For our latest podcast, we were lucky to have had the chance to interview Andy Crestodina, author of Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. In the short interview you are about to listen to, you’ll hear more about Andy’s book, as well as his answers to different content marketing questions. We talk about the elements in Andy’s “Content Chemistry lecture”, and how they work with SEO, social media, and analytics. All of these elements are what make up the “chemical” reactions and interactions that happen on the web.
Key content marketing questions for Andy Crestodina:
- What are the most important things you can do, as a small to medium-sized business, to answer your site visitor’s top questions?
- How do different types of content align better to different selling goals? And, how can you use content to convert prospects to clients?
- Why are “key phrases” so important in content marketing?
- In addition, what two things do you absolutely need to understand to be successful in using key phrases?
Listen as Andy Crestodina talks content marketing:
BlueBottleBiz: For small and medium-sized businesses just starting in content marketing, where would you instruct them to begin laying out a plan to create an online presence?
AC: It’s a great question. My general advice would be to make sure that the marketing pages on the site – not the content marketing stuff like the blog posts and articles, but the actual sales pages, or services, or products, or programs – those pages, if we polish those up first, everything we do in content marketing will be more effective.
So, the pages that promote our services should make sure that they answer all of the visitors’ top questions. They should supply evidence to support those answers. Maybe use testimonials. And, they should have specific calls to action.
When you improve the conversion rate from visitors into leads on the main part of the site – the marketing part of the site – then all of the efforts that we make in content marketing will be more effective.
Because, if we do attract that visitor, and if we are successful in that goal of bringing someone to the site that’s a targeted audience – someone we can really help, someone who we can profitably serve with our offerings – the likelier that they’ll take that action and become a lead or buy something is much greater. So, spending a little bit of time first, actually improving the mousetraps so to speak, before creating all the cheese – it can give you much better results.
We want to make sure we’ve done the little things that will make permanent improvements to the conversion rate: doing basic conversion rate optimization, and then jump into all the content.
BlueBottleBiz: Okay, so [talk about] the CTA right at the top.
AC: So, every one of our pages about our products or services should have a specific call to action. They should have faces and come across as human if we’re a small business. We can use that to our advantage. They should answer our visitors’ top questions about whatever that service might be. If you’ve done any sales for this offering, you can probably give a good sense for what the visitors might care about. So, answer top questions on these pages and then put a testimonial on every page.
Now when we get into blogging, when that visitor does (and it will be…one in a hundred or one in a thousand) click from the blog post to the product or service page, they will be far more likely to take that action, making every action we take in content marketing more effective.
BlueBottleBiz: So many businesses engage in content marketing to create that sales funnel that we’ve just talked about. What types of content are most efficient at moving that potential customer along the pipeline to become a client or a customer? And why are those types of content more effective?
AC: Well, it’s really an important concept here because different content has different abilities to affect certain outcomes.
So, content that answers questions (especially answers that people are looking for online), that content tends to perform better in search and can drive a greater percentage of visitors affecting the topline – the very top of the funnel. Content that has emotion or content that’s very visual – content that involves other people when you collaborate with other marketers – that content tends to perform better in social media.
So visual, emotional or collaborative content performs better in social media (and is) more likely to spread through a social network.
Content that answers the top questions of a sales prospect can actually improve the closing rate.
It’s the most effective stuff to produce, sort of at the bottom of the funnel.
So let’s say you and I have a company and we are a dog-walking service. You and I always get the same questions, like, “Can you work with bad dogs?”
Say 20 percent of our prospects ask us that question. So, any content that we produce about things like styles in dog grooming that may be super visual, might do great on social. Stuff about how to housebreak your pet – that answers a question – might do well in search.
But content that talks about how to walk a bad dog, how to do dog training, or how to work with temperamental puppies, that content is something we can send to our prospects and build credibility, and can actually increase conversion rates or sales closing rates.
So you can see how different content has different abilities to affect different outcomes. And, thinking of it that way can really help you decide what to write about to attain different goals.
BlueBottleBiz: So effectively establishing yourself as an expert, isn’t that a reasonable way to phrase that?
AC: That is the ultimate goal of everything that we do in content for sure. It is to gain visibility, gain awareness, gain credibility.
If you and I have a dog walking service with a hundred articles that teach very useful things and build lots of trust – and our neighbors or the competitor doesn’t have that – of course we’re going to have an advantage. Anyone who comes to our site is going to find lots of evidence that we’re great or good and that we are trustworthy.
BlueBottleBiz: So can you talk a little bit about the importance of using key phrases? You spend quite a bit of time in your book talking about researching those. How do you research those and how do you use them?
AC: Sure. I’ll give two criteria for researching key phrases, and if you miss either of these you won’t get any results. So, you need to meet both criteria.
One is that, of course someone needs to be searching for it [what you write]. So, if we use a phrase that is not a popular key phrase, then even if we do rank for it, the size of the prize is smaller. You know, maybe fewer people are searching for “desensitize” than searching for “barking”. Whatever the topic is, if someone is searching for that, then the relative value of ranking for that is a function of how many people and how much demand there is for the topic. Search volume [is what] you’d call it.
The other criteria is: do we have a chance of ranking for it? If you don’t understand this, you’re really not going to be successful in search.
There’s a big impact on the credibility of the website in general. So, Google is looking at all the sites that link to a domain or a website in general, and using the quality and quantity of those links to a website in deciding whether or not that site is authoritative enough to rank for a phrase. So sites with lots more authority have a much greater chance of ranking, and they can compete more successfully for the more competitive phrases. Newer businesses, smaller businesses, or you know, our new dog walking company [for example], can still rank. But, we’d have to target longer more specific phrases for which there is less competition. So a phrase like, “how to stop a Jack Russell Terrier from barking,” that’s a nine word phrase. We should have a good chance for that.
If you understand your own authority level, then you’ll want to only target key phrases if you’re in the same range as the authority level of the other sites that rank for that phrase.
You can look up your authority using OpenSideExplorer.com. It’s a free Moz tool.
And if you install the MozBar in Chrome, you can turn it on while searching, and you can see the authority levels of other websites.
So if, let’s say, we have a 25, and if the other sites that rank for “How to stop a Jack Russell Terrier from barking”, are all in their 20s and 30s and low 40s, we could probably target that phrase.
But, if “dog training” is a super competitive phrase, maybe all the high ranking sites for that are in the 60s and 70s and 80s – on this 1 to 100 scale – then we would have no chance of ranking for that phrase. And we shouldn’t even bother targeting it. We should write about something longer, more specific, maybe less popular, but much less competitive.
BlueBottleBiz: The very first part of your book validated something I noticed a couple of years ago. I had written for an organization using my Google Plus account. And I remember saying to somebody that every time I searched for the phrase in relation to the contest, my content came up first. I thought maybe that’s because I’m using my browser; I didn’t know. But after reading the first section of your book I understood that it really probably was because Google puts more credibility on an author that has a Google Plus account. So that was really an eye opening thing for me.
AC: There are so many little signals, so many little ways that we can indicate trust or build credibility. And I think that there are a lot of misunderstandings out there about how important the social signals are. There isn’t really evidence that Google is counting for Google Plus +1s or counting Facebook likes. But there are very powerful indirect benefits from having a good social presence. People who are active on social media will build relationships like we’re building now and have more opportunities to collaborate.
Collaboration often leads to links and mentions. Links and mentions lead to authority. Authority leads to greater rankings.
So it’s not obvious to a lot of people and people get it wrong. But the pros often say, and I believe as well, you really can’t do great SEO without also being somewhat active on social media, at least on the networking side.
BlueBottleBiz: And I noticed that you recommend doing it on a regular basis.
AC: Yeah and it’s fun. You know, people are the best part about the job and working with people is the most enjoyable part of marketing for me. It’s kind of boring and lonely to try to do everything [alone]. Just writing one blog post after the other – that’s really not that great of a time.
Being the super cool and savvy teacher that he is, Andy wants listeners to understand more about the topic of “Domain Authority”. For this reason, he offered us a great extra during his interview: an article he wrote:
How to Increase Your Domain Authority: And 11 Other Questions About the Most Important Number in Your Marketing
Andy Crestodina is the co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media. He’s an international top-rated keynote speaker and author of Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing. He can also be found on LinkedIn and Twitter, and has a podcast with Barry Feldman called Content Matters.