December 4, 2015 | Sarah Danks

Last week, I jumped in on a Blab with Andy Crestodina run by Michael Grubbs over at Open Topic. It was only my 3rd (or 4th?) Blab ever, and the best-run, IMO.

It was very simple — Michael asked Andy questions; Andy answered; the attendees jotted a few remarks and questions; and I typed frantically, trying to keep up and get all the good stuff.

Here’s a recap — and my takeaways — of this CMO marketing strategies blab.

About Orbit Media

Andy gave us the background of Orbit Media, stating that it evolved from a tiny, scrappy company of 2 guys, a phone and a laptop. Back then he thought $800.00 was too much to charge a client.

Fast forward to today: it’s a B-corp certification, part of a socially and environmentally sustainable massive movement. Says Andy, it’s not just a green washing; it’s a real thing. Plus, it now takes them hundreds of hours to do what they do on projects (and I’d wager they’re charging more than eight hondo).

An ideal client, ready to work with Orbit has one or two in-house marketers, is aware of their website traffic and now wants to maximize their conversion rate. Crestodina says the sites they build/re-design should pay for themselves within months.

Asked what trigger leads to someone wanting a new website, Andy responded that there are many reasons; many of them emotional. After all, what’s the psychology of someone who types “Chicago web design” into a search engine?

It could be because:

  • a competitor got a redesign on their website,
  • they have a new marketing director, or
  • they got a first look at analytics and now they want to get serious…

…or any myriad of other reasons.

Regardless of the why, Orbit guides them toward results-driven thinking — after all, a website needs to make money.

Results-Driven Thinking

Crestodina points out that a website either gets traffic or it doesn’t; converts visitors or doesn’t.

He goes on to say that websites need to be 3 things:

  1. Search engine friendly
  2. Conversion optimized
  3. Platform for content marketing

When taking on a new client, Andy says there’s a lot of strategy up-front, and many conversations that occur. A great quote of his from this Blab:

“There’s very little opinion in web design. Rather, it should be based on strategic and evidence-based decision making.”

When asked by Grubbs what Orbit does with a client that comes in “lacking in the areas you count as a qualifier to begin a new design strategy,” Crestodina honestly replies that he’d then make an introduction to another partner. If their client needs guidance into the digital world he’ll steer them towards a marketing company to help them achieve that.

Andy says in web design, everything is possible! But, that being said, if a client asks their web design team, “Can we do this?” and you can, that’s great. But do what makes sense; set an achievable goal.

There’s a model for monetization — but don’t create too many ideas.


So many clients want to sell everything — sure it’s POSSIBLE, but first, Andy tells them “Let’s create a basic platform for converting visitors into customers.” This keeps clients to a much tighter — and achievable — scope.

Because, let’s face it, there’s no ROI until a website is totally done and launched. Then he chuckles while saying, “Why don’t we just build a nice site with a cart and some good products?

Crestodina then mentions the MVP variable. I.e., the minimum viable product. He says those who don’t know MVP try to boil the entire ocean, adding months — or even years — to a web project.

He — and the attendees on the Blab — says it like it is: you’ve gotta keep it simple.

Grubbs then asked Andy what his favorite type of person is to deal with on the client side.

The Best — And Worst — Types of People

Without hesitation Andy responded his favorite type of person to deal with is the marketing person who knows marketing goals. And his least favorite?

Somewhat apologetically he told us it’s the technology team involved on the project. Why? “They cause a lot of problems. They don’t understand the goals of the project.

Whereas marketers tend to make decisions based on greed and growth, IT people often make decisions based on fear. They need to have confidence it (website) will work and not get hacked or blown up.

Thing is, with hosting or IT people — they need to know nothing’s on the website that’s not public. Everyone can see everything already! Why are they always so concerned about it “not working” or getting hacked, anyway?

Grubbs and Crestodina then got into a conversation about the different types of personalities within clientele, how they differ, what they’re looking for, and how to deal with them.

Understanding the psychology of who you’re talking to allows you to adapt your messaging to them (just like marketing) — which gives you a better chance of getting them to the right decision quickly.

“Find the Fox”

Andy urges us to “find the fox” — in every company there are people who’re influencers and/or the decision-maker. Find out about them through job descriptions, emails, even in meetings.


Who’s the biggest influencer in the process? You need to talk to them. Pay attention: it could be someone who’s not senior, but still has a lot of influence that everyone listens to.

Of course, ideally the person in charge of the budget has influence and knows what questions to ask so you can deal with them directly.

And then, once you find the fox, how do you realize what their pressure/pain point is? What buttons do you push to get the trigger pulled on the project?

Crestodina says by personality profiling — people with different personalities need different approaches, so the better you understand their personality, the better you can move a project along.

Using the DISC System to Deal with Clients

Andy says CEOs and the C-suite want the big picture of the project. They want confidence; not a lot of tactics or data. They fit into what he calls the “High D” personality.

In a nutshell, here’s the DISC profile that Andy outlined quickly (although one of the Blabbers had to ask later on and he had to clarify one of them):

High Dominance (D)

While these people HAVE confidence, they also need confidence. As in, they need to deal with other confident types. So, repeat back to them in a shorter phrase what they said.

I.e., “What we need is more traffic to our website because that will get us more sales…” What you’d say back would be, “Great. What I’m hearing is you need us to focus on the best keywords to bring in the most qualified traffic to convert…

Andy says this is a huge sales trick — say back to people what they just said, in a more concise manner. Think it doesn’t work? Try it.

High Influence (I)

The influencer likes shiny new objects, they’re people-people, they want to go grab a beer (I guess I just found out which of these describes me!).

These types of people need to know you listened to them, and you understood.

High Steadiness (S)

These are your steady eddies. These types just want to know that you’re going to do it the same as before. They don’t need better, fancier, etc.; they just want it new. Don’t disrupt their world; just keep it the same.

High Conscientiousness (C)

The high C person is interested in compliance; you can shovel tons of info at them, because the more they have, the more confident they get. They might not USE the information; they just want to HAVE it. Having a lot of info at their fingertips makes them feel better.

So, you can inundate them with analytics, white papers, case studies, references — the High Cs probably won’t check references, but again, they’ve got them, and that’s what they need.

But — warns Andy — in spite of knowing all this, something to know in any web project is this: THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES.

Orbit likes to tell the clients their new website SHOULD pay for itself in 6-12 months even with very conservative estimate. You can project some type of success, even using extremely low expectations; this is the metric people should care about. I.e., dollars. ROI.

You should be able to confidently project ROI.

Projecting ROI

Crestodina says the generic strategy for all websites is this:

  • Attract visitors
  • Convert visitors
  • Be easy to update and manage — at low cost

Simple, right?

He further explains there’s an equation for that. And it’s this: a x b = c (where c is success; the goal is to minimize cost).

A website might be a website is a website, but real content strategy is specific to EACH company (or, should be). That is, audience X gets information Y for benefit Z. Which is basically a template for any content mission statement.

Andy says all companies need to know their brand identity, their value proposition — if they don’t no amount of web design will help!

Grubbs then asked for examples of clients/projects that Orbit is proud of.

Andy described a website redesign of an IT consulting company client:

They (IT company) like to call themselves “watchdogs” — and to that end wanted a dog on their home page. Orbit lost the argument on that, so they ended up with a big dog on the home page. The site went live, and bounce rate was high, conversions were low…

…so Orbit suggested to change the home page image. Andy says a  hero shot (in this case, the dog) is different from a featured image. Your hero shot gives context. It should show the value of what you do, and support keyword specificity.

Needless to say, Orbit changed the dog image to a hero shot that better showed the company’s offerings, which helped conversion rate immediately.

Market Share

The aforementioned IT company was interested in the keyword “managed IT services.” Crestodina calls that a dollar sign keyword — i.e., when people Google it they’ve got their wallet out, ready to buy.

Problem was, their site was lurking on Page 2 of Google (amidst all the dead bodies) for that keyword. But after some simple on-page SEO, Orbit moved the IT website from page 2 to page 1 — admittedly, the bottom, but still Page 1.

Andy says with good sites, once that trend starts, it often continues. Since then the site has been climbing for that same keyword — it’s now at slot 3. And so the goodness compounds. The point?

Says Crestodina,

“If you can’t get found — it’s not worth anything.”

Or, in other words, in regards to market share — someone is winning. If it’s not you, it’s your competitor(s).

Every minute you’re not trying to succeed, one of your competitors is winning — and what’re they getting for that exposure?

You need to know: What’s your business category? What’s your key phrase? Odds are, someone’s ranking for the phrase you want. And if they’re winning this year, what about next year? It compounds.

Content Marketing vs SEO

Grubbs and Crestodina then segued into a different topic: content marketing and how it differs from SEO.

Andy says content marketing is very collaborative; it’s sharing, liking; it’s unicorns and rainbows. But SEO?


SEO IS BLOOD SPORT!” It’s worth a LOT to control the demand at the top of the funnel. But because they’re both so prevalent in online marketing, where lies the intersection between content marketing and SEO?

Andy lays it out quite nicely.

Content marketing consists of 3 activities:

  1. Create
  2. Promote
  3. Measure

And within the promotion aspect there are 3 methods:

  1. Search,
  2. social, and
  3. email.

In order to really give traction to content, you need to promote it in those three channels. The promotion aspect gives content a quick spike for views, because you’re putting it directly in front of people.

Getting Your Content Found

However, if you want people to FIND the content — long-term, beyond the promotion — you need to optimize it for keyword phrases.

Andy gives an example of one of his recent blog posts on website footer design best practices, wherein he outlines 27 things to put in your site’s footer. He spent 8-10 hours working on this 3,000-word post (create) and then sent it out via social media and email (promote).

The post had received quite a bit of traffic already (measure) from the promotion, but very quickly Crestodina noticed his post was sitting quite nicely at the bottom of Page 1 for “footer design best practices.”

(As an aside, when I Googled that very keyword looking for the post in order to link to it, at first I couldn’t find it…I had zipped immediately to the bottom of Page 1, see. Then I realized I needed to scroll UP, not down. I found his post comfortably resting in the Number 3 slot.)

So, SEO is actually a component of content marketing because it’s a promotion channel of content marketing.

But you can’t just “create it and they will come;” Andy says to keep your audience in mind. He said you have to research the keywords they’re searching for.

And he recognizes 2 kinds of keywords:

  • Dollar signs
  • Question marks

Again, as mentioned previously, a dollar sign keyword is a keyword people use when they’re ready to buy.

Questions mark keywords are the outer ring of the bullseye, and it’s huge. As in the “footer design best practices” keyword example, anyone interested in web design — from all over the world — could be interested in that keyword.

But, people who want to design a site themselves aren’t going to hire Andy after searching for that keyword.

Indirect SEO

That said, his post has high value content, with high visibility. When you create that type of content, other content creators tend to link to it, which of course increases your domain authority in general. It’s a very indirect method of promotion, but there it is (again, look at his post now at Position 3).

So why do you create this content? Crestodina says you’re building the “wikipedia” for your industry — it increases your authority and credibility. Plus, here’s a little SEO trick he threw out:

“Google’s a semantic search engine, spreading out meaning across all things related to a keyword/phrase.”

The way Andy put that mentality to work for him when writing his website footer design post was this: he began with an idea (footer design) and then found clues for other words related to that keyword. He Googles his main keyword, then jots down all of the “related to” searches at the bottom of the page.

Then he wanders back up to the search bar and tries variations to get the autosuggest options — at this point he’s got quite a varied list of related keywords revolving around his topic. As he’s writing, he incorporates these related keywords, phrases and ideas.

Since Google’s gotten so smart with their library, they know what words are linked to which other words. So, don’t just repeat a phrase, use related phrases. To best indicate your relevance for your main phrase, the key is to spread out the meaning, i.e., include a host of semantically relevant keyword variations.

And when he’s done with his post, Google believes it’s relative to all other keywords related to his main keyword.

Grubbs then asked Andy about measuring content marketing success.

How to Measure Content Marketing Success

Andy answered that the main metric for measuring the success of a content marketing endeavor is your total number of qualified leads. And, in order to generate a lot of leads, you gotta generate a lot of noise.

He then explained an unexpected downside of being dominant: you generate so much demand your sales team gets jaded, because there’s no down-time with all the leads coming in. (Aw boo!)

When you don’t proactively contact people, you’re constantly responding to inbound leads.

Grubbs then asked if there’s more value in inbound leads, or other leads generated via other means?

Types of Leads

Crestodina immediately came back with the 3 best types of leads:

1st Best

The most valuable lead is the current customer. Repeat business has higher value; he said if an existing customer comes BACK they drop everything to work on that project.

2nd Best

The referral lead. Word-of-mouth is stronger proof and has more value than something someone finds on a search engine.

3rd Best

The search (organic) lead.

But however you acquire your leads, you’ve got to have a strategy in place to capture them. Crestodina points out there are companies that’re successful without a content strategy…

…but it’s rare.

Types of Websites

Pretty much every business has a website, but what kind is it?

2 kinds of websites:

  1. Online brochures
  2. Platforms for content

If you’ve got a client who has an online brochure, that doesn’t take a lot of skill. Andy says a simple DIY approach to build a better brochure will work just fine. Some companies’ starting point is so bad, any amount of help will do!

But, regardless of how bad a website is, don’t build separate websites for different things — always publish content on your own (main) site.

Crestodina says the companies who’ve got it together — they’re on top of their online marketing, are savvy and are active with their content — focus on the following:

  • conversion optimization
  • landing pages
  • marketing automation (schedule auto responders, integrate with CRM)
  • in-house marketers using platforms/publish calendars
  • on-going development of content/websites (sometimes monthly changes)

Grubbs took a turn to ask Andy about what his favorite types of companies to work with are, being focused on the Chicago area, and his favorite everyday tools.

Tree Keepers, Niched Markets & Dolphin Marketing

Andy is a self-professed tree-keeper! An environmentalist at heart, he loves trees. I.e., he’s a nature dork. He’s worked on websites that support his inner Ent, but also loves cause-driven brands and home-town heroes. But his favorite companies to work with are those with educational missions.

Based in Chicago, Orbit Media actually only works with established brands within Chicago. They don’t have a niche of clients they work with, per se; their niche is their tight geographic speciality.

That being said, he really likes it when companies “niche down” and get focused — he mentioned an example of a lawyer that only works with drone law. Talk about focused!

He went on to say that Orbit doesn’t work with start-ups, or businesses that don’t have a marketer. He says,

“When you’re inbound, you’re not spear-fishing, you’ve got a net.”

And then we derailed a bit into talking about fishes swimming into a net, but throwing the dolphins back, which of course brought up dolphin marketing (why wouldn’t it?). Andy says he could go really deep on that metaphor…

…(sea what he did there?)

Then they rambled off onto Google to check the keyword difficulty on dolphin marketing. *Sigh* Search marketers.

Grubbs then asked about Andy’s favorite — and most heavily used — search aids.

Crestodina’s Favorite Search Tools

He didn’t even have to think twice when rattling off his list of top tools:

Google Analytics

He says, “I have to measure or I can’t do better marketing.” He uses it every single day.


He pays $100.00 per month and tracks about 80 keywords. He knows if he’s going up or down at any time for targeted phrases.

Moz bar

This is a free tool (if you’re already a Moz subscriber) he uses to quickly glance at the domain authority of high-ranking sites to understand the competitive landscape (the data comes from Open Site Explorer).


He tracks mentions and watches social media activity.

Edgar (

This he uses to manage ongoing social scheduling. He calls it the Twitter rule of thirds:

  • talking to people directly,
  • sharing influencer content that’s relevant to your audience, and
  • self-promotional content (evergreen).

In fact, Andy took all dates off his blog — he now shares/re-shares content from 40-50 blog posts across platforms (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).

Then we learned about about Orbit’s preferred method of building websites.

Content Management Systems

Andy says while they try to be platform agnostic, they’re mostly WordPress and Drupal developers. But, since they got started long before Wordpress, they have their own custom CMS.

Websites built on custom content management systems still make sense for a lot of clients. Some companies need custom websites with a lot of integration; he likened it to going to Home Depot instead of Ikea.

All development is done in-house at Oribt; Andy says the developers use a variety of tools, such as:

  • GetHub
  • Adobe creative suite
  • Omnigraffle
  • Google Docs
  • Sputnik (built themselves to manage projects)

Says Crestodina,

“Every project is an integration project — every website is connected to something.”

For example, a website might be built in WordPress, but needs to integrate with MailChimp. Or the site might need to hook up to tracking tools, or simply to analytics for measurement.

On a bigger scale, there could be an e-commerce site that needs to connect with accounting/inventory fulfillment systems, along with a transaction/payment system.

And many small business sites need to attach to quickbooks; or even Amazon. He says you should charge hourly for integration work, since it’s hard to project an accurate timeframe.

Looking at the time (and realizing we were over an hour into the Blab — of course no one noticed) Grubbs asked Andy to wrap it all up with advice on getting a website to a point where it’s optimized, or at least to the point where the company can start to focus on that.

So here is Andy’s handful of (condensed) tips:

  • Don’t make a website site map ’til you’ve researched keywords; then you make a page for each targeted phrase.
  • Answer your audience’s top questions in the order they have the questions.
  • Every time you make a claim, support it with evidence (statistics, social proof, etc.).
  • Use color and imagery to deliberately guide visitors’ attention to desired actions/outcomes.
  • Only ONE thing can be the most prominent things on a web page. Don’t add too much stuff — focus on the goals for your visitors (and yourself).
  • Focus on networking/collaborating with other people.
  • When using Google Analytics don’t just look at reports, ask questions — find answers. ANALYZE the data so you can improve on all KPI/goals/etc.

And in addition to all that, you need to continually ask yourself: “Are we growing? Are we converting? How are we improving over time?”

It’s a bad marketer that just keeps publishing alone on a little island — waving to the dolphins. Don’t just do it to do it; do all of it based on best practices. Create, promote…

…and, most importantly: do it in a measurable way, so you can continually improve.

Thanks to Michael Grubbs of Open Topic and Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media for such an information-filled blab-fest!




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