By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific, moving soon to 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.
We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg. Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise. Recent Guests: Jim Keenan; Joanne Black; Aaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.
We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.
We were thrilled this last time to be able to talk to Andy Crestonia, Co-founder and the strategic director of Orbit Media Studios. Topic: Content Chemistry: How simple tactics can transform your Web traffic and lead generation
Some of the questions Matt and Andy Crestodina discussed were:
Why is SEO perceived as such a scary thing and does that perception need to persist for people to do it right?
That is an excellent question that is very rarely asked. I think SEO has kind of a reputation as kind of a shady kind of industry, with kind of a checkered past, because the people who buy SEO service, they tend to be a very low information buyer, which means that the people who provide the service can get away with some less than perfectly ethical tactics. When the people who hire you to do something have no clue what you’re going to do, that creates an atmosphere, an environment where it’s ripe for people that are less than perfectly standup professionals to actually succeed.
For example, people who hire SEOs often pay $3,000 or $5,000 or $10,000 a month, think they need to keep paying that money to keep ranking. That’s never true, which means that there’s a lot of SEOs that can kind of rest on their laurels and keep cashing that check, even though they might not be doing a whole bunch of stuff after the first few months, other than making the major improvements.
On the topic of writing business books: the book becomes another reformatting of your content that is ultimately intended to drive demand, qualified demand, and preference and differentiation as well, right?
The book just barely pays for itself. I think it sold like not even 10,000 copies total over the last however many years, but in a B2B sales context, which we all are passionate about this topic of sales, it’s a great leave-behind. It’s sort of a $10 business card strategy. We build websites. You meet with four companies to build your website. One of them left behind a book that blows your mind with everything you need to know. It’s the driver’s manual for the website and that gives you a competitive advantage in sales. It’s extremely effective in that way.
If I wanted to use it more for PR, I could just send it to people who I think might include me in something they’re working on or invite me to their event. If I was more deliberate about trying to get sales, I could just send it to different professors who teach marketing hoping they might include it in their syllabus. But yeah, it’s just another format for content. It’s something that’s part of a family of content.
Your job is to create traffic champions through your content.
You want to create a couple more traffic champions because there’s always a few things that have a massive disproportionate effect on your total number of visitors. If your job is to create a couple more traffic champions knowing that that’s going to create just way more brand awareness for you, then you don’t want to just keep making more medium quality things. You want to go make a couple more great things.
Listen to the full replay to get the rest of the insights and tactics.
About our guest, Andy Crestodina:
Andy Crestodina is a cofounder and the strategic director of Orbit Media Studios, an award-winning web design company, which has completed more than 1,000 successful website projects. He is a top-rated speaker at national conferences who is dedicated to the teaching of marketing. His favorite topics include search engine optimization, social media, analytics, and content strategy. He has written more than 100 articles on content marketing topics. He lives in Chicago.
Matt: Welcome, everyone, to Sales Pipeline Radio. I’m your host, Matt Heinz. Thank you for joining us. If you’re here with us live on the Lead Management Radio Network, but we are live every Thursday at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. If you’re joining us from the podcast, welcome. Thank you for following. You can always find our podcast and every future episode on Google Play, in the iTunes store, and every single episode of Sales Pipeline Radio’s available on demand at salespipelineradio.com. We, every week, bring some of the best guests we can find to interview on the trends and the latest in B2B sales and marketing, how to make the pipeline work for you, and how to close more deals and drive more revenue through more effective pipeline efforts.
I’m really excited to have, today, with us a very special guest, Andy Crestodina, who I had the pleasure of hanging out this week, earlier this week, in Toronto at the Uberflip Content Experience and was just thrilled to have him thrilled that time is up. It is Andy Crestodina Day, Paul, at Heinz Marketing. He was featured this morning on our blog in a “How I Work” session and very pleased to have him here on the radio show as well. So, Andy-
Andy: Glad to be here.
Matt: Thanks very much for joining us.
Andy: No, honored. This is Matt Heinz Week for me. It was fun to hang out there in Toronto and great to be here live. This is great.
Paul: One of our callers wants to know if there’s … because it’s a Matt Heinz Week and Andy Week, is there a special sandwich that we can order today, or anything? Is there any special item on the menu?
Matt: There aren’t any special sandwiches. For a second there, I thought your question was going to be, “What about Paul Week?” It should be Paul Week. We will do a Paul Week for sure. We’re going to spend a lot of time talking with Andy about content and including his book that he wrote last year, published, called “Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing” and I have to point out that … I mean, Paul, this conversation could take many different directions.
I think Andy is a true Renaissance Man. He is a pioneer in the content marketing space and we’ll get into that in a minute. He also plays the piano, speaks fluent Chinese. He is a certified arborist in Chicago and he has been a past docent of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. I don’t know what else you would add to that, unless somehow you’re also an Olympic athlete doing something coming up in the Winter Olympics, but impressive resume for sure. Maybe to start with, where did all of that come from? My goodness. Just a lot of different skills, a lot of different things you’ve been doing. Sort of walk us through a little bit of how you became such a well-rounded person?
Andy: You really dug deep to find all the anecdotes there. It’s rare for anyone to ask me about anything except content marketing, search optimization, Google Analytics, strategy, social. Yeah, it’s a fun question. I don’t know. It was sort of random in college that I did Mandarin. I mean, I started school in 1990 at University of Iowa, so it was pre-Internet, and I didn’t really have any other plans. I was kind of a bad student and Chinese seemed like a hard skill that I could prove that I knew it or not, so that kind of attracted me. The piano thing was just my parents making me learn it as a kid and picked it up a little bit later on. The architecture stuff and the tree stuff is just interest. I mean, everyone has interests. I mean, you could get the same intro for anybody, right? We all have things we love and if you put them all together into a few sentences, it does … makes it sound interesting, but no. Regular guy. Basically, content marketer, here in Chicago.
Matt: Also, apparently a very humble guy. I appreciate that very much. I do definitely want to talk about content here today. You gave a keynote at this recent Uberflip Content Experience, and from everything I heard and from some of the early returns, definitely one of the most well-received, most popular presentations. I think, in part, because the impact of what you gave in terms of the traffic and the lead and the pipeline impact that it can have, but also the relative simplicity. I mean, I think you started your presentation with a nod towards the fact that a lot of people are intimidated by SEO, that they are scared of the advanced techniques that I think a lot of SEO strategists really maybe try to intimidate people into thinking they need to hire someone to do it. But then you proceeded, for the rest of the 40, 45 minutes to walk through a number of very practical, very applicable tools that almost anyone can accomplish. Why is SEO perceived as such a scary thing and does that perception need to persist for people to do it right?
Andy: That is an excellent question that is very rarely asked. I think SEO has kind of a reputation as kind of a shady kind of industry, with kind of a checkered past, because the people who buy SEO service, they tend to be a very low information buyer, which means that the people who provide the service can get away with some less than perfectly ethical tactics. When the people who hire you to do something have no clue what you’re going to do, that creates an atmosphere, an environment where it’s ripe for people that are less than perfectly standup professionals to actually succeed.
For example, people who hire SEOs often pay $3,000 or $5,000 or $10,000 a month, think they need to keep paying that money to keep ranking. That’s never true, which means that there’s a lot of SEOs that can kind of rest on their laurels and keep cashing that check, even though they might not be doing a whole bunch of stuff after the first few months, other than making the major improvements. It’s kind of a weird business. I’m not sure exactly why.
I think that if people who bought the service and people who were offering it or people who did it themselves in-house as a brand marketer just spent a little more time and used a little more mental endurance to stay focused on the learning a little longer and knew more of what it was about, which is mostly indicating relevance. It’s not magic, right? I think then it would become something that people get more value from if they outsourced it or people would understand better if they did it themselves. I think there is kind of a bread and butter approach to it that isn’t that mysterious and so that makes it kind of fun to teach.
Matt: Absolutely. We’re talking today with Andy Crestodina, who, in addition to being an arborist and a piano player and everything else, he’s also the co-founder and Strategic Director of Orbit Media Studios. You can check them out at orbitmedia.com. He is the author of “Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.” Talk a little bit about the book and I think you alluded to sort of how it was developed in your presentation this week, but talk about where that came from and sort of the idea behind sort of the content chemistry. Why did you decide to call the book that, specifically?
Andy: Yeah. There’s a post that I wrote probably five years ago that was like the periodic table of content, which is sort of an infographic-y thing that just has a little diagram that shows, “These are the different formats for content: podcast, webinar, book, ebook, tweet, post, article.” The article, the blog post was about how to atomize big things into small things, how to combine small things into big things. The name came from that. It was just kind of chemistry as a metaphor, but the general idea behind it was the post that I wrote for Jay Baer, probably around the same time, called “Nice Blogs Finish Last.” I made the case that if you are just more structured and persistent and focused in your approach, that you will gradually write a book as you blog.
The advice in the presentation yesterday, or on Tuesday, was to create, in advance, an outline of everything that you know, which will eventually become your lifetime body of work, LBOW, your “elbow.” Your lifetime body of work. That’s basically what I did. I did at first on paper, then with Post-It Notes on the wall. I’m like, “This is everything I know.” Then I saw gaps and I filled them in with articles, publishing them, getting feedback on them, improving them. Then basically just, in the end, I kind of repackaged this whole thing as a book. It’s not that uncommon of a strategy, actually, just blogging into a book.
There were things that I had to … it took me several months after I had all the blog posts together to sort of repackage it. Then it became like an annual book, because it had screenshots and tactics and tricks that don’t apply anymore, so I had to rewrite them, remove them, and it’s turned into one of those things that gets updated every year or year and a half. The fifth edition will be out next year.
Matt: Nice. Yeah, I appreciate that effort and I think the dirty little secret for me is the last three books I’ve published have been written exactly the same way, where I had a topic that I wanted to cover, an angle I wanted to take. I basically sat down and wrote a table of contents first, of what I wanted that to look like and then looked at the blog and said, “How much of that have I already written?” and “Which of the parts of the table of contents have I not written?” and that became a big part of the editorial calendar moving forward.
There is still a lot of work. It’s not just cutting and pasting into a Word doc. There’s formatting, you’ve got to still make sure any sort of seasonal or timely references may be taken out, but there’s a huge difference in what people perceive you as when you have a blog versus when you have a book. To your point, it’s a lot of the same thing. I imagine that for your business and equally applicable to anybody who’s listening who’s running a company or running sales and marketing for a company, the book becomes another reformatting of your content that is ultimately intended to drive demand, qualified demand, and preference and differentiation as well, right?
Andy: Yeah. That’s the point of it all, if you think about why we’re doing this, it’s not to sell a bunch of books. The book just barely pays for itself. I think it sold like not even 10,000 copies total over the last however many years, but in a B2B sales context, which we all are passionate about this topic of sales, it’s a great leave-behind. It’s sort of a $10 business card strategy. We build websites. You meet with four companies to build your website. One of them left behind a book that blows your mind with everything you need to know. It’s the driver’s manual for the website and that gives you a competitive advantage in sales. It’s extremely effective in that way.
If I wanted to use it more for PR, I could just send it to people who I think might include me in something they’re working on or invite me to their event. If I was more deliberate about trying to get sales, I could just send it to different professors who teach marketing hoping they might include it in their syllabus. But yeah, it’s just another format for content. It’s something that’s part of a family of content. To do it, it’s just a matter of being a bit more structured and persistent and having more forethought. If you just plan it in advance, a year and a half, you’re going to have a book.
Matt: I definitely encourage anyone who’s interested. Go to orbitmedia.com. Check out a lot of the stuff Andy’s written. I mean, you can get access to his book there, but also some very, very detailed blog posts on a number of really heavy subjects. Speaking of detailed blog posts, yeah, a few things that you talked about on Tuesday, I wanted to sort of have you give some color here as well. One of the things I heard a lot of people at the conference talk about after your presentation and has certainly stuck with me as well was that you made a comment, “You don’t need 1,000 good blog posts. You need 100 great ones.” Talk a little bit about what that means and what that implies for content marketers.
Andy: Yeah. This is going to be a big change in the thinking for a lot of people who just believe that content marketing is just about putting out an endless supply of weekly medium quality things. If you’re at all interested in search and in durable visibility, because you made something that ranks in Google and gets visits every day, then it’s not really about making a lot of little things or a lot of medium things. What Google’s trying to give everybody who searches for anything is the best page on the internet for that topic. Now, if you go back and look at your analytics, you probably find you already have a couple of these. Virtually every website already ranks for a couple of somethings, right? A couple of phrases.
What your job kind of becomes … I didn’t explain it quite this way, but what you want to do, those are traffic champions. You want to create a couple more traffic champions because there’s always a few things that have a massive disproportionate effect on your total number of visitors. If your job is to create a couple more traffic champions knowing that that’s going to create just way more brand awareness for you, then you don’t want to just keep making more medium quality things. You want to go make a couple more great things.
You’ve already got a head start if you’ve already published a bunch, so going back and updating older things, especially older things that almost rank high or older things that are already converting a good percentage of visitors into subscribers, and just that strategy of updating content. I mean, the whole idea here, and I’m finding it to be true, there is far greater glory in going and making something good into something great … that page may already have high authority. There already might be links to it from other websites, than there is in making a brand new thing, which starts with zero authority and no one linking to it. It’s a totally different approach and I think that for people listening now, they may realize, “Yeah. What have I already got out there that I could make better that’s going to take less time and have far greater results?”
Matt: Absolutely. We’re really enjoying our time today with Andy Crestodina, who is the co-founder of Orbit Media, the author of the book Content Chemistry. We’re going to have more with Andy after the break, talk a little more about some of his SEO and content tips. We’ll be right back. Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: All right. We’re back and I don’t know whether you saw this or not, Matt, but I was checking your new guest as well. He did play third base for the Chicago Cubs for a short while. Don’t know if you saw that or not.
Matt: I did not know that. That was impressive.
Paul: For a very short while, but-
Matt: Possibly not true, but very impressive nonetheless. Well, thanks very much, Paul, for the insight. Welcome back to Sales Pipeline Radio. Hey, we’ve got a lot of great guests coming up as we leave August at the end of September, into the fall. Next week, we’ve got Adam Schoenfeld on Sales Pipeline Radio. He is the CEO and co-founder of a company called Siftrock. Imagine, if you will, Paul, every time you get an email and there’s a subject and there’s a signature line in that email, the contact information is automatically updated into your CRM system, into your contact database. All of the autoreplies that come from your emails are automatically if someone’s gone from the company and it’s updated if they give you other people to contact, it’s updated. These guys are disintermediating and changing the list business, and so we’re going to talk about list business moving forward.
Week after that, the week after Labor Day, we will be doing this show live from Cleveland, Ohio, in Content Marketing World. It is, I don’t know, built. Andy will talk a little bit about Content Marketing World. There might actually be the Woodstock for content nerds every year in the beautiful state of Ohio, in the beautiful city of Cleveland. But joining us again, today, and for the rest of our show today, is Andy Crestodina. He is the co-founder and Strategic Director of Orbit Media, author of the book Content Chemistry. We were talking about great posts versus good ones, really sort of focusing on getting better ranking for a smaller number of posts that really ultimately improves the traffic and quality of traffic you’re getting. Part of that, you kind of referenced, was the idea of updating old posts, which I don’t think a lot of people do very effectively. Talk about why that’s so important and a couple tips for how people should go about doing that.
Andy: Yeah. There are articles on your website that rank on page two in Google. There are articles on your website that visitors who do find them, love them, and add themselves to your email list. There are articles on your website that might rank high, but the rank is starting to decline. Each of these needs a little love and each of these, if you don’t do something, will either be a missed opportunity or for declining results. When you know exactly what action to take, right … here’s the problem with content marketing is there’s a bazillion things you can do at any given time. When you know exactly where to apply that pressure or, we said, how to get more juice for every squeeze, the actions taken on those things will give you far better results than probably anything else you can do.
Once you identify those, right, because you’re tracking your rankings, or you’re watching your changes in search traffic per post, or you know what your conversion rate from visitors to subscribers for each article, we could share links and articles and videos that explain how to find these things, but that’s an analytics conversation. Once you know where these things are, you know what that thing is, improving that thing is going to give you far better results than making something new.
As an example, I wrote an article about how to maximize subscribers by improving your email sign-up form. It ranked at the middle or bottom of page one for three years. Trickle of traffic, I was always happy with it, “But wait. I can make that better. I can make that a better piece. I can make it more concise. I can add more examples. I can go deeper on the topic.” Two weeks ago, updated it. It’s now ranking number three. It’s right under MailChimp and traffic to that page has tripled. That took me less time to get a greater benefit than had I just wrote some brand new article.
Matt: Yeah. I mean, it’s important advice. I mean, it was at that point that I was particularly taking notes because I think a lot of marketers really think about volume. I think a lot of marketers are in the habit of thinking about more. “I want more content, more blog posts. Doing a lot more volume is important.” I think what you’re pointing out is that not only is sometimes really focusing on the best quality best, but oftentimes, you have an opportunity to go back and make something better. An awful lot of companies have some great enterprise marketing blog posts out there that don’t say anything about account-based marketing, and in today’s day and age, awful lot of searches for ABM and ABM-related topics that may or not be getting a lot of search there.
You covered this a little bit this week in terms of talking about keywords versus semantic search. To this day, I still don’t know that everyone really understands the difference. Talk a little bit about precision versus intent in terms of content and what that means for how people should be creating content today.
Andy: Sure. This is 18 years of SEO. I did it back in the day, even before Google had finished winning the battle. We optimized content for Lycos and HotBot and Excite and AltaVista. It was weird back then and it’s better now. Basically, for a long time, what we all did is we optimized content for keywords. What’s the primary phrase? What’s the secondary phrase? I want, when people search for this combination of words and letters, for my article to rank high. What’s changed and what not everyone has adapted to is that keywords are, of course, when you think about it, intent. That visitor wants something. What do they want? What are they really looking for? Google has figured this out and knows that the searcher’s intent is really what matters and to show the visitor the page that answers their question.
You could do things to prove it to yourself. Type in, “What’s the name of that actor who’s in Fast and Furious.” Now, the search result will show Vin Diesel. You did not type Vin Diesel into your query, but it showed you him, because that page satisfied your answer. Now, that’s a really easy example, but here’s how it affects content marketing. Instead of writing a page that’s all about that phrase, write a page that’s all about the topic. Cover the topic more broadly. To do that, all you have to do is find the phrases and words that are connected to your topic, semantically connected to your topic within Google, and the clues for finding those phrases are everywhere.
The example I gave is an article called “Website Footer Design,” what to put in your website footer, and there they just target the phrase “website footer design.” I did some research for about an hour to figure out all the phrases that are semantically connected to the phrase “website footer design” through a couple of tactics and we can explain. “What are the related searches for this? What does Google suggest if you start searching for this?” All those words are like “website footer design,” “best practices,” “examples,” “code,” “copyright,” “inspiration,” right? All these related words. My article was simply keyword focused on “website footer design,” but also, I made sure to include just simple inclusion, working in the language, for all the related phrases. That means I’m targeting the topic more broadly, not just a specific phrase, and that article gets read 150 or 200 times a day now because it ranks number one for all the “website footer design”-related phrases and there’s lots of related phrases. That’s just a simple prescriptive approach to what we call “semantic SEO.” Don’t just target the phrase. Target the broader topic.
Matt: A lot of this insight … people, I think, assume you need to have some kind of crazy enterprise analytics platform for this kind of insight. I mean, there are some pretty easy to access tools for most people to really better understand what people are searching for and where their pages rank. What are a couple places that people without a lot of expertise or really a lot of money can take advantage of to find this information?
Andy: Yeah. Well, this conversation so far has been great, because the only tools we’ve mentioned are Google itself, WordPress, maybe, for publishing … I’m using Google Docs to do the writing, Google Analytics to find the pages that need the most love. We haven’t mentioned anything. This actually, I’ve got a little bit of an ax to grind and I’m going to throw out a strong opinion here, because I think this is important, is a lot of people who think that the first step is to spend a bunch of money on a tool.
That’s why I thought of it a second ago, Matt, when you said that, like, “People think they just need to keep publishing.” It’s sort of like a HubSpot mentality, like if you’re a slave to your publishing calendar, you’re buying 1,000 bucks a month worth of marketing automation software. Your early. You’re a junior marketer. You’re just getting going, but you’re still already spending $1,000 a month on a tool and you keep pumping out. It’s like, “Go to the gym, eat your vegetables, and publish a blog post.” I mean, if you take HubSpot’s advice, you can do everything they suggest and get no results at all. It’s more than the tool. You don’t need tools. You don’t needs tools at all. You need to make a great page on your topic. You need to understand how competition works in search and authority. I mean, there’s some things you need to know, but nothing I’ve ever suggested costs any money at all. It just takes time.
Matt: Yeah. As you and I’ve talked about after your presentation, I think this stuff is not rocket science. This stuff is not elusive. You just have to put your hardhat on every day. You’ve got to really be strategic about it. You’ve got to be smart about it, and you’ve got to be consistent about it. You’re right. You write something a year ago, two years ago, that did well. It may not do well forever, so being diligent about reviewing what’s working, what’s not, improving what you have, looking for the opportunities to better rank for sort of opportunistic keywords and phrases, super important.
Well, I’ve just got a couple more minutes here with Andy Crestodina. I’m assuming, Andy, for people to check out more of your content, orbitmedia.com is the best place to go. Anywhere else people should go to check out more of your content?
Andy: I love what you guys are doing with the audio format. I do have a podcast. It’s called “Content Matters.” There are 11 listeners, so we’re ready to welcome our twelfth. I’m kidding. I mean, it’s a fun format, but it’s really hard to tell. Podcasts, you get very little feedback or not much in analytics. There’s the book, “Content Chemistry.” There’s the blog. I write at a lot of places. You and I are both kind of members of that Content Marketing World community, so we’ll be there. You can catch us live and in person in Cleveland in two weeks. But, I don’t know. I’m easy to find. LinkedIn’s a good network if you want to connect with me.
Matt: LinkedIn, @crestodina on Twitter. If you want to see what we’re thinking about in a couple weeks in Cleveland, you can follow everything going on there with #CMWorld. Want to, again, super thank our guest, Andy Crestodina, who is the author of “Content Chemistry.” We’re going to have to wrap up here and let some other shows take some space here.
Definitely join us next week as we talk to you more about list management. You’re definitely going to want to make sure if you have anything to do with managing lists, keeping lists updated, keeping your database up-to-date for your sales and marketing efforts, you’d want to join us next week. Any time you want to check out a new episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, find us on the podcast at Google Play, the iTunes store. Find any past episode, including this one in a couple days, at salespipelineradio.com. For my lovely producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: You’ve been listening to Sales Pipeline Radio, brought to you by Matt Heinz and Heinz Marketing right here in the Funnel Radio Channel for at-work listeners like you.
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