Startup InboundWriter Nabs New Funds to Help Media Better Seduce Search Engines

Software Suggests Ways to Make Content More Attractive in Search

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Helping marketers create content for social networks is hot right now, with social-marketing companies such as Buddy Media landing huge acquisition windfalls and others such as Percolate nabbing big funding rounds.

But a little thing called "search" can still be a significant source of traffic to web content for marketers and media. There just aren't that many quick and easy ways for non-SEO types to tweak what they write to boost their rankings on search engines, contends a San Mateo, California-based company called InboundWriter.

A little over a year ago, however, the company released a product that aimed to help content creators -- mostly bloggers -- do just that . Now, InboundWriter has raised $2.5 million to help it build out features and a team to serve the needs of big marketers and media companies.

InboundWriter app

Click to view an example of the InboundWriter software at work

This is how it works. You drop a piece of content into InboundWriter and then the company's semantic technology scours the web for articles or blog posts on a similar topic, according to CEO Skip Besthoff. The software then ranks the content from 1 to 100 and gives you recommendations on how to improve its attractiveness to search engines. One big way is by suggesting terms to be included in the article that a lot of people search for -- but that a lot of other articles on the topic don't include. It also gives guidance on where to include those terms in the piece. Right now, it seems most suited for evergreen content more than news-related posts.

InboundWriter isn't looking to automate the work of SEO firms, but supplement it, according to Mr. Besthoff. Though most early customers were bloggers, the company started to see sign-ups from media companies such as Transcontinental, publisher of magazines such as Elle Canada, and Source Interlink, publisher of Motor Trend, as well as a major bike e-tailer, he said.

"It's just not typical where you see large companies like that start to consume software for enterprise-grade functionality and workflow and just do it naturally without ever picking up the phone," Mr. Besthoff said.

The company will soon try to capitalize on that interest by introducing features tailored to big media companies and advertisers, which have different needs than individual bloggers. Those will include more precise suggestions on words or phrases to add and APIs that let big companies integrate InboundWriter into their own content workflow systems. The current version of the software already integrates with Wordpress.

Mr. Besthoff said the company hopes to add optimization features around social-network conversations in the future. But right now, this is very much a product that is aimed to improve a piece of content's ranking in search engines.

"When you actually get on the ground and talk, people are still experimenting with social and there's still a lot of debate where to make investments and how to get a lot of value," he said. "Whereas investments being made in content and SEO are significant. We are seeing a lot of continued investment in this space."

The company has now raised about $20 million to date. The current investment round includes participation from existing investors Castile Ventures, Rho Canada Ventures, Formative Ventures and The Entrepreneurs' Fund III, as well as new investor, Crosslink Capital.

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