Texas Marine sets curve for dealerships online
So you finally hit 500 Facebook likes and you’re feeling pretty proud of yourself – as you should! Just a few years ago, you’d be far ahead of the curve. But leave it to Ryan Hebert and his team at Texas Marine to raise the bar for the rest of the industry.
Sitting at just over 11,100 likes at press time, Texas Marine has more likes than many OEMs. Most local dealers don’t even come close to those kind of numbers.
Hebert, said he always wanted to grow the online footprint of the business, but their work never really took off he wanted. When he realized they had to set aside some funds if they were serious about making waves online.
“We realized that it just took someone that really pays attention to it and is giving some constant attention to it,” said Hebert. “So that’s when we decided, if we’re going to really make a presence on there, we need to devote a little more resources to it.”
The first thing they did was look for a part-time writer. Through that search, they found a local outdoor writer, Donna Chance, but their consultant found them.
“We did two things, we brought in a blog writer — that’s Donna. And then we hired a consultant — John Miller — who has been in the boating industry for a long time and now kind of specializes on search engine rankings and optimization,” said Hebert. “The way we found him was pretty strange. We had put up a job posting for a blog writer right before we hired Donna. So we got a call, and he said he had some ways he could help us.”
Apart from Facebook likes, SEO was a major focus for Hebert, who wasn’t happy to only rank on local searches. But after dealing with a few companies that simply couldn’t deliver results, Hebert needed some convincing.
“He knew the issues we were having before we even told him,” said Hebert. “When someone knows what you problems are before you tell them, that’s one good sign they know what they’re talking about.”
One of the first things Miller said wasn’t a big promise or trick to get better rankings.
“The way he explained it was, ‘You know, we’re going to do a lot of things over the next year, and not one of them is a magic bullet, it’s just a combination of doing these 100 things,’” said Hebert.
He said as Miller worked to tweak SEO on the back end, Hebert and Chance focused on creating great content.
“When we realized the key was to put original content on the website, we thought, ‘How can you really put a whole bunch of original content on the site without spending time on the content,’” said Hebert. “Having that original content running through the blog keeps the spiders from the search engines continually interested in our website. Plus it creates a bunch of content to throw on Facebook and social media – kind of kill two birds with one stone.”
That dual approach was important in the eyes of Google as well; which now looks beyond the content at social media interaction associated with that content.
When Chance started in November of 2013, she and Hebert did some brainstorming every day, partly to bring Chance up to speed as her background was focused on the outdoors, but not much boating. Before long, Hebert said it was on autopilot.
“It used to be, we’d brainstorm every day,” said Hebert. “But it got to the point where, even though she’s not from this industry, she got so familiar with the dealership and the boats and the service and accessories and destinations that it got to the point where I’d just give her some overall ideas one day a week and she’d take it and run with it.”
Chance writes about a lot of different topics, but before long, she said she saw a very strong trend.
“We do blogs on tournaments, fishing tips, area destinations, boats, Texas Marine employee team members, local fishing clubs, boat parts and much more. By far, the most popular posts are the tournament posts,” said Chance. “Recently one of our Saltwater Tournament posts garnered 49,456 views, and it’s nothing for us to reach almost 10,000 views now on an interesting blog.”
Chance said above all, creating content that is personable and passionate brings fans from far and wide.
“The key to success is doing what you love and it comes through in your articles, pictures, posts, comments and blogs,” said Chance.
She said that that while she is working on content daily, they’re sure to meter their Facebook posts.
“We post on the page about three times a week. If you post a lot, you lose people; they quickly dump a page if it is bombarding them with posts,” said Chance.
Promoting posts to reach a bigger chunk of their audience also drove interaction for Chance’s content.
“We promote posts that we think will be a real eye catcher and generate membership onto the page,” said Chance. “We tend to promote posts about three times a month.”
In a few months, Miller’s work to make content easier to find by search engines, and all the original content flowing through the site had a huge impact – nearly doubling their Facebook likes since Chance started and catapulting them to the front of even national searches.
“You could do a national search on a manufacturer of ours and we’d be on the fourth or fifth page,” said Hebert. “Now, in those national searches – I’m not talking, if you search ‘manufacturer in Texas’ — but if you just do a national search, [Miller] got us up to that first page.”
With such a strong presence on Facebook and online in general, you’d think the Texas Marine team would be taking a break and patting themselves on the back, but Chance says they’ve just begun.
“We are hoping to reach 20,000 in the next year. We are noticing that the second 10,000 is not as hard as the first ten,” said Chance, noting that they gained more than 1,000 likes in the week after hitting 10,000.
Hebert said he’s excited to keep pushing as well, but determining the return on their investment in social is still far from a science.
“We try to track these customers coming in with Facebook money and stuff like that,” said Hebert. “But how they translate to boat sales, part sales etcetera, we’re dial that in and haven’t found a perfect way to measure that – I don’t think anyone has.”
Take a look at the Texas Marine Facebook page for a bit of insight, and watch for them on Twitter and Instagram soon.