Andy Crestodina interview

Hello and welcome to the last interview of the year on the Themeisle blog! Ease yourself into the holidays with some marketing wisdom from Andy Crestodina – the co-founder of Orbit Media.

Before reading his insights, make sure to check out our previous interview with David Artiss about leadership and customers. Or, why not take a look through all the interviews we’ve done on this blog to get your inspiration for the new year?

Andy Crestodina Interview with Themeisle

Andy Crestodina is an entrepreneur with a fine eye for business and content marketing. He is the co-founder and chief marketing officer of Orbit Media – an award-winning digital agency in Chicago.

With 20 years of experience in digital marketing, Andy has helped hundreds of businesses and millions of readers grow online. He’s done that through professional consulting, blog articles, and presentations at various national events in the U.S.

Over the years, Andy Crestodina has been designated one of the top digital marketing influencers in the world by many famous publications like SEMrush, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Buzzsumo, or TopRank – just to name a few.

Andy’s professionalism is apparent from the very moment you interact with him. I personally loved his attention to detail, authenticity, and interest in making this collaboration smooth for both of us. Fun fact: he loves taking selfies. 😀

When and how did you start working with WordPress? Is there an interesting story here?

Andy Crestodina:

Waaaay back in 2000, when I started building websites, there was no WordPress. There was no open source. There was content, but not a lot of content management. So we built our own CMS. Everyone did in those days.

We called our CMS “MightySite” and eventually built hundreds of sites on this home-grown platform. It was good. But the market was moving on.

Fast forward 15 years. Clients were getting nervous about proprietary. They were asking about open source. And WordPress was ascendant. Just look at Google Trends…

Google Trends

So we adapted. We had to.

We considered options, made a decision, trained the team, found new talent, researched plugins, and built a standard sandbox. Today, we’re basically a WordPress shop.

We still build 50+ websites each year, almost all of them are on WordPress. It makes hosting and support easier. It makes development more efficient. It makes training and content management faster.

If you meet anyone who did web development in the early 2000s, they’ll likely have a similar story.

What’s your favorite/must-have WordPress plugin and why?

Andy Crestodina:

My current favorite is Contextual Related Posts. Here’s why:

We were doing a little research to learn what features are standard on blogs. So we reviewed a bunch of the top marketing blogs and wrote a report showing which features were the most popular. This diagram summarizes the research:

Features in most blog posts

Even before we published this post, I realized that our own blog was missing something. 79% of blogs show related articles …but ours did not. So we quickly did some research, found the Contextual plugin, and added it.

We also added event tracking so we could check the effectiveness of Google Analytics. You can see that simply by adding this plugin, we added 1,700+ article views in the first six months.

event tracking

It’s like free traffic. And it’s 100% attributable to that plugin.

How do you define “being successful”?

Andy Crestodina:

I’ve got two toddlers at home. Success is spending time with them. That means finding a professional balance and staying healthy. Just look at these two!

Andy Crestodina interview: family

Of course, I need the business to be successful enough to support the family and help support my 50 co-workers and their families. That means building and managing a marketing program that generates enough leads to keep the machine running.

That brings us to the topic of content strategy…

What’s the no. 1 thing a new business entering the online space should do?

Andy Crestodina:

Even before publishing your first blog post, make sure you’ve got a compelling call to action to subscribe. This will make every reader of your blog more likely to sign up. This can make a huge difference in the long run.

Great email signup boxes have the three Ps:

  1. Prominence. They stand out visually. That means a contrasting color, or it’s a pop-up, or it’s a sticky footer, or it’s big at the top of the blog, or it’s on every page in the footer, etc.
  2. Promise. They tell the reader what they’ll get if they subscribe. That means indicating the topic (“tips for building stronger castles”) and the frequency (“weekly”).
  3. Proof. They show that other people are getting value from these emails, either by indicating the number of subscribers or including a tiny testimonial. This kind of social proof leverages conformity bias and can increase conversion rates.
good email signup
Image source:

You are not a marketing professional if you…

Andy Crestodina:

The best marketers don’t have opinions, they have data.

The best marketers don’t have ideas, they have hypotheses.

The best marketers don’t make changes, they run tests.

See the pattern here? You are simply not a serious marketing professional if you rely on your personal preferences. Because you’re a dataset of one.

data-driven marketing

Personal preferences are at the bottom of the hierarchy of quality decision-making. Great marketers never begin sentences with “I like it when…”

What are some infallible strategies to bring new visitors to a niche blog on a regular basis?

Andy Crestodina:

Email is the most important promotion channel and the most valuable source of traffic for one reason: there isn’t a huge tech company in between you and your visitor.

Search and social are both controlled by big tech. But email is controlled by you.

That’s why every serious B2B marketer I know is doing everything possible to grow their list and keep their subscribers engaged.

Of course, that means using email campaign data to keep improving your email program. And that means adding a campaign tracking code to every link in every email.

You just need to add the campaign parameters using a URL Builder like this one. It’s very very simple.

When the campaigns are tracked in Google Analytics, you get data that goes beyond the stats your email service gives you. You get the behavior metrics, which are sometimes more insightful.

Here I am looking at the traffic from every email I sent last year. You can quickly see that the campaign that brought in the most traffic was NOT the campaign that brought in the most engaged traffic. It’s an important difference…

Andy Crestodina interview with Themeisle - email campaign statistics

What type of content marketing has been the most effective for your business so far?

Andy Crestodina:

Original research.

No question, this is the most effective format for content we’ve ever published. I’ve already used one example in this interview: the blog design best practices.

New research attracts the attention of journalists and bloggers more than anything else you can publish. It attracts more links and mentions. It increases social shares and engagement. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming to produce.

Start by asking yourself this question: What do people in our industry frequently say, but rarely support with evidence?

In other words, what is a “missing stat” in your industry? If you think of one and then fill in that gap with new research, you’ll probably have created a top-performing piece of content.

Of course, it still needs to be promoted. That’s a much easier job if you collaborate with influencers on the piece. Remember, an ally in creating content is an ally in promoting content!

What’s an instant turn-off for you when you read content online?

Andy Crestodina:

These are deal-breakers for me:

  • Headlines that are overly vague or clickbaity.” This is the one amazing thing that generated 2,421 leads”
  • Long intro paragraphs filled with “throat-clearing” language. “In these challenging times…”
  • Long blocky paragraphs anywhere
  • No author picture or name
  • Dates that make the content look very old
  • Any page that has three or more of these: Popup windows, chatbots, cookie consent, allow notifications message box, allow location, content gates.
  • Stock photos

What is driving you to keep doing what you’re doing? What’s your personal mission?

Andy Crestodina:

When I was a kid, I worked in restaurants. Hotel restaurants, Chinese restaurants, sandwich shops. I was a service worker in the hospitality industry.

I’m still a service worker. A huge part of my job is working with people, listening, understanding, and then doing everything possible to help them have a better day.

I’ll always be a service provider. I’ll always do my best to serve, teach, and help whoever is in front of me, however I can. That is my personal mission.

That sums up our Andy Crestodina interview. If you enjoyed it and want to learn more, please leave your comments in the section below. Also, if you have any ideas for who we should talk to next, feel free to share your suggestions with us!

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