summer / 2017

The magazine of branded content
Understand your audience
and give them content
that they want
Juliet Stott
Andy Crestodina on using data to inform content
Juliet Stott
Oct 18, 2017

Andy Crestodina is a marketing veteran and a popular keynote speaker on the conference circuit. He co-founded Chicago-based web design company Orbit Media, and has, in the last 17 years, given web strategy and marketing advice to thousands of businesses. Forbes has ranked him in its Top 10 Marketers to watch, and he has been named as one of the top social media influencers in 2017 by Top Rank Blog. Here, Crestodina shares his views on data-driven marketing, why you should know your audience and how to create content that matches their intent.

Content: You have said in your latest book that having a great site isn’t enough to make an impression on your target audience. What are the five things marketers need to do to take their site to the next level?
Andy: My friend Barry Feldman says if the website is the mouse trap, the content is the cheese. Thinking of it that way, our audiences aren’t automatically attracted to websites, they need a reason to come. To attract them you need to publish something helpful, useful or something they care about.

• Step 1 is about really understanding your audience; what do they want, what do they care about, what are they afraid of, what are they hoping for? Then publishing a steady stream of articles that are relevant to them.

• Step 2 is adding answers to important questions on the sales pages, adding evidence to support the answers, then inserting clear, specific calls to action. Great websites have pages that emulate conversations with sales people—they go from answer, to evidence, to action.

• Step 3 would be adding the little bits of information the audience needs to find in order for them to take action or for them to become a lead.

• Step 4 is making sure everything is set up for measurement; goals and analytics are set properly so you get an accurate view into your visitor’s behavior as possible.

• Step 5 will be to review the data and see what’s working and what’s not working based on the results: Are your visitors taking action, if yes, then, for what topics? If no, why not, how can you target them better, how can you provide more helpful information?

The ultimate approach to digital marketing is to make decisions based on data. So, if marketing is about empathy, digital marketing is about data driven empathy.

It is commonly known that content creation is only a small part of content marketing, that the real magic lies in content promotion. How can marketers use SEO, social and email to promote their content?
It’s not the best content that wins, it’s the best promoted content that wins.

So, you can publish something wonderful, if no one reads it, it doesn’t affect your outcomes at all. Traditional channels in content marketing would be search, social and email.

Search is really a matter of aligning each article with a phrase that your audience is looking for.

Social and email are very different—they are a little bit more about being discovered. It’s about putting yourself in a place where you can catch someone’s attention when they are browsing through a stream or an inbox. So here, a lot of it is about the headline—writing one that leverages human psychology, curiosity or interest—that uses surprise or emotion.

The other approach to social media is doing something that is very visual and/or very collaborative—collaboration is a fantastic tactic in getting traction.

In your book you say that if you’re not measuring the impact of your content then you are not doing content marketing. How can marketers measure their results—what should they be looking for?
The two most important numbers in analytics is total traffic and conversion rates. Total traffic gives you an indication of the top line awareness and numbers of people exposed to your brand. The conversion rate is the percent of those visitors taking action—whether they’ve become a lead, a subscriber or a donor or job applicant—whatever the conversion goals may be.

We should always be measuring our actions: Did that article attract visitors? Did that email get clicked on? Did visitors who came to that page look at anything else? Did they flow through the site? Where did they go? When did they leave? What did they search for?

Knowing what they searched for is a great trick—you can set up analytics to see what people are looking for and then you can make content decisions based on that. If someone searches for something that you don’t have on your website, you have an opportunity to fill that gap, to create content that provides that visitor with the information that they need.

You have identified two types of visitor to websites—who are they and why should marketers pay attention to either group?
There are those visitors who go to websites just to find an answer to a question. Around 80% of people who search on Google are looking for information, they want to solve their problems themselves. They are the DIY visitor, and they use a question mark key phrase to search.

The other visitor, is what I call the dollar sign visitor. The phrase they use has commercial intent. These visitors are looking to take action, they are likely to buy something or become a lead. The phrase they use in search indicates that they want something. A question mark key phrase may be, ‘why does my sink smell weird?’ A dollar sign key phrase may be ‘Chicago Plumber’. The first phrase is trying to get information. The second has commercial intent.

Websites should have two types of pages—those that are aligned with the question mark phrases, and those which align with the dollar sign phrases. Understanding this will help you know how best to construct each of these types of pages, and each of these types of content.

How important are keywords? How do you find them? What do you do with them? What role do they play in a content strategy?
Search is a durable source of traffic. The traffic from email and social media is short lived, you have to keep active in each channel to keep getting traction. Search is so powerful because, if you are relevant for a topic, you’re likely to get traffic from it days, months and sometimes for years. I have a bias for SEO and search optimization, I believe you should align content with phrases, and literally try to make the best page on the internet for that topic.

When you choose a phrase, you should choose it based on two criteria – are people looking for it and do you have a chance of ranking for it? When you choose a phrase that is relevant—and you have a chance of ranking for it—then you should simply use the phrase in the title, the header, body text. Then you should make your page on that topic the best it can be—which means writing long, including lots of images, adding contributor quotes, using examples, statistics, everything that you can to make it a great page—that’s the heart and soul of SEO.

Do you think there a scientific formula for content marketing success?
Generally speaking the formula is to know your audience. Answer your audience’s top questions. Measure what your audience is doing on your website. Measure the performance of each page, and then iterate or make improvements based on the success or failure of each one.