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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.


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

Provides valuable insights and adds depth to the conversation.

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."
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