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King Content

Tom Gerace is the CEO of Skyword, as well as GetYourBizSaavy’s Sexiest Male Entrepreneur of 2010. Marketers, he says, only have a limited understanding around the importance of content. “I think they understand the engagement aspect, but not in terms of search,” he says. In all likelihood, this is collateral from the battle between creativity and data. Content, traditionally the purview of the creative class, is now increasingly influenced by the data junkies that need to drive search results.

Gerace’s company provides both a tool that allows companies to manage and measure the content creation process (it plugs into blog platforms like Blogger, WordPress, or Tumblr), as well as the writing and editorial staff for brands that don’t have the bandwidth to produce content in-house.

Skyword provides both services and a software product. For instance the Trading Deck section of MarketWatch uses just the platform, which scores various types of site content against search trends.

“We find how people are searching for a trend,” Gerace explains. “Then we give you a scorecard.” The scorecard includes keyword placement, length of post, title placement, and additional factors based on how Google’s search algorithms determine what the post is about to decide in what order it will be listed following an organic search. “We also look for readability and we score the article for grammar, style, and spelling,” Gerace says.

Other companies, like non-profit organization The United Way, uses both Skyword’s platform and its editorial services.

Gerace spoke with Direct Marketing News about creating content that’s valuable to users and that, by extension, performs well on search.

Tomorrow, we’ll post the interview with the United Way’s director of web experience, Brian Cox.

DMN: What trends are driving content marketing?

Gerace: Marketers are increasingly aware that search is the primary method of information discovery. It’s the first place people go when they want to try something new, or when something has happened in their lives and they need to respond to it.

And how do marketers use search?

The first method is paid search ads. But you only click those 15% of the time; 85% of the time is organic search. Marketers know you need to play not just in paid search but, because 85% of customers are clicking in other places, [marketers] need to create good content, like product descriptions, as well as strategic content.

What other factors exist that drive the need for content?

Social has accelerated the need for content because we share good content 6 billion times per month. If a retailer doesn’t have content worth sharing, it won’t go social. Online sellers need to create significant content to compete in search and social.

Social right now is sexier than search. Which is a better investment for selling?

Despite the buzz around social, search continues to drive more meaningful traffic than social. But social still drives significant value because it triggers search traffic.

So what sort of content performs really well—as in, gets a lot of shares—on social media?

Sharing of celebrity content and media-sided stuff climbs quickly socially. We don’t see that uptick yet with retail-focused content like DIYs or product descriptions, unless it’s highly-topical like the iPhone 5.

Earlier you categorized different types of content: product descriptions and strategic content. Can you describe the issues brands face around each?

Most sites rely on manufactured product descriptions. Google and Bing don’t like to look at the same content so if 10 retailers list the same widget with the same product description, it won’t do well on search. Rewriting it with 150 words of new content will get more search traffic at a fraction of a cost of paid search because they created an original search traffic optimization.

How about strategic content, which centers around advice, DIY content, and tips? Why is that important to optimize?

Google has a great explanation for why they should do this at a website called Zero Moment of Truth. Retailers used to talk about the Moment of Truth where you’re looking at things on the shelf [thinking about buying]. But now the moment begins before you walk into the store, before you walk into the retail site. Most [customers] plug queries into Google. From the moment we search for a product, we started shopping, and that’s when you need to connect with shoppers, before you get to the site. So retailers need to go out and get the consumer with strategic content.

There’s also a third type of content: transactional. How does transactional content differ from strategic content?

Strategic content will drive a much broader audience, so, because they’re not as far down the funnel, there will be lower conversion rates. Transactional content will have fewer search visitors but a much higher conversion rate.

One major factor that determines how users consume content centers around the device they’re using. Is this an area Skyword is looking into?

We’re now beginning to look at how people are consuming across devices. People often search quickly on a mobile device, then transact on a PC. So we’re looking at how people are exploring and looking at different devices in different ways to get more information and do deeper dives.

Can you give me some examples on how this affects content?

When you’re writing for mobile, you want a shorter form, shorter headlines. If you’re embedding video, you need to use HTML5, so how you build that content is different. Likewise, if you’re creating video content you want short-form video. Those are the things we think about when we’re forecasting.

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