Chicago’s Andy Crestodina has taught me many of the things I know about content marketing. I tracked him down and quizzed him about his guest blogging secrets and how to do keyword research in light of Google’s decision to encrypt keyword data.
Adam Franklin: Hello, it’s Adam Franklin here, and I’ve got the pleasure of being joined by Andy Crestodina. He’s the strategic director at Orbit Media Studios and the author of the book that I’m currently reading, “Content Chemistry.” Thanks for joining us, Andy.
Andy Crestodina: My pleasure, Adam, great to be here. Good to see you again.
Adam Franklin: Likewise. What a lot of people may not know about me is that I’m actually a marketing person, but I’ve got a chemistry degree. With your book “Content Chemistry” you had me at the title, mate.
Andy Crestodina: Perfect. You’re probably the only actual chemist to read it.
Adam Franklin: Well, it’s excellent. I do just want to dive into a couple of questions with you if that’s okay.
Andy Crestodina: Sure.
Adam Franklin: I’ve really noticed that you’ve been guest blogging on all the major blogs around the Internet and you’ve been doing tons and tons of it. I’d really like you to share with our viewers what the power of guest blogging is.
Andy Crestodina: Sure. To start with, it’s the most fun you’ll ever have web marketing, I think. Guest blogging just made me much more excited about my job and about marketing in general since I discovered it. Functionally, of course, there are two main benefits to guest blogging. One is search, and one is social. The book, as you just saw the cover there, I’m all about combining all three channels – search, social, and email. Guest blogging is where search and social intersect.
Obviously, there are very few sustainable, ethical link building strategies left. Links still matter a lot in Google. Why would anyone just link to anybody? They have to have a good reason to. If you want someone to link to you then you have to give them value. In other words, you have to give them content. You have to do something for their audience.
Basically, there are a gazillion blogs and they all need great content. Their audiences have high expectations, so they’re looking for more than they can create internally. So, they reach out and they solicit sometimes actively or they accept, passively, posts from guest bloggers, guys like me, guys like you.
When you do that you get at least one link back, of course, the link in your bio. Also, if you’re more active about it depending on their link guidelines you may be able to put other links in the body. As always, it has to add value to the post. It has to be useful to the readers.
That’s one of the fun things about it. One of the big benefits is that it’s a way to sustainably and ethically grow links, especially if you are deliberate about targeting blogs that have high domain authority or high credibility themselves.
Adam Franklin: Now..
Andy Crestodina: …benefit… No, go ahead.
Finding the best sites to guest blog for
Adam Franklin: I was just going to say how do you find the right blogs? How do you pick the ones with the good backlink juice?
Andy Crestodina: Right. There’s an easy way to do it, and that’s through Mozbar, it’s the Moz toolbar. It’s a free tool. Once you install that, while you’re researching keywords or as you’re looking at any site, if you see it in Google search results it’ll show you the domain authority of each of the blogs there.
You can also just put it right into Open Site Explorer. As a general rule, if you’re doing it for SEO reasons, and that’s not the only reason, you might want to just target sites that have a higher domain authority than yours, generally speaking.
Something to keep in mind is more credible websites are exponentially more credible. So, a site with a domain authority of 80 might be worth 5 or 10 times as much as a site with a domain authority in the 70s. It really, really matters if that’s the point of blogging for you, if that’s one of your main reasons is to build up your own domain authority.
But, like I said, social is another giant benefit to guest blogging. This tactic kind of makes all the blog editors the guardians of quality in Google, because you have to really give them a good pitch. You have to have good content. You have to make a good connection with them, or else why would they post anything there? That’s the fun part about it is that it’s not spammy, it’s not focused on robots. You have people, and really it benefits people that are good at online networking.
Reaching A List bloggers
Adam Franklin: Thanks, Andy. Now, you mentioned the Moz toolbar. I’ll put a link to that. I use it myself, and I recommend viewers download that. It does actually give a way to analyse a website when you visit it to see what page and domain authority it does have. So, I’ll include that as a link. You mentioned going for these really high, 80 plus domain authority websites. I presume that those sort of people get tons and tons of guest blogging requests. Do you have a process that you can share with us in terms of reaching out to these bloggers?
Andy Crestodina: Well, it takes patience. It takes persistence. It takes empathy. Empathy, I’ve always said, is the greatest skill for a marketer to have. So, just be really sensitive and aware of what that blog is looking for. It takes research. What their frequency is, what kind of posts they like, and know what topics they’ve been writing about lately. Don’t submit something that they’ve just written about unless you’re submitting a contrarian. Try submitting something that they’ve never written about but would be valuable to their audience.
But, it’s networking, which is also offline, so a lot of the posts with the places I’ve submitted are people that I’ve met at conferences. You go to a conference and you see a speaker. If they’re an editor of a blog that’s a chance to meet them.
I would do it gradually. Just build it up slowly over time. If you’re just starting out pitch to any site that has an audience that you think might benefit from that post.
Then, obviously, the normal marketing principles apply. Blog on places where your audience might be reading at. Where does your target audience hang out? If you’re selling heavy equipment, ProBlogger might not be where your audience is. So, more important than domain authority might just be ‘Hey, my audience is reading this blog. I want to be over there.’
Adam Franklin: Awesome.
Andy Crestodina: That’s marketing 101.
Explanation of Google encrypting keyword data
Adam Franklin: Okay that’s great. I really appreciate that. The next thing I’d like to talk to you about is the fact that Google’s now encrypting a lot of the keyword information that keyword researchers and people that focus on guest blogging, and blogging, and in particular SEO, it’s really thrown a spanner in the works. I know that you are very knowledgeable in SEO. Would you mind giving us a quick description for the layperson as to what’s the change that’s actually taking place with Google.
Andy Crestodina: Sure. For years we’ve had a report in analytics under traffic sources. It’s now called acquisition. Traffic sources, search, and then you can see the, what’s called organic. In there you can see all the queries on the things that people are using to find your site. It connected the keyword that the person used to that visit so you could see that these
keywords had people who saw this many pages per visit, this average number of pages per visit, and this percentage of people from this keyword turned into leads or turned into subscribers.
I think in 2011 they started to not provide that data. It literally says in parentheses not provided if the search was done while the person was logged into a Google product which made it encrypted, in other words https. Or, depending on the browser, some browsers the search bar always gives you an encrypted search. In those cases there are more and more examples of where the searches we’re doing are getting us search results pages where it’s encrypted, https.
As time goes on and more people are using encryption, whether it’s Google’s decision or not, webmasters and website owners get less and less of this data. Long story short, almost 90+% of keyword data is now not provided. So, if you’re looking at that report you’re not seeing much information.
So, we’re all looking for alternatives now to getting some of this info. There’s one place, of course, still, if you connect webmaster tools to analytics you still get the queries report. So, under acquisition, search engine optimisation, queries, you can see keyword data. It just doesn’t show you what page they land on, how many pages they visited, or what percentage became leads. All it shows you is the number of impressions, the number of clicks, the average rank or ‘position’ they call
it, and the click through rate.
Figuring it out
So, you san still get some of this data. You can still kind of figure out, well, people who are searching for this phrase they must’ve been landing on that blog post. That blog post is the only page on my site that’s relevant for that phrase.
We have to use other things. If you set up a search tool you could set up analytics to show you what people are searching for on your own site. Just by looking at what pages are getting traffic from organic, without the keyword, you can still kind of figure out how people are finding you.
But, this is the direction of search. It’s getting more contextual. It’s getting less about long tail. Hummingbird is this update where it’s more about semantics and more about meaning. Rather than being tricky about key phrases it’s even more important for us to just focus on [inaudible 9:19] great experience, deep content, quality content. Focus on ideas and topics rather than long specific keywords.
Adam Franklin: Okay. Are there any real easy tools, like Google Instant, is that a real sort of easy way to be doing very basic keyword research for people who aren’t as technically minded as going into their analytics?
Andy Crestodina: Yeah…
Adam Franklin: …Or not?
Andy Crestodina: No, no, I love that tool because a lot of people sit down at their screen and don’t know what to write about. That keyword report was a fun place to look to see what people are finding you for, what you’re relevant for, what you can write about. If you’re looking for topics that have an advantage in search, in other words topics that are aligned with keywords, then Google Suggest is a fun way to do it.
Is that what you mean, when you type into Google and it suggests topics?
Adam Franklin: Yeah, that’s right. It instantly populates the things you could be searching for.
Andy Crestodina: Yeah. I was at a conference last week and sat next to Gini Dietrich from Spinsucks. I don’t know if you know her. I’m a giant Gini fan. Her blog, SpinSucks.com, is a super fun place to guest blog. It’s a great
example of how you get huge social benefits. The community is hilarious. Those people talk to each other in comments all day long. The comments on that blog are off the charts.
Anyway, Gini and I were sitting next to each other looking at Google Suggest. But, we were using a tool to do it called Ubersuggest. Adam, have you seen this yet?
Adam Franklin: Yeah. I think you mentioned it on a blog and I looked it up.
Andy Crestodina: Yeah, it’s so great. So, ubersuggest.org. What it does is it scrapes Google Suggests as if you were typing in phrases.
For her, she has a PR and communications blog. If you put in the combination of words it’s going to tell you what Google would suggest as if you’d typed the next letter. If you put in ‘why PR’ it has like hundreds of suggestions that start with the phrase ‘why PR’, like why PR is better than advertising, why PR doesn’t work for this industry, or all kinds of topics
So, if you wrote a post on one of those, even without keyword data, even without using the keyword planner, you know that people are searching for why PR is better than advertising. So, if you were to post on that topic why PR is better than advertising it’s going to have a natural advantage in search, because the topic came from Google Instant. It came
I think that’s a great way to get out of writer’s block. It’s a great way to align content with phrases. It’s a great way to just read the minds of the billion people using Google. It’s always fund to do keyword research.
Connect with Andy
Adam Franklin: Thanks for that tip. I’ll include a link to Ubersuggest in the blog post as well. Now Andy, where can people go to find out you?
Andy Crestodina: Orbitmedia.com. We’ve put out a lot of marketing content even though we really are a web design company. But, we do our best to teach anyone who’s interested as much as they want to learn about search, social, email,
and analytics. So, the blog at Orbitmedia.com. You can also find me, my Twitter handle is my last name, @crestodina.
I’m constantly sharing stuff. I share your stuff, Adam. I always appreciate it when people share stuff with me and I try to help other marketers whenever I can. Sadly, the book, I got another complaint today.
Adam Franklin: Oh, what’s that?
Andy Crestodina: It’s not available, you can’t buy the book in Australia.
Adam Franklin: Is that right? Not even through Amazon?
Andy Crestodina: I don’t think so. I think it’s not available. When you share that, you’re frustrating people. I have to figure out how to make that available there.
Adam Franklin: Yeah, because my package came through with an Amazon packaging on it.
Andy Crestodina: Oh, really?
Adam Franklin: Yeah. Maybe it is, maybe it’s not.
Andy Crestodina: I’m going to look into it. Let’s see if we can add that to the notes. Because maybe I could make a promo code and get you guys the eBook somehow down there. But, there are people in Australia who are writing to us through our forum saying that they want it and they’re having trouble getting it. I’ll do what I can to help them out.
Adam Franklin: Yeah.
Andy Crestodina: I’ll send you some info.
Adam Franklin: Maybe an eBook or the Kindle or something the way to go for us Aussies Down Under.
Andy Crestodina: Yeah, I feel bad. I want to help you guys out. I know that you’re doing such great things [inaudible 13:49] and all the stuff you put out’s fantastic. You must have an amazing influencer strategy, because you’ve got great names all over the place.
Adam Franklin: Well, you’re one of them now, Andy. We really appreciate you joining us.
Andy Crestodina: Honoured.
Adam Franklin: How’s everything going in Chicago?
Andy Crestodina: Today’s the first cold day of the year. It’s all at once. We had our first freeze last night. But, there’s tons of stuff happening. We’re doing lots with live events. Tonight is Wine and Web. Tomorrow we have Chicago Cause. We give away a website to a nonprofit once a year. Thursday is Design Brew. It’s like Wine and Web but it’s beer picking [sounds like 14:29]. It’s about web design instead of web marketing. But, having a lot of fun here. People here just seem to be moving along doing great. They’re helping each other out a lot. It’s a really collaborative community. Things are good.
Adam Franklin: That’s fantastic. Well, thank you so much, and I’ll share this with our audience. On behalf of everyone in Australia, thanks very much for joining us.
Andy Crestodina: My pleasure. Thank you, Adam. This was an honour.
Adam Franklin: You’re welcome.
Andy Crestodina: Okay.
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