Sad Elon: How to Take on Tesla in SEO

by Brian Toomey, JB Analytics CEO

When GAF Energy came to us they had a tough ask: They wanted us to go up against Tesla and Elon Musk on SEO. 

To be clear, the parent company GAF had significant advantages. They had been in the roofing business for 133 years and already produced shingles for 1.4 million roofs annually, granting them exceptional supply chain capabilities and market reach. However, we were venturing into a new competitive market (residential solar) with a new brand and a newly built website on a completely fresh domain. 

To rise to the challenge we knew we needed to get all 4 pillars of SEO right: product, press, code and content. 

And we were able to do just that. We launched in 2019 with a new site, domain and design. And no competitive rankings to speak of. And over the next 5 years we clawed up and secured first page rankings on incredibly competitive terms like “solar roof” and “solar shingle.” We even rank ahead of Tesla sometimes now, though results vary day-to-day. 

This remarkable feat is the result of successful partnerships between three organizations, skillful application of proven ranking strategies, and decisive leadership by GAF Energy’s VP of Marketing and Public Policy, Keally Dewitt. As a result, we can point to significant increases in earned, organic web traffic that directly correlate to higher sales. 

Through a combination of performant design, development, data science, SEO (first page results on ultra competitive terms) and strategy work JBA partnered with us to decrease our CPA by 90% while 10Xing leads in an incredibly competitive market. We recommend them completely!  

Keally DeWitt, Vice President of Marketing & Public Policy of GAF Energy

To achieve these results for GAF we combined JB Web Analytics’ multi-step strategy using our proven playbook with the PR work of Sam Boykin at Boykin Consulting.

Product: Give the People What They Want

Product (or service) is king. In order for SEO to actually achieve long-term results the product itself must be compelling. Google has spent decades optimizing and tweaking its algorithms to reject SEO spammers who merely try to outspend or outlink the competition, and everything about modern SEO starts with quality.

Fortunately in GAF Energy we had an incredible company and product to work with. The unique selling position GAF and GAF Energy was threefold:

  • Leveraging extensive existing partnerships with roofers across the country
  • Combining the two consumer needs of new roofs and solar
  • Inhouse R&D to make the world’s best integrated solar roof

Put simply, when you need a new roof, solar can help pay for it, and they have the people to do it. Given that ~5% of the US housing stock needs a new roof every year they also have a massive total addressable market. 

A beautiful home, with integrated solar

Despite being related to an established roofing company with more than 130 years in the industry, GAF Energy wanted to differentiate itself as a new and fresh brand, and we helped construct their digital presence from the ground up. We don’t work with anyone we don’t believe in, and it’s been a true joy to help GAF Energy succeed.

Press: Get (the Right) People Talking About You Online

Once we were confident that we’d done everything we could on the technical front, we had the benefit of a strong product launch, led by the GAF Energy team. In particular, they partnered with  Boykin Consulting  and leveraged strategic partnerships with major brands, media outlets, and industry players to help authenticate and validate the innovation GAF Energy brought to the table. This had the added benefit of naturally building inlinks throughout the web, pointing to valuable inner pages (this is huge for SEO ranking). 

Some notable earned media the launch generated include CNET, Popular Science, Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, and Time. The GAF Energy team earned secured awards from CES, FastCompany, and Green Builder sustainable product of the year. New organizations across the country talked about (and linked to) GAF Energy’s website. Ultimately, over 1,000 unique domains linked directly to the site.  

Code: Technical SEO & Development

Every successful SEO strategy requires a technical foundation. Speed is vital for strong Google rankings, and we optimized GAF Energy’s website in almost every conceivable way – from reducing file sizes on elements to ensuring unnecessary (read: slow) analytics code wasn’t bogging anything down while preserving key metrics data. Speed doesn’t just help SEO – studies have shown that for every 1-second improvement in page load time, conversions increase by 1-2%.

In order to help Google’s web crawlers better understand (and thus rank) the site, we created a comprehensive and well-structured XML sitemap. This allowed speedy and efficient indexing. Streamlining the site’s information architecture and standardizing the CSS also helped with this objective. Finally, we ensured that the site’s entire structure, from the root domain level to all redirects, was cleanly structured for exceptional SEO.

Content: Getting Individual Pages Right

With a technical foundation built and valuable partners connected all over the internet, we finally began developing a content strategy. This is what most people think of when they consider SEO optimization and with good reason. Still, great content ultimately won’t achieve desired results on its own merit alone. To that end, we made sure that our keyword usage was as natural as possible and never forced. This required in-depth keyword research and analysis, which also helped us successfully target long-tail keywords.

The key to great content is simple – provide value. When being useful is more important than ranking well, the ranking usually follows anyway. We created content that captured attention, offered insights, solved problems, answered questions, and ultimately left readers- and potential customers- more confident and informed than they were beforehand.

“Our content ranges from our photography strategy with authentic and realistic homes, relatable stories highlighting the green jobs that get created because of our product, and our simple and straightforward posts about this new category — solar roofing. The JB Web Analytics team often works with us early in the briefing phase of the development of these deliverables so everything is aligned from stem to stern.”

~ Allana Helland, Senior Director of Marketing, GAF Energy

Conclusion: Outranking Tesla & Elon To Drive Sales

The end result? Recurring sales driven by first-page rankings for ultra-competitive terms in the multi-billion dollar US roofing and residential solar markets  

It’s a testament to what a well-thought-out, diligently executed SEO strategy can achieve, even in a market with formidable competitors.

Elon may be sad, but you don’t have to be. If you need your business to get the kind of results that GAF Energy did, reach out to us. Let’s dominate your market.