In a world where nearly every thriving industry has one foot still planted in traditional marketing and with another firmly set in the direction of digital marketing, it’s easy for the line between the two to blur. But with the ability to skip through commercials thanks to OnDemand, satellite, and subscription-based services, it’s easy to see how the influence boasted by the former might be dwindling. On the other hand, the possibilities are near endless when it comes to the latter. After all, where do you begin your search for a new car, truck, or SUV? – Online.
And in the realm of digital marketing, few individuals can claim to have the same impact as Greg Gifford. A staple of the automotive realm, Gifford’s insights into the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and all facets of digital marketing have made him one of the hottest commodities both in and out of the industry that he has called home for the better part of two decades. A highly-coveted public speaker, Gifford has been summoned to nearly every point of the globe to take the stage with a near-perfect mix of rock star bravado and pop-culture geekiness.
Sure, his neighbors in Texas know him as a happily married father of two sons and a daughter (as well as four dogs, three cats, and a parrot). His fellow alumni from Southern Methodist University might know him best as a former mascot. He’s a personal friend of Mickey Mouse (yes, that one). But the sleeve-tattooed SEO guru (known in some circles as “The Beard” thanks to his pre-hipster era facial accoutrement), has been making immense moves in the SEO landscape, making him one of the biggest names—behind the scenes—of the automotive industry.
So what makes Greg Gifford such a unique entity?
Setting aside his obvious skillsets for a moment, Gifford has set himself apart from other industry columnists, vloggers, and public speakers in a number of ways. Notable is his love of 1980s pop culture, a vital element of his style. If you’ve seen Gifford present you know that he’s always dropping movie quotes and song lyrics, empowering the likable, self-described ‘goofball’ to shed dated stereotypes which have permeated within the automotive space. But his accessible brand of humor also includes respectful homages to more timely points of reference.
Of his highly-anticipated vlogs, the ones that pay tribute to Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Mean Tweets’ segments are some of his most popular, infusing the annual National Automobile Dealers Association show with some welcome self-deprecation. With the prior consent of interested parties, he’s thrown out such gems as “I saw a crazy, dirty hobo humping a brick wall yesterday. He was still a better car salesman than (insert name here)” or “people who say that Nickelback is the worst thing they’ve ever heard obviously hasn’t heard a presentation by (insert name here).” And, trust us, dealers everywhere have lined up to be on the receiving end of Gifford’s burns.
A Meteoric Rise
Years ago, Gifford was an aspiring film graduate from SMU, waiting tables, bartending and snowboarding, while messing around with web design as a hobby. Flash was a new technology, and one that suited his film background well; thus the creation of some innovative websites fueled buzz, brought more opportunities his way and allowed him the chance to begin the construction of a modest media empire. And when it was discovered that Google’s algorithm didn’t recognize Flash sites, well, Gifford developed strategies and websites to work around them. Needless to say, his popularity grew.
He would go on to acquire a position as Director of Marketing in a separate agency, and began attending industry conferences but, despite the useful information presented, found the speakers to be lacking. Channeling a class clown mentality, he began making unapologetically stylized presentations, and the industry loved it. He became a popular industry columnist, and gained recognition across the pond, becoming equally popular in the eyes of European audiences.
Addressing the Evolution of SEO
A proud user of ‘white hat’ SEO, Gifford still displays the same kind of innovation that had empowered him, years ago, to sidestep Google restrictions. But Google is an ever-evolving organic entity, forever changing. When their algorithms were young, it was simpler to help a dealership that was an hour outside some major city to rank as #1. With their maturing algorithm, the focus shifting from keyword matching and ranking based on more digital signals.
No longer an offshoot of traditional marketing, digital marketing has become both art form and science in its own right, driven by how Google views each individual entity (or business) as a whole. The challenges have grown further with the growing prevalence of mobile search, making SEO more than just a few keywords, and well-placed links.
For these reasons, Gifford has become a passionate advocate of digital marketing support, both for dealerships or any business, claiming that anyone who doesn’t have an agency or solo practitioner helping them, will inevitably be lost, going unseen to those seeking their products and/or services.
Why is Greg Gifford Important to You?
There is, of course, two separate answers to this question.
For the average consumer (those wondering why something they had just discussed casually with a friend is now showing up in their social media feeds) it’s important to know that there are ‘good people’ working behind the scenes. It’s assuring to know that, when you’re Googling a vehicle or dealership with the intention of making such a sizable investment, you might just be on the receiving end of a Gifford-fueled search result (not CIA intervention). Listen carefully, and you might even hear a 1980s’ Spies Like Us’ reference. Okay, not really, but Gifford’s clearly one of the good guys of SEO.
And for dealers or business owners who might be reading this, the involvement of someone like Greg Gifford (even though there’s no-one quite like Greg Gifford) equates to some guarantee of increased success. While many digital marketers might employ dated, or less-reputable practices resulting in modest, less-quantifiable results, Gifford’s commitment to excellence has won him the esteem of some of the biggest names in the automotive industry.
5 Key Takeaways for Businesses (from Greg Gifford’s Playbook)
- Google My Business is your new home page – make sure you’re fully optimized, and that you’ve got awesome photos and correct info loaded.
- Pay attention to Questions and Answers on Google My Business – it’s a community discussion feature attached to your business. You need to be answering every question that’s asked, and upvote your answers, so they show as the primary answers.
- Get more reviews – reviews are a huge part of the local ranking algorithm. Make sure you’ve got the best score in your market and more reviews than competitors.
- Make your website content actually ABOUT your business. Everyone’s got generic content that would work on any other dealership’s site that’s selling the same brand. Instead, tell people what makes you unique.
- Read your content out loud – everything on your site should sound like something you’d say face-to-face to a customer. Reading it out loud helps you catch the stuff that sounds awkward.
A Big Change to Come
So what’s next for Greg Gifford? To answer that, we look at one of the most surprising headlines to come from the SEO and Automotive SEO community in the recent past. After an immensely successful four-year run at DealerOn, Greg announced that he would be starting a new chapter at the New England-based digital marketing agency, Wikimotive.
While Wikimotive has traditionally existed (and will continue to thrive) in the automotive space, Greg’s on-boarding heralds a new chapter for the company, as he will focus on expanding Search into new verticals, such as the Cannabis, Medical, and Legal industries to name a few. Wikimotive, who had been teasing a ‘big announcement’ on social media over the last few weeks, made the announcement in tongue-in-cheek, cinematic fashion. It appears Wikimotive is clearly embracing Gifford’s bombastic love of all things pop culture, showing us that Gifford is set-up for success with their team.
You can find the announcement video, below: