That backlinking queen, Carole Baskin

by Amy Bull

We can all learn a thing or two from Carole and Big Cat Rescue.

Hey all you cool cats and kittens!

I’ll be honest -The Tiger King was one of the things that got me through the first few days of lockdown. Yes, you read that correctly – days – I binge watched.

It was quite clear from the off that when it came to big cat rivals, Carole ‘did she kill her husband?’ Baskin and Joe ‘my employees’ arm has been bitten off’ Exotic, nothing was off the table. From some questionable videos made by Joe, to serious allegations made by Carole, the two soon entered into a murky battle to top the search results, which as someone working in SEO and marketing, totally had me hooked!

For all her airy-fairy kookiness, Carole was clearly the cat that got the cream (or sardine oil!) when it came to the power of branding, leveraging social media and combing online and offline efforts. She built a community of allies around her business, Big Cat Rescue. Meanwhile, Joe Exotic was painted as an erratic red neck with little more than a wardrobe full of sequins and an eyebrow ring hanging on for dear life.

The numbers

To put it into context, let’s look at the numbers behind Big Cat Rescue’s digital presence.

Between the late 90s and the present day, Carole has achieved the following results:

  • 3 million website visits
  • 79,000 email subscribers
  • 40,000 print newsletter subscribers
  • 365,000,000 views on YouTube
  • 16 million YouTube subscribers
  • 6 million Facebook followers
  • 330,000 Twitter followers

Carole was obviously an early adopter. She recognised the true value of marketing. As well as taking to these platforms, she also experimented with features – often way before her competitors did. Neither was she afraid to put budget behind her strategies to measure ROI and her approach has paid off.

She rolled up her sleeves and set to work

She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty when it came to some gritty SEO tactics, either. Carole basically set up a network. Several different websites or webpages all related to one another, including one that ‘outed’ her competitors for their poor treatment of animals. These sites and pages acted like a sophisticated cog, feeding into her main website.

Carole tops the search engine results for MANY relevant search terms thanks to her SEO efforts. Her website is also geared towards conversions, featuring interactive quizzes that capture the user’s email address to which to forward the results. Judging by her email subscriber list, her users are more than willing to surrender their name and email address.

The fact her content is always centred around the animals add to her brand’s authenticity, too; her mission to her fans is very clear and she doesn’t divert away from this messaging.

Her e-commerce platform also drives huge profits and she utilises video content to lure fans in. Once in the web shop, they lap up items such as branded mugs, iPhone cases and clothing.

Consistency has paid off

Everyone in the industry new that Carole was GREAT when it came to organic search, with another one of her competitors, Doc Antle, commenting,

‘She’s the first choice every time – supersedes all the zoos; she’s top of all search’.

Carole’s consistency – and some may even argue there has been a ‘quantity over quality’ approach – has paid off.

She’s produced an enormous amount of video content – around 4,000 videos in fact. Some of the world’s biggest zoos and animal organisations can’t match that. And yes, while these other businesses are producing slick, professional videos, I guess part of Carole’s appeal is that her content is raw and authentic. From selfie videos to informative content and live streams of the animals, Carole has it covered by posting to all of her platforms, offering endless material.

Even when it comes to her social advertising strategy, we can see that Carole doesn’t give up easily. A quick glance at the Big Cat Rescue ad library shows that the organisation is consistently testing a variety of messaging and images to monitor the engagement they drive.

So, what can you learn from Carole Baskin?

  • Be everywhere your audience are, cover all bases to be seen AND remembered
  • Allow time to explore and experiment with features – don’t just do the bare minimum and expect big results
  • Be realistic with budgets – don’t be cautionary and expect big results
  • Monetise all avenues – where appropriate
  • Keep conversion strategies at the forefront of your mind
  • Be consistent in everything you do, from your messaging to your content output
  • Test, test, test – good targeting takes times, and your ad campaigns should include time for ad variations and testing

It’s clear to see why Carole Baskin’s competitors, namely Joe Exotic, would want in on the volume of traffic she was driving to her site. We’ll look into Joe’s quite genius, if not downright dirty, attempts in Part 2 of this miniseries.

For now, one thing is clear, if Carole Baskin was killing anything – it was the marketing game.

The Author

Amy Bull

Amy looks after our clients’ accounts. She’s the glue that holds our strategy, delivery and results together; she makes it happen and keeps it on track. She is the wearer of many hats! Amy joined MM as the queen of words, crafting content and securing some incredible outreach opportunities for our clients. She’s since combined this with an in-depth knowledge of SEO, making every one of our clients’ words work as hard as possible in the digital landscape. Her passion revolves wholeheartedly around ‘client accountability’ - hard work, integrity and honesty – doing the very best for our clients based upon data-driven evidence.


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