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Ryan Johnson

Why Budweiser Gets an "F" in SEO

Ryan Johnson
Why Budweiser Gets an "F" in SEO

I’ve done a few pieces about Budweiser, particularly related to their over reliance on ads and generally poor social media presence. This is a company that has seriously faltered in the internet age.

Growing up, Bud was the biggest beer in the world and the king of TV. They were known for their clever ads, like the talking frogs.

However, when social media exploded, Bud never adapted. As TV has become less important, Bud has dumped more and more money into the medium, while running some pretty sad posts.

For all they spend on TV ads, Budweiser continues to see erosion of its domestic market share. Bud’s volume in the U.S. has shrunk for 25 consecutive years. From 1999 to 2012, Bud and Bud Light lost 4.3 percent and 0.7 percent of their respective shares of the beer market. Does that sound like winning strategy to you?

A look at Bud’s SERP rankings shows you how bad this brand is at modern marketing. The site has a healthy domain authority of 79, which is to be expected for a brand of this size and stature. However, something is seriously amiss with the brand’s SERP rankings.

If you thought about Budweiser, you’d think that they surely rank for "beer," right? How about "lager," since that's what Bud is claimed to be? A quick MOZ search shows that Bud doesn’t rank in the top 50 for “beer” or “lager.” Digging even further, they don’t rank in the top 50 for “American beer” or “best American beer.”

The site does have sections on light beers Bud Select and Select 55, but doesn’t rank in the top 50 for “light beer” or “light beer calories” or “calories in light beer.” The website does, however, rank #24 for “amber lager,” so that’s something.

Header and Alt Text Problems

Looking into the code of the homepage, I start to see where some of the issues lie.

The first H1 is in the header. Each page should have its own individualized H1 that describes the focus of that page with page-relevant keywords. Instead, Bud has used the H1 in a common element (the header), ensuring that each page has the same H1.

Here’s the next problem: that H1 doesn’t have any text in it tells Google what the page is about. Instead, it is an image.

Even worse, the alt text of the image is “Budweiser." I want everyone to repeat after me: you do not need to optimize for your brand name. People searching for you by brand already know who you are (and probably what you do) and they want to learn more about your company.

The purpose of optimization is to help you compete for keywords related to your product or service that will bring in potential customers. (On a separate but related note, this is one of the only images on the entire site that has alt text at all — a crime when you think about how much they probably spent on the site.)

A better H1 and alt text for the homepage might be “Budweiser: America’s Beer.” Something that mentions your product. In this case, beer.

In addition, the homepage has several H1 designations where they should only have one of each. Multiple H1s will cancel each other out. The page should have only one H1, and it should convey the main purpose of that page. The page also uses multiple H2s, where I would only recommend one. All other featured text should be in H3-H6.

For example, take a look at my employer’s homepage. It has one H1, which reads “a Chicago-based content marketing agency for thought leaders.” That covers location and business pretty well. If you’re wondering how well this works, changing the sites header designations, alt text and meta content to focus on “content marketing agency” moved the website from unranked to #3 for “content marketing agency” in SERP results in two months.

Poor Meta Titles

This page — “About Budweiser” — covers way too many topics. First, the page talks about Bud’s alcohol content and calories. Next, they talk about how it’s made, which also includes the ingredients.

When pages have too many points of focus, it becomes difficult to rank for all of the terms you want. I would advise Budweiser to split this content into separate pages, allowing one page to be optimized for “Budweiser ingredients” or even “beer ingredients” while another focuses on a good search phrase like, “How many calories are in a Budweiser?” or “How many calories are in our beer?”

As it is, their current meta title for the “About Budweiser” page is “Nutrition Facts - Carbs, Calories, Alcohol Content | Budweiser.” First off, I think they are stuffing too many keywords into that title. Secondly, this is poorly worded for search. To find this, someone would specifically have to be looking for something related to beer. How about trying to compete in your category?

The “Our Process” page has a meta title of “The Budweiser Brewing Process.” This might be better optimized as “How Is Our Beer Made | Budweiser.” You have a lot better chance of hitting searches for “How is beer made” (1,000 monthly searches, low competition) while still keeping your brand name in play.

A Hopeless Case?

When you do a Google search for Budweiser, you will notice they come up in the paid ad results at the top of the page. So, Bud is spending money on ad words for their own brand name. This insane waste of money — you should rank for your own brand name without any help — shows me that this brand has no idea what they are doing online.

Using SEMrush data, you can see Budweiser spends approximately $26.6 thousand dollars monthly on AdWords.

Budweiser-AdWords-SEMrush

With the amount of money Bud has at their disposal, they could easily remedy these issues. However, I think their sliding market share is causing them to bet even more on TV to try to reverse the slide. This is a path of continually declining returns, but an easier sell to a CEO or CMO than something like SEO, which isn’t as flashy and which takes time to develop.

Bud doesn’t understand digital, and they really don’t want to because it means admitting the TV advertising party — and their days of dominance — might be over for good.

Ryan Johnson is an award-winning web content producer, online and traditional marketing strategist and writer. He is based in Chicago and is the SEO Manager at Imagination. Follow Ryan online or on Twitter. His last article for SEMrush was “Before Chapter 11, RadioShack Struggled with SEO."

Comments

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David Arrington
Hey Ryan,

I have no problem with bringing up an example of what not to do. Hopefully Bud tracks their online reputation, sees this and takes action. I like how you break it all down.

One note about brand terms and ppc. There was a recent study by the Bing Ads team that showed that paying for brand names in ppc (when added on top of a natural ranking) produced a higher click yield than organic ranking alone. Here is the study if you want to check it out: http://searchenginewatch.com/a...

It can also be a good idea to pay for brand terms to keep competitors from appearing in the top spot for your name.
Ryan Johnson
David Arrington
Hi David:

You are right, there can be some positive results from buying your brand name in AdWords, so thanks for correcting me on that. It would be better for me to say that you don't need to SEO optimize for your brand name.
Alanna
WOW...you must be a Miller Light fan.....
Ryan Johnson
Alanna
You got me. I love Miller so much that I researched and wrote this article to spite Bud. My next article will be about Coors. Seriously though, how do facts translate to brand preference? Do my feelings toward Bud change the fact that they don't rank in the TOP 50 (not top 10 mind you) for beer, lager, American beer, American lager or light beer?
Malachi
Malachi
Ryan Johnson
Ryan, that may also depend on their target audience. If you are looking for beer, do you search for 'beer' on the internet? Or will it be more specific? Not trying to be argumentative though, and I'm NOT a fan of Bud either! But not appearing in the top 50 is bad. Specially for their keywords. Whether they "like" it or not.. since 'beer' is their main market, you would at least expect that they are on the first if not second page (so top 20) for that term... Plus their target keywords would include 'beer' and 'lager'... even if it's more specific. (I have the feeling I'm contradicting myself.. I better stop!)
Ryan Johnson
Malachi
Malachi: That's true. That's why I noted that they don't rank for more specific terms like lager, American lager, light beer, American beer and how beer is made.
Malachi
Malachi
If they're not in the paid listing.. I'm sure competition will jump in. Not saying you have to be at the top of the paid list though..
Ryan Johnson
Malachi
Good point, Malachi. That is likely a move to keep others from buying the ad word. I would just recommend that they spend a little of that Ad Words cash on site optimization.
Malachi
Malachi
Ryan Johnson
Oh, I agree! No need to be at the absolute top.. as long as you're at the top of the page (depending on the number of ads that are displayed at the top), then you're fine. Yes, they definitely need to spend some on site optimization...
Octopus Creative Design
Octopus Creative Design
Regardless of the arguments on attention seeking articles, the main point I take from this is big brands get the simple things wrong. Throwing money at problems doesn't make for improvements, take time to build your site correctly and you could reap rewards. You've taken the time to research Budweiser's spend, analysed their html site structure and identified immediate improvements. Good article Ryan Johnson.
Ryan Johnson
Octopus Creative Design
Thanks, Octopus. That is exactly the point: Bud spends countless dollars on TV advertising and Ad Words every year, but can't make the nominal investment in making sure their site is properly SEO optimized. Having an expensive website alone does not translate to good SEO, just as buying nice shoes won't make you good at basketball.
Saijo George
While I agree with the things you say, I am not a big fan of calling out a brand like this.
Ryan Johnson
Saijo George
Why is it fine for critics to call out poor movies, ads or restaurants, but not poor SEO? I think of this as a real-world example of what not to do.
Rob Conrad
Rob Conrad
Ouch. That's brutal. Budweiser should pay you to fix this.
Patrick Ryan
Budweiser should be doing more to capitalize on its brand and authority but this article is nothing more than a veiled attempt to get attention, attract clicks, and promote your own company through public shaming. The writer should share his client list for analysis.
Ryan Johnson
Patrick Ryan
I would argue that any post is an attempt to get attention somewhat, but the rest of your ideas are way off. The company I work for does not represent any food or beverage clients. Furthermore how is this any different than the USA Today ad meter? I'm looking at a brand's marketing and talking about why it doesn't work. If you think I have some kind of agenda, feel free to contact me any time: rsj8000@gmail.com.

~Ryan Johnson
Patrick Ryan
Ryan Johnson
I get the reason for the article and not arguing with that. My concern is the tone of the article, the arbitrary grade of "F" in the headline that is sensational, and even mentioning your own company in the article itself. Maybe the person doing SEO for their site is trying their best and is up against internal bureaucracy, politics, and priorities. We need to be supportive as a community given what we are up against daily and although maybe that was your intent it didn't come across that way.
Rob Conrad
Rob Conrad
Patrick Ryan
Patrick, you're making me laugh. You paint a picture of Budweiser as a poor little stray kitten who omigod! needs adopting, you guys!
Ryan Johnson
Patrick Ryan
What grade would you give to the leader in their category, one of the biggest brands in the world, that doesn't rank for their own product category? I mention my own company as an example of what a small company can do when SEO is applied properly, compared to how badly a large brand does when they don't get it right.
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