customers have the same questions and same queries. So we actually write out the perfect answer as best that we can, and then that can be reused and reused and reused by our team, obviously with personalization and bits added in, but it means that we’re saving a lot of time and we’re actually giving a lot better support and the answers are better each and every time that we use those as well.

Andy Crestodina:
Smart. Very smart.

Matt Byrom:
Tell us a bit about Orbit Media. You’ve been there, like I mentioned, 17 years, or you started over 17 years ago now. How did you start? Tell me a bit about the story.

Andy Crestodina:
Sure. It was such a different time. The things that we did in marketing were just so different than we do now. It’s a web design company, so the things we did, building websites, is so different. Think about what the internet looked like in 2000 and 2001, and we did … Flash intros.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, splash pages.

Andy Crestodina:
Wonder if any of our listeners remember that. Yeah, splash pages, all kinds of … tried to make sure that there was no scrolling and we used all kinds of … There were no page blocks, design standards were different, there were no carousels. It was all sort of … There was like lots of embedded animations and things. It was more like graphic design, actually. It was just me and my friend, my friend from high school, my roommate from college. My day job was as an IT recruiter, which I didn’t love because I didn’t get to make anything. I wanted to be creative.

I saw this opportunity to combine both halves of my brain to use art and science and to use creativity and technology. So, quit the job and started building websites with him. Just an organic slow growing process ever since, but unlike a lot of companies we have maintained that core. I would still build websites, and a lot of companies that started when we did have pivoted and created products or other things, added other services, but we love what we do. We love our clients, our team is very happy, and we’re still totally focused on this one offering.

Matt Byrom:
What’s your revenue model there? Are you a transactional website company or do you offer a level of service and support following build?

Andy Crestodina:
I think it’s about 90% services related to the project itself. Full lifecycle, plan, design, build, which is not the ideal way. Some advice for the listeners here, don’t start a company like this one. It’s hard.

Matt Byrom:
From experience.

Andy Crestodina:
You’re always doing sales. There’s definitely easier ways to create more consistent streams of revenue. This has to be pretty lumpy because there’s project life cycles and sometimes a big thing comes in or a bunch of things come in at once. But we’re used to it, and we’re good at it, and we manage time and utilization and capacity and pipeline. But it’s just a fee-for-service. It’s almost fixed fee. There’s some ongoing services related to analytics and some consulting and a little bit of optimization and ongoing enhancements. A properly-built website should have very low maintenance services, maintenance cost once it’s live.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, I guess the real work will actually be editing, changing, adding and removing pages as you go along.

Andy Crestodina:
Right, which shouldn’t be expensive, content shouldn’t be expensive.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, absolutely. And you get involved in the conversion work, conversion rate optimization with clients and that side of things?

Andy Crestodina:
It’s not a separate service. It’s built into the core service. We do audience analysis. We learn, like I said, what the audience’s top questions are. This is interesting, and here’s a framework that our listeners I think can steal and use. I hope that everyone uses this. It’s to think about the science of conversion, that visitor comes with their own context. There’s a true story in their life that brought them to that page. They have questions in their mind. So we must first understand their questions. Our next job is to answer those questions, like we said. Then to supply evidence to support our answers, otherwise the page is just filled with unsupported marketing claims. Then to give them a clear specific compelling calls to action to guide them deeper in the funnel or to convert or start a conversation.

So that framework, and we can share this, this is one of those, I think, a mini diagram that might work well in show notes. If you want to share, there’s a visual, everyone listening, go to the Wyzowl site, you’ll find a visual that describes this framework. Designing for that is really what we do. So we don’t do the ongoing conversion optimization, things like A/B tests, very often, but every time we build a site, we’re thinking through question, answer, evidence, action, constructing pages that specifically guide the visitor through their own psychology through a series of thoughts, finding what they want but also what we want them to have, and then offering them a next step, building it to maximize the percentage of visitors who take action and convert.

Matt Byrom:
So you’re really creating a funnel for people who are not yet in the funnel, really, it’s that, and it’s actually helping people answer their questions, giving them the most supportive answers and evidence that you can and then directing them to the next step which will build trust along the way, I guess.

Andy Crestodina:
That’s the entire purpose of these pages. That’s the goal of the sales part of the website. So the way that it does that, sometimes it all happens on … It can happen on one page in certain businesses, even if it’s a long sales cycle or a very consultative sale, even if it’s a complex B2B service like web design. You can still create one page that guides them through their thinking. Other times it’s more than one page, where you want them to segment themselves onto pages where you can go deeper into that one topic. So it’s a little bit of mind control [crosstalk 00:15:23] optimization. Yeah, you’re really taking them through their thoughts. You know what they were wondering. You’re showing them the answer to the next question that will pop into their mind and guiding them through a series of answers and evidence toward that call-to-action.

Matt Byrom:
I guess then making it so that it’s a no-brainer decision to actually go with your service or at least make an inquiry and start that discussion.

Andy Crestodina:
Exactly.

Matt Byrom:
Or your customer, I guess.

Andy Crestodina:
What part that part of the market are focusing on? Are you SME, start-up, enterprise. where are you typically finding most business? It tends to not be start-up and is not usually enterprise, so something in between, yeah. We are geographically focused because we like to work with companies that we can meet with. So it’s mostly Chicago, although we have clients all over. These are probably 10 to 100 million dollar companies, US, on average. So the really big companies who have … I mean, every one of our clients should at least have a marketer in-house or they’re too small to work with us, but if they’re big enough that they have their own technology and programming teams in-house, they’re probably not working with us because they have …

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, they have the expertise.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, they’re building stuff. They have, like, a UX team. People with their own in-house UX teams don’t outsource web development as much as work with experts on a part of a process, right? They might have a pro do personas for them, and then another pro do A/B testing for them. Those products are so large and complex that they’ve broken up among different specialists.

Matt Byrom:
Okay. Awesome. I guess we’d like to move onto the growth of your business. What’s your growth story? How did you initially start getting customers, and how’s that improved over time?

Andy Crestodina:
Well, it was pretty sad in the beginning. It was a tough time. Right? It was right before a lot of challenging economic times because it was right before the tech bubble collapsed and right before 9/11, which had big impact on the economy everywhere. But our model back then was, we had so few clients that we purposely did some outbound and gotten cold calls or started conversations with agencies because advertising agencies of the time would outsource almost everything because they had no capabilities in-house. So we were an outsourced development partner to a lot of agencies.

But then after I figured out SEO, which we can talk about as well, we began to generate our own leads and work directly with clients. So this is like 17 years of SEO and analytics. Once we began to rank and learn the science of conversion, we created an ongoing steady pipeline of new demand. That’s when growth became more quicker growth but still just totally organic. There’s no investors, there’s no debt, it’s just a slow growing organic company. But there are 38 of us, it’s around five million US in revenue. We have a professional full-time CEO and a team of managers. It’s a regular business, but it’s been a totally content-driven, inbound organic growth approach.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, I mean, it sounds like a fantastic business, really, without any debt and totally organic growth. Perfect, really. Good team size and good revenue. It’s the ideal business, really.

Andy Crestodina:
It’s okay. In some ways I like … Your business model is, in some ways, much better for scaling. I mean, B2B services, a high-touch service, has inherent limitations. Our business can’t double in size next year, no matter what happens, it’s impossible for us to even scale that big if we did have the sales. But it’s also so labor-intensive that you just need a lot of smart people to do these things. So if you like people, and if you like doing service, and if you like the combination of creative and technical work, it’s a great business.

Matt Byrom:
Absolutely. I guess this comes back to the start of our conversation where we talked about being helpful and supportive through content and helping people find that content and then, I guess, using your formula of questions, answers, evidence and action to actually help direct people through that information to the inquiry form and to actually contact you guys. So if we were to look at the content calendar for Orbit Media, how do you actually work out what content to create? Yeah, well, let’s start with that. How do you work out what content to create?

Andy Crestodina:
We have changed our strategy, so this may not be relevant to 100% of the listeners because this is like 10 years of publishing. So the most recent approach to our content calendar is to go back and look to see what are the outliers. What content has outperformed other content? What pages are ranking but not ranking that high? What are we rewriting anyway because we’re updating the book, I wrote a book about marketing.

Matt Byrom:
What’s the book called, for the listeners?

Andy Crestodina:
Sure. It’s called Content Chemistry.

Matt Byrom:
Content Chemistry.

Andy Crestodina:
It is the illustrated handbook to content marketing. The fifth edition will be out in a few months.

Matt Byrom:
Perfect.

Andy Crestodina:
But you should be able to find it anywhere. So rewriting that book created opportunities to repurpose and republish some of the chapters that we’re being opportunistic there. There are pages where we have ranked but the rank is starting to decline. So those are good pages to rewrite. There are things that are becoming … We’re building a hub around a topic where we will create an article and a guest post and an event. We do monthly events here in-house, which is my favorite format for content is to speak to people live. It’s so fun. We’ve had a monthly event here in our office for the last seven years-

Matt Byrom:
Fantastic.

Andy Crestodina:
… called Wine and Web, which is just a fun … Yeah, if you’re in a B2B service company, and you need to trust, it’s a trust-based sale and your target audience is in your area-

Matt Byrom:
Just add wine in, right?

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, add wine, yep, and you’re set. You can fill up a room and teach and demonstrate expertise and grow your network and make new friends. The pressure to perform every month drives the content here too because it was on Tuesday and I had to make a new presentation which is … Fear of public failure is powerful, so it really pushes me to make something great. That is of great format for repurposing, so you’ll see more articles on that topic. But basically, really, this is when you already have published a lot of stuff earlier. It’s a more highly evolved content strategy.

In the beginning, we asked ourselves, this audience has what tough questions? Then make sure that you have an answer to each of their questions. Finally, you are creating a publishing calendar that builds on these topics, so that all the content that you publish is sort of interconnected, some of it being more broad and touching on many things with a lighter touch, and other things being much deeper, maybe more search optimized, maybe like a super long page and a detailed answer on a certain topic or answering a certain question. So it should be huge interconnected families of content totally based on what that audience cares about.

Matt Byrom:
Yes, absolutely. So you group your content based on topic or persona or an interest, really, as well?

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah. If you haven’t won, if you’re not ranking high and attracting a lot of visitors and subscribers, then you’re not done publishing on that topic and on the subtopics in the different formats with the different influencers. As a general guide, you could say, an interconnected hub of content would include an anchor piece in the center that’s a great answer on a tough question that your audience really, really cares about, and then you surround that with content created on different subtopics in different formats with different co-creators or collaborators or influencers and in different places, where you get off your site and publish and talk about these things in other places. So it’s really only a small percentage of marketers that spread out their content across those four different aspects.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah. And for the listeners, if you google content island, this is a framework that we’ve created less than a year ago, actually, but it’s reformatted and a reideation of the hub-and-spoke model, I guess, with nicer graphics, we would like to think. But what we’ve done, actually, is exactly what you’ve said there, Andy. We’ve created a model where you have a central piece of content, what we call the island, and then lots of feeder pieces that actually feed traffic and bring people through that journey to the island through those feeder pieces. So we created that, just that framework or the content island format of it but, what we feel is exactly the same. It’s actually bringing people through the content to the island all based around the same topic will help people have a journey through content effectively.

Andy Crestodina:
I love it. Let’s put that in the show notes.

Matt Byrom:
I will put that in the show notes, yes. So the show notes will be available on the podcast page. So if you go to the podcast page you’ll be able to download the podcast, listen to the podcast and check out the show notes. So definitely do that. We’ve got a range of content there for Orbit Media. You’re repurposing content, you’re rewriting content that has shown some success in the past to improve it, and then how do you go about promoting content? What’s your promotion strategy?

Andy Crestodina:
You asked the best question, Matt, because it’s not … The one way that I have sometimes described this is, it’s not the best content that wins, it’s the best promoted content that wins.

Matt Byrom:
Absolutely.

Andy Crestodina:
An example is that the New York Times does not have a list of the best books, they have a list of the best-selling books, right? It’s a sales list. There is no list of best books. So how do you have a best-seller, a best-selling book or a high-traffic article? It’s all about promotion. The promotion is, in content marketing, I mean, there’s always paid, but that hasn’t been my strategy. So I’m a bad person to ask about paid.

The three channels for content marketing would be search, social and email. Search would be about optimizing it for a target key phrase, indicating relevance on the page, making it the best page. Literally you’re trying to make one of the top 10 best pages on the internet. I don’t ever try to trick a robot into liking my content. I start first with the audience needs and try to make one of the top 10 best pages on the internet for the topic. If you haven’t done that, you shouldn’t expect to rank on page one in Google. So make a great page. What a lot of people sometimes miss, I think, is if you have made a page that’s targeting a key phrase, just go back and confirm that you indicated relevance for that phrase.

Matt Byrom:
And in what way would you suggest that?

Andy Crestodina:
My favorite SEO tool is 100% free. It’s built into the browser and every word processing program. Just hit Ctrl F on your keyboard to find the phrase on the page.

Matt Byrom:
Simple.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, it’s simple.

Matt Byrom:
I like it.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, did you use the target key phrase in the title, which actually doesn’t show up in Ctrl F, because that’s in the browser, right, it’s in the tab, in the title, in the header, the h1 tag and in the body text. An hour ago, I was meeting with a woman who wants to create a relocation website, and she wants to rank for phrases like city X versus city Y. She says, “Oh, I’m not sure if I can rank for this key phrase. It’s a lot of competition.” I look at the other high ranking pages, and they’re kind of famous websites, like these comparison websites or bestplaces.com, but when I dig deeper and look at the pages, they didn’t actually include those phrases, right? Like Chicago versus Denver wasn’t on that page. It said Chicago a lot of times, and it said Denver a lot of times. So my conclusion to her was, you probably can make a better page than these other sites, even though they’re kind of famous websites with high authority. Those sites were ranking but they did not use the target key phrase in the title, the header and the body text. So the Ctrl F test will help you find, just confirm that you indicated relevance.

Don’t be tempted to stuff keywords into the page afterwards that’s not important and not effective. But also know that it’s really the body text and indicating relevance in the normal text that we’re trying to do here. If you do Ctrl F on a page and you see that it has the target key phrase in there five times, but three of them are in links, you have to remember that links don’t count as relevance on this page. Links indicate the relevance of the page they link to. So keywords that should be in the title, header and body text, and in the text on links on other pages that point to this page. Right? So when you do Ctrl F and you count the page, keep in mind that you’re not checking the title and that if you see the key phrase used in links that those are not indication of relevance of this page itself. So to make a great page on the topic and use the phrase in the basic places.

Matt Byrom:
So I guess that would be a simple strategy, SEO strategy, would be just to include the keyword in the relevant places and make the best possible content page that you can do?

Andy Crestodina:
Exactly.

Matt Byrom:
That makes total sense. That’s almost like … SEO is evolving over time. Things are changing on a regular basis, but that’s a strategy that will work 10 years ago, I guess, when you started the business and it’s likely to work in 10 years time because it’s really the basis of just a good SEO strategy.

Andy Crestodina:
It’s the strategy that Google recommends. It’s in Google’s webmaster blog. Surprisingly, you will see marketers all over the place that sort of forget those things. They don’t emphasize quality. They don’t ask themselves if this was an amazing page. They write thin content or medium quality pages. They miss basic opportunities to indicate relevance.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah. You’re obviously focusing very highly on quality here. How do you actually determine quantity of content created?

Andy Crestodina:
I love this question. Depending on your business model you may not need a huge frequency or quantity to stay top of mind with your audience. In this example here it’s a web design company. So it takes people more than a month to decide who to hire for their website redesign. When you build a website you’re going to have it for like three or four, sometimes five years. So why would I need a daily newsletter to stay top of mind with people in the context of that sales cycle and that buying interval? So look at your sales, look at your buying interval, if it’s a service provider, and ask yourself, really, do you need to be daily or even weekly …

Our newsletter’s bi-weekly. It’s been bi-weekly for 10 years, or eight years. It was monthly in the very beginning. We meet all our goals at that level. So of course there’s the sustainability and consistency question. Can you keep producing things at that frequency? But assuming that you have the bandwidth and you’re dedicated enough to focus on this and you can put something out on a regular basis that does meet your standards for quality, if you’re publishing very, very little, consider testing your own comfort level and sending email more often, publishing more often. And if you are a huge brand publishing stuff, you’re already publishing every day, run a test of publishing less often. A lot of people have found great results with that. I know brands that were publishing seven days a week and went down to five with no change in traffic. That’s a big savings.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I know of people, Brian Dean, for example, is one of the big professors of writing very few articles but at very high level, on interesting topics and with very high authority, but very few actual articles, but he ranks very highly for a lot the core SEO phrases, which is very interesting.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah. What he does, and I recommend it as well, it’s partly what I said I was doing earlier is updating older content. Brian will only make a new article if he likes and is happy with the ranking of all of his existing content. So the key there is to keep building up the authority of an individual URL. The internet is not waiting for another medium piece of content. If you have a piece, if you have something that you published a year or two ago and it’s good, you may get far better results by making that thing great without changing the URL and doing what Brian would call a relaunch. Just putting it back in your social streams, sending it again in a newsletter, trying it with a different … tweak the headline, change the images. It was 1,800 words, now it’s 2,400 words. Rewriting older articles, repurposing older URLs has far greater results in SEO than just making a brand new baby URL every time.

Matt Byrom:
We actually did an experiment on this ourselves. We read Brian Dean’s post on on repurposing old content that had some success to add more value to it, and we actually wrote a blog article where we tested this. So we’ve taken some data from the amount of views and visits that we’d had over the last month or a few months, and then we actually added more value to a bunch of our posts. I think we updated the title as well. Then we wrote up an experiment about how we’d … Wrote up a blog post, sorry, about how that performed. The results were were stark. We got great results from that and double-digit growth on every page. So I’ll put that link in the show notes as well so people can check that out.

Andy Crestodina:
Well done. The theory is that maybe you don’t need 1,000 articles, maybe you need 100 really good articles.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah. Exactly. So my next question is based around downloadable content and how do you decide what type of content to create? So very much we’re talking around written content here that’s great for SEO. How do you actually decide when and how to create downloadable content, and in what way does Orbit Media really use that type of content?

Andy Crestodina:
We don’t gate anything, and it’s counterintuitive. I mean, we have a million visitors a year. We have a very active blog. We have 15,000 subscribers. To be number one in our category, Chicago web design, we’ve met those goals and our goals for lead gen without any gated content. But I actually love it. I sometimes feel like I’m missing out even though I don’t need to do it, but I highly recommend it to a lot of brands. Basically the content upgrade or lead magnet or ethical bribe, there’s different names for these things.

Matt Byrom:
I like the last one. I’ve never heard that before.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah. It’s another format for the article they just read in many cases. So it might be something that is like, you got the text version … here’s the downloadable PDF with the checklist for this process I just described. It’s like, I just read an amazing article that told me how to do something. I’ve entered my email address to get a downloadable PDF with the step-by-step alternate format of that same article. Other times it’s the rest of the article. So the article basically gives like 80% of the advice away, but for the full super-detailed version of this enter your email address and you can get to the full super-detailed version of this. So it’s an upgraded version, in format, in depth. It has to be very closely related to the thing that they just read or they’re unlikely to do it. The one thing you know about the visitor on that page is that they came for that specific information. Getting them to take the action has a lot to do with how you sell it, how you indicate the benefit, how you position it to the reader and say, “If you liked this, you’re going to love that because that is much, much more, it’s much better, it’s easier to consume, it’s more portable, it’s more valuable.”

So the call to action is worth testing, and they’re very, very easy to test because the tools that let you do these content upgrades, the pop-ups and the sidebars and the technology for this usually has some A/B testing built into it like OptinMonster or something. But yeah, I have a friend who works at Digital Marketer, his name is Justin Rondo, and Justin has some advice on what works and doesn’t work. He says the best thing is … I’ve got notes I’m going to read. This is Justin Rondo’s recommendations for lead magnets. Tools, reports, case studies, assessments, quizzes and cheat sheets, those work the best. The worst, he says, in his experience are ebooks, white papers, generic info, of course. So if you’re writing a call to action or you’re deciding what format to use when upgrading your content for that ethical bribe, consider making it a cheat sheet or an assessment or a toolkit, that those are the things that, in his experience, and he’s brilliant, he’s done 3,000 A/B tests in his life, he’s a conversion optimization expert, those are what Justin suggests using.

Matt Byrom:
I guess that would be the things that actually then add further value to the piece that they’ve just read?

Andy Crestodina:
Exactly.

Matt Byrom:
Absolutely. Makes sense. Okay. So, over the 17 years of Orbit Media, which customer acquisition strategies have been most successful for your business?

Andy Crestodina:
Well, if you have two kinds of pages on a website, there’s the helpful useful articles, the content marketing content, and then the sales pages that are designed to sell and convert the visitor, optimizing the sales pages for the commercial intent key phrase is the most important thing. In other words, someone who has their wallet out and needs help and is a qualified visitor likely to become a lead or a customer is searching for what? Building search optimized sales pages is the beginning, and we talked about that a little bit.

There’s two kinds of key phrases. There’s commercial intent key phrases for your sales pages, then there’s information intent key phrases for your blog posts and articles and content marketing content. So search optimizing the sales pages for commercial intent key phrases, the dollar signs, not the question marks, is step one. The next step is just what we said. It’s the conversion optimization tactics where you could take them from question to answer to evidence to action. This is what’s called a dual threat marketer, someone who understands the cheese and the mousetrap, the traffic and the conversions, the SEO and the CRO. The people who understand how to do search optimization and conversion optimization have the ability to build pages that in some cases, a single URL can generate millions of dollars worth of demand. It is very powerful.

Matt Byrom:
Absolutely, yeah. It’s really interesting. I guess, that is like, they’re the total threat marketers as you like, that can do all those things.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah. When you meet them, you know. [crosstalk 00:40:01]

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, absolutely.

Andy Crestodina:
Like, wow, this is the person. They’re like these unicorns out there. They understand … Justin is a brilliant conversion rate optimization guy, he’s a CRO, but he’s not an SEO. It’s just not his focus. He works at Digital Marketer, and they have an amazing traffic strategy. Brian Dean is sort of a combination. We mentioned Brian.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, absolutely.

Andy Crestodina:
He’s an SEO, CRO, both. He’s more of an SEO, but … Copywriters, if you meet a copywriter these days, a digital copywriter and you ask them, “Are you an SEO copywriter or a conversion copywriter?” They should name one of … They should get excited and that should start a big conversation. If they say, “Well, I’m neither,” then I wonder what they’re writing. Really everything, every action we take in digital should be designed to either increase traffic or maximize the conversion rates because traffic times conversions equals leads, I mean, I don’t know what you’re doing if you’re not doing one of those.

Matt Byrom:
For Orbit Media, how are you guys generating leads if all your content pieces are ungated? What’s your main conversion angle? Are you driving people towards contact forms or I guess subscribe to your blog, but what would be your core conversion piece?

Andy Crestodina:
Well, the visitors to the content marketing content, the articles, are converting into subscribers through a very carefully optimized sticky footer on desktop, which is the vast majority of our visitors, because it’s a B2B site. The sticky footer becomes sharing icons on mobile. Well, we attract between 15 and 25 new subscribers per day just from that. There’s several places where you can sign up for newsletters. One is at the top of the blog, one is in the sticky footer, one is in the thank you pages after you become a lead. So those people become … That’s how we grow the list, and it’s possible to grow a list with double-digit subscribers acquired every day with no gates, it actually is totally possible.

The other side of it is the demand generation, right, generating form submissions and contact forms and actual business leads is just the contact form on the other half of our website which is the brochure part of the website, the search optimized, conversion optimized sales pages. So there’s two kinds of conversions. We’ll generate three to five leads, business leads per day, maybe a third of those are really good, and we’ll generate 15 to 20 or 25 subscribers per day, and those people tend to stay engaged for about a year or so before going inactive. So it’s not like a software company or a huge enterprise that needs middle of funnel content where I’m trying to do marketing automation or something. It’s really just those two mechanisms that create enough demand for both fortune and fame leads and awareness, contact form submissions and newsletter subscribers.

Matt Byrom:
I guess you mentioned there that people subscribe but then become an active after around a year. Do you have a lead funnel following that or a nurture campaign, sorry, following that that actually pushes people towards making a decision or not pushes, but actually drives people towards making a decision or making inquiry and finding out where their buying journey is at?

Andy Crestodina:
Well, we have a welcome series email, which everybody should have if you have a content marketing program. It’s just after you subscribe, you get a series of emails inviting you to come back to get more content and read other articles, read your top articles. Those subscribers, though, tend not to be in our business audience as much, because they’re from all over the world and our business audience is mostly Chicago. So our sales pages are optimized for geographic specific key phrases, so there isn’t that much overlap between readers to the blog and leads for our services.

Matt Byrom:
Okay, so you typically say that your and blog subscribers don’t usually turn into customers. Is that right?

Andy Crestodina:
If they’re local, the email newsletters have invitations to come to our monthly events. And when they’re in the same room with us and they hear a presentation, they often get very excited about the chance to work with us?

Matt Byrom:
And when they have the wine.

Andy Crestodina:
And the wine in their hand, yeah. The wine helps somehow. Our target audience needs a little alcohol before they become a lead.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, that makes sense.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah. It’s like college. It’s like day college or something, it’s a dating … Yeah.

Matt Byrom:
Cool.

Andy Crestodina:
So yeah, our content strategy is a little strange. The fact that there’s not that much overlap between the blog readers and subscribers and the business leads, not that uncommon actually. But the other side of it is to rank for the money phrase, Chicago web design, WordPress web design, responsive web design, lead generation websites, to rank for the money phrase we have to have high enough domain authority, we have to have lots of links to websites, to pages on our site. And to do that we have to have lots of content. So the other benefit of the content besides subscribers and conversions is that our content attracts enough links to give us enough authority to rank for the really valuable, really competitive key phrases on the sales pages such as Chicago web design.

Matt Byrom:
So that’s a great takeaway, actually. You’re using quite a large content strategy to drive rankings and domain authority, which actually, your main aim is not really to get people to the content, although that is a big part of how you can help and support and nurture people, but you’re actually aiming then to rank for those phrases so that you actually then bring people into your sales pages and get them towards the conversion goals of making inquiry with you if they’re in the Chicago area.

Andy Crestodina:
Yep, that’s it. That’s how the content and the conversions all really work together. It takes a minute or two to explain that and some people don’t … It seems strange to them, but it creates … I mean, with only one and a half marketers we create five million dollars a year in demand.

Matt Byrom:
Amazing.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, with this totally organic approach. It’s SEO and CRO.

Matt Byrom:
What are you using to track your metrics and return on investment? What tools do you use?

Andy Crestodina:
Google Analytics. Yeah. Our marketing, our technology stack is also very simple. We’re not using any marketing automation. we don’t have any expensive tools here. We use Google Analytics. We use some SEO tools, we use Moz and SEMrush, and we have some other accounts with things. We’re about to start using CoSchedule to manage some of the promotion. But fundamentally, there’s a CRM called Zoho and an analytics tool called GA, and that’s it. I think a lot of people who buy marketing automation platforms are overspending or overbuying. They don’t need all those features. You can do amazing content marketing without any fancy tools. I recommend doing things by hand for a while before you start to try to automate.

Matt Byrom:
You’re focusing on the value, really, rather than actually the wizzy technologies in that case. I can’t believe I just said wizzy technologies, but yeah, that’s what-

Andy Crestodina:
Exactly. Yeah. The fancy stuff, you don’t need fancy tools. Someone said, it’s the wizard, not the wand. You don’t need fancy tools. It’s totally possible to do amazing marketing without any marketing automation, without anything but WordPress and Google Analytics and a database to manage the leads you generate.

Matt Byrom:
Amazing. Well, thanks very much. I think that’s been highly insightful. So I’d love to bring this to our last five questions here if, you’re happy to do so. So first question is, what’s your best piece of marketing advice?

Andy Crestodina:
It’s to take a little bit of time to really try to empathize with the audience. What stops them from hiring you? What are their hopes? What are their fears? How does this change their life? Marketing is a test of empathy, and the extent to which you understand your audience is the extent to which you’ll succeed. That is, without that, you are lost. Nothing will help you. That’s key.

Matt Byrom:
Excellent. So, can you recommend a book to our listeners?

Andy Crestodina:
Boy, there are so many. One book that I’ve recommended fairly recently is a book about Google Analytics. It’s called Google Analytics Breakthrough. It’s written by the guys at E-Nor, which is an analytics company. It’s better than a lot of the Google Analytics training online because it goes into analysis with good examples. Most of the … like the Google Analytics Academy videos just talk about how to set things up, it doesn’t tell you how to do a real analysis.

Matt Byrom:
Sounds cool. I’ll certainly check that out and also put a link in the show notes as well. What software tool couldn’t you live without

Andy Crestodina:
GA, Google Analytics.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, I am getting that from our conversation.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah, it wouldn’t work. I couldn’t do it. GA and WordPress.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah. Perfect, keep it simple, but do what works, hey. What’s your favorite example of a marketing campaign?

Andy Crestodina:
If you analyze all the pieces involved what Joe Pulizzi did of the Content Marketing Institute is fascinating. All of the podcast and the books and the blog and the webinars and the smaller events were all really just intended to feed the pipeline for the super event, his giant singular monetization tactic once a year, Content Marketing World. I saw a presentation, he sold that business for 10 million plus, he’s already … he had a giant exit after just six years. But in the presentation, the last one that I saw from him, where he broke down how he grew the audience, how he monetized each format and each program and how each each all those also fed into his big event, where he is selling tickets and sponsorships. It is an amazing example of ecosystem marketing that, in fact, monetizes content without any separate product or service. It’s simply, the information and the content is the product. So that’s a really fun example.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, and then bringing people to the event. That sounds cool. And did you say there’s a podcast that you heard the breakdown on, or …

Andy Crestodina:
It was a presentation

Matt Byrom:
Okay, a presentation. Is that online or was that a live presentation?

Andy Crestodina:
It was a live presentation, but if you want the playbook for how to create and monetize an audience is in Content Inc. that’s another book. But Content Inc. is … I mean, if you ever meet Joe and say, “Joe, how’d you do it? What’s the secret?” His answer will be, “I told you. I shared the secret. It’s in Content Inc. I wrote it in the book. Just read the book.” It actually describes it step by step.

Matt Byrom:
Okay, cool. I actually haven’t read that, but I’ll certainly check that out as well. What other podcasts do you listen to?

Andy Crestodina:
Well, this is … I just got off an airplane where … I have a new phone, and so I had not downloaded podcasts, and so I was sadly looking at all these podcasts that I subscribe to with no downloaded shows. Probably a really good one for SEO would be Experts on the Wire.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah, yeah, I listen to that one. It’s good.

Andy Crestodina:
Yeah. Yeah. They share a lot of good stuff on there. So that’s a good one to check out.

Matt Byrom:
Yeah. I’d certainly recommend that one as well. Well, thank you very much. It’s been a absolute pleasure to talk to you today. I’d certainly recommend that everybody check out Orbit Media. Have a look in the show notes for this podcast so you can get all the information and bits and pieces that we’ve been talking about. And please remember to check out the next episode. So until the next time. Thanks very much, Andy. It’s been great to have you today.

Andy Crestodina:
My pleasure. Thank you.