Jim Yu had come far from growing up in an affordable housing unit in South Dakota—or so it seemed. He’d made his way to Silicon Valley, earning an MBA from Stanford University and a cushy job at Salesforce. But this landed Yu, his wife, Jamin, and newborn girl in a tiny 900-square foot condo in Foster City, where the region’s high cost-of-living eats up senior executive salaries.
Like so many Silicon Valley dreamers, Yu wanted to change his fortunes and decided to bootstrap a startup out of his condo. This meant giving up a steady paycheck, stock options and lofty title, as well as letting his friend, Lemuel Park, move into the family living room. Yu and Park poured $5,000 into their startup, called BrightEdge, and set up Costco servers on the kitchen table.
Amazingly, Yu’s wife agreed. “You can’t wait for the perfect moment to come along,” Jamin Yu says. “When I saw his excitement for the huge opportunity in front of him, it became clear it was time.”
That was eight years ago, which begs the question: What did Yu see in the tech world that convinced him to make such a risky bet?
At the time, Yu was running and managing websites and saw how good content boosted site performance. The term “content marketing” was still in its infancy, and so Yu and Park felt they could get ahead of it—BrightEdge, through rigorous testing and optimization of content, could quantifiably improve content marketing for brands.
The content marketing trend continued to move toward Yu’s vision, and today BrightEdge helps more than 1,300 brands, including Home Depot, SAP, Marriott, Microsoft and Nike, optimize their content marketing performance. Forty-one of the Fortune 100 are BrightEdge customers, including eight of the top 10 largest tech companies. Comcast, which had banned Yu and Park for using too much bandwidth from those kitchen-table servers, also became a customer.
Mobile changes the content marketing game
Now content marketing is shifting again, this time toward mobile. People conduct more search queries on their phones than on desktop computers, Google says. Once again, BrightEdge is getting ahead of the trend and helping companies craft and optimize marketing content specifically for mobile.
It’s an important service, too, because many companies fumble their mobile marketing content. Most of the content goes unread, while other content annoys people and hurts the brand. With so many misses, the fear is that there will be a mobile consumer backlash on out-of-context brand messages at a time when Internet of Things has the potential to turn the mobile device into a messaging hub for brands.
A big part of the problem: Marketing content plays differently on a mobile device.
When people conduct a search on a phone, they often want a quick answer to a pressing problem. Time is short and attention span fleeting in these micro moments, which means long and detailed content for the desktop doesn’t work. Too bad 56 percent of companies describe their mobile advertising as, “at best, a bolt-on to desktop-focused activities,” according to a ClickZ survey.
Topics of interest are also different on mobile. People make informational queries to learn something specific, not to make a purchase. This means content for a mobile search should be different from content for a desktop search, even if the search terms are similar. A mobile search result might even be a photo, short video or location-based info.
Mobile users are not going to scroll through a bunch of results, rather they’ll just look at the first few ones. Since the mobile screen is much smaller than the desktop screen, marketers have much less real estate and chances to make an impression. This means mobile content must be better than desktop content. The pressure is on to deliver engaging mobile marketing content.
With so many misses, the fear is that there will be a mobile consumer backlash on out-of-context brand messages at a time when Internet of Things has the potential to turn the mobile device into a messaging hub for brands.
Then there’s the tricky business of measuring the impact of mobile marketing content. Since mobile searches tend to be more about discovery than purchasing, tying mobile marketing content to real business results is hard. Only 3 percent of companies say that they are getting “excellent” ROI from overall mobile advertising, according to ClickZ. This is why many marketers struggle to justify a budget for mobile marketing.
Five2ndWindow sat down with BrightEdge CEO Yu to talk about mobile challenges, what Google is doing to impact mobile search, and how companies can hop aboard the mobile content marketing train.
What’s the difference between a mobile search and a desktop search?
Yu: Brands and marketers have reached the tipping point where mobile exceeds desktop, in terms of traffic. Mobile is certainly the lion’s share of growth, and intent is really different in mobile moments.
When you’re on a BART train with your cell phone, for instance, you’re going to be looking for different things than if you were browsing the web on a desktop. With mobile, you’re a little more sensitive to privacy. Queries are going to be discovery-oriented versus purchase-oriented. Media channels, too, are starting to prepare for voice search, which is popular in the mobile form factor.
So what’s the intent of the mobile audience? While commuting to work, they have a question and want a quick answer. It’s an informational query. This is really relevant from a mobile search perspective, because people want an instant-response experience.
From a marketer’s perspective, you need much better fidelity of understanding intent behind those topics in order to stay relevant. Content marketers need to embrace and understand micro moments. There are a lot more dimensions.
Why are marketers failing in mobile?
Yu: Three years ago, the big debate was about m,dot vs. responsive. Now we’re talking about needing not only to create responsive [design] but optimize it based on specific types and different topics. Intent is different even though it’s the same search term. It’s hard to even wrap your head around good execution of a high-performance mobile site.
It’s really hard to execute. Just moving to a modern, mobile-ready CMS (content management system) is a really big effort. I’ve talked to many Fortune 500 companies that are still on a very antiquated CMS.
Attribution gets pretty complicated when you move into the mobile world. You’re no longer looking at it from a single cookie level and segmentation. Now mobile is cross-device. There’s a much bigger relationship with driving offline sales through online mechanisms.
Google has been very active in mobile search, starting with “Mobilegeddon” in spring last year. What should marketers know about Google today?
Yu: Google is getting smart about indexing what’s called the “knowledge graph” and giving the quick answer at the top of the search result. This is also preparation for voice search on the mobile device.
Google has introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages, which allows [a mobile consumer] to easily and quickly get top stories. You can swipe left and right, and look at the next story. It’s really exciting.
Have you seen some of the stuff Google is doing with promoted pins on Maps? That’s pretty interesting. They’re already looking at integrating product-feed data, so when you’re searching for something from your local Home Depot, you can see if they have the inventory. That’s going to be huge in driving offline traffic from the mobile channel. Just imagine the amount of infrastructure that a marketer has to put in place to be ahead of all that. There’s just so much complexity.
Google talks about seeing a lot of movement in micro moments. How do marketers stay relevant in those mobile moments? There’s more sophistication, more focus on measurement and driving performance.
Tom Kaneshige is editor of Five2ndWindow, Penton’s independent news site helping marketers and line-of-business executives get ahead of the mobile disruption happening to the customer experience. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.