By TIM GREEN
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
One way is to associate the brand with authoritative and objective content that makes the reader more knowledgeable about what the company sells. But getting the content that attracts the right audience is an endeavor fraught with uncertainty.
“It’s really challenging to create something that’s successful, that drives a consistent audience, that ranks really well in Google,” said Josh Kerr, chief executive and one of four co-founders of Written.com, in laying out the problem.
The company proposes to provide a company with subject-appropriate content weighted with a built-in audience and seamlessly place it on the company’s website. The result is an interested audience with a predisposition to buy what the company is selling.
“We can go to a brand and say we can bring you proven engagement and that’s totally different from traditional products that are out there,” said Marc Smookler, the co-founder who heads marketing.Written finds the content not by commissioning bloggers to write custom-made posts, but by scouring the Web for already-written blog posts that have large and loyal followings.
For bloggers, the arrangement enables them to get paid for work they’ve done – even if it’s old.
“The stuff you wrote a long time ago, it’s still valuable,” said Connor Hood, the founder who heads technology. “As long as it had an audience. That’s the key.”
John Price, CEO of Vast.com, is one of Written’s early customers and he likes what the company delivered.
“It was both in content and in targeting the exact type of content I needed and that Google has already ranked as super high quality,” he said. “You can’t beat it. It is such a powerful value prop they have.”
Price posts the content on the blog on Carstory.com, a Big Data-based mobile app that Vast developed for sales people at automobile dealerships. Sales people use it during face-to-face selling with customers.
“We’re getting all kinds of traffic as a result of the content,” Price said. “And it’s beyond that because it makes it seem that we’re actually an authority on the subject.”
The Written founders, Kerr, Hood, Smookler and Jeremy Bencken, who heads product development, are entrepreneurs who bring complementary expertise to the operation. They each have started, developed and successfully exited previous companies.
They knew each other from working around the Capital Factory and found they had common interests in blogging and marketing and the technology that could bring the two together.
Bencken said he and Kerr talked about how to move content from a blog to a website.
“Then we hit on this idea,” he said. “You could take a piece of existing content, move it over to a site that is interested in having that content, but also all the traffic.”
They tested the concept with their own blogs and it worked, he said. And it’s continued to work as they’ve expanded.
The four founders formally started the company in January 2013. They landed seed round of investment of $1.1 million in October from LiveOak Venture Partners of Austin, Floodgate Fund of Palo Alto, Calif., and Austin-area angel investors.
Telling their story in their Brazos Street office, the founders pick up on each other’s threads, filling in thoughts and deferring to each other for additional comments.
The Written process begins working with the client company to identify the audience the company wants to attract. Written starts with keywords and other factors such as identifying thought leaders the audience follows and whether the blog carries advertisements.
“We take all that intelligence and data and then we kick off a search to go identify articles that fit that criteria and are ranking really well,” Kerr said.
Beyond finding appropriate subject matter, Written makes sure the blog articles will bring an involved audience with them. It looks at a variety of factors such as page views, bounce rate, time spent on the site and more, Bencken said.
“The trick to bring an engaged audience is to start with content that is engaging,” he said. “So that’s what we’re looking for when we’re analyzing how much we can offer a blogger.”
With Written’s software, Google understands that the article, now on the company’s website, was written by the blogger so he maintains his Google Author Rank.
Once it identifies an appropriate blogger and article, Written runs it by the company. If the company likes it, Written takes care of the rest, moving the content to the company website and handling the pricing, the payments and the licensing.
“We deliver to the brand great content that will engage readers, that will drive new audiences to the brand and these people won’t just read that one article, they’ll read, two, three, four articles on your site,” Kerr said. “And that’s what we’re seeing.”
Price said the content Written delivered to Carstory.com brought with it a target audience that wants to take the action of downloading the Carstory app.
“And it’s working,” he said. “It’s generating leads while we’re asleep. It’s just unbelievable.”
Written’s concept seems custom made for the era of content marketing, but the founders and its investors say there is more to it.
“Audience development extends to every part of the marketing mix, and that’s our big picture,” Kerr said. “Connecting brands with an interested and engaged audience is our focus, so while the content marketing space may be the most direct way into those discussions, our value proposition really reaches much further than that.”
Krishna Srinivasan, a principal at LiveOak, shares that take.
“This is a platform that consolidates spending a brand would do over search, social media, Internet,” he said. “All of this is discoverable using this platform. So it is a much broader play.”
As for competition, Kerr said Written has seen no other company with a similar offering.
He said Written offers an alternative to the competition of the status quo – companies hiring journalists and bloggers to provide high quality content.
“Frankly, we’d rather let those great journalists and bloggers do what they do best and what their readers and audiences respect them for, and find a way to support them doing it,” he said. “That’s really the value of Written.com to bloggers out there.“
Written’s goal, he said, is to develop a marketplace where writers create successful content on one side and brands that need the writers’ audiences on the other side.
“That’s really how to maximize the value proposition between both so we can make those matches and in some way solve that problem,” he said.
To which writers might say: Write on.