SEMrush Pro Q&A with Joe Griffin and Jay Swansson

, August 26, 2014

Hello, SEMrush blog readers, welcome to our latest SEMrush Pro Q&A!

Elena Terenteva, SEMrush’s Senior Director of Content Marketing, sits down with industry giants Joe Griffin and Jay Swansson, co-CEOs and co-founders of ClearVoice, an innovative new content marketing tool, and iAcquire, a respected digital agency specializing in content marketing, inbound marketing, social media and SEO to ask them their thoughts on digital marketing trends for the coming year,  the future of content marketing, Google authorship changes and the evolution of  iAcquire as a leading agency.

What is your professional background?

Jay: I actually started out going to law school, which is probably a bit unconventional for internet marketers. When I got out of college, I wanted to make a material impact on the world and in people’s lives but had no idea of where, what or how to do it. I realized that I really didn’t know anything about anything so I decided that getting my law degree would set me up for the future I wanted.

Once out of law school, I joined a few friends to start a small Internet startup. In three quick years, we had hundreds of thousands of partners and clients and were soon acquired by a leading private equity company. It was an incredible experience where I was able to work with and learn from some of the smartest, purpose-driven, integrity-based people in search and Internet marketing.

For the last five years, I’ve helped start and grow iAcquire and have now launched ClearVoice.com.

Joe: I’m pretty much a born and bred content marketer. I started out as an SEO and a small business owner running SEO companies. I got into the business as a kid pretty much—1998. I didn’t know what I was doing, but knew I was onto something awesome, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since. I also spent three years at iCrossing back in 2001 overseeing strategy, and helped start the paid media division there. I have heavy roots in software design too. I’ve been working with developer teams to build web-based software as early as 2000. We didn’t call it the “cloud” back then.

Jay Swansson of iAcquire and ClearVoice

“When I got out of college, I wanted to make a material impact on the world and in people’s lives…” – Jay Swansson

Many companies have begun to embrace content marketing. But there are a lot of businesses that still have concerns about it. In your opinion, what stops companies from using content marketing?

Jay: We’re actually not seeing anything stopping companies from leveraging content marketing. Some companies that historically haven’t needed to leverage a lot of content to convey their message or who have successfully relied on push advertising or cool creative are still getting used to it.

What we have seen is a huge opportunity to help brands connect their departments, goals and messaging. Because content marketing touches so many different disciplines within a company, it’s vital to align the goals of search, social, paid, branding, PR, television, radio and overall business goals.

How do you see the future of content marketing evolving?

Joe: Content marketing to me is kind of another way of saying targeted content and advertising delivery (both inbound and outbound). If the principles of content marketing are to identify, target and acquire customers using thoughtful content, then the future of content marketing connects to most channels. What we consider “television” today will in the very short future just be another screen size. Our lives will revolve around three primary screen sizes (4-5″, 8-11″ and 40″+). The user experience of those screens will blend, advertisers will continue leveraging big data to better understand their customers, content strategy and creation teams will grow, and brands will become integrated into the lives of consumers in way that would feel surreal today. But, in the very near future (five to 10 years), brands will become much more intimately connected into who we are, how we live our lives, and what we stand for.

Joe Griffin of iAcquire and ClearVoice

“What we consider ‘television’ today will in the very short future just be another screen size.” – Joe Griffin on the future of content marketing

Talking about new trends, how have consumer requirements changed in the last year? Are companies adapting, and if so, how?

Joe: As this new world of mobility and instant access takes hold, consumers are actually changing the very face of marketing. Your brand is no longer what you say it is—it’s what the consumer says it is. Even the meekest voice is being heard, and brands are definitely starting to take note. It gets back to my previous point about the future of content marketing. As it stands today, consumers are already becoming turned off by irrelevant ads. I think consumers are becoming more educated about the differences between good and bad advertising and marketing. And, it’s a learned, not taught, behavior. My two-year-old son will close a pop-up banner down on his iPad by hitting the big “X” within one second of it popping up, and I know he doesn’t register the brand or creative. Consumers are coming to expect targeted and rightly timed messaging. Brands that don’t continue to adapt will be left in the dust. Those who are adapting are embracing and investing in the fundamentals of content marketing.

You launched a new tool. Please, tell us more about the ClearVoice platform.

Joe: At a high level, we believe that the future of content marketing will require brands to become better at creating, scaling and delivering content. We are giving brands a platform to do this efficiently. We’ve also built the best search engine on the Internet to find quality and relevant content creators. We’ve released something like 150,000 writer profiles to the web—showcasing a large portion of their works. We created a best-in-class marketplace called The Assignment Desk, and we’re signing up droves of people every day. We’re connecting these writers with brands at scale.

ClearVoice Logo

Now that Google has removed authorship photos from most search results, what consequences will it bring? Do those changes affect ClearVoice?

Jay: The photos were a “nice to have” but aren’t critical to the value of authorship in general. When proper semantic markup is used, author names are still being attached to the articles so the person behind the content is still important from a search engine’s perspective—as it is to the user.

What we’ve seen from the top-500 publishers on the Internet is a 30 percent usage of Google and Twitter authorship. This is up from just over 10 percent only 18 months ago so the adoption is dramatic. As authorship gains traction, it becomes easier to see who is talking about what topics on what sites and how that content is responded to by the audience—that’s what we’re working on now at ClearVoice.

To what market is ClearVoice intended to appeal?

Jay: ClearVoice has a couple different primary audiences.

First, we want to help bring the power back to the content creators. As freelancers get credit for their work, they become more transparently valuable and can earn more money—that’s the goal of the ClearVoice search and scoring system.

Second, we hope to offer a seamless, scalable and transparent system for brands and publishers to find and recruit freelancers from any given area of expertise to create their own media publications.

And the final question: What inspires you and keeps you going?

Jay: Competition. It’s that simple. I’m as competitive as they come.

Joe: I love learning. This job pushes me to my limit every day. I also love seeing my peers learn, and together we are part of something that is adding value to who we are every day. We live in exciting times, and we are at the forefront of something great.


Jay Swansson is a seasoned entrepreneur and digital marketing expert with nearly of decade of experience leading organizations. He was named The Arizona Republic’s “35 Under 35″ in 2013 and is a contributor to some of the industry’s top publications.

Joe Griffin began his career in digital marketing in 1998. He has been featured in publications such as Entrepreneur.com, Adobe’s CMO.com, The Phoenix Business Journal, VentureBeat, Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, Content Marketing Institute, Wells Fargo Small Business, Visibility Magazine, and Website Magazine. In 2013 Joe was named as one of Arizona’s top “35 Under 35″ entrepreneurs by The Arizona Republic.