The 1969 Triumph GT6 was no Ford Taurus.
In terms of reliability, it ranked somewhere between a camel and a meth addict. The wiring was horrific, the engine hemorrhaged constantly, and on all but the smoothest highways it rode like a conestoga wagon. It was also fast, sleek, sexy, unique—everything I wanted to be at the age of 17. When I learned it had one of the highest death rates on the road, I added “dangerous” to the list. It was perfect. When it ran.
On the night I bought it, the headlights went out on the highway. A week later, the clutch blew, at which point I discovered it could only be replaced from inside the car, which meant unbolting the seats, tearing out the carpet, disconnecting the instruments, removing the dashboard, pulling the transmission and scrubbing the grease out of my bloody knuckles. When it was finally reassembled I held my breath, turned the key, slipped the car into gear and hit the gas. The tires squealed. The engine howled. The front end lifted slightly as the car slung out onto the gravel road, spraying rocks and pushing me back into my seat. My heart swelled. I loved us both.
Such is the relationship between vintage cars and their drivers—an ongoing cycle of lust, pain, ecstacy and comingled fluids.
Nobody understands that relationship better than Hagerty Insurance. Based in Traverse City, Hagerty has grown to one of the largest providers of vintage car insurance in America. They’ve done so with a brilliantly executed content strategy that places them first in Google’s organic search results. One look at their website reveals how.
Ten years ago, search engine rankings targeted things like metatags and keywords. Inbound links—the links that people post to direct others to your content—counted for something, but not a lot. Today those inbound links make up an estimated 75 percent* of the weighting in the search engine algorithms. The key to attaining them is not to create plodding, keyword-rich content, but to create remarkable content that other people link to.
Hagerty’s site delivers. Visitors will find an entire section devoted to vintage Jaguars, complete with model reviews, photo galleries and a Flash matrix showing the movement of prices over the past few years. (Turns out now might be a good time to drop $100k on a ’72 XKE.) They have feature articles on the whole car pantheon, and not just blogs—these are crisp, professionally written pieces that speak with authority and passion. Hagerty also publishes their own digital magazine, which is so well produced it commands ad revenue from the likes of Federal Express. Clearly, Hagerty’s efforts are designed to evoke something approaching lust in the hearts of their audience.
The analytics suggest they’ve succeeded. To date, Hagerty’s site has accrued 34,741 inbound links, or 40 percent more than Grundy, their next competitor. More telling is the number of indexed pages: Google spiders have scanned and catalogued 22,200 pages of Hagerty content, as opposed to just 1,040 for Grundy. The figure suggests Hagerty is far more active in creating and posting new content, which is another major factor in search engine rankings.
Note that Hagerty has not populated its site with articles about insurance. They’ve taken a tangential approach to content that keys on their audience rather than their product. Between their articles, the stats, the photo features and magazines, Hagerty has become, in effect, a publisher, and this is exactly what online marketers need to do. They create the kind of content that lures the right audience in the largest possible numbers.
In the end, the remarkable thing about Hagerty’s content strategy is not their understanding of their audience, nor even the decision to create content. The stunning part is the scale of their commitment and their investment of hundreds of thousands—even millions of dollars over time. Especially with emerging media, it takes nerve to commit to a long-term strategy. But Hagerty understands the future as well as they understand the past. They’ve put the pedal to the metal.