If you’re in the field of content marketing, and you’ve never heard of Andy Crestodina, then you must be asleep!
Apart from being Co-Founder and CMO of Orbit Media, a leading digital marketing agency in Chicago, published author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing and hundreds of articles on the world’s top digital marketing sites, Andy is also a prolific speaker and generous dispenser of content marketing advice.
We are thrilled to be hosting him on our blog with a fascinating Q&A covering three of the biggest questions about content strategy, content creation, and upcoming industry trends.
We’re also very excited to be hosting Andy in a live webinar on October 23rd, where you can ask your own questions directly to the man himself!
In the meantime, read on to hear what Andy has to say:
Q: What are your top 3 tips for building a successful content strategy?
A: First, let’s define content strategy. Here’s my quick definition:
Content strategy is a plan of action designed to use content (public or internal) to achieve objectives within a business or organization. It’s a plan to use content to meet a specific business goal.
That’s pretty much it. But for content to meet that objective, it has to connect with an audience. So everything, every single thing, is about that audience. They are at the core of your content strategy.
So here’s my first tip:
1. Know your audience… and document your mission for them
When you have this in front of you, in black and white, you’ll save yourself from the biggest mistake: creating content that they don’t care about.
Here’s a quick template for documenting that content mission:
Our content (blogs, videos, social posts, newsletters, etc.) is where
[Audience X] finds
[Information Y] for
Once you have X, Y and Z figured out, you’re ready for step two…
2. Pick your battles… as in, your keywords
Some phrases, when people search for them, they mean business. They want to buy something or they’re ready to become a lead. These are the “commercial intent” keyphrases.
If you can rank for a few of these, you’ll build a steady stream of qualified visitors. Rank for the really good ones and you’ll find yourself in a river of traffic. Eventually, the great SEOs create a gushing waterfall of highly qualified traffic and leads.
It happens all the time. And it’s kind of amazing.
But the trick is to know what phrases to target. Some phrases won’t help because no one is searching for them. Low search volume. Other phrases won’t help because they are too competitive. You don’t have a chance.
So understanding the basics of search, understanding how to pick the target phrases for your service pages, is critical.
Keyword research is a skill that takes time to master. But I have a shortcut for you. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good guideline. Look up the domain authority of your website using the Moz Link Explorer, then pick phrases that meet these criteria:
Image source: How to Research Keywords, Orbit Media
We’re just assuming that shorter, more popular phrases are more competitive and that you have to stay within your competitive range.
3. Follow the data… to better decisions
It’s the nice thing about digital. There’s so much data! My third and final tip for a successful content strategy is to use that data to make better decisions and take more effective actions.
Regardless of what you did last week, you can use Analytics to answer any (or all) of these questions and get better results next week…
- Which of your traffic sources attracted visitors who are most likely to take action? Hint: Acquisition > Channels
- Which of your pages gets the most traffic and therefore benefit the most from improvements? Hint: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
- Which of your pages and content are best supporting your conversions? Hint: Conversions > Reverse Goal Path
- Which items in your navigation are guiding visitors to those pages from the home page? And which navigation items never get clicked? Hint: Behavior > Site Content > All Pages, drill down to the homepage, click on the “Navigation Summary” tab
I can’t imagine trying to do content marketing without these reports, this data, these insights, these opportunities.
If you aren’t measuring, you aren’t marketing.
Q: How do you get inspiration for new content creation to stand out from the crowd?
A: Inspiration is everywhere! Like every content marketer, I’m “always on” and open to ideas at any time. The trick is to capture them, keep them somewhere and keep building on them.
I use Google Docs to collect ideas for new articles. Some people use Evernote. Others use a pocket notebook.
Here’s how it works in real life:
- I accidentally lock myself out of my house.
- The locksmith gets me back in and then uses a clever incentive to get me to write a Yelp review. This gives me an idea for an article about how to connect online and offline marketing … I add it to my Google Sheet, which is a list of possible articles.
- I’m eating pizza with my family and I see a clever promotion in the restaurant. It’s an incentive to share pictures on Instagram. I get the idea to add this to my possible article… I take a picture and send it to myself.
- Later, I get the email. It’s a trigger to now start the article. I start a new Google Doc, put the photo in it and add the link to this doc into the Google Sheet. I now have the seed for a new article with two items: one from the locksmith, the other from the pizza place.
- Once that article has enough ideas (10-20 would be good), I’ll sit down and start writing possible headlines, start shaping it into paragraphs, start collecting the visuals… and then finally publish it.
Great content grows from small seeds. Seeds are collected and nurtured, growing over time into something big and beautiful. I have 60 or more of these seeds planted and 5 or so that I’m really focused on.
A lot of what you see on my blog are things I’ve been collecting and building for months.
If you start to run out of ideas, you can find topic sources in your Analytics, in keyword research, in conversations with your sales team, your customers. If the well still runs try, run through this checklist: 17 Sources of Fresh Blog Topics.
Q: What is the next big trend in content marketing?
Influencer marketing is about to blow up. Or it’s going to keep blowing up. But there’s one channel for a promotion that’s growing even faster. And you guys at Outbrain know all about this. I’m talking about paid promotion of content.
It’s the fastest growing channel for promotion by a lot.
This chart is from our annual blogger survey. It shows the growth of various content promotion tactics since 2014.
Almost four times as many bloggers are buying traffic compared to just a few years ago.
Why do bloggers buy traffic? Because it works.
Competing for organic traffic (the so-called “free” traffic sources) gets more difficult all the time. Think about the big trends in social and search:
- Facebook organic reach is lower than ever. It may finally flatten out at 1%.
- Google search results are now filled with so many features (ads, maps, videos, questions, featured snippets) that the top organic listing is a thousand pixels down the page.
The future of content marketing is paid traffic, but don’t let that discourage you. Content marketing was never really free anyway! And that’s fine because it’s always been worth it.
It will always be worth it.
Thank you, Andy!