An Interview with Andy Crestodina – Co-Founder of Orbit Media

This weeks featured interview is with Andy Crestodina, Web Strategist and Co-Founder of Orbit Media. Orbit Media is a wildly successful Web Design and Web marketing firm in Chicago, working with local legends like Lou Malnati’s, Vienna Beef and heading up the NATO Summit 2012 web efforts.

You’ve been doing content marketing for 10+ years now. How has it changed since you began?

It’s changed a LOT. It’s become more formalized and more structured. Ten years ago, people used to write shorter posts based on new ideas with clever headlines. There was a lot more experimentation and wacky ideas.

Today, content marketing is more likely to be rooted in strategy. The research and data has shown us what works, so marketers tend to stick to best practices. Modern content marketing tends to have less experimentation. Content today is more likely to be…

  • Longer
  • More images and formatting (lists, internal links, etc.)
  • Edited through an internal process
  • Keyword focused and search optimized
  • Measured with Analytics

This is generally a good thing, but sometimes I wonder if we haven’t lost something.

I used to write zombie-themed blog posts and semi-random roundups. I once wrote a poem about SEO. But now, I tend to write longer, detailed, how-to articles with step-by-step instructions and an image at every scroll depth. I do this because I know it works and my audience responds well.

How do you determine the proper balance between content strategy, search engine optimization, social media, and Analytics?

For me, these all fit together. Content strategy is done upfront and involves planning the content and promotion. Search optimization, social media, and email marketing are all channels for promoting content. Finally, Analytics is the measurement of the effectiveness of all content and promotion and also the behavior of our audience.

Here’s how the pieces work together and support each other and the needs of the visitor:

So everything has a place!

Speaking of balance, how do you decide which social networks to focus on? 

Most people will tell you that Facebook and Instagram are good for B2C. LinkedIn is good for B2B. Twitter works for either. But there’s more to it than that.

There are two main benefits to social media:

  • Traffic: promoting content, brand awareness, and visibility
  • Networking: connecting with influencers, keeping in touch

We’re a web design company so our marketing goals are about lead generation. That means we need a smaller quantity high-quality visitors. And visitors from social media almost never become leads.

So for me, social is more about networking, making connections and building relationships. You can do that in any social network, but LinkedIn seems to be the best. It’s how we met, right Jess?

So I’m active in LinkedIn and Twitter. I almost never use Facebook or Instagram.

What 4 action steps would you take today to accelerate growth for content creators.

Let’s assume you’ve done the basics for content strategy: you know your audience and you’ve documented your goals. That’s not the main problem for most professional marketers.

But getting the work done, getting the content written and promoting the content once it’s live …that’s hard.

Here are my top four tips for speeding up growth

1. Use data to choose your topics. 

There are lots of tools that will tell you what to blog about. They’ll show you what your audience is searching for, what gets shared the most, and what’s working for your competitors.

2. Collaborate with other bloggers

Inviting others to contribute makes content creation easier and more fun. You don’t have to go it alone. Get contributor quotes, invite others to guest post, use email interviews (like this one!) and curate roundups.

3. Get visual

Visual content is more engaging. Include multiple images in each article. Visuals increase sharing and improve memory and retention.

4. Measure what’s working

If you don’t check your Analytics to see which of your email subject lines get clicked, which of your articles is ranking and which

And here’s a bonus tip, make sure your email signup form is polished up. You can optimize it to maximize the conversion rate by adding the three P’s: prominence, promise, and proof.

What are some of the common SEO mistakes that people make?

A lot of mistakes start from the very top. And I mean the top of every page. A lot of sites have vague website navigation labels that don’t indicate the relevance of the page.

Descriptive navigation labels tell search engines (and visitors) the topic of the page. It’s a chance to communicate quickly and clearly. unfortunately, millions of websites miss the opportunity and use labels that are totally generic. These are some obvious common SEO mistakes, that need to be fixed.

Look at these examples. The first says nothing and doesn’t help SEO (Search Engine Optimization) at all. The second is descriptive, giving the search engine an idea for what the page is about.

Where do you see content marketing in 10-20 years from now?

Tough question! It’s possible that the digital giants (Facebook and Google) will launch tools that make publishing content easier and more effective. They might take on WordPress somehow.

I hope you enjoy with Andy Crestodina. It was a pleasure to interview one of the sharper minds in our industry and I urge you to check out his book Content chemistry.

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