Apr 30th 2020

Joe Exotic is Netflix’s Tiger King, but Carole Baskin is the SEO Queen

Before we start, have you seen Tiger King on Netflix?

If you have, great. HOW insane is that series!?

If you haven’t, then I’m willing to sacrifice our dwell time (more on that later) to tell you to go and watch it immediately. Come back when you’re done, at which point we can talk SEO. And don’t worry, there are only seven episodes (plus a weird eighth you can skip to be honest) so it won’t take long and will be totally worth it…

Welcome back all you cool cats and kittens! So by now you know that Tiger King tells the story of the bizarre rivalry between ‘eccentric’ G.W. Zoo owner Joe Exotic, and Big Cat Rescue founder Carole Baskin. But amidst all the attempted murders, lost limbs, politically branded condoms and country music ballads (didn’t I tell you it would be totally worth it!) there is actually something we can learn about SEO and content marketing. Which, I guess, means you can class it as educational viewing too!

The good, the bad and the ugly

Let’s get the bad and very ugly out of the way first. Episode four begins by establishing that Carole Baskin’s Florida enterprise is “first choice every time — supersedes all the zoos; she’s at the top of all search.” It then continues with an interview about Joe Exotic’s quite shady attempt to manipulate search engine results and manufacture more interest for his travelling zoo by tricking potential customers. John Reinke, the former manager of Joe’s zoo said, “Joe started realising that if he made his name close to Big Cat Rescue, when they Google it, it might pull him up first.” Joe’s answer was to rename his business ‘Big Cat Rescue Entertainment’.

The plan was successful up to a point. Baskin admitted in the show that she was receiving calls from individuals assuming she was involved in Exotic’s newly-dubbed Big Cat Rescue Entertainment, which was undoubtedly an inconvenience and most likely resulted in some form of reactionary PR from Baskin. But SEO isn’t as simple as just changing your name, and Joe’s plan ultimately landed him with a $1 million copyright lawsuit. The bottom line is that content marketing takes time to do well – you can’t cheat your way up search engine rankings.

Now we’ve covered the bad and the ugly, let’s focus on the good SEO points that we can take from the show and its cast of cat-lovers. If Joe Exotic is the Tiger King, then “that b**** Carole Baskin” is the SEO Queen. She likes big cats and she cannot lie, and let me tell ya, that baby got back(links).

All hail Queen Carole Baskin

More specifically, using some of our social monitoring tools at Babel, we found that there are 157,000 backlinks to https://bigcatrescue.org (157,001 now I suppose). Those links come from more than 6,000 individual domains, which is pretty good going. Even better going, is that more than 1,700 of those links use ‘big cat rescue’ as the anchor text. Before Tiger King was released, Carole’s site had around 4,400 domains linking to her site, so she’s grown by around 45% since.

Of course, backlinks aren’t just about quantity. You need quality backlinks too, from sites with a high domain authority. Luckily for Carole, since the show’s surge in popularity she’s scored backlinks from the likes of the BBC, Washington Post and Forbes, all of which have a domain authority above 90/100 – meaning they are seen as highly credible by search engines.

But here’s where crafty Carole really upped her game. Having all those backlinks to the homepage is great, but you also need links to deeper pages on your site, to help steer visitors towards what you want them to see (which normally means buying something). Carole knows that half of the world is now searching, not for big cats, but for her name specifically. Regardless of whether or not those searches are because people are speculating whether she put her husband through a meat grinder and fed him to tigers (BEST. SHOW. EVER.) they’re still searches.

To capitalise on her newly found infamy, Carole created a landing page all about her – https://bigcatrescue.org/carole-baskin/. This page mentions her full name 28 times (plus a further two as she has replied to comments as an admin). Referring to herself with her full name is very deliberate and entirely for SEO. The page also has seven internal links to elsewhere on the site to keep visitors there longer, as well as numerous videos: both great SEO tactics. On top of that, and unsurprisingly, the landing page is also full of links to Carole’s books, DVDs and merch.

Since its creation on the 11th April, this landing page has immediately shot up the search rankings to 6th place for searches on the term ‘Carole Baskin’, ranking above pages from The Telegraph and The Independent!

The things to consider for SEO success

So, how do you replicate Carole’s SEO success? (The answer is not putting ‘entertainment’ after your name in case that wasn’t already clear).

Amidst all of the things we now use it for, it’s important to remember the building blocks of the internet are still links, that’s why it’s called the ‘web’ after all. Naturally SEO is dependent on links, and there are three kinds to consider: inbound, outbound and internal.

Search engines use inbound links – those from other sites to yours – to help determine how authoritative and relevant its content is, and when it comes to search engine rankings, authority really matters. That’s why Carole’s new landing page ranked so highly so quickly, because the inbound links pointing to it came from credible sites. Ideally, you don’t want lots of links from low-ranking domains. You can track your inbound links using tools like SEMRush.

Scoring those links from media titles isn’t always easy though, and most publications don’t like linking away to other sites unless for paid content, because it reduces their own dwell time and consequently, advertising revenue. Therefore, another important thing to consider is keywords.

Search engine algorithms rely on keywords – the words and phrases that people use to search for information. This is why Carole used her whole name so many times on that landing page, because people were searching for the keyword ‘Carole Baskin’. Ideally, you want the keywords on your site to directly match up with the ones searchers are using, and you want to weave them into your content – often, yes – but also naturally.

That’s because duplicate content, or content with obvious ‘keyword stuffing’ can actually hurt rankings considerably. Original content is always best, but if you do have similar content on your site, you should tell search engines which to rank and prioritise by using canonical URLs.

The last three things to cover off are clickthrough rate, bounce rate, and dwell time (see, told you we’d come back to it later….).

Clickthrough rate is the percentage of people who click to visit your site after an entry comes up in search results. It’s largely impacted by how effective your keywords are and the preview text pulled up in the results. Bounce rate is the number of people that visit your site then quickly ‘bounce’ away again, meaning your site didn’t give them what they wanted. If this happens often, then search engines think your site is not relevant to their search needs, making it more difficult for your site to rank higher in search results.

Lastly, dwell time is how long people stay on your site once they’ve arrived, which in effect has the opposite effect. If people click through to your site and stay there, this tells search engines your content is relevant and pushes it up rankings.

To be the most effective with all three of these metrics, you should optimise your content, including titles, subheadings, descriptions, images etc. to best match what your users are looking for – just like Carole did with her landing page. Becoming a SEO-pro like Carole Baskin takes time, but there are plenty of great online tools to help you on your journey. If you’re still a bit lost on how to improve things though, get in touch with us here and we’d love to help.