Vintage Cars, Visionary Content

It was perfect.

When it ran. The first night I owned it, the headlights went out on the highway. The heater didn’t work very well, but with a four-inch ground clearance it didn’t have to. You really couldn’t drive it in the snow. After a few weeks the clutch blew and I discovered the transmission had to be removed from the inside. So I unbolted the seats, tore out the carpeting, removed the dashboard, pulled the transmission, replaced the clutch, and put it all back together in just under a month. When I finally slipped the car into gear and hit the gas, it leapt off the line like a cigarette boat, front end rising up, engine howling. My heart swelled. I loved us both.

Such is the relationship between vintage cars and their drivers—part love, part hate, a mostly irrational mix of intimate experiences characterized by sweat, pounding hearts and mingled 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 peek into 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 algorhythms. 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.

Mike Van Egeren is the founder and creative director of BANG!, a Lansing-based marketing group specializing in content strategy and development.








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