Search Engine Malpractice — Tiger King Edition

After weeks of seeing memes, hearing “have you watched it yet?”, and Netflix assuring that I saw the trailer every other second, I finally sat down and watched Tiger King. From beginning to end. In one sitting. The car crash that it was, I just couldn’t drag myself away.

Did Carole Baskin kill her husband? Will the other exotic zoo owners be convicted of anything? Why did Joe Exotic think his mullet was the only judge-worthy topic of the show?

The biggest offense in the show though, at least in the digital marketing world, was Joe’s abuse of SEO.

If you haven’t watched Tiger King, let’s fill you in a little bit.

Joe Exotic, the “Tiger King,” was the owner and proprietor of a big cat and exotic animal park called “G.W. Zoo” in Wynnewood, Oklahoma.

His fiercest competitor, Carole Baskin, ran a big cat park called “Big Cat Rescue” in Tampa, Florida.

Joe had quite the vendetta against Carole and her Big Cat Rescue and was constantly trying to get a leg up on her.

John Reinke: “The more Joe got aware of social media and how it worked, the more he realized that he needed to work the name. Like, when you Google ‘big cat rescue,’ it pulls up Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida. Joe started realizing that if he made his name close to Big Cat Rescue, when they Google it, it might pull him up first.”

Bhagavan Doc Antle: “Do you know the power you have if you search Google around the world, and you’re the first choice every time? [Carole Baskin] is the one. She’s the first choice every time, supersedes all the zoos. She’s at the top of all search.”

So, what did Joe Exotic do?

He renamed his traveling tiger show to “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.”

Do you see the issue? Carole Baskin’s original, copyrighted brand “Big Cat Rescue” versus Joe Exotic’s newly formed “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.”

John Reinke: “He did that as a ploy to help his ratings on the Internet.”

In an attempt to gain more visibility for his show, he renamed his business to rank in search results for Carole Baskin’s “Big Cat Rescue.” This is a very clear attempt to appropriate another brand’s search results for his own gain, which is both misleading and manipulative.

This is called “search engine spam.”

Search engine optimization is the practice of increasing traffic to your website through organic search engine results. SEO is a common marketing practice of making your website and content more attractive to a search engine.

Search engine spam is the practice of deliberately “tricking the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant, or poor-quality search results” or “when one tries to influence the position a website has in search engines.”

Manipulating search engines such as Google can have harsh (and deserved) consequences. Brands that does this can see their organic visibility crucially penalized or even potentially delisted from the search results.

On top of all of this is the copyright infringement, of which Joe was taken to court for. There was a nearly $1 million settlement in Carole Baskins’ favor.

There are a lot of questionable SEO strategies like Joe’s out there, which is why we’re providing a few tips and tricks for improving your optimization.

Increase site speed with image optimization

Use analytics to track your search optimization

Make sure your site is crawlable

Utilize meta descriptions

Use the right keywords in your images

Include relevant links on your pages

Focus on mobile-first indexing

Both paid and organic marketing have their places in the world, but spammy, unethical marketing is heavily frowned upon. Joe Exotic and the entire premise of Tiger King essentially highlight degenerate behavior so it’s no surprise their SEO practices are crap, too.

While Tiger King was a highly engrossing TV show, I have to put out the disclaimer of “don’t try this at home.” Follow our better SEO practices and leave the search spam for Joe Exotic.

  • Have you seen examples of search engine spam outside of the show?
  • What’s your favorite way to optimize for search?
  • Do you think Carole Baskin killed her husband?

HIPB2B is a demand gen solution provider, utilizing content, email, and marketing automation to drive outcomes for marketing and technology clients