How James Dean Helped an SEO Class

By Ava Naves, Principal, The Online Strategy House


James Dean helped an SEO Class

Most people wouldn’t think that there’s any link between vintage cars, Hollywood legends, and Information Architeture. That is so, but little did I know that my teenage crush on James Dean would come in handy at one of the SEO and Web Analytics classes that I’ve taught at the University of British Columbia.

I’ve been strangely fascinated by the actor ever since I was around 12 or 13, and that has led me to memorizing several bits of what, until recently, I deemed to be useless trivia. For example, I know that he…

  • Was driving a 1955 550 Porsche Spyder when he died
  • Had his fatal accident on September 30th, 1955
  • Played the violin as a young child

The course that I’ve taught at UBC, here in Vancouver, presented best practices in SEO and Digital Analytics that can guide the optimization of new and revamped sites. One of the topics of the first session was how Information Architecture (specifically site hierarchy and structure) affects SEO.

When I first developed the materials for that class, I somehow had the idea of using a fictitious site for a reseller of vintage car parts as an example. Fast forward to a few weeks later, during this term’s first lecture. When I got to the part where I talked about SEO and Information Architecture (IA), I mentioned Porsche as the theme of one of the make-believe directories in the site. The next step would be to explain that one of the subdirectories would include information on parts for Porsche classic cars, like the convertible that James Dean was driving on that fateful September afternoon. But then… I forgot the model of the vehicle! I usually like to include that in the example because it is unexpected and students often find that amusing.

By that point it was around 8:30 pm, and I was cognizant of the need to to keep the students involved so that they would understand those important IA and SEO principles. And my coffee was… not kicking in anymore. So there I was, staring blankly at the white board, saying outloud: “Right… what was that car that James Dean was driving…”

To my surprise (and relief), one of the students  jumped off his seat and came to my aid. Very enthusiastically, he said: “A 1955 550 Porsche Spyder!” That was a moment when everyone in class realized that learning about SEO, IA, and Digital Analytics can actually be enjoyable.

When that class was over for that evening, the student paid me one of the dearest compliments I’ve ever received. He said: “I was dreading this class but this was actually fun!” I know that students sacrificed personal and family time to attend that three-hour course every Wednesday evening, so I very much appreciated that.

Thank you, Jimmy!

P.S.: Maybe you’re part of a company that could benefit from a custom online marketing workshop. Give us a shout… we’ll make it fun!

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