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Website Analytics with Andy Crestodina

In this episode...

  • What’s really important to understand about web analytics
  • Where to find the most important stats in Google Analytics
  • How to track online marketing efforts

I asked Andy what the most valuable info he thought all small businesses should have when it comes to improving business through their website and website analytics and he wanted listeners to have this:

Where to Start With Digital Marketing

Cale Guin: As I’ve worked through the marketing industry, I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of people. My goal is to bring you the small business market or operator the cream of the crop through this podcast, the best experts and authentic approachable providers so what types of marketers are out there? Today’s guest is one of those marketers that’s both an undisputed expert and an authentic approachable provider. His name is Andy Crestodina, a co-founder at Orbit Media Studios. Today we’re going to discuss website analytics and what to pay most attention to. First, let’s get to know Andy.

Andy Crestodina: My name is Andy Crestodina, I’m one of the co-founders of Orbit Media Studios, a web development company started 20 years ago here in Chicago. We build all kinds of sites, B2B B2C for some great brands here locally and companies all over the country, actually. It’s a team of 40 and I’m basically a digital strategist.

Cale Guin: Great. You’re listed as the CML, but you guys focus specifically on websites. Is it fair to ask you questions and to get real marketing goop from you as well?

Andy Crestodina: Please, yes. That’s what most people want to talk to me about.

Cale Guin: Oh, great. All right. How did you get to this point in your career? Talk about high school. When did you get interested in tech and all that stuff?

Andy Crestodina: Gen X, a child of the ’80s grew up during that John Hughes era when he was making movies about the place I was in and the age I was at the time. Loved comic books, was a fanboy of growing up with superhero comics and role-playing games, which led to an interest in multimedia, which in the ’90s now it’s making comics with my friend from high school, a roommate from college. Started making interactive comics using dynamic HTML and JavaScript and Flash, then try to start a company to make interactive comic books, totally failed. It was called Orbit Media Studios and it was not successful. That was an evening thing, nights and weekends from ’96 to ’99. Quit that joined him. He was already building websites since the mid-90s, joined him in January of 2000. We started another company that didn’t succeed. Then in April 2001, relaunched as a web design company reusing the old name, Orbit Media Studios.

Right after launching the very first sites we did, I realized I need to better understand the analytics. I need to understand search optimization. I’ve done 20 years of website planning, SEO, and analytics going back to the precursors prior to Google Analytics. I’ve done 15 years in content strategy, blogging, email marketing, social media, influencer marketing, all that good stuff.

Cale Guin: It’s interesting. We grew up it seems that we came into the industry around the same time. I was a big Flash developer back in the day. When I started getting into Flash and actually connected to data, I was one of the only people in the area that knew how to do that so a big demand for that. It’s difficult for me to get into something, get really good at it and then get bored with it and that’s what I did, but Flash went by the wayside after a while. It wasn’t such a big deal and JavaScript started taking over all of those things. Very interesting to hear somebody else say that they’ve come up in the same era in and with that Flash background is just fun to hear. One of my first jobs that I got on my own was, it was the biggest job I’ve had to date was for Honda Corporation making training videos for all their handheld automotive testing devices. We were doing once I get to all the animation and all this stuff. It was great.

Andy Crestodina: Good for you. I remember it was like websites had a skip intro button, there was


connecting flash to a database, give you superpowers. It was like it’s so rare and so cool. You could do anything. We made CD-ROMs stuff, we made museum kiosk stuff. It was all like lots of training stuff. Today obviously it’s just search-optimized, conversion-optimized, lead generation B2B sites.

Cale Guin: I got to be honest with you, this what I’m about to say may not make it into this podcast, but there’s so many things that I want to talk to you about because your background and some of the videos that I’ve seen you in there’s other topics. Website analytics is a very important thing and a lot of small businesses really struggle with that so I want to focus on that today. There are definitely some content marketing things and some SEO things. Your company seems to do a great job, very well, very buttoned up. At least you look like, what you’re doing, and quite frankly, everything that I’ve seen and read, it seems you absolutely know what you’re talking about.

Andy Crestodina: That’s the idea.


I’m learning every day but I’m certainly trying.

Cale Guin: If people were out looking for someone who does what you do, why should they choose you over all of the other options that they might have?

Andy Crestodina: There’s so many options too. The barrier to entry to do what we do is virtually zero. We build websites, websites are free, depending on how you’re doing, websites can be built. I built a website once while drinking, with one hand, while drinking a beer. A friend had sent me a Word document and asked me to put together a site. I used Wix. The range of costs and complexity varies widely. The range of expectations and features in what’s possible varies wildly. It’s a really fun and challenging industry to be in. We have a reputation and a pipeline and partly from SEO for ourselves. People contact us all the time. Last year we generated 900 leads. A lot of these are people that just know us as being able to build sites that will, for example, preserve their current rankings. It’s not hard to imagine how a website redesign can actually tank a site’s rankings, you move things or you miss pages or you rewrite content in a way that makes it less relevant for search. They know that we’re very, very good at visitor psychology. Our process for interviewing our clients, clients, understand their buying triggers, why they do buy, why they don’t buy that where we can construct pages that have higher conversion rates.

Our job is to build sites that attract visitors, qualified visitors that convert a greater percentage of visitors into leads. The people that find us, there’s lots of banks, lots of software companies, lots of associations who need and can afford and get great ROI from 50,000 plus projects, we do 50 to 60 of those a year.

Cale Guin: Nice. I’ll say there’s a couple of key components for people who are going to be listening to this, that they should pay attention to. Not just the conversion part but this idea that you guys only do websites is a very key thing here because I think that it seems attractive that I can go to this marketing company, and they can do everything for me. As a person who has worked with probably 50 marketing companies throughout my career. Very closely, I can assure you that of those things, there’s not many that they’re excellent at. The website, in my opinion, is an overlooked thing today because of social media and all these things that they think that they can be seen on. Why do I need a website? The fact of the matter is, all of that should go there, the website should be your center cog. We’re going to talk about that a little bit more as far as analytics are concerned but those are some key points that I think people need to take away that you are absolutely right. You’re different in that regard because everyone, in fact, in the recession, one of the reasons why I became a consultant was, geez, everybody can do this stuff now. It’s all free. It’s all right there, you can click a button and have all these things that we used to have to build by hand.

Andy Crestodina: That’s right.

Cale Guin: It really is a great answer. What do you strongly like about your job or industry? What do you strongly dislike about your industry?

Andy Crestodina: I grew up working in restaurants. I’m a service industry guy. I got educated in college to be a teacher. I love teaching. Those are things that I just like to do, I like to work with people, I like to listen, I like to help. I like to be hands-on and jump in– This morning, I was in two different analytics accounts, helping two different companies with major issues. That was fun. I’ve had a great day just because of those two calls. Every day is different, and every day is a challenge. Every problem involves people. I really enjoy that. I think one of the hard things about this and makes it and eventually, I think people risk burnout is that there’s always another person that you have to go back and explain the same things to it. If you’re on the agency side or on the service provider side, we’re not really like an agency to your point, we’re a web design company. As a service provider, every project has a new team member, that’s the client. The things that you explained the last time, you have to come back and understand where they are and bring them up to speed on this thinking again.

For example, the benefits of using descriptive navigation labels, the importance of a keyword-focused h1 tag, the risk of having colorful social media icons, the fact that visitors don’t mind tall scrolling pages. There’s so many little things that you have to keep going back to the research, understanding where they’re coming from but going back to the research and helping bring that next person along. I think the brands had marketers don’t have to deal with that as much because their teams advanced in their skills move up the learning curve. Now everyone around them is that that next level. When you’re a service provider, you have to make sure you bring each client along with you through the thinking. Which, if you don’t love teaching, it’s a problem. One of the things that you said before too, that you teach your clients about their audience. I heard you say that you interview their customers. I have to say that in my experience right now, so I’ve been working for a company almost exclusively for about the last four years. They were a client of mine, and I just jumped right in as almost an employee. What I’ve noticed over the years is the real marketing part of what we do is gone by the wayside. Nobody’s really paying attention to market research and what are the customers really think. We think we know, we think that if we go to where everyone is there, there’ll be. To hear you say that you interview those people and that you’re bringing your customers along through helping them, you manage things as they go forward is key.

I can’t believe that the examples you brought up because those are far more complex than I would have thought. One of my struggles back, when we used to develop websites, was once you turn it over to the client, this beautiful web design. After time, doesn’t look so beautiful anymore because they’re adding images and they’re adding things and they don’t know aspect ratios and all those types of things. A year into it, it’s like, “No, I don’t really want anybody to know that we did that website,” but you’re going in and explaining to them the real functionality of getting people to buy in when they’re there, regardless of what the aesthetic looks like. Kudos to you.

Andy Crestodina: That is the game. If you think about, in one word, what must a website do? Answer. The visitor comes gets the truth. One way to think about it is this, there’s a true story in the life of every visitor, to every webpage. That visitor arrives, they have information needs. The job is to first meet their expectations by satisfying those information needs. What questions do they have? What is the order of the questions that they have? Now, without understanding that, how do you even make a webpage? It’s a crazy idea. You’re just like, “Make it all just like we love us. We’re number one.” That’s not why the visitor came. The job of a great webpage is to emulate a sales conversation. When you interview the reps and you interview the audience, you end up understanding, these are the objections that must be addressed, these are the questions that must be answered. Now, while they’re there, we want to inject into their field of vision, evidence, and proof, and reasons to believe otherwise we just have a bunch of unsupported marketing claims, but if you don’t do that qualitative research, I don’t know how to make a webpage, a website or a homepage or any page.

Cale Guin: I find even marketing companies don’t really do the research. They should do the research and they’re just out there going, “Oh, you need an app and you need to be on social media.” It’s confounding and very troubling to a certain extent, however, I will say that over since I’ve been doing the podcast and interviewing good marketers, I’m finding that many of them are in a good spot. You still know where the tough spots are, but there does seem to be more of a wave toward genuine help for the consumer and that’s great.

Andy Crestodina: Glad to hear that. Empathy, data-driven empathy, that’s the job. Empathy based on data. If you’re doing that, if you embrace that, that perspective you are poised to get great results from marketing.

Cale Guin: We’re going to get deep into that in a minute, but I’m just going to ask you one more of these questions about you. Tell us about your favorite professional experience, maybe a wild success, or a failure that you overcame? Looking back over the 20 years that you’ve been doing this or longer, give me a favorite?

Andy Crestodina: This is a challenging time because we’re still in the COVID era for a little while longer, at least. I always wanted to have video testimonials on my site. I’ve said many times that video is the ultimate format and that testimonials are the ultimate type of content. To combine those two things and get those on the site always felt like a missing thing for me. During COVID I still set the goal of trying to get some video testimonials and during the process of reaching out to clients post-launch, I found that many of them are happy, even in an era when they’re worried about masks. Many of them are happy to sit down with a video producer and actually– my friend, Tony he’s from Milwaukee, he goes and meets with them. People saying yes, to do video testimonials from us during COVID. I am honored by that. That is a career highlight for me to go back, to see the video that they made, just to talk about their experience with us.

That has been one of my greatest professional, most rewarding moments and professional triumphs is to have people willing to sit down with someone in front of a camera with no mask right now and speak about us in that way it’s humbling.

Cale Guin: That’s great. Great answer. I’m really impressed by that. Let’s start talking about analytics. We touched on it just a minute ago when you’re answering some of the questions about yourself, but when we’re talking about analytics, one of the most attractive things about analytics is that you can track just about anything and most people are looking to track their ad performance and those types of things, but there’s a lot more to it. If you’re a small business, what’s in your opinion, the most beneficial part of analytics and we’re going to get into right after that, and how can they take advantage of that?

Andy Crestodina: Yes. People should really ask this more because most businesses are small. If you’ve got a low-traffic website, there’s still your insights you can find analytics very quickly. One of them is hiding in plain sight. It’s called the navigation summary. If you go to the– The reports are organized ABC, acquisition, behavior, conversion. That middle section is the behavior reports, which is what people did while they were there. The behavior site content, all pages, you’ll find all the pages on your website that have been visited during that date range.

Cale Guin: We’re talking specifically about Google Analytics here?

Andy Crestodina: Google Analytics, yes. Capitol A. If you go to a page like your homepage and you click on the navigation summary tab, which people often miss, you can see exactly where people went from your homepage. In other words, you can see the performance of your website navigation.

Cale Guin: Right. That’s key. I think people miss that, there’s this idea of let’s put this most important thing here, and then fill in the blanks with a bunch of other stuff. It really does come down to walking them through a journey. Right now, as I talk to you and as I was researching some of the things prior to doing this, I’m realizing that I’m the cobbler’s kids with no shoes. I haven’t paid attention to any of my own stuff. I put some things up there’s for credibility sake, and I knew what I wanted to do, but I don’t have any content yet. I got to start building everything back up again. At some level to hear somebody say, “Yes, don’t forget to walk them through the whole–” Basically, the sales funnel of getting to know that you have some information that they need all the way through.

Andy Crestodina: Yes, just the very common, big things that don’t get clicked, little tiny things that get clicked by everybody. You can design what you want to design and you could just pick the navigation labels that you want and you can write a call to action. In the end, every idea that you had was really just a hypothesis. Until you go in and look, you don’t know if it matters, if you called it services or if you called it something else, what page in which section it’s super common for the top click from someone’s homepage to, in fact, be some small hidden click, like in the third drop-down halfway. Check the navigation summary. Even if you have a low-traffic site, you’re a small business, you will probably immediately get ideas about things to remove or things to change, things to make more prominent.

Cale Guin: Really, the decision is this. When you see that, is this what you want to have happening? Is this what a customer would really want to be experiencing, and then make adjustments based on that. As you say, that’s the job and people don’t you’re right. Google Analytics, when you go in there, it’s so wonderful. It’s like your kid in a candy shop. All these great, but by the same token, on the other side of that, it’s overwhelming. Even today I just set up a Google Analytics account and it’s completely different than it was even six months ago.

Andy Crestodina: Oh, yes.

Cale Guin: When you go in there, it can be a little overwhelming. What are the basics? Tell us the navigation summary is something that you say to pay attention to, but if I’m looking to say, am I doing a good job of providing a service or selling my product? Give me the top three? Like navigation summary, what are two and three?

Andy Crestodina: Well, probably just the acquisition channels report. You can see which of your channels, which source of traffic is bringing the most visitors, and the visitors who are most likely to be engaged with the content. That is probably one of the top. Those two reports, the behavior site content, all pages report and the acquisition channels, all channels report. Those two are– If I was going to be trapped on a desert island with only two reports with me, I’d bring those two, almost everybody. I think what helps it be less overwhelming, you can jump right to those and you don’t have to click around. There’s like 100, there’s so many reports in there.

Cale Guin: Then they’re all drillable. [crosstalk]

Andy Crestodina: Yes, you just keep going down this endless rabbit hole. I would say that one of the most useful perspectives to bring with you when you open analytics is to think, “I’m here to get an answer to a question about marketing performance or about visitor behavior or about the effectiveness of a campaign or something.” That way you’re not just clicking around. I rarely do any reporting. I don’t think reporting is necessarily very useful. In fact, reporting doesn’t affect marketing outcomes. It doesn’t affect business outcomes or impact. Reporting is just chart analysis and action affects marketing, affect outcomes, and the impact. Go in there with a question. I’ll give you some questions you can quickly answer with a few clicks in analytics. Our visitors from social media, more likely to be on phones, yes or no? How much more likely? Visitors from which traffic source are most likely to become a lead? Which of my pages is the most likely page from which people leave? What percentage of my visitors are taking action and filling out the contact form?

Do those tend to be visitors with certain attributes, as in, are they coming from a certain place or coming through a certain page? Which of my ad groups is the biggest waste of money? If my goal is traffic, should I even be using Instagram? You can answer each of these questions. I’m going to say, five clicks max for the answer to each of those questions. Now, go take an action. Now, go adapt your marketing. Now, go reallocate budgets. That’s how we’re supposed to be using it for analysis.

Cale Guin: You make a great point with, “Look, Instagram is not really doing much for me.” There’s two ways to look at that. It currently is not doing much for me. Is it something I’m doing wrong with Instagram? It does open up a few questions there, but it is an important aspect of deciding what you should be spending your time on.

Andy Crestodina: If something’s not working, you got two options. You can quit or improve.


It’s not like you should quit those things. Not necessarily, to your point. Thank you.

Cale Guin: It’s funny because I’ve gone over this with a number of clients, that you can’t be everywhere. You literally can’t and the likelihood is you probably shouldn’t. You should be really good in the areas where your customers are most comfortable and where they should be. That offers you the tools. Twitter, a lot of people complain about Twitter because it’s so limiting with the characters and what you can put in there and it’s fast. The cycle of Twitter is just a million miles a second. A lot of people complain about that. However, the people who are there are the people who are there and those people do that. They’re used to that rhythm and they’re used to that whole thing. Certain types of people, NASCAR fans, which is an odd group of people, but to call out, not that they’re odd, but as a group of people, they’re all on Twitter. It’s a weird thing, but there they are.

Andy Crestodina: There’s great reasons to use social media or to be active on a network beyond website traffic. Social media is not the best channel, generally, for attracting visitors. Conversion rates from visitors into lead from social media tend to be low. I can give you, social media is great for networking. How do you do PR without social media? Social media creates social proof. Social media is a listening tool. Social media is a content promotion platform. It builds relevance. You can become influential. There’s definitely more to life than website traffic and analytics, and there’s lots of reasons to use social beyond dumping clicks into a social stream. It’s more than just that.

Cale Guin: I feel like I’m always the guy trying to talk people out of social media. I know that people are looking at me like, “Don’t you like social media? What’s wrong with you? Are you old or what?” No. It’s just like you said. It has its purpose. It can inform people at a top level, but it is usually a top-level marketing process. You’re informing them of a thing but that thing isn’t probably going to be, “Sign up to buy my widget.” It’s usually a bit more complex than that.

Andy Crestodina: It almost always is. I’m active on social media. I work hard there. We put a big research piece out yesterday, and I didn’t want to miss the chance to promote it the best I could because we spent 40 hours making this giant, research, blogpost survey. I decided I’m going to promote this thing on social media. What’s the best way to do that? Well, Linkedin is where I get the most traction. What type of posts would give me the best results? I’m going to make a video? What helps the video get better traction? Adding captions.

I’m taking 20 minutes to make a video, a one-minute commercial, basically, for people to try to come, see this research piece I put out. You can bet, I’m going to add a campaign tracking code, which is another gap. People fail to add campaign tracking code to measure the performance of a link. I haven’t checked it yet but I can come in here and look and tell you exactly how much traffic was generated from that one social post and what the engagement was.

In its ability to attract visitors, this one here brought in 118 visitors. How many newsletter subscribers? Zero. [laughs] That was the effort. I spent 20 minutes. I drove 118 visitors to the website, and none of those visitors happened to convert into subscribers, but I measured that. I know the impact. I can accurately weigh the pros and cons of that kind of time investment.

Cale Guin: There is a likelihood that those 118 people may not have known about you before. There’s value there, but you didn’t get to the goods right there.

Andy Crestodina: What you find, it’s a long funnel.

Cale Guin: It is a long funnel. One thing that I read in your book that I was so excited to see was you and I being in complete alignment about how analytics are not this exacting science. You shouldn’t really pay attention to it like that. It’s a gauge, it’s a benchmark. It’s how are we doing today? I’m pretty sure that there should be four of those, not three of those. Why does Google Analytics say something different than Google Ads? There’s a bunch of those types of things. I like to joke, just recently with the CEO, I said– By the way, dogs might bark right now because somebody is coming to the door. I joked with him, I said, do you want me to troubleshoot your inbox because you didn’t get an email from a lead that you thought should come to you? Do you want me to troubleshoot Google Analytics? I’m not really sure how I can answer your question. Maybe they went to the website through the link, but then came back later and didn’t use the link, and I can do that.

Andy Crestodina: Messy, yes.

Cale Guin: It feels a little bit like I’m doing the wrong thing. That being the case, talk about that in your experience a little bit and how we can avoid that trap of looking so minutely at?

Andy Crestodina: A time I find myself saying a lot when talking to clients about analytics is the point of diminishing returns. One of my calls this morning, it’s like, “Okay, COVID era begins, all their people are at home. We need to filter out traffic from our home addresses now the same way we used to filter out traffic from our office. We need to make IP address filters for everyone’s house.” I’m in their account, and they had 31 IP filters. They were set up in a pretty– there were some ranges. They were trying to like filter out ranges of IP addresses for certain people. It brought the point, there’s a point of diminishing returns trying to get ever more accurate data in here. You know of course that you’ve got a cookie consent button now because of GDPR and that not everyone wants to be tracked anyway. You can always use a cookie list like an incognito window if you want to test your site. In the end, just keep in mind, 100% of the numbers in analytics are wrong. There isn’t one single accurate number in there because some people don’t accept cookies. We’re not looking for 100% accurate data.

We are looking for accurate data in so far as we want to make a good marketing decision. That’s the point of it. I think there’s a personality type on a disc test if you’re familiar with, like the High C. They’re like data hoarders. They just want lots and lots of information before they’re comfortable enough to move. It’s a frustrating personality type for analytics because you’ll never ever get there. The point is not perfect accuracy. It’s sufficient accuracy to support a hypothesis, take an action, run a test, and make a decision.

Cale Guin: Even with the blocking of IPS. To me, that’s almost a useless thing anyway. They’re on there anyway. It’s just part of the analytic, so what? If you take them all off today, 30 people aren’t going to be registering on the thing, but if know they’re there–

Andy Crestodina: I know, they had 5,000 page views a day. It’s like, “How much are you– Is it 1,000 of those you guys?” You’re not doing anything like that. Having said that, we build websites for banks, as I mentioned. It’s true that a lot of visitors who go to bank home pages, just click to log in to their bank, online banking. That’s 80% of your visitors, [laughs] which is a problem. In those cases, to get accurate data about what your prospects, your potential customers are doing, not the current customers, but potential customers. Then you need to make a segment to exclude people who touch that button. Once you take out that 80%, suddenly, the conversion rate becomes meaningful when it wasn’t before. The bounce rate on the homepage becomes meaningful when it wasn’t before. There are definitely times in places where you take action to improve the quality of your data, but don’t make 30 filters to filter out each person who’s worked at your company because they’re on the site twice a day. You’d have to be an ultra-low traffic website.

Cale Guin: 80% of your traffic is your people.

Andy Crestodina: Yes, in which case, you’ve got bigger problems.


Cale Guin: I’m really glad I asked that question right now. I have to say too, when you do build a segment, which by the way, just to fill people in on that. It’s an ability to say that, don’t track or do track this group of people meeting some criteria. What I love about that is I get to look at the analytics both ways. I can see it. Okay. We know that this 80% are going there just to log in. Then another thing that we should fill in the blank on is when somebody logs in on a bank website they’re typically going to a different website once they’ve logged in. They’re not trackable anymore. You’re not watching through those analytics. I like to see, well, let’s just look at just the 80% that click the button, and did they do anything else? How long did it take for them to find– those are all really interesting things to look at too and am I making the login too difficult, too easy? Whatever are– I would also like to then compare that to the login success rate. Anyway, there’s all kinds of things that you can look at there, but segments are awesome and they’re fairly simple to set up for just about anybody.

Andy Crestodina: I’m glad you zeroed in on that because I spent 10 years in analytics before I ever even clicked on that thing. It’s the easiest click. It’s just right at the top of every report. It’s fun to experiment with. There’s prebuilt segments, for example, mobile. I can often look at an account I know their advertising, they told me they have a big budget for advertising. Just go to the– Add a segment for mobile and then go to the ad groups and see if the ad groups have drastically lower conversion rates from mobile. If so, you can save thousands of dollars in three minutes per month just by turning off the ads for mobile users. There’s so many easy wins that just the insight it’s not that common actually, but there are examples where the insight just leaps out of the analytics right into your face and you just know exactly what you need to do.

Cale Guin: Early on I think that that’s usually the case too. When you’re learning a lot more and when you made that point too and again, we’re not going to get to half of my questions today because you’re leading me in a lot of cool directions here. When it comes to building a website or doing any of those things, one of the things is that the job’s not done. The day the site launches-

Andy Crestodina: If it’s not.

Cale Guin: -the job is not done. I think people make that mistake a lot. We just did an episode on the failure rate of digital projects. Some people will say it’s in the 90 percentile and I’m like, “That’s because you’re looking at the wrong thing. You think that when your ad went out that’s the end of the project. It isn’t.” You have to test that. You don’t know how it’s going to– There’s a lot of work left to be done there. If you did all of that work and you got to the end of that you probably have a successful project, but it’s successful. “Hey, look, we’ve got a great new website.” Then a month later it’s like, “We’re not getting any more phone calls. We’re not getting any more leads. We’re not– .” Now it’s a failure. In my opinion that’s both on the project stakeholders and on whoever’s providing the service. That’s a project set up incorrectly in my opinion. In my opinion, it goes for a while, at least a while if not for the term of the website.

Andy Crestodina: I often tell people digital link is never drying. There’s no such thing as a finished website. Whatever it is that you made. It was all just as I said earlier like every idea is really just a hypothesis. Web design you’re making 100 tiny decisions. They’re all really just testable hypotheses. Let’s say you wrote a call to action. It said, get in touch and 1% of people on that page actually click it. I’m going to try something different. I’m going to say, “Ask us a question.” Try that as a call to action. Check the before and after, any difference in the click-through rate? No. That’s fine. Only one in four by tests tend to work anyway. What’s my next idea. You keep trying, keep experimenting. It’s not finished. Keep working on it.

Every action you take has an impact in the data. You know where to find that data. In that case, it was the navigation summary from that page shows the click-through rate on your CTA.

Just keep iterating because you’re going to hit a home run once in a while and then it’s not weird. What if your website is started generating 20% more leads. You’d have one of two options. This is not that uncommon. You have to either hire people or raise your prices because you’ve got way more demand now. What are you going to do? This is growth. It happens everyday brands all over doing exactly the things that you and I are discussing right now. You will hit a home run and you’ll see a 20% lift on either the traffic, also known as cheese, or conversions, also known as the mousetrap and you’re going to suddenly have more demand. What are you going to do? You’re going to grow. That’s the outcome [chuckles] we’re talking– That’s why we do all this stuff.

Cale Guin: It’s great that you bring that up because even in– I’m going to tee one up here before you when I’m done making this comment. The idea of testing all those little things like that is really important, but let’s just say I’m testing a thing. How many things should I try to test at one time given that one thing? Go ahead and you can answer that. This way it should be fun.

Andy Crestodina: You’re asking a web design company person and inevitably we redesigned a site and we changed everything. The URL structure changed, the design changed. Sometimes the brand got updated, all the headlines, all the calls to action, all the colors, all the faces, all the video, all the images, the copy is all new. We just changed everything. That was not a test. [crosstalk] That was resetting the baseline. A test according to like the tools would say, a test you have a specific variable, you’re changing one thing. Google optimize. You’re not going to be changing the whole page around. You’re changing an element of the page. We’re unbounced. You’re not making drastically two different layouts, two different calls to action, two different creatives. If you’re looking for the truth you should be testing one thing at a time. If you’re just trying to get a lift it’s not necessarily wrong to go change a whole bunch of things at once because you’re not an academic researcher, you’re not maybe going to be publishing your results. You’re just trying to make a difference. Go change whatever you want and measure the difference before and after, if you change more than one thing you might not know which made the difference.

Cale Guin: That’s always the trap. Of those things is that, if I didn’t do these, would it have been better? There’s a lot of unwinding you may have to do a few either knock it out of the park or nothing happens. It is just, test one thing at a time. It’s a daunting thing for people. I don’t think people like that answer, but it is, it’s a process. We really want to be good. It’s a process and you have to keep walking through it. I’m going to ask this next question and if you can answer this question for me this will be of the most successful podcast episodes I have ever done. The reason is, is because I nobody’s ever had a simple or concise answer that’s easy to understand.

Andy Crestodina: I’m really excited for whatever you’re about to ask. This is going to be great. I welcome it.

Cale Guin: A lot of what we do with analytics, even in Google Analytics is measuring our ad performance. We have emails that go out. We have digital ads that are out there. We have pay-per-click, we have SEO and social media. We have all of these platforms driving. Even if they’re driving traffic to our website, what if I now have TV? What if I’m having an awareness campaign versus a campaign to drive leads? How can I– Is there an easy way that you know over there that you can think of, or have done before to aggregate all of that stuff in a meaningful way to create a dashboard that a small business guy can take a look at weekly, monthly or what have you to just say, “How am I doing.”

Andy Crestodina: No. [laughs] Ultimately, no, because you mixed in some offline things which aren’t really trackable. There are inherent issues with the way that default channel groupings work in analytics. This is the acquisition all traffic channels report. In theory, it should work beautifully for this because that report will show you your default channel groupings which are the big buckets, search, social email, direct referral and show you the traffic levels and the conversion rates for each. When you do things like out like outdoor TV radio– Let’s say you do a successful TV campaign. Which traffic sources that affect? Direct. You don’t know anything about those visitors. When you add offline it all becomes very much an imprecise science because the internet is so open. People can type anything into a browser and just learn. That’s a big challenge.

Cale Guin: Let’s look at even just an awareness campaign where your conversions you’re just letting people know that there’s something there. There’s probably some analytic there anyway, but I guess I’m trying to say that it’s not as tidy as measuring a conversion. It’s hard to say that, what did this awareness campaign bring to me? You’re not going to know for a while. Do you have any ways of managing the lag and the things that aren’t an immediate win?

Andy Crestodina: Well, what I tell people who are looking for perfect attribution, that’s one way to describe it. People who want really exact attribution numbers and to know which effort led to which exact outcome, which lead that I get from which from which email I said, that’s really hard to tie back. Their standard for attribution digital is high and it should be high, but what were these people doing before the internet? They expect it to know the exact conversion rate from every direct mail piece, every outdoor billboard, every cold call, every radio ad. There’s no way. I think it’s an unfair standard to say that, even though that, now that it’s digital we should have perfect attribution. That will never be the case. How do you measure word of mouth from my most important sources of leads? I can’t tell you what the total number of people in society that have my company as top of mind and would refer, I can measure net promoter score. Sure. That’s helped. There are proxy metrics in these cases, one of the best ways to improve the reporting on this though for attribution is to make sure you’re using campaign tracking code. You send an email or like that one I mentioned I made a video for LinkedIn yesterday, and I know how many visitors it brought that’s because I had a campaign tracking code, use a URL builder, please for every campaign and every discreet specific action you use to drive people to the site, definitely put it through the URL builder, add some parameters, use that campaign tracking code link.

Cale Guin: If people don’t know what a URL builder is, it creates what’s called a UTM code at the end of your URL. It’s basically specifying what campaign, what source there’ll be a number of parameters in there. If you just answered like four or five questions in a form very quickly it just generates the link for you. Then you use that and that starts to track things for you and in Google Analytics, we’ll break that all out separately for you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that answer. Now, when you say, tracking code, there are ways of saying on TV or in radio, go to our website/TV radio, or whatever the thing might be and that can show you something. What about in circumstances where I see an ad in, I see a pay-per-click ad. I click on it, I go to the website and I don’t do anything then a few weeks later I come back, I’m like, “Hey, I’m going to go back to that website.” I go direct this time and I now purchase a widget. How’s that track?

Andy Crestodina: Are you on the same device and that second visit? Then there are ways to track that there are reporting tools, Google Analytics doesn’t really do that, except it shows that you were returning visitor, but there are marketing automation tools who are famous for this. The day the visitor does take action. It will connect their tiny attributes of their visit, their fingerprints in a way. It knows that that person from that browser, that IP address visited the site in the past and that will connect to that back. In the reports, it will show you a Marketo or HubSpot or Pardot or something. It will show you that that person who took action that day, not just for purchase, but for downloading something or subscribing filling out a contact form. It now appends to that, all those previous visits, every, all the information they put into that form field. It will show, so there are ways to do that and that does give some insights, how actionable is that is a different question. How much do you need to know about how many times your visitors came before they subscribed?

If you have great marketing ideas that based on using that information awesome. Most people it’s even when you do have that information, it’s not necessarily as practical as you might think.

Cale Guin: Let’s talk about Marketo and HubSpot and those types of things. Are you a proponent of any one of them? Are you a proponent of just marketing automation in general? Where do you land on?

Andy Crestodina: My normal counter con counter-intuitive answer is that people tend to overbuy marketing technology. People spend too much money. People think that it’s about the tool. My friend, great speaker, Jay Baer says it’s about the wizard, not the wand. It really isn’t buying a marketing automation tool is not sufficient to getting great results. That should be obvious. Some of these tools will cost you $1,000 a month. People will get excited about the let’s take like content marketing, content marketing is the future. This is great, it’s the only marketing left, according to South Dakota, and I needed to do this. Therefore, I’m going to go start signing up for HubSpot paying $1,000 a month and then begin to write some blog posts like, “Wow, you weren’t ready for this at all.” Don’t automate anything until you’ve done it manually for a while. We generated, I might’ve mentioned, we generated 900 leads last year. I don’t use any marketing automation. I don’t get any content.

You don’t have to, if they’re not necessary, the risk is that you pay a bunch of money and then you start using it as if it was MailChimp thousands. People all the time, they pay $1,000 a month to HubSpot and they basically use it like MailChimp. You could save yourself $950 a month. [laughs]It’s just by canceling that and going back to MailChimp.

Cale Guin: I can’t even begin to tell you how refreshing it is to hear that. Now, when you talk to marketing companies, a lot of marketing companies have invested in HubSpot and Marketo or what have you. That’s what they push because it provides them all of that. Those resellers, they make money. They’re affiliates. I tell people all the time, you can do everything that those things are doing almost for free. You use something like MailChimp or what have you, you’re going to pay for the MailChimp part of it. You’re going to pay for that, just to do your email marketing anyway. Then there’s all the stuff that you get because you did that and it is very difficult. Again one of my challenges, this is the thing that I’m facing this all-new venture that I’m on is to– The podcast is called Totally Hyped in a sarcastic way because at some level they’re overhyping all of the things they sell. We have to stop looking at what we have to sell versus what’s going to work for your situation. In a lot of cases when we’ve touched on them a number of times in this episode you do’t know no right upfront.

There’s some work that needs to get done and some time that needs to get spent understanding exactly what’s going to work for your specific situations. Man thank you very much for that answer. That was-

Andy Crestodina: Well, I appreciate that. You didn’t drink the Kool-Aid but let’s stay objective. I think it’s– There were plenty of companies that get a huge value from it. One of the features people are enamored by is that idea of tracking back. Now you got to lead how many times do they visit but I don’t have an idea for that day. I don’t want to track anything that isn’t practical for me.

Cale Guin: You really want to know what you’re doing and what’s working, what’s not working, and if it is working or not working what do you do about it? That’s really at the end of the day, that’s where marketing starts to play a role. Not everybody can answer those questions right away.

Andy Crestodina: Right, last-click attribution is sufficient for most of us, knowing the last time they visited, where do they come from. That’s still helpful but to get more than that you might have spent 10 or 100X what you would have had to spend out of pocket from a marketing tool.

Cale Guin: I’m going to end on this one question. You were guiding, now small businesses don’t mean, no money. It’s just there’s either a few employees which is the stupid thing that a lot of people measure the size of business based on rather than income but regardless they’re going to have probably a small budget. They’re certainly not going to have all the expertise and access to all the resources. What would you say if you were talking to a group of small businesses start here and this is where you hope to get to?

Andy Crestodina: I wrote a post about this and it has a little diagram that says the number one thing to focus on first is your contact page because there were probably visitors on that today and if it stinks that’s the last link in the chain. Fix that one first. The next step, go backwards to the chain to calls to action that bring people to your contact page. The next step would be previous step behind that. It’s the sales pages that build enough trust and clarity through answers and evidence we talked about to give people the click to call to action on the contact page. Go backwards upwards through the funnel. This post has, it’s a little chat-

Cale Guin: Did you know I was going to ask this question because–

Andy Crestodina: No it’s been top of mind because it’s a really common thing, what should I do now. I said number one, contact page, number two, calls to action, number three, the service pages, number four the homepage. Then the above page I prioritize is the fifth. For number six go search for your brand in Google, that’s another one of your homepages, like give reputation issues in there. You don’t even get to click if you’re failing at that. That’s a link in the back that you’ll never see. Now start blogging. Write articles that support the sales funnel, write articles that salespeople will share with prospects. Then you go up to content strategy and you’re doing things like research recent times too. I think the very bottom of the funnel first because maybe people are on those pages today. Make a contact form sparkle your calls to action and your top service pages. Efforts there are literally 100 times more valuable to your brand than many of the other things that you can do on any given day.

Cale Guin: I don’t think that people listening to this are going to understand the brilliance of the simplicity of that answer. The reason I say that is because it’s never what you hear. You never hear that from typical marketers. You hear, “Oh you got to do this huge project,” and it really isn’t that. It really is taking care of the most immediate things first. Then go about your business. I cannot tell you how much I thank you for your time, Andy. I hope we can do this again because there are other topics that I want to cover. Analytics is something that I’m hot on right now but definitely content marketing which you have a great book out. Is there anything you would like to tell people about yourself that they could take advantage of or any events that are coming up, anything that we should be aware of?

Andy Crestodina: We have a bi-weekly virtual event called wine and web. It was a live event for 10 years and now it’s virtual but it’s still at 5:00 PM. It’s a wide event actually [laughs] but we get great speakers and I teach usually every other, so if you’re interested in that, that’s every other Tuesday, and I write an article every other Thursday. That’s my frequency, that’s all I do. Anyone that signs up, If you want my best advice every two weeks. I send one email every two weeks. You can find it at Orbit Media.

Cale Guin: Well, thank you again for your time. It’s been great talking to you. I’m very, very glad that we got connected and we were able to do this.

Andy Crestodina: I loved this. Thanks, Cale. This was super fun.

Expert: Andy Crestodina

Andy has been in the web design and interactive marketing space since January of 2000. 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 ethical digital marketing.

Together with the team at Orbit Media, Andy has put out some of the best digital marketing advice available in hundreds of practical articles, including posts on virtually all of the top marketing websites. Then there’s the book, Content Chemistry, which is currently in its fifth edition.

Andy is also a regular speaker both locally and nationally. Not only is Andy a founder of Content Jam, Chicago’s largest content marketing conference, but he’s also a regular face on the national circuit. If you go to a content marketing conference, the one Chicagoan you’re most likely to hear is Andy Crestodina.

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