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How To Create An Epic Customer Journey With Content Marketing

In Conversation with Andy Crestodina

For this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media, Andy Crestodina joined Matt Fraser. Andy highlighted the most effective technique for approaching a content marketing funnel and crafting content to create an epic customer journey. Watch this episode right away to ace content marketing.

Optimize from the bottom of the funnel. Start with the end of the visitor’s journey because there’s something wrong down there. Nothing else is going to help.

Andy Crestodina
Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media

Welcome to this Ecoffee with Experts episode. I’m your host, Matt Fraser. On today’s show, I have a very special guest. We’re going to be talking about how to create an epic customer journey with content marketing with none other than Andy Crestodina. Andy is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Orbit Media, a full service digital marketing and Web development agency headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. He has been in the Web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. And in that time, he’s helped thousands of people do a better job getting results online. He’s a true evangelist for content marketing and an ethical digital marketer. He’s also written the book “Content Chemistry”. You’ll have told me the rest of the tagline of the book. But he is also a regular speaker, both locally and nationally. And not only is the founder of Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference, but he’s a regular face on the national circuit, when not wearing his marketing hat. He enjoys scuba diving, playing the piano, traveling and spending time with his two children and wife. Andy, thank you for being on the show. Pleasure to have you here.

Glad to be here, Matt. I’ve been looking forward to this.

Yeah, right on. So you’ve had an interesting journey so far. What were you like in high school?

I moved the bunch as a kid. Soo I have two brothers, which is good because I was kind of introverted and had trouble acclimating to new schools. I was pretty nerdy, just like the skinniest kid in class, picked last for every sport.

Like you and me both. But I liked what I liked. And I was into board games, role playing games and art. I found friends who were also into those things, so I found my group in the end. We’re talking about the 1980s so this is a while ago. But it’s a fun starter question, basically a bookish, nerdy kid with a tight group of close friends.

I was kind of the same way, kind of nerdy. But it’s amazing how you and I are doing something as a vocation that didn’t even exist when we graduated. That’s the amazing thing, in kindergarten we had this time capsule that we created, we opened it when I was 24. I invited everybody back and we had to put all these things in there and I had to write what I wanted to be when I grew up and what I wanted to be doesn’t even exist anymore. I have no idea why I chose that. I don’t think I chose it because I couldn’t think of anything. But it was a Milkman. I have no idea why in kindergarten I thought I should be a milkman. But anyway.

So that being said, how did you get started in digital marketing? I know you’ve had a journey, but what was the key moment or event that happened that you’re like I want to get into web design and learning about the Internet and leveraging that for a career?

Well, there were no classes in digital anything when I started in college and I was a pretty bad student, didn’t know what I wanted to do, and finally figured it out, I got inspired by these foreign language classes I was taking, so I ended up with Mandarin. So getting closer to graduation, I’m like, I need to get a job with this degree. What I’m going to do, okay, I can be a teacher. So I got certified to teach. I was going to be like a secondary ed like high school teacher of Mandarin and then graduated college, went to China, lived in China, came back and decided not to go right into the classroom instead to see to what’s happening in business. So I got like a regular kind of desk job. I was a recruiter, but I wanted but the Internet was really getting interesting this the late nineties and I just sort of working on personal products for my friend, roommate from college and friend from high school. And it was interactive. It was like based on flash, like we were like building things, like books, like really fun, weird stuff. And then just got obsessed with this intersection between creative and digital, creative and technical art and science. And so I quit the day job, which was recruiting in the late nineties was very good. My girlfriend thought I was crazy, quit the day job, started building websites with him. He’d already been doing it for a several years. He sort of first generation web development. My co-founder and business partner Barret Lombardo. And this is like mid-nineties. But it was I just wanted to to make stuff like my would be career would have been not milkman but architect like my grades weren’t. Yeah, I didn’t have the background for it, didn’t go to school for that anyway. So I thought this is it. Like it’s, it’s usable, it has requirements. There’s a minor technical aspect to it. So I started building websites in January of 2000, formed over media April 2001 and right after launch the very first sites I realized I need to understand search, I need to understand analytics. This is prior to Google Analytics. And then so I started building in search optimization of the projects we were working on. Get a fast forward to like 2005 or 2006. I realized I need to understand marketing so that we can get our own clients. We were basically a outsource partner to agencies back then. Okay, then finally figured it out. In 2007, combined the articles with a newsletter to keep in touch with more people with, and autopilot for maintaining connections over a longer period of time. And now that kind of kicked off and that was the convergence of the time, like blogging and content marketing and search and social and email all came together right then. Then I realized marketing is just teaching. So that’s the full cycle. The full story. This is basically like curriculum development, which you mentioned in the book. The book is like a textbook. This is speaking at conferences, it’s like being a lecturer at a university. So I’m basically a teacher, which was what I was planning to be from the early mid-nineties, but just got obsessed with the intersection between art and science and then ended up building a company that needed marketing and marketing is in fact mostly teaching.

That’s amazing. I never really thought of it that way. Marketing is teaching. You have a message, like I’m a student of Dan Kennedy and those things direct response marketing, but you have a message, medium and market. So as a teacher, you have a message that you want to teach people about what you do, whether you’re a lawyer or whether you’re a digital marketing consultant or whether you’re a baker or a restaurant owner. You still want to teach people about your business and about why you do what you do and how you do it. So that’s very interesting to have that mindset about it.

There are other content strategies, but most content marketing programs are based on practical utility, know how to stuff. So most content programs have a teaching element at their core. Marketing more broadly includes things like advertising, which could be storytelling about a brand or other things, but content marketing and content strategy specifically is very much focused on an educational element for almost all content marketers. These are the programs, right? Like you could create a kind of marketing program that’s just based on strong opinion, you know, like counter-narrative point of view, these are the perspectives or just, you know, collaboration with influencers. Since 2010 I have been writing longform original research, search optimized, how to articles, on a giant range of content related topics and attract as such to attract a million and a half visitors a year, nine days a year. It’s a it’s a $7,000,000, 50 person company with $0 spent on advertising. This is one of the many businesses that’s based totally on inbound and content.

Wow. That’s amazing. Thank you for sharing those numbers. Didn’t have to, but I have been on your list and don’t ask me how I got connected to you, but we’ve been connecting on LinkedIn for a long time, like over ten years, and this is the first time we’re talking. But it was your content, you know, I was like, Man, there’s some damn good content. Like, I got to follow this guy, I want to be on his list. Even though,I was trying to build a marketing agency as well. But I still it was the content. So what was it? So, you realized back when you were still doing this and you were you mentioned 2007, That’s interesting, because that’s when I joined Facebook. WordPress was starting and was at the beginning of the curve, whether we are in that now, I have no idea. But that really seemed when Web 2.0 publishing sort of deal and so and I mean although people are doing until before that but it really seemed like that’s when WordPress became easier to use in my opinion. I think that’s when WordPress 3.0 came out which was in my opinion a game changer.

My point is, You were talking about making content, When did you realize that it was the content that was going to make a difference? You know what I mean?

Great question.

That “Ahan”. Moment!

Well, this was so I was doing all the sales and marketing because we were like a, just a tiny firm. I didn’t have these days I had like a CEO and we have management players and stuff like that, just tons of smart people. But back then it was like I was just writing proposals all night and doing sales meetings all day and it was exhausting. We got to 2.2 million without any bigger help with that. So I realized that I was missing opportunities because I wasn’t keeping in touch with people. And I needed to keep in touch with cold leads, people who didn’t hire us, people who are still in the pipeline over months. It’s a long sales cycle. We do web development and and just passed clients. So this was a moment when I realized, I’m just going to write an article. I’m going to post it on our website, call it a blog if you like. I’m going to send that out a link to that article with a tiny newsletter to this group of really good connections, people I’ve known, people, you know, current clients is about 250 people at that time. And then that combination of, you know, an email with a call to action and a blog post on the website. And then later, it just was a way to to try to put these contacts on a kind of an autopilot so that I could stay top of mind with them over a longer period. Because seriously, you only need a website like every four years. And I need to keep in touch with hundreds or thousands of people over time. And you just say top of mind with thousands of people to have them think of me in that one moment, on that one day when they are ready to redesign it. So that was it.

Then realized like I could optimize these for search and then I could collaborate with influencers organically and just on, you know, just regular contributor quotes and I could get traction in social media. So it took me a few years after publishing the first one, but it ended up coming this kind of unified strategy where a piece of content is promoted and search and or social and or email measured through analytics. Iterate. Yeah. And then went from there into the bigger formats, started publishing original research, started a monthly in-house event, started doing annual conference, wrote a book and those and more recently a lot of videos.

Yeah, that book is really good. I’ve purchased it through Kindle and I’ve looked at the outline and it’s definitely I can understand why universities are using it as a textbook, that’s for sure. How did you like. Here’s the interesting thing, is it I think personally and this is from my personal experience, but there’s also maybe other people out there who are agency owners who are thinking this as well are some people Struggle with something called the imposter syndrome. Jeff Sauer then wrote an email. I was on his list, still am and said, you suffered. The imposter syndrome was the subject line. And myself, I have invested. More money than I care to admit. Learning about digital marketing. Not thinking I knew enough and struggling with the imposter syndrome. So my question is how did you come up with ideas to write content. That you knew about or maybe didn’t know about. Like, did you fake it until you make it? You know, you could plead the Fifth if you want. Or did you just you know, a lot of people say you should document your journey as you learn. And if I could go back in time and document everything that I learned as I went, oh, my goodness. I think the difference between then and now, many different things would be a lot different. But that’s my question, is like how did you come up with the idea of ideas for content? Like, was it based on keyword research or was it based on the clients you were working with at the time? Or are you just a genius that came up with it?

No, no. I think I’ve never really had a keyword first strategy where I start with a keyword and then decide what to write. I’ve always been very close to the clients. I still market is really only half my job. I spend a lot of time doing sales and doing service, so I’m always, I’m always working closely with clients and, and thinking about what they they’re asking me questions and I’m working on presentations and, you know, getting ready for a meeting, you know, documenting maybe a procedure that turns into content or sometimes there’s procedures internally that we have that I can turn into content, but some of the things that have helped a lot is I have, I’ve always tracked a list of everything I’ve ever published. You call it your elbow, your lifetime body of work. So my body of work is tracked on a spreadsheet and as and some of those things have gone out of date but rank well so those are things that I need to go back and update. So that’s that’s using it’s a content strategy that pushed that solve some of the topic question because it’s like why I rank really high for this like email sign up form vertical and it ranks declining. I need to update that. So about a third of my articles are just updates of old articles, so that helps a lot. Another one though, a big one for me was when I created the monthly event. It’s an in-house event every month and it was for ten years prior to COVID. And all these and it had like a small group of people who are sort of, it was called wine and web. It became quite popular. And I had friends who, when they came out of town, gave great presentations there. It was just, you know, 30 people max, in that conference room. But it was, you know, a small group of people who came every time and then new friends and invite prospects. But Wine and Web was a place where I would sort of, always had this deadline of having a presentation coming up and this pressure to make something good or fail publicly. If you want to push yourself into higher levels of quality, commit to giving a presentation on a topic in two weeks. When you’re going to cram like it’s finals week until you’ve got a very polished, you know, lots of visuals and, you know, a well-organized presentation. And then that often got repurposed into content or content, got repurposed into wine and web presentations, and then it got so much practice. And I give, I don’t know, like 100 presentations a year webinars and I got so much practice giving presentations again, teaching. That is a very highly rated presentations at conferences and I have lots and lots of very polished decks and was frequently invited back. So it’s like in September, this’ll be my, I think ninth year presenting a content marketing world. I presented it to marketing powerhouse B2B forum seven times. I’ve been social media marketing world six times I’ve done, yeah, I’m kind of like one of the usual suspects at these events, which again creates more pressure for more quality. Oh, no. Kind of marketing world’s coming up. I got to make something new. I call this feedback loop of, you know, presentations, informing articles, clients, driving topics, testing out things in smaller groups or formats, and then improving them for bigger groups.

Do you test new content ideas on… I don’t think you would risk doing new things on a client’s website. But do you test new things on…Websites or personal project websites. You don’t have to reveal anything. I mean.

No, no, no. This is mostly like content strategy topics, but there are lots of things that we try. So when we try something on a client’s website, it’s obviously they’re approving it. So we’re not. Yeah. You know, it’s not like pure experiments, but like we’ll learn things from clients that I can then publish. For example, we do a lot of AB tests and get started. It’s another thing is outperformer more often than not. Like get a demo, request a demo, try it now contact us. Well, get started. Start to win in a lot of these tests. Yeah. So, hey, I’m going to share that. I want to teach that. I want to tell people that I’m going to publish that, you know, or email signup forms. It’s like a lot of e-mails in a form, say like sign up for updates. That’s terrible. I think that’s easy. Why do people do that? It doesn’t make a promise. So there’s best practices and things that we’ve formed from our own work. We do 55 sites a year that get driven into our content where I’m able to teach things like good and bad ways to do testimonials. I can tell you a lot about how to do a good testimonial, you know, better or worse. So that’s being very close to actual client work. Plus I have access to 500 analytics accounts. Yeah, I can tell you. So in a few days, I’ll be publishing an article about GA4 engagement rates. I can tell you right now, based on 60 websites, we’ve installed it on what an average what what a good engagement rate is. The answer is it’s just a draft piece. It’s not live yet. By the way, Geoff Sauer is in this article, I’ve got a contributed quote from him. You just mention him.

Oh, well. You know, I want to have him on the show.

The average GA4 engagement rate is 55%.


I know that because I have access to tons and tons of other client account so that’s helpful, too.

That is, isn’t it? There’s so many questions going through my mind that I can ask you. So, instead of going back, I’ll ask you this question. You are a content marketing expert. There’s no doubt about it. Probably one of the best in the world. One of the things you mentioned in your book about content chemistry is writing content. I don’t have it in front of me right now. I’m sorry, but it’s writing should.

I will send you a copy. The Kindle version is the worst for that book, by the way. It’s a beautiful printed piece, so I love that you got the Kindle. I should send you a printed copy because it’s so much better reading experience. It’s the illustrated handbook for content marketing.

Yes, I saw that.

Kindle’s pretty rough. I don’t recommend the Kindle. The new edition We’re not going to make it a Kindle.

Hey, there you go. Everyone don’t buy the Kindle version. I just have a Kindle and I find it so easy to read the books. The amount of books that I read now has gone up tremendously because of having a Kindle. But understand what you’re saying. So yeah, I would love to have that. I guess the question is you talk about and this is interesting and I’m so glad of talking about this here you talk about creating content for the customer journey and that is we could talk about that, I’m sure, for 3 hours. What is the process for? Let’s see. And if I could use an example, just to give you an idea for context, like let’s say there’s a renovation company, home renovation company, and they’re launching. What would be your process for taking them through? The adventure, whatever the process of generating enough content for the journey that the customer is going to go on. If I could be more specific, let’s say kitchen renovations.

Now I’m excited. It’s like a kid with a ball. It’s like, okay, you gave me a topic, you gave me a business like this is an idea. I love it. Okay. So I strongly believe that optimization and customer journey and all and digital marketing generally should begin at the end of the visitors experience. So although it would seem to make sense to start with the top of the funnel, I’m going to go backwards because I think going backwards is a better chance to get a better result. So, the bottom of the funnel, the goal is to bring the visitor to a thank you page. That’s the moment when they just contacted you. So we’ll go up from there. The contact form, the contact form should be should be another chance to reinforce that you’re legit contact form, pay the page with the contact page convention, the number of projects, the number of professionals that they experience in the region or area could have a face of the person you might talk to. Now move up call to action that brings people to the contact form I mentioned. To get started, you could also just say chat with the kitchen expert, chat with a designer, share your ideas with the designer. This might increase the click through rate from the call to action to the contact form. Now go up one more step the service page. What’s the page on which they are excited to click the call to action? Well, this is a very visual thing. It should have a lot of probably there’s just tons and tons of galleries. If I don’t see and my spouse or partner doesn’t see the a picture we like, we’re not that likely to click the call to action. If I’m a modernist style, I like, this certain aesthetic and everything that I see there is heavy and dark wood and I’m not likely to convert. I’m going to keep looking until I see something I like. Same as web development. Nobody’s going to fill out your contact form until they’ve seen something that they sent that they think looks interesting in your portfolio. So these pages can be basically portfolio pages with tons of galleries and photos. That’s going to be a key decision criteria for this visitor also so now moving up, how do I attract the person to that page? That page or a different page on the site would have to be kind of keyword focused, likely hopefully to attract visitors who are looking for, you know, Alberta cable, kitchen remodeling.

Chicago kitchen remodeling.

Chicago kitchen remodeling. Now, I’m not going to target that key phrase unless I believe I have a real chance. I mean, SEO, I’m going to look up to my chance of ranking based on my level of authority. Is the keyword difficulty far beyond reach for me. There are the other pages that rank in the same level of authority as me. If you’re not doing that, if you’re not answering that question, you’re not doing SEO. It’s a mistake to target key phrases for which you have a 0% chance of ranking so that it’s going to be very deep. So assume that I do. And then I’m a business that’s been around for a little while. I have sufficient authority to rank for that phrase or similar niche phrase. “Chicago, modern kitchen remodeling”, something more specific, less competitive, maybe I’ve got a Sixties rating and a buildable site map with lots of these entry points. So now I’m sort of moving up into the middle of the funnel. So these pages are going to attract a visitor. They’re going to have long form text. They’re also probably going to start answering the top questions. This visitor is happy to disqualify me because they see 10 million options wherever they came from. So I don’t wanna be disqualified. I want to answer. I won’t address their objections. What does this person care about? I don’t know this unless I’ve interviewed a bunch of clients and talked to the top sales reps and I know this is conversion rate optimization, making sure that these pages are going to answer the visitors type questions and address their top objections. So how long does it take? Is it a mess? Do I have to move out? How much does it cost? Are there other payment plans? What if I’ve got ideas? Can you work with my contractor? What if.. my uncle does this or I’ve got pictures or I want to do half now and a half later or this kitchen isn’t even there yet. It’s part of new construction. The page has to explain those or the visitor will leave. Every website has the same back button. So, now I’ve got a search optimized conversion, optimized sales page. I am in middle of funnel down and I probably can generate leads just with that. But since we’re on the journey process and your question, Matt, I love it. I’m going to go up a level to the top of funnel content marketing, content marketing. How can I become a kind of a famous brand? How can I attract an unreasonable number of visitors and really make my competitors irrelevant by having a body of work that is exhaustive on the topics and has, you know, trends, design styles, questions about price, you know, what are the are supply chain issues affecting? I’m going to have to build a content strategy. There’s lots of resources and articles that are for the information intent visitor. Everything I talked about so far was about the commercial intent visitor. They need a kitchen. That’s why they came to the site. To build out top of funnel and to grow my links I can rank for more competitive phrases, grow my following I can get lots of organic traffic from social to grow my email list, I can decouple myself from Google and Facebook and eventually own my own list. I have access to my own audience for that unique type of local content. You need a content strategy. The content strategy would be based on a mission statement, something like,” we are where homeowners get inspired for great kitchen ideas with a weekly video and image gallery”, something like that. So now I went from the very bottom, Thank you page, contact form, call to action, search optimized service page, conversion optimized, galleries, images, and then moving up the funnel toward the top, which is in truth optional. Lots of companies succeed without a content program but you cannot succeed in digital marketing, at least without pages that answer questions, address objections, rank for the commercial intent, key phrase and attract unless you’re advertising and then convert visitors into leads. Traffic times conversion rate is success and demand, anything time zero is zero. So I’m equally focused on both traffic and the conversion rate. I’m a dual threat marketer, right? It’s about the success of the cheese and the mousetrap. You can’t win without both.

Absolutely. Well, thank you very much for sharing that, by the way. I know that was of tremendous value to our audience. What about at the top of the funnel? I think I mentioned earlier I’m a student of Dan Kennedy. He always talks about using lead magnets. I heard a direct response radio advertisement for a plastic surgeon, cosmetic surgeon here in my city one time, and I knew it was Dan staff. And lo and behold, they found him on Dan site and not to talk that up too much, but he was using a lead magnet. So what about, in your experience, are lead magnets a valuable tool like HubSpot? They’re bloody brilliant, like the other resource page. And there’s all these different resources that you can opt in. And coming back to that, would it be like a prudent thing or a valuable thing to offer a teacher innovation checklist as a lead magnet at the bottom of all of those blog posts in order to get people to opt into your something of a unique value, to get people to opt into your email list at the top of the funnel.

Probably, I think the idea is to move them from the top to the middle. If the person gives you their email address, they’re more engaged and you can reach them directly. You can market to them directly. It’s disintermediation Google and Facebook are no longer in between you in this audience. Marketing automation, as you mentioned HubSpot. Marketing automation is almost completely based on this idea. Yeah, I don’t think they’re almost as no marketing automation without a lead magnet, without growing the list. But having said that, again we have between a million and a million app visitors a year. 900 leads a year. 7 million in revenue, zero advertising, 50 employees. I’ve never used a lead magnet.

Well, there you go.

It’s not necessary. You can crush your goals without it. Trust me, it’s not required. I don’t use any marketing automation. These are optional, you don’t need a lot of technology to do anything I described for that modeling company. You need a tool to deliver the email and you need a content management system and of course, you also need analytics.

And there’s no other technology required to do that what I described. But no, that was certainly effective at growing email lists. The effectiveness depends on that call to action. Do I see that as valuable? What is it offering me? Is it worth trading my email address for? And by the way, I’ve done research on this and visitors really don’t mind giving their email address for high value. Marketers are very sensitive about this. Like,”oh no, lead magnets are always super annoying, No!”. Rather visitors will happily give you their email address if what you’re offering has real utility.

Okay! So if Mark Joyner talked about how you have that he wrote a book on the irresistible offer like you need to give tremendous value and have an irresistible offer, even if they’re just giving their email address. Here’s a question. What has been your studies then on that regard, what has been the difference in conversion between just using the asking for the email address and asking for the first name, an email address? Is it dramatic?

Oh, It’s not my research, but I’ve seen research on this. There’s no difference. As you’ve already reached that plateau of trust if they’re giving you their email address, giving you their name. There’s really not much difference between one and two field forms. On balance, I think might have done that if to field form is inevitably an email address in a first name. So there was just been research, Marketo or somebody did, like how do the number of form fields correlate with conversion rates? And one in two form fields basically are the same numbers.

Coming back to the content, are there certain tools and resources that you recommend to use in order to plan all this out?

So to do search, to do SEO and to validate that you indeed have sufficient authority to target that key phrase. You need a tool such as Moz or Semrush or Ahrefs or a couple others. These tools evaluate your ranking potential, your level of authority and they show you the authority, the other pages that rank for the phrase and calculate a difficulty score. If your page is in the same range of authority as the other pages that rank for the key phrase, you have a chance of ranking for it. Drop everything, go all in, spend an extra 8 hours making that thing amazing and answer every related question, incorporating all those medically related phrases. If your authority level is now within the same range, the other pages that rank for the phrase forget about search, you’re free. You’ll never going to rank for that. Go write something awesome and promote it through social and email. So there’s no such thing which is a little bit optimized. They’re trying to make the best page on the Internet for the topic because I believe I’ve got a chance of ranking for it or I’m just promoting my content in some other way. Not every topic is keyword focused. I just put something on LinkedIn. Got this idea during COVID, I’m going to ask my friends to send me pictures of their desks. I want to see the camera, the mic. What are we using? Everyone’s got a different thing. So I had a bunch of marketers, YouTubers, and virtual keynote presenters send me pictures of their desk set up, like from that point of view. Highest open rate of all the emails I sent last year. Thousand shares on social media. Zero traffic from search. Why? Because nobody’s searching that.

No, they’re not stopping. And desks?

Yeah. Not every topic is a keyword opportunity. So if no one’s searching for it or if you have no chance of ranking for it, please forget about SEO. Just go fill it with influencers and visuals and optimize it for social in other ways. So it drives me crazy. People like,” Oh, this piece is a little bit optimized. Good luck with that!” you know. You only hope of ranking. You have no right to rank unless you made one of the best pages on the internet. So we’re not sprinkling keywords in. You’re making like a super long form, super detailed piece or you’ve got promoted through some other channel.

Well, that’s amazing that you brought that up, because, by the way, I saw your posts and I actually took a picture of my desk set up and I don’t know if you saw that or not.

I haven’t been on LinkedIn but Thank you.

I took that social and then reposted your article along with the post, along with the picture of my desk. And I obviously I’m not as influential as you, so I didn’t get as much engagement, but I thought it was such a cool, cool thing.

Look, I found it. So this was my social marketing tactic, by the way, your desk is incredible. That’s a lot of pictures. It looks great. You’ve got the switcher, this looks really cool. So my idea there in social media was to trigger a conversation by asking a question, writer making a suggestion, share a picture of your desk. Like put it in the post or something. You got a ton of reactions here. Anyway, that content was promoted through social media. It has nothing to do with search. So disabuse yourself of that idea that everything is a keyword opportunity. It’s not. Thought leadership, strong opinion, innovators, inventors. What’s their SEO opportunity? You just made something brand new. So It’s a myth. It’s poorly understood. It only takes a few minutes to figure that out. But most people don’t go that far with the thinking.

Only maybe half. Less than half of my articles are keyword focused because they’re about many things that there are no keywords for them. People aren’t searching for it. And you’re right for those things.

A good thing for them because nobody else, it’s always generating you’re creating your own searches, you’re creating your own traffic by creating new things that people haven’t even thought of. That’s brilliant.

You ask me about the history of my own content program. I once did an article that said, This is what a 15 year old content program looks like. It had a chart that showed exactly how much I’d published in every format over all the years when the book was rewritten. I just finished the sixth edition when we started our conference. It’s a big graphic that shows the history of our content program. People loved it. It’s like showing the trend. It’s transparent, it’s showing a strategy, but nobody’s looking for the history of content strategy ,there’s no keyword for it. So I didn’t worry about searching at all.

So coming to your book, So you’re writing the sixth edition now and I can’t wait to read it. I know it’s coming out in October. So what changes have you seen? What inspired you to come up with another edition in regards to the fifth edition? In the sixth edition. And what’s different? If you could give us just a little time.

You know, I can’t reach it from here, but between editions, I keep my own copy next to me and I’m always adding to the table of contents and marking where it needs to be improved. So the earlier editions, there’s nothing there about influencer marketing. Now that’s a big thing. There were early editions that talked about Google Plus. That’s obviously not a thing anymore. How do we automate social media that has changed? Keyword focused click through rates from search are down. So now I include I click screenshots, Google Search Results pages. So there’s a part of the book now that shows how search has changed and how click through rates have changed. So this is how many more SERP features appear in search. And so many things have changed. Social media video that wasn’t in the book, in the earlier editions. There’s a lot of content promotion strategies in there now. Original research, I was hardly doing any of that when I first published the book. Now there’s a big section about how to publish and promote original research. Obviously, to have a book, you have to keep in this category. You’ve got to keep writing it again and again. So I rewrite it like every two years.

Would you say that writing a book has been of extreme value for lack of in regards to establishing you as an authority? And the follow up question would be, would you recommend other people to make it a goal to write a book?

Like not even a marketing decision, like going to see a realtor or a Broker or a lawyer.

People write books without strong strategies behind them. Okay. Becoming an author is a passion and life goal for a lot of people. As people who began writing a book without first looking to see if that book would be differentiated. If there’s demand for it in the market, how well it aligns with the current audience. So people write, people are creative out of passion. And that’s awesome. Go do that. That’s great. But don’t set high expectations for that book being selling a bunch of copies. And my book has a specific goal. It was originally kind of a sales support tool. Have a great meeting. Send them a book. More likely to close the deal. Or when you’re an author, you’re more likely to get booked for big events. So there are some things like that. But also for me, as in many formats for content, the book was partly just opportunistic. So it works like this. Make an outline of everything you know on a topic. It’s an awesome intellectual challenge, but literally sit down, open a beer, bottle of wine and make an outline of everything that you know about digital marketing or whichever like for Car dealerships or anything. Now go look at your lifetime body of work and ask yourself where there are gaps. “Oh, I never wrote about that”. And you will soon find that if you blog into the gaps and keep updating the old things that you’ve published in the past, that you are gradually writing a book. So I published 50,000 words a year. So you can blog into a book by simply having a better content strategy that involves repurposing about 60% of the book. The first time around was repurposed articles, a lot of first edition books now. There are former blogs. James Clear wrote a ton of Cabot’s first edition. He’s talking about feedback from his audience in the book. How does he do that? Because he’s been publishing online forever. Bloggers are authors. Everybody is an author. The only difference being a regular blogger and being an author of a book is forethought, you were just more structured and you planned in advance, you kept blogging. And when you got to 80% completion, you paused, stepped back, adapted these articles. That outline of everything you know turned into a table of contents. It’s powerful. It’s effective. It’s a commitment. It takes time. And then if you’re self-published, you got to hire an editor, a couple grand, hire a designer a couple of grand, got to go to print. You know, that’s another five grand. But now you’re an author and promoted accordingly. When people search for your name, Google’s going to say author in Search for me. You’ll see it says author.

Is your book self-published?


I didn’t know that.

I just never asked permission. Nothing could have stopped me. I don’t need anybody to tell me it’s okay to write a book. That’s exactly the same as blogging, right? Bloggers are not mostly told. Bloggers mostly chose themselves. Yeah. Most controversial is very entrepreneurial. We were not given the job, we just took the job and did it.Your story is the same, right?

Yeah, Absolutely.

Writing content to come up with content ideas for me. And I’m always connected with many clients, but maybe others as well. I sometimes think that some people are more naturally gifted at creating content than others. For instance, just not to promote myself either here. But when I was in grade 3, I was recommended to go to a young authors conference because of a book I wrote back then. And I’ve always been a creator. But, like I said earlier, the imposter syndrome held me back from creating content because I didn’t want to seem like a phony by putting something out there. I wish I’d documented what I was learning rather than trying to establish myself or put myself out there as an expert. That being said, though. There are tools that exist and I’m going somewhere with this. There are tools that exist now that have come out. Based on artificial intelligence in regards to creating content. And I’m speaking of tools like Jasper.AI or whatever its called. Jarvis, they got sued by Marvel at cease and desist order and copy data AI And whatever the case may be, I know there’s even one that’s even like an enterprise level that’s even more expensive than Jasper. I can remember what it’s called. Somebody told me about it. As you talked about the book being updated and there’s tools and like influencers weren’t out before and now this is out. And do you have any thoughts to share that good or bad? Doesn’t matter to me about the usage and and using A.I. as a tool in order to help create content?

Well, it’s not unlike the other answer. Lead magnets. You don’t need a lot of technology or tools to do this job. So an idea like that is hard for sure and totally optional. I feel some misgivings about the whole world deciding we should all use tools to tell us what to write about because. Then what are we doing? It’s like keyword first strategies. I’m going to find out what people are searching for and then blog accordingly. Now, it’s not necessarily audience focused. Those tools don’t know who your buyer is and what conversations you’re having during sales or in marketing. If you create a webinar series and have a Q&A session at the end and you find questions that people are asking, that’s your best topic? Analytics are showing you what people engage with on your current site so you can go deeper into those topics. That’s data driven empathy. I don’t know how an A.I. tool would know what my audience wants from me, and also I feel there’s some risk in us all just using these tools similar to like surfer you mentioned, or these tools that just tell you kind of like how to structure content or what to write about. It might be effective, but what are we really doing here? Is the idea to just make something, it just feels like it’s a path to being bland. We know what works well Counternarrative positions, in other words, something that challenges the readers perspective, is an A.I. tool going to suggest a topic that challenges readers perspectives? Is an A.I tool going to suggest a topic that is memorable? Is an A.I tool going to suggest a topic that you have an opportunity to create original research for?

Here you are excluding thought leadership, strong opinion, original research, audience focus, things, you’re excluding all of the most important sources and powerful formats for content, so go for it. If you’ve got a big team, you need to delegate. You’re a HubSpot, you’ve got 60 marketers and they need topics. Hey, great, let’s pull some from robot if you want to be remembered as someone who excels in their field by publishing things that are unexpectedly helpful, provocative, useful, detailed, supported with evidence. I can’t imagine that an A.I script is going to really get you there and you had mentioned.

The post that you shared about the desks. I would never come up with that subject.

Yeah exactly. That was my number one email. That was my top performer of every newsletter I sent last year. And it starts this giant conversation on LinkedIn. People can’t wait to take pictures of their own desks.

Yeah, that’s what I heard.

So if that day, instead of thinking about what’s interesting. Oh! Quarantine, what are these people always doing with their desks? If instead of that, I’d gone to, like Jasper or some other tool, they would have told me, like tick tock for business. And then now I would have written something pretty boring.

Did you then go the other way, taking courses like training or writing. Is it just something you’ve gotten better with as you’ve gone, Andy? Was it an extension of your higher education that you took in university that you mentioned?

I think one of the things that made me a much better writer was doing a lot of guest blogging. So for three years most of my content was written for other websites, which is unusual. A lot of people just think that they need to write for their own site. A lot of bloggers just think they have only one place to publish. Which is crazy. We should all be writing for lots of websites too, if you’re doing it well. I just finished a long form article interview for SERP stat. Submitted it. Haven’t heard back yet. Hope they liked it. No, but I’m working with an editor there now who’s going to give me feedback and working with pro editors will make you a better writing. Guest blogging is fantastic for your writing because they’re going to push back on you to improve quality, not to add detail, to cover other related sub topics, to add formatting, like whatever their standards are. Another one is just doing it a lot. This is my list 530 articles, that’s how many articles I have written. If I go back to like how many I wrote three or four years in. These are terrible articles. This one is a movie themed article about search called Die Hard SEO. That’s a crappy article. This one is just weird as I am scrolling through, I wroteI it 15 years ago. And so the same as anything. Right?

You get better at it as.

Sucking is the first step toward being good at something.

That’s a huge take. That’s a huge point. Don’t try to be perfect at something right from the beginning. If you’re going to suck, just suck.

Just keep going. You can learn and listen and keep adapting. I write every day, most of us do. It’s hard, agonize over things, especially email subject lines, if I could be the best at one thing in life, like being a dad or a spouse, I have to put at the top one thing in marketing. In email sometimes its high stakes you get one shot, you test it, but, you only get a couple of variants, even if you’re testing. You can’t unsend it. If you write an article that gets medium results and you want to improve it, just log in and improve it. You posting that on social media falls flat. You hear crickets. Who cares? You can just posted again the next day, but you know something doesn’t rank, email, rewrite it. Emails are high stakes. Social is low stakes, high data. Email is high stakes, low data. You got opens in theaters and that’s it. And that’s just when I stress over those.

I was doing email marketing at the dealership when I was there and the owner was telling me to write, were not what I would write as a marker. And that was a challenge. But I know exactly what you’re saying. What is the key then to effective email marketing? Email subject lines like shorter or longer? I know the word quick question. Quick question seems to have a really high open rate, but you can only use that so many times.

Yeah, I just wrote a piece about this. It was an old piece. It has a bunch of research in it and quotes from some of the top marketers, Ian Handling and Joanna Wiebe, all contributed to this peace of mind. And in there they shared their rules for them. There’s a lot of little things that can make a difference. Short is probably important. Email subject lines get truncated, especially in the mobile inbox. Its front loaded with any provocative words misused sentence case, not title case. Because friends don’t send title case subject lines to each other.

The sender name is probably more important. The subject line, anyway. Build trust over time. Make your sense. Name a person or human. It’s another word.

Don’t use info at, use John Smith at when you’re sending.

Not just the email address, but the name. So I wouldn’t put my company orbit media. No, I put my name. People are more likely to open emails that come from a person but there is a lot of little things the article gets into. Like which words are effective? Subject line length. So I can I can share that with you but that’s a tough audience

Okay. All right. I could talk to you for another hour, but I think I’ll draw it to a close. And I would love to have you back on the show and talk about other things, if you would be so kind to do so, but no pressure whatsoever. What’s one big takeaway then you would want listeners to get from this episode?

Optimize. Well, here’s a couple, but I’ll do them quickly. Optimize from the bottom of the funnel. Start with the end of the visitor’s journey because there’s something wrong down there if nothing else is going to help. Don’t target key phrases unless you have a realistic chance of ranking. So you’ve got to spend 120 bucks a month to get a tool that I’ll show you keyword difficulty based on your level of authority. Also, you know, just these things. Take reps. Just keep going. It takes a long time. I think content marketing in many ways is like a flywheel. All of these successes are cumulative. No links, improve search, subscribes, improve email followers, improve all this search social. So you just keep going. Always collaborate with influencers. Never write an article without a contributor quote, always think about repurposing, live events and books are examples of things that have really informed our blog. But ultimately be vulnerable. Be a human, be a person. Put faces in your marketing. Every page on your website should have a face, sender, email from a person. Put yourself out there just the way you’re doing now Matt, Keep it real and be collaborative. I follow you because you’re doing exactly what I’m suggesting.

Thank you. I am just having fun, I don’t even look at this as a job. It’s just fun. Well, thank you very much. It’s been an absolute pleasure. How can our audience or viewers connect with you online if they want to do so?

I write an article once every two weeks. It’s at orbitmedia.com. That’s my frequency. That’s as much as I ever publish. I’ve never published more than once every two weeks. So on OrbitMedia.com. If you want my latest, that’s where I publish my latest. linkedIn is my best social network. Connect me on LinkedIn and then the book you mentioned, version six is out in October. You can find it on Amazon. It’s called content chemistry. And yeah. Just write me anywhere.

Yeah, You’re on Instagram, you’re on LinkedIn, you’re on Twitter. I’m following everywhere. But anyway, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you here. Thank you so much for coming on the show. And I highly recommend people read your book because it’s just in the table of contents that I looked at and the chapters that I’ve read before this interview. I can’t wait to read the rest of it.

Thank you, Matt. This is great.



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