Andy Crestodina on Creating and Measuring a Content Marketing Program
July 9, 2016
What transforms content into content marketing? Intent and design. To reach true content marketing maturity, we need to pair quality content with solid strategy. We need to understand the whole process of creating and amplifying content to achieve a specific business purpose—that holistic knowledge is what separates the masters from the also-rans.
Orbit Media Studios' Andy Crestodina has earned his place as a content marketing master. He has over 15 years of experience in web design and marketing, which he distilled into the best-selling book Content Chemistry.
We interviewed Andy for the Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing and he was incredibly generous with detailed, tactical advice. Read on for Andy’s tips on creating a content marketing program, how website design fits into a content marketing strategy, and more.
Q&A with Content Chemistry Author Andy Crestodina
If you were starting a content marketing program from scratch, where would you begin?
Andy: It really helps if you've done some sales work for a while. This puts you in touch with your prospects' hopes, fears, pain points and questions they need answered. As always, empathy is required!
Our first step is to create the content marketing mission statement. This is focused on the same prospects, but with broader topics. This will sharpen our focus and set the direction for everything that follows. Just fill in these blanks:
Our website, email and social media accounts are where...
AUDIENCE X finds...
INFORMATION Y for...
Once we have that documented, we can start listing out our main topics. This is one of many lists we're going to create. Here's a list of lists that we'll be working from:
- Topics we plan to publish (including the key phrases we plan to target)
- Influencers we plan to collaborate with (they are experts in our topics and they have serious followings) Networks we plan to be active within (this likely includes a few LinkedIn groups)
- Publications we'd like to write for (they have the attention of our audience already) • Formats we plan to use (blogs, video, infographics, podcasts, etc.)
Soon we'll have places to capture and collect the ideas and structure for all of our future efforts. Wrap it all up in a publishing calendar and turn up the activity levels to the highest sustainable level.
Finally, we need a good mousetrap for our cheese. The website has to do a lot of important things...
- Support all kinds of future publishing initiatives
- Must be search optimized with no technical SEO issues
- Must be set up to make analysis easy
- Must guide visitors toward the desired actions, including newsletter signup.
Our long-term plans involve an evergrowing email list.
Once this is all in place, we're ready to start publishing and promoting content.
In your eyes, what is the biggest difference between content marketing five years ago and content marketing today?
Andy: Back in the day, there were more green pastures. It was easier to get traction in larger, more general categories. Now, competition for attention is more intense in more industries. It's more difficult to win attention for bigger topics because marketers and brands have already moved in, claiming the advantage in all three content marketing channels:
- They've built the domain authority through links (search optimization)
- They've built a large list of subscribers (email marketing)
- They've built a following on online networks (social media)
The best content marketers combine search, social and email marketing.
But it’s not too late. The things that make it hard to compete against them will eventually make it hard to compete against you.
The advantages that you build in content marketing are durable and cumulative. You will eventually be a force to be reckoned with yourself.
The key today is to pick your battles. There is still plenty of opportunity to win an audience if you niche down to a more specific, less competitive topic. They're smaller, but the pastures are still green.
If you are tasked with hiring a content marketer, what is the #1 attribute you are looking for?
Andy: They are "center-brained." The best content marketers are both creative and analytical. They have the ability to combine art and science. They have the basic creative capabilities (concepting, writing, basic design) but they also know how to test these ideas and measure results (using tools, crunching numbers, analytics).
The best content marketers switch back and forth between the big writing ideas and the little details of editing. They are resourceful and multi-disciplinary. They also read a lot.
Most marketers are looking to improve content measurement. What’s the low-hanging fruit in terms of content measurement?
Andy: There is one very important but often missed bit of data in analytics. It's "top path" through your website. If you know this, you can do a bit of user flow analysis and quickly discover what to do next in your marketing.
Think of it this way, if your website was a city, there would be a highway of visitors flowing through it. But if you don't know where that highway is, you don't know how to guide traffic. You don't know where to put the billboards.
So take a look at the Audience > Users Flow report. It will show you where people start and where they go next.
You'll quickly discover where people are dropping off, where they're turning around and going backwards and where the biggest roads are running. Just glancing at this report may trigger the following questions, ideas and actions:
- Are my most compelling messages visible to people who follow the most popular path? Or do I have that amazing video testimonial tucked away on a back street?
- Are there labels in my navigation effectively guiding visitors to the right places? Or are they jumping around, looking for answers to their questions?
- Are the majority of people leaving from a certain page? Maybe that page is a weak link in my marketing.
- Have I even looked at these top pages in the last few months? They probably need to be polished up.
Many marketers have no idea that there are problems that cause visitors to leave. Instead, they spend their time trying to get more visitors. The bucket is leaking and they keep running to fetch more water.
Spend a little time improving your site for your current visitors and every future action you take getting more visitors will be more effective. Conversion optimization should come before search optimization.
As Barry Feldman taught us, your website is the mousetrap, your content is the cheese. Fix your mousetrap first, then go make some cheese.
Where is measurement heading? What does it look like for marketers moving forward?
Andy: The number of social media tools available is constantly increasing. But this isn't true with analytics. Yes, there are a few tools that fill in the gaps of Google Analytics, but most of what you need is right there in Google Analytics. And it's getting better all the time. Five years from now, we'll all be using just a few tools for marketing analysis:
- Google Analytics (website activity)
- Your social ad platform analytics (impressions, Click-Through Rate)
- Your marketing automation platform, email service provider, or CRM (open rates and connecting specific visitors to website activity)
It will be possible to connect all the dots. The possible insights and actions will be very powerful.
But the skills in the industry won't keep up with the technology. Finding people who can set this up and then squeeze insights and actions from it will be more difficult than ever. Recruiting for marketers with analytics and marketing automation skills will be fierce.
For a comprehensive look at content marketing from planning to measurement, download The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to Content Marketing.