Andy Crestodina Goes on a Deep Dive with Us
Andy Crestodina makes it pretty easy to get a sense of who he is. His bio, found on the website for Orbit Media Studios, the Chicago-based web design and development firm he co-founded and is the chief marketing officer for, starts with the words, “Do great work for people you love.” That phrase sets the tone for what Andy brings to the table – excitement, quality and a belief in creating and maintaining relationships.
A self-described old-school Gen Xer who prefers to meet face-to-face when he can, Andy is a leader in the ‘ethical marketing’ movement and gives his time generously to his team and to new acquaintances. With his team at Orbit Media, he’s put out some of the best digital marketing advice around via hundreds of practical articles, as well as the illustrated book he authored, Content Chemistry. And let’s not forget that he created Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference (where he likes to meet colleagues and friends for a coffee before sessions or a beer after).
The net-net with Andy is that what you see is what you get. Smart, talented, curious and generous, I was thrilled when he agreed to share his insights, humor and wisdom with me for The Human Touch Spotlight. Read on to learn more about his goals for 2017, why there’s no such thing as “SEO maintenance” and a fantastic list of “hopes” he has for content marketing over the next year. Enjoy!
What is/are your biggest priorities for the next 12 months?
I have two big priorities right now…
I had a realization recently. We have hundreds of articles on our site slowly getting older. Some are very good. They may even rank well in search. But they need a little love.
♦ So my first priority is to update this older content. I’m using an auditing process to see which posts would benefit the most from a rewrite. Usually it’s the ones that have good conversion rates or are slipping down in search results. Then I rewrite them. The results are amazing.
♦ My second priority is for the other end of the funnel. I’m being more diligent this year about asking clients for feedback and when relevant, asking for a testimonial.
♦ Gathering positive feedback that we can use on our sites (and in review sites) isn’t a one-time effort. It’s like eating your vegetables and going to the gym. You have do it a little bit all the time.
♦ The next trick is to get the most value out of that perfect little review. First by placing it on a high traffic page (check your Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report in Analytics) and next by adding all the little things that make it sparkle.
Your firm, Orbit Media is a web development company that has long legs into content. One thing we noticed is that you have a great bio on your site. It notes that you are committed to ethical digital marketing. What’s that and how have you seen the need for ethics in digital marketing grow since you started your firm in 2001.
That word stands out a bit, doesn’t it? Not all marketing is ethical, so I added that language to my bio. I have a background in SEO and I know marketers and tactics that are not legitimate in any way. And they give the rest of us a bad name.
Here are a few examples of what I would consider to be unethical marketing:
♦ Companies that charge their clients without adding value
♦ Companies that use “black hat” tactics that add risk to their clients brands
♦ Companies that get results that are really just vanity metrics with no real ROI
Search is the worst, because the clients are often uneducated buyers of the service. A lot of companies seem to think that they need to keep paying their SEO company to keep ranking in Google.
This isn’t true.
An SEO firm should improve your rankings. If your rankings and search traffic aren’t improving after 3-6 months, you should probably stop paying them.
It’s unethical for an SEO company to cash their clients’ checks month after month, year after year, unless they are delivering more value, targeting new phrases and driving more traffic. There’s no such thing as “SEO maintenance.”
Best marketing advancement of the past 10 years? Why?
The basic productivity tools have made a big difference for a lot of us. Google Docs / Office 365 has made collaboration much easier and more efficient. Great marketing is very collaborative, so we all need tools like this to help us work together. No more emailing files or worrying about who has the latest version.
It may seem like a small thing looking back, but productivity tools have come a loooong way since 2007.
Worst sales/marketing advancement of the past 10 years? Why?
Email outreach messages are more annoying than ever. People send so many silly emails, automatically following up if you didn’t respond to the first three cold emails.
Outreach is reaching new heights for outrageous. They’re so bad I’ve started saving them. Look at this one. It’s ridiculous.
I don’t know this person, but they are claiming to be worried that I’m being chased by a hippo…
Who replies to these messages??
Our first Human Touch Spotlight was with Ann Handley and talked a lot about content marketing, something you’re very focused on with your business and Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference, which you created. If you look 12 and 24 months out, what do you hope to see for content marketing?
♦ I hope to see more collaboration across brands and disciplines.
♦ I hope to see fewer mega-roundups and more deep dive interviews (like this one!)
♦ I hope that more little events spring up on niche topics.
♦ I hope for better connections between sales and marketing.
♦ I hope for less data and more insights.
♦ I hope less reliance on Google and Facebook.
♦ I hope the next generation of marketers find a footing in this wonderful business.
♦ I hope that little brands can steal a bit more thunder from the big guys.
♦ I hope for closer connections, partnerships and friendships between marketers of all kinds.
♦ I hope for more detailed, how-to content …and fewer animated GIFs.
♦ I hope for a lot of things, but those ten were the first to come to mind.
“A great marketer with WordPress, Analytics and Constant Contact will run circles around a good marketer with Hubspot.” -@crestodina
What trend is most exciting to you?
I’m still excited about live events. I like seeing people get together and keeping it real. So many online interactions and so many virtual companies. We should all meet up sometimes, right? Let’s have a coffee before the conference. Or maybe a beer afterwards.
I suppose it’s not a trend. In fact, many of the marketing events are down in attendance this year. But it’s still awesome. I’m an old school, Gen X kid and I love face-to-face conversation.
What trend do you think is overblown?
Marketing automation is overblown. A lot of people are wasting a lot of money on these tools. Here’s the problem: people tend to overbuy marketing technology and then they don’t use it well. They spend $1000 per month and use it just like they used to use MailChimp. It’s sad.
A great marketer with WordPress, Analytics and Constant Contact will run circles around a good marketer with Hubspot. There’s just no contest. A bit of talent is worth a ton of technology.
I read an interview with you recently in which you talked about the need for both quantity and quality for content marketing programs. That if marketers can increase frequency without decreasing quality, we should hit ‘publish’ a bit more. Big question here – how? Any baseline first steps to help guide B2B marketers so they don’t lose quality as they gain quantity?
Spend more time on your own articles. Polish them to perfection. To do this without losing quantity, you need to leverage your connections and find collaborators to work with.
The trick here is to use social media like a giant phone book. I like to use advanced search tools like FollowerWonk to find content creators who may want to collaborate. You can’t just search for the topic. You need to add a word that indicates they create content (such as “author” or “blogger”)
Here are step-by-step instructions for finding potential contributors using social media. Now build a list of these people. You’re going to need them!
Next, start building relationships. Take a few minutes each day to share their work, comment and say hello. Once you both know each other, invite them to collaboration. Any of these options are possible:
♦ Include them in a roundup
♦ Interview them in a deep dive
♦ Invite them to contribute a guest post
This is one of the most powerful ways to produce more high-quality content efficiently. It’s also a lot of fun…
What’s your business mantra/code?
“Content marketing is a test of generosity. The most generous brand wins.” -@crestodina
Televerde is a purpose-driven company and believes companies can help solve social problems. You helped create Chicago Cause, a non-profit donation program. How do you see that social commitment and responsibility fit into a business plan?
I can’t say that Chicago Cause or our status as a B Corp have a measurable ROI …but some of the best things in life don’t. And that’s fine.
Yes, I’m a measurement-driven marketer. Yes, I’m a business owner with a bottom line. But I still want to make a difference. I love what I do and I love the people I get to work with. And we all want to see the social impact. So we created Chicago Cause as a way to do just that. And it does make a difference for those businesses.
The best things in life don’t show up in any report.