“Use analytics to see what’s working. Double down on those things and cancel something else.”

How much time do you spend with your analytics? Seeing what’s delivering results and what’s not? Looking at what content played well across which channels –– and what content gave you the most mileage.

This is where Andy Crestodina, co-founder and CMO of Orbit Media Studios, a digital agency based in Chicago, believes content marketers should start their content planning. In this episode of The SuccessLab Podcast, Andy shares how this strategy has helped him and his team create a winning (and scalable) content strategy.

What prompted you to change your role from Strategic Director to CMO now at Orbit?

Amanda Gant is our in-house marketer and she is 100% deserving of the director title. Partly to keep there from being confusion, we titled up a little bit. Amanda has a title that’s more fitting of her role and I am a cofounder. I just ended up being the CFO. We’re only a 40 person company so the titles are not super meaningful. I actually still do a good bit of sales, but a lot of my time is spent doing content marketing and I still do tons of writing, speaking and teaching.

What are you doing at Orbit for your clients? Have things changed at all in the last month in terms of how you’re servicing clients?

Our company is primarily focused on web design and development. The content we’re creating is basically evergreen content for sales pages. The purpose of these projects is to improve the foundation and platform for marketing and these are things that aren’t affected by the massive change in the economy. It has definitely impacted the business environment and the work life of everyone we collaborate with. It’s affected the appetite for risk, the concern about cash flow, the pace of sales and pipeline and leads. It’s had a big impact but not in the deliverable itself. I can’t just publish another ‘how to get more Twitter followers’. What I had to do was to look at what would give comfort to an email subscriber. What kind of article would make sense, and concluded that it would be useful to people in my audience to see what is happening in the industry. I quickly got a survey out of 122 agency owners to ask, what has the impact been for you? I was able to hopefully add to the conversation by putting out a bit of original research. There’s some charts in there that really show how providers of different services were affected at different levels. There’s a lot of unity in what’s happening. I’ve adapted my communication strategy with clients a bit, but that piece of content is an example of how we can all be sensitive and still create value for an audience. That is a pivot away from the classic common topics and content strategy that we used to run.

As companies are thinking about their content strategies, is it a time to be accelerating content marketing efforts or is it time to pull back?

We all still have the same number of hours in a day. Some of us who now have zero travel time, have more hours in the day. Rather than doing content marketing or PR, if you’re a brand, go back and revise the sales pages on your website, improve the homepage of your website, add testimonials or re-update all of those service pages and product pages. I used to wake up in the morning and spend half an hour or an hour on an article. Now I’m waking up in the morning and spending half an hour or an article rewriting a sales page. Similarly, it’s a good time to polish your social media bios and do a little personal branding. You can also build content that can be released later. Let’s say you’d always wanted to create a new program with a series of weekly videos. You can now go ahead and pre-record an entire series of content and when it’s ready, just queue them up. Go look at all this stuff you’re paying for or evaluate a tool that you’ve never used before. PR people and content marketers can keep strong relationships right now. It’s a really powerful time to build stronger relationships and just show that you care and show that you’re here.

What steps should marketers take to make their content more discoverable? Or what are some of the things that you do?

There was always this debate about bounce rate. We built a thousand websites over the years so I have access to hundreds of analytics accounts. I actually had a VA go look at all these analytics accounts and copy and paste different bounce rates from different traffic sources into a spreadsheet. We got up to 500 analytics accounts. I averaged all these and published this number. The average bounce rate on websites is 61%. Then I did it by industry and I did it by traffic source and produced this piece of research that was built to be promoted. It took maybe 30 or 40 hours to make this whole thing. Now I have a piece of content that is totally original. It is the best page on the internet for its topic. It’s beginning now to rank in search and it’s been picked up by other websites. It looks great in streams because of the visuals. I can reference it from other articles that I’ve written and as time goes on, I’m going to look for ways to incorporate this into presentations and other content.

Are there some other best practices for content distribution?

One of the things that it took me a while to figure out is that when you look at a topic or a headline, it’s often true that that topic or headline has a natural advantage in either search or in social. If the piece that you’re working on answers a question and has long detailed answers, that is likely something that will work well in search. On the other hand, if the piece is a little bit unexpected and has visuals and it’s highly collaborative, that is going to work well on social media. They’re sort of opposites. In search, your job is to meet expectations but in social, your job is to be a little bit unexpected because you know nothing about what they’re thinking. You can basically look at a topic or a headline and ask yourself, is someone looking for this? Does this satisfy an information need or is this kind of emotional? Does this leave curiosity or is it unexpected? That dichotomy and understanding the different psychologies of people in those channels has helped me a lot. When I even begin to think about a topic, I’m already planning how and where that might work best and then tuning it up to work in that place.

On the SuccessLab podcast, we often talk about this idea of impactful connections and how they can really transform the trajectory of your career or your business in some way. Is there one or two along your journey that made a really big impact?

There is someone that I knew in the early days of our company. His name is Ed Tucker and he was the co-founder of a company called Octane Communications. He was a more mature business person at the time. He’d come from big agencies so he had that experience of pitching larger projects. He showed me how to have tough conversations with clients and that pricing things at a level where you can feed yourself is possible. Watching someone make decisions made a difference and was really useful to me.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to fellow marketers who may be struggling to scale or operationalized content in their organizations?

Use analytics to see what’s working. Double down on those things and cancel something else. Try to get a little bit of data about what’s working and then do much more of what seems to be working and stop doing some things that weren’t working. I wish I had done this years earlier. What people often find is that bigger and harder thing is worth it. It might be two or three times harder to create, but it might give you 10 or 20 times the result. I have learned that it makes more sense for me to do a larger, more authoritative, longer exhaustive piece of content less often.

Speed Round

Are you a coffee drinker? Yes or no? Yes.
What is one marketing tool you’re geeking out over right now? Analytics
What is a favorite piece of technology? Noise-canceling headphones
What is one book you’d pass along to a fellow marketer? Deep Work by Cal Newport
Who’s one person that you would like to make a connection with? I am blown away by the vision of Elon Musk. I think that guy’s brain is fascinating and it’d be fun to hang out with him for an afternoon.
What is your favorite icebreaker when introducing yourself to someone, either online or in person? I like to just leave it pretty open and ask someone what they’re working on. It often leads to good conversation. They may get specific about a project and you instantly move away from small talk towards something interesting that they feel passionate for.
How many hours of sleep do you get each night on average? Six and a half. I have a one-year-old though.
How can people connect with you or orbit? Sign up for a biweekly newsletter on our blog at orbitmedia.com/blog. I also wrote a book which is called Content Chemistry.

Another great resource Andy mentioned during the interview is this blog post:

What’s a Good Bounce Rate? We Asked 500+ Analytics Accounts. Here’s the Average Bounce Rate for Websites.