Back in the early 2000s when I first met Andy Crestodina, most websites were just digital versions of corporate brochures with lots of images and little content strategy.
Even back then, the co-founder and chief marketing officer at Orbit Media Studios had a bigger vision for what a website could and should be: content-rich, designed to attract and convert visitors.
Since then, Andy has become content marketer extraordinaire, authoring “Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing” and hundreds of articles on content strategy, search and analytics. He is also an audience-favorite speaker at conferences around the world.
I chatted with Andy about his simple tips for improving content marketing, what he’s learned since we first met, and how he manages to stay so prolific — even after recently becoming the proud papa of a new daughter.
What are some non-obvious ways marketers can improve their content marketing?
This one should be obvious, but it's not. I meet people all the time who miss this one basic step in search optimization. If you're wondering why you don't rank for a certain phrase, follow these two steps:
- First, ask yourself this question: which page on my website is the most relevant page for that phrase?
- Next, ask this second question: why would Google believe that page to be one of the best pages on the internet for that topic?
The answer may jump out at you. It's possible that you didn't even use the phrase on the page. Or that you didn't use it in the most important places.
Ideally, the phrase you want to rank for is in the title tag, the header and in the body text. Also, if it's legitimately one of the best pages for that topic, it should be long and detailed. If it's less than 800 words, it's hard to convince Google that you're relevant and high-quality.
Now give the page The Control + F Test. Here's how it works. While looking at the page, just use the "find" feature in your browser (it's likely pressing the control key and the 'f' key at the same time, just as you would in Microsoft Word) and enter the phrase that you're hoping to rank for. Does it appear on the page? Is it in the header and body text? How many times?
Note: Using the target keyphrase in the links isn't really a good way to indicate relevance for this page. It's actually indicates the relevance of the page you're linking to. So focus on the header and body text.
This may seem like obvious common sense, but I find it's a new idea for many people I show it to! And it's a great trick for managing editors who want to do the SEO basics for anything they publish.
What have you learned about managing a popular content site that you wish you’d known when you first started?
I wasted years producing low-quality articles. From 2007 until 2011, I wrote a lot of crap. It wasn't until I decided to try guest blogging that I got to work with pro editors of the better websites. They pushed me to add more value, more details, more examples and more quality.
One of them was the one-and-only Ann Handley of MarketingProfs. You may know Ann as the best marketing keynote speaker in the world, but she's also an amazing editor. I was basically just a junior content marketer, pitching content her way, and she'd respond with short emails asking simple questions. "How could you change this to make it better?"
Of course, I wanted to impress her so I sat back down, worked harder and finally got something approved. It wasn't until later that I realized what a favor she'd done for me. She was pushing me to be a better writer.
[Editor's note: Read our interview with Ann Handley.]
Given how much content you personally produce, how do you get inspired and stay on top of all the to-dos?
For me the trick is to have a way to capture ideas for new articles and then to capture ideas that can fit into each. So I use a Google Sheet with a list of dozens of topics and ideas and then a Google Doc for each. Ideas for new articles go into the spreadsheet and ideas that relate to a specific possible article go into that doc.
The result is a big body of partially created content. It's always growing. When something gets past the halfway mark, I'll sit down, focus and build it up into something I'm happy with.
A lot of marketers do similar things. The goal is to always have a bunch of topics in the back of your mind, so if you see an example of something or some supportive research, you've got a place to keep it. It lowers stress and improves quality. The downside is that you're always "on."
The other trick I use to stay productive is simple: GO TO BED EARLY. That helps me get up early and be very productive before I start reading email. Here's a breakdown of the time of two different content marketers. You get the idea.
You can find more content marketing, analytics and web design tips from Andy on the Orbit Media blog.
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