The Tiger King’s Questionable SEO Tactics

The Tiger King Joe Exotic used blackhat SEO tactics to take revenge on Carole Baskin. We break down why blackhat SEO doesn’t work, even for Joe Exotic.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans with a Netflix subscription and nowhere to go because of the pandemic, there’s a good chance you’ve watched at least part of Tiger King. According to both Netflix and Rotten Tomatoes, this documentary has generated enough attention to become America’s most popular TV show at the moment.

The series largely focuses upon the rivalry between Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin, rivals in the business of keeping big cats and other wildlife. Some characters in the series have been described as appalling, cruel, and of course, oddly mesmerizing. During this time of national crisis, why are we highlighting a show that documents mistreatment of beautiful animals, hypocrisy, and even attempted murder? 

Well, among Joe Exotic’s other questionable actions, he employed illicit SEO tactics to try to improve his business at Carol Baskin’s expense. While this TV show can provide so many morality lessons, it’s also instructive about blackhat SEO tactics that you should never rely upon.

Blackhat SEO: the Tiger King way

Before explaining Tiger King SEO, it’s helpful to make sure you understand a little background of the story. Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin appear very different on the surface. For instance, Joe openly ran his zoo to earn money and often appeared short of cash. On the other hand, Ms. Baskin has lots of money and says she runs her nonprofit to help protect endangered animals.

At the same time, they do have a few things in common. Baskin runs a nonprofit animal sanctuary called Big Cat Rescue in Florida. Exotic owned the Garold Wayne Zoo in Oklahoma, now known as the Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and under different ownership.

The feud between the two them began when Baskin claimed that Exotic’s animal conditions, breeding programs, and practice of charging visitors to pet cubs were abusive to the captive wildlife. She embarked upon a mission to end all private ownership of big cats and in particular, Joe Exotic’s zoo. In turn, Exotic claimed that Baskin did not provide good conditions for the captive animals in her own refuge. He said that she waged a hypocritical war against his zoo by encouraging PETA to track him, badgering prospective clients, and even creating websites that called him out for animal abuse.

How does Tiger King employ SEO?

Another series character, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, owned a South Carolina animal preserve. He mentioned that Baskin always ranked at the top of search engines. Joe Exotic must have also known about Baskin’s SEO success. In order to gain more visibility for his business, Exotic figured he could ride on Baskin’s SEO coattails by registering his business and online properties as Big Cat Rescue Entertainment, instead of Big Cat Rescue.

Even Baskin admitted that Joe Exotic enjoyed some initial success with this tactic. She would sometimes get phone calls from people who wanted to find Big Cat Rescue Entertainment. She sued Exotic in 2012 with a claim of copyright infringement. In the end, she won a settlement of almost $1 million.

Some evidence her lawyers used to help her win her case included Big Cat Rescue Entertainment advertisements with the same Florida area code that Baskin’s organization used, even though Exotic had his business based in Oklahoma. Having similar business names doesn’t necessarily imply copyright infringement; however, a deliberate attempt to masquerade as another organization might.

Don’t be like Tiger King

Naturally, nobody wants to suffer the same fate as Joe Exotic. He had to sell his business. He also ended up in prison for trying to hire somebody to kill Carol Baskin. Nobody thinks that blackhat SEO is as bad as trying to murder somebody. Still, attempting to misrepresent yourself or your business through gaming search engines and misleading customers won’t lead to long-term prosperity, and that’s true even if you enjoy any success with it at all.

Here are at least three takeaways you should learn from Tiger King’s blackhat SEO:

  • For one thing, major search engines have gotten much better about catching misbehavior like this. According to Search Engine Watch, search engines will penalize or even delist businesses that attempt to fool them and their users. Even if you get away with it for a short time, your rankings will rarely last as long as your penalties.
  • Even more important, companies that get caught employing these sorts of tactics suffer from terrible damage to their brand reputations. No business wants potential customers to think of them as a company that lied about their own address or other important business details.
  • Of course, you should not overlook the fact that a court awarded Baskin nearly a million dollars after she proved that Joe Exotic tried to gain search engine visibility by spoofing her organization. If you have to start hiring lawyers, you know that’s going to make a big dent in any potential profits.

Anyway, if they ever make a documentary about your life and your business, you don’t want to gain an audience for the same reasons that Tiger King did. You can speak proudly about your prominent business and website when you know that you gained that popularity by adding value and not through deceit.

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Marketing AFTER the Coronavirus

As the coronavirus continues to grip the world, companies must act now to ensure marketing campaigns are able to weather the crisis.

The effects of COVID-19 on business and business marketing

From the plummeting Dow Jones averages that are rocking Wall Street to the forced closures and loss of consumer activity that are devastating Main Street, businesses of all sizes are on shaky ground during the ongoing coronavirus crisis. As social distancing continues to force events to cancel and bring face-to-face interaction to a grinding halt, certain industries have already suffered catastrophic damage. And other industries are bound to follow as factories shut down and companies fall into dormancy.

As they lose customers to the terrible but temporary chaos of COVID-19, business must take care to ensure that these customers ultimately return to them when the crisis is over. This typically means significantly altering, if not entirely redesigning, their marketing efforts with a dual focus on immediate risk management and long-term goals.

Wise companies are already getting ahead of this issue by taking immediate and comprehensive action. Take, for example, the recently launched ad campaign of the fast food giant Chipotle. Like other major restaurant chains, it has rapidly created, produced, and distributed, television and digital video commercials that stress the safety and reliability of take-out and home food delivery.

As you formulate and execute your response to the coronavirus crisis, make sure that you are retooling your marketing campaign to meet the demands of the present and look forward to the opportunities of the future. Here are just a few tips and guidelines to help you bring your business through these uncertain and difficult times.

Managing your marketing efforts to survive the coronavirus

1. Put Safety First

Few industries have faced as much immediate damage from the COVID-19 outbreak as the global tourism industry. This makes the words of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) all the more urgent as its stresses putting safety first. By stressing customer safety, the HSMAI strives to protect overall company reputation as well as individual guest health. Businesses that do so earn “trust, respect, and loyalty.”

A big part of putting safety first is keeping customers well-informed of relevant coronavirus facts and response protocols, particularly those that may affect your company’s operational processes and/or the goods/services that you offer. When providing this information, it is important to refer to and cite respected authorities such as the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the various local public health agencies at work in your area.

Think carefully about the ways in which COVID-19 is likely to impact your specific industry specifically as well as the greater community at large. What value you can provide as an organization to help keep people safe? As you contemplate this question, remember that this crisis is evolving rapidly and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This means that your commitment to safety will require flexible planning and your marketing plan must adapt to the moment as conditions continue to fluctuate.

2. Assemble Your Crisis Management Team

If your company is exceptionally large or specialized to deal with a specific type of risk, you may already have a dedicated crisis response team in place. Most companies, however, fail to prioritize crisis management and have never even considered developing a valid crisis plan. Well, now is certainly the time to do so.

Gather functional leaders from across your organization under the leadership of its top communications executive or chief executive officer. Other crisis team members to consider for inclusion might be legal counsel, human resources professionals, operations/facility managers, sales/customer service directors, and any leaders in the fields of public relations marketing, and communications. All team member should clearly understand their specific responsibilities and areas of concern.

For smaller companies without a dedicated PR or marketing team, MarTech Advisor contributor Indrajeet Deshpande recommends contracting with a qualified outside agency. In any case, your business should have in-house spokespersons at the ready in case you are approached by any independent media outlet or news publication. These spokespersons must be property trained to faithfully and effectively answer any question that they are asked.

3. Choose the Proper Media Mix

As part of your crisis response and overall marketing plan, you must remember the famous words of Marshall McLuhan: “the medium is the message.” In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, choosing the right media channel for your public outreach is more important than ever. In other words, if you fail to choose the right forms of communication to deliver it, your marketing message will likely fall on deaf ears.

In his March 20 article “Why Companies Turn To Digital Marketing To Survive COVID-19,” Forbes writer Bernard Marr points out that businesses will have to become more and more reliant on digital media channels. “Without wanting to sound too alarmist, he states, “in many cases it will be the deciding factor in whether they make it through the tough times ahead.”

As people continue to practice social distancing, they will connect more than ever via the Internet. This makes leveraging your online marketing capabilities absolutely essential over the comping months. Ensure that your company website and social media pages contain helpful information and present a positive brand image at all times. While emphasizing digital marketing channels that range from banner ads to email newsletters, remember to keep an appropriate amount of traditional media outlets in your media mix.   

4. Practice Careful Media Buying

As part of your media mix planning, don’t fail to consider the supreme importance of cost. If it is to survive the COVID-19 crisis, your business will likely need to implement some fairly austere budgetary restrictions in the short term. Simply put, you will have to use every one of your marketing dollars wisely and make it count.

The Wall Street Journal reports that companies looking to mitigate immediate risk often cut advertising spending first and foremost. “With the coming U.S. presidential election and Summer Olympics, 2020 was expected to be a good year for advertising,” writes WSJ contributor Suzanne Vranica. “Then came the coronavirus.”

Careful media buying will look different from business to business and from industry to industry, but most organizations can benefit from gravitating toward digital media channels, which are not only generally less expensive but more suitable to a market under the ongoing effects of diligent social distancing. To learn what effective media buying can do for your particular company, you may want to contact a qualified marketing agency.

5. Develop Creative Campaigns Driven by Common Sense

In today’s challenging marketing environment, it is more important than ever to find extremely creative ways to keep your brand in front of their customers. Even companies that are temporarily shuttered must plan for a future in which brand positioning will become absolutely essential to survival.

In light of this, place an incredibly high value on unique and striking marketing campaigns that are carefully designed to turn heads. Just make sure that your creative content is properly vetted and above reproach.

In the words of Google’s global marketing vice president for media Joshua Spanier “in the spirit of reassessing campaigns, we’re finding that all kinds of creative elements need scrutiny right now.” As an example, he warns against any use of “slapstick humor” that might come off as tone deaf in the midst of the serious times in which we live. Certain imagery – such as actors using “handshakes, hugs, and high-fives” to interact with one another – may also turn off your existing and potential customers.

6. Employ Key SEO Techniques

Among the other benefits of digital media outreach, search engine optimization (SEO) reigns supreme in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. As quoted in Forbes, 123 Internet Group Chief Executive Officer Scott Jones points to SEO as a key way to reach new audiences in the current market.

As brick-and-mortar shopping becomes increasingly impossible, consumers are turning to ecommerce in numbers that are rising exponentially. SEO can help to ensure that your company appears at or near the top of the list when people search online for the goods and/or services that you provide.

By maximizing your online marketing through SEO, you can also benefit from the practice of geo-targeting. This involves optimizing not only for search terms that relate to your goods/services but for search terms that relate to your location as well. This is a great way to attract consumers from within your state, your city, or even your particular neighborhood.

7. Leverage the Power of Video

In addition to benefiting from the incredible audience targeting power of SEO, digital marketing gives you the versatility to present your message in a range of compelling ways. And, at present, consumers are responding to video messaging in droves.

In fact, the independent authority Quicksprout recently released research showing that consumers report a 74% increase in their overall understanding of a product or service after watching a video. And this engagement can lead to a significant improvement in your bottom line. Quicksprout goes on to report that a well-made video boosts the likelihood of a purchase by 64%.

In terms of general public relations and effective branding, the eye-catching and attention-retaining nature of video makes it a great way to remind consumers to stay with you, or to come back to you, as a company.

To learn more

Contact a skilled and knowledgeable Bigeye representative today for more information on the current impact and lasting effects of the coronavirus on your marketing campaign. A highly innovative and forward-thinking marketing firm, Bigeye prides itself on its ability to respond quickly to the challenges of a constantly evolving marketplace.

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How to Find Success on Shopify

Shopify, one of the world’s fastest-growing e-commerce platforms, is growing at such a rapid rate that it’s projected to overtake eBay as the second-largest e-commerce platform in 2020, according to CNBC.

While that kind of growth offers massive opportunity for Shopify retailers, it’s also quickly becoming a much more competitive space. Shopify now has more than 1 million merchants active on its platform, all of whom are working to differentiate themselves and outsell the competition.

So what’s the secret to gaining more traction with your Shopify store? Let’s take a closer look at seven key tips for better Shopify store development.

1. Prioritize customer service — and outsource if necessary

E-commerce doesn’t have to mean minimal customer service. In fact, it was Jeff Bezos’ famous “customer obsession” that helped Amazon become a global heavyweight. Yet for most people operating Shopify businesses, dealing with customers is an enormous time suck. While keeping your clients happy is critical, most people simply lack the bandwidth for the task.

Instead, it makes sense to outsource customer service functions. The international call center business is booming, and you can find qualified customer service freelancers on just about any major Gig Economy marketplace. It’s important to ensure that the workers you contract with have first-class fluency in English. Adding live chat is another element that can really improve the customer experience.

2. Focus on the right design

Great design is crucial to the success of any Shopify site. This begins with choosing an appropriate theme. Find one that fits the look and feel of your brand or signature products. The right theme can have a dramatic impact on the visual atmosphere and overall user experience of your site.

While Shopify offers some free design templates, you can also choose to pay for some of the premium designs the company offers. Unsurprisingly, the premium templates tend to be more eye-catching, which can help your site stand out with a fresh look. In addition to the look and feel of your site, you’ll also need to consider how design impacts functionality. Do you want larger images? A wider Instagram feed? These small decisions can have a significant impact on how your products are browsed and purchased, so weigh these decisions carefully.

Generally speaking, it’s also a smart idea to design with certain principles in mind. Your site should feel clean and uncluttered. An overabundance of design elements or products can confuse or irritate visitors and encourage them to depart without buying.

3. Incorporate and optimize elements stressing your originality

Templatized websites run the risk of appearing a bit cookie-cutter, but there are a few steps you can take to make your site appear fresh and original. First, commission striking, original photography and avoid over-reliance on stock imagery. This can go a long way toward giving your site some visual panache that makes it stand out from other e-commerce offerings.

Second, create copy that is truly creative and that engages the reader. Too often Shopify copy is bland and boilerplate. By coming up with lively product descriptions and other copy, you can help convert buyers and differentiate your approach. You’ll also want to choose headlines that stand out from the crowd and that are calibrated to resonate with your target demographics. Figure out why people would be interested in your products and use that as a guide for creating catchy headlines. Humor — in the appropriate contexts — is also a big plus.

4. Check out the competition and test your approach

Auditing other e-commerce sites is a smart way to evaluate your own approach. You can take what they are doing well and adapt it for your own purposes, while also identifying any deficiencies in their approach and capitalizing on them.

Incorporating some simple A/B testing into your site can also help you learn what people are really responding to. These tests allow you to take two versions of a screen, headline or some other element and evaluate how visitors interact with each version. This can be an invaluable tool for learning what converts and what causes people to disengage.

5. Build your social proof

There’s no debating it: Reviews are the lifeblood of any e-commerce store. This means it is critical to monitor your reviews and respond in a timely fashion. If there was a legitimate issue, be transparent and forthcoming rather than defensive, and offer to make it right. This will often disarm even the most dissatisfied customers and help turn negative interactions into positive ones.

Encourage your customers to leave photo reviews whenever possible. Visitors enjoy these and they often seem more credible than text reviews. The more smiling and happy customers you can showcase on Shopify the stronger your business will be.

6. Tread carefully with shipping costs

Excessive shipping costs are one of the most common reasons why customers do not follow through with e-commerce orders. For online retailers, nothing is more frustrating than getting a customer all the way to the checkout page…only to have the product deleted from the cart because of elevated shipping charges.

E-commerce consumers have been conditioned to expect low or no-cost shipping by Amazon Prime, so it’s a wise idea to either build the cost of shipping into your products or figure out an alternative method for defraying costs.

7. Use a well-designed SEO and programmatic ad strategy

An up to date Search optimization strategy plays an essential role in helping people locate you. Most site owners aren’t experts at search, so it often makes sense to bring a marketing agency or SEO expert into the mix. The rules governing SEO are always evolving, so working with an expert can save you the hassle of trying to master search and remain perennially current on the latest changes to Google’s ranking algorithm. It also makes sense to work with a Shopify agency that specializes in this kind of overall site development.

Pay-per-click ad strategies are easier to learn, as you can get a lot of traction by researching keywords and slowly refining your approach over time. Taken together, both strategies can go a long way toward jumpstarting your Shopify revenue.

The takeaway

Shopify is second only to Amazon in terms of the opportunity it offers e-commerce retailers. By following these seven tips and practicing smart Shopify development, you can get faster traction, differentiate your site and generate more revenue.

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Why Digital Marketing Drives Revenue in the Multi-Family Industry

Don’t let your multi-family digital marketing strategy become stagnant, now is your chance to extend them beyond the walls of your complex.

The multi-family industry has long used traditional advertising and marketing approaches to drive revenue through local TV, brochures, etc. Yet as the industry changes to adapt to larger societal changes, these legacy approaches need to play a more complementary role. Today, multi-family digital marketing supported by data-driven insights is the best way to reach audiences and create sustainable revenue.

How multi-family digital marketing helps cultivate leads and meet occupancy goals

What’s driving the multi-family space’s foray into data-powered digital marketing? According to some industry observers, digital marketing is essential in order to help resolve several entrenched business problems. These include diagnosing underperforming properties, identifying gaps in lead management and merchandising specific product types (such as floor plans and unit sizes) on demand.

By integrating data analytics into their approach, multifamily operators are able to gain the insight they need to convert leads more effectively and identify inefficiencies and opportunities within specific properties. Decisions supported by real-time data can help managers increase yield and minimize lost opportunities.

So how are multi-family operators incorporating these strategies? By mastering the fundamentals: High-quality lead generation, a robust online presence (great UX, compelling content, and tools such as online chatbots) lead forms, and contact centers.

Other key developments

Multi-family digital marketing tactics need to extend beyond lead management and well-designed websites. Marketers in this space should also give due consideration to the following:

  • Consumer search preferences are evolving. Multifamily operators must stay current on SEO best practices in order to ensure visibility when prospective customers search for properties within their area. This is especially true given the impact of Google Places on organic search placement.
  • Internet Lead Management (ILM) analytics can help property managers gain deeper insight into the lifecycle of a lead and how various channels are performing. ILM analytics can also provide a window into performance on the agent level, as communication can be analyzed to determine what prospects are responding to and what they aren’t. Analytics can also shine a light on whether there is a problem within the lead management process, or the sales process.
  • Data-driven insights can also help optimize revenue management. Property managers can identify upcoming occupancy problems and make adjustments to ensure that rates remain stable. Those adjustments may include ramping up an existing marketing campaign to get additional prospects in the sales pipeline, or hitting pause on a campaign if long-term occupancy projections are higher than previously thought. Property managers can also use digital tools to introduce dynamic pricing, optimizing revenue based on shorter-term demand fluctuations.

The takeaway

The multi-family property space is quickly modernizing its marketing approach, shifting from traditional TV ads and brochures to sophisticated, data-driven digital marketing. This approach is paying significant dividends in terms of creating more leads, optimizing lead management, and improving revenue management practices.

At BIGEYE, we’re experts in multifamily digital marketing — and we’d design a campaign that increases your leads and boosts your bottom line. Contact us today to learn what a top multifamily digital marketing agency can do for you.

What Cheap Coffee, Stolen Grease, and Great Explainer Videos Have in Common

Take a sip of the $5 subscription coffee from Burger King and realize the possibilities that could be opened if you used a motion graphics design company.

Generating compelling marketing concepts is any creative agency’s meat and potatoes. However, even after you’ve had a creative epiphany, you still need to figure out the best way to spread your message. For many brands, that means a well-executed explainer video created by a top motion graphics design company.
For inspiration, look no further than Burger King.

A whopper of an idea

Burger King’s been all over the news in recent weeks. First, a Virginia man was caught using a siphon and a 1,600 gallon tank to steal massive amounts of used Whopper grease from his local Burger King franchises.

This viral crime occurred just days after Burger King debuted its Impossible Whopper, a plant-based burger that has drawn national acclaim for its uncanny similarity to beef.

Yet for those in the marketing world, a third recent story proved even more interesting: Burger King’s first foray into subscription coffee.

As any venture capitalist would tell you, subscription plays are sizzling at the moment. Name a product category, and there are multiple brands ready to deliver their take on it for a monthly fee.

Burger King capitalized on this trend by announcing a new promotion that allows anyone to purchase a month-long subscription to Burger King coffee for the price of one Starbucks latte ($5).

There were, of course, some exclusions: Only one coffee per day, and no iced coffee, specialty coffee or other fancy java concoctions. Strictly black coffee with cream and sugar.

Despite these limitations, the campaign garnered plenty of notice, including national media coverage and lots of social media buzz. That’s hardly surprising, given the burger purveyor’s reputation for being a savvy social media operator — and a skilled creator of slightly salty explainer videos made by their motion graphics design company.

Double espresso shots fired

Burger King’s clever take on the subscription model was supported by an explainer video distributed across the company’s social media accounts. The video gave viewers step by step instructions for signing up for $5 coffee, delivered over a blurting synth line punctuated with retro handclaps.

The video did an excellent job illustrating the ease by which consumers can earn discounted coffee — download an app, sign up, click a button to redeem and head to your local Burger King. The explainer video sealed the deal by taking a couple of pointed shots at Starbucks (“you don’t have to speak Italian to order BK coffee” and “we won’t misspell your name”).”

By creating this explainer video, Burger King accomplished a few important things: It explained the campaign’s value proposition (a month of coffee for less than a latte), it drove more signups for the BK app (driving digital engagement) and it entertained its target audience while calling out a rival.

BK coffee might not be bold — but their marketing strategy & motion graphics design company certainly is.

Looking for a great motion graphic design company? Then “have it your way”

At BIGEYE, we believe that stellar motion graphic design can play a critical role in supporting your marketing campaign’s goals. If you’re looking to jumpstart your brand strategy efforts, we’d love to take you out for coffee and a conversation. Give us a holler when your ready!

How Can Small Banks Compete Against Large Banks? Supercharged SEO

Supercharge your SEO services and launch your community bank into the future with these key digital marketing strategies and concepts.

The banking industry has been consolidating for 30 years, dropping from 14,000 banks in 1985 to fewer than 5,000 today. With smaller players being swallowed by industry heavyweights, it’s natural for community banks to wonder how well they can compete against national lenders. Fortunately, there’s one simple tactic that can help even the playing field: Well-executed SEO services grounded in a deep understanding of local buyers.

How community banks can gain an SEO edge

Community banks are, at their core, local businesses. While they might not be capitalized at the level of the big banks, they can instead compete on responsiveness and understanding of the local market.

A local SEO strategy also pays dividends. Banks should give each of their local branches a dedicated web page rather than having each branch listed through a simple location finder. These pages should include information about each branch and its neighborhood and should be optimized for SEO. This means taking commonly searched phrases relating to banking in that area and incorporating them into the body and metadata of branch pages.

The power of the public’s endorsement

Adding customer reviews for each local branch to individual pages is also a smart tactic. Reviews play a critical role in establishing credibility and are a key cog in the conversion process.

This also extends to external entities such as Yelp! and other directories. Establishing a presence on these outside sites does more than allowing you to bump your online review count. Sites such as Yelp! validate your bank’s address, phone number, and name with Google’s search algorithm, giving your site a rankings boost. Linking with high authority publishers is also key. Inbound links coming from high authority publishers is perhaps the most consistently effective tactic in the SEO playbook.

Staying on top of local search terms

It’s also critical to give extensive thought to the kind of questions prospective customers are searching for in your region — everything from “how to open a checking account” to “nearest bank to me.”

These are the kind of questions for which community banks want to rank, so it’s important that they are addressed somewhere within your online presence. You can address them both on your sites and within the content you publish.

Stressing your competitive advantages

Community banks should play to their strengths when marketing. Larger banks tend to be viewed as faceless monoliths who treat their customers like a number on a spreadsheet. Community banks, on the other hand, are in a position to establish personal relationships by properly utilizing SEO services.

This may not affect whether a customer qualifies for a loan, but it does impact how customers feel about their experience. Community banks should underline the closer, more responsive nature of their relationships with customers in their marketing messages.

The takeaway

Small banks can neutralize the advantages of larger competitors by highlighting the benefits of a more personal approach and pursuing a smart SEO strategy. If you’d like to hear more about the impact of high-level SEO services, reach out to our banking experts today.