Starbucks coffee Social V SEO

by David Naylor
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

First off this isn’t an outing post it’s more an exploratory research post were I leave you more confused and wished you had never seen this post at all, You have been warned.

A few weeks ago while researching for my session titled “Is Social Media Really Killing my Beloved SEO?” at the Performance Marketing Insights  conference in London, I was trying to find what was really the Social Media impact on search results for my upcoming session, and to be honest I was struggling mainly due to massive amounts of posts around how Social Media is affecting the organic search results. It seems a day doesn’t go by when someone says +1’s and Like’s are making you rank better in Google and then Matt Cutts has to come out and de-buck them yet again, the problem is that all the studies seem to miss the fact that people don’t like webpages they like Facebook pages… take Starbucks

Starbucks Coffee facebook page

Starbucks Coffee Facebook Page

Look at the Stats :

  • 216,373 talking about this
  • 8,599,411 were here

35 million Likes but that’s Likes on their “Facebook Page”, the real world looks different. If I Google Starbucks in the UK these are the results and the corresponding +1’s, tweets and Facebook Likes, which is insane when you look at with only 64 Fcebook Likes. How can a company like Starbucks have so few? ( we actually built a tool to help me with this it’s here don’t moan it’s slow because it’s free and uses only authorised API’s )

# URL Title +1s Twitter Facebook
1 Starbucks Coffee Company 263 45 64
2 My Starbucks Rewards | Starbucks Coffee Company 1316 5 33
3 Working at Starbucks | Starbucks Coffee Company 59 0 0
4 Starbucks – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 0 192 180
5 Starbucks Coffee Company 2710110 73810 10179
6 Starbucks | Facebook 0 0 35373684
7 Starbucks Coffee (Starbucks) on Twitter 16 54 18483

I must admit there are some screwy things going on more so in the Google +1’s and the more you dig the worse it gets, check out Doctor Who results if I was cynical I would say that Google is trading +1’s for something 😉

OK, back on track now, to me Starbucks is a synonym for coffee just as Amazon is a synonym for books, but I was surprised to see Starbucks not ranking in the UK for the term “Coffee” everything told me that they should, just like Amazon ranks number 2 for Books. I truly expected to see Starbucks rank at least on the first page, what was more interesting  was 1 a slide from a LBi deck from 2011, which I used in my session last week, where they were showing how Social Media was affecting the organics search results:

a Slide from LBI presentation about Social Media in 2011

a Slide from a LBI presentation about Social Media in 2011

Now this truly interested me because I remember when Google was like this, and  it was a true and valid way to get clients to really get on board with social media. Today my drum beats a slightly different beat – Social media sites are amazing to protect your brand queries but they don’t seem to effect Non-Brand queries so much  :

Starbuckssearch results showing social media sites ranking

Starbucks search results showing social media sites ranking for the brand term

but I was surprised not to see the Starbucks stores or ranking for brand terms but haven’t looked into why, but I did dig a little into and you see is still Ranked #2 in the US for coffee, but Searchmertics is showing that it’s only just jumped back in :

searchmetrics results for Coffee in the US

searchmetrics results for Coffee in the US

But more interesting is Search Metrics is showing that the UK site looked like it was hit in the July 18th update, the panda softening one that made no sense at all, why would they have been hit for Coffee and still rank for say  “chai latte”  or even “reward card”

Searchmetric showing been hit in July

Searchmetric showing been hit in July

so I started thinking about this a little more , did have a Partial Manual Penalty on their Homepage? and that would make more sense they are ranking on the second page for “coffee” but it’s an internal page so the next question was WHY? or more to the point WHO ? It does not take an Einstein to look into the Inbound Back links for and it’s slightly worrying to see stuff like this and my guess is these directory links are Old SEO links for a bygone age 😉 Most  probably done years ago when it was acceptable, but a good example of what now needs to be cleaned up these days.

Starbucks Links with the anchor Text Coffee
Starbucks Links with the anchor Text Coffee

So I guess what started off me looking for an answer to “Is social media killing SEO” ended up looking at a site which had a penalty handed out by Google for links that most probably happen years ago which leads me on to a question I often find myself asking when cleaning up other SEO actions from years ago. Is the Client really the one to be blamed or is it the SEO agency, because Google only hits the clients, I guess in Google’s eyes it’s always the Clients site that’s at fault. ( I have an idea how to fix this btw but that’s for another day )

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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