Super Bowl 2014 Commercials: How Did Advertisers Perform in Search Engines?

It’s year number six of tracking how Super Bowl ads compelled us to search and just how well advertisers take advantage of all that searching.

How did advertisers fare this year? Better than in earlier years, mostly because they are learning to keep it simple. But they’re not necessarily doing better in search on purpose.

Last year, advertisers started paying attention to social media in a big way, which they extended this year. But it’s clear advertisers don’t realize we’re multi-taskers. Not only can we watch the game and tweet at the same time, but we can search, too. And while I get wanting to engage your audience with your brand by getting them to talk about you on Twitter, your audience has eyes as well as fingers! They like watching your commercials! Which they can’t do on Twitter.

Google Trends provides pretty much the only high-level data these days, but if we take the hot searches list as face value, among lots of other game-related searches, the Transformers movie and Sonos commercial made the top 20.

Google Trends: Commercials

Google also posted that in addition to the Transformers, commercials also triggered searches for Tim Tebow (featured in the T-Mobile ads), the Maserati Ghibli, and Bob Dylan (featured in the Chrysler commercial).

So when everyone starts talking about your great commercial on Twitter (or — crazy thought — in person), they will probably search for your brand, or tagline, or hashtag, hoping to watch it. Let them!

This year, I was a little easier on advertisers than in years past. I know that the Super Bowl is mostly about branding and awareness, so I looked for search visibility in just a few ways:

  • Brand name – if the commercial generating search interest in brands, are they showing up?
  • Tagline/hashtag – if people are talking about a commercial and are searching for it by name, can they find it?
  • Famous person – if the commercial featured a very famous person that triggered searchers, what appeared in those search results?

So what can we learn from Super Bowl advertisers this year?

  1. Keep it simple: No, even simpler than that. Different hashtags on every commercial and yet another layer of different taglines, plus even differently named microsites does not make your brand easy to find in search results. Most brands got that right this year, but there’s still room for improvement.
  2. Don’t forget the basics: Some sites just needed to stop hiding all the text on the page in images. Or to use a descriptive title tag. Or a meta description at all. These things are easy, quick, and don’t cost anything, but can make a huge difference in how many visitors the site sees from search.
  3. Mention the huge star in your commercial! Lots of searching happened for the stars featured in the commercials. I couldn’t find any video descriptions (on YouTube or web sites) that mentioned them by name, other than Chrysler and Bob Dylan.

Let’s See How Well the Brands Performed in Search Results

Below are just a few examples of the 2014 Super Bowl advertisers and how they might have captured more visitors from search. (You can watch all of the commercials here.)

Budweiser

Budweiser was one of the advertisers who decided to post their (adorable puppy and horse BFFs) ad online a few days before the Super Bowl. Advertisers who do this might lose the impact of everyone seeing the ad for the first time all at once and talking it up together, but they gain the possibly greater exposure of having it talked up in advance of the game. Because this ad (like last year’s) was one of the awesome-est ads of all time, it did get talked up a bunch. And it was searched for a bunch. Leading up to the game, it was one of the top Super Bowl-related rising searches and we were searching for it in all kinds of ways.

Budweiser Commercial SearchesBudweiser Puppy Love

It also has emerged as the first hot search the day after the game.

Budweiser Puppy Love

One potential problem is that Budweiser titled the commercial “Puppy Love” but used the hashtag #bestbuds. So while everyone was searching for it one way, Budweiser was talking about it another way.

Puppy Love Best BudsBudweiser Home Page

That may have kept them from getting the engagement they were looking for, and their site (which as you can see above, had all kinds of content related to their Super Bowl commercials) was nowhere to be seen in search results, but overwhelming buzz for the commercial ensured that if you looked for it, you found it, just not on the Budweiser site.

They did post the commercial to YouTube and that result ranked #1. They also bought a paid search ad that promoted the YouTube video.

Puppy Love Search Results

I might argue that since they spent so much energy building content on their site, they should send searchers there with the ad, but I can’t really fault them, since the main goal is to get people talking about the commercial and watching it again (although I might have sent searchers to the channel). Even the sitelinks in the ad are confusing though — puppy love and #bestbuds look like they’re too different ads, so I still doubt the #bestbuds hashtag did as well for them as it could have.

Budweiser ranked fine for the brand name, as I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t show up at all for searches for the commercial (in any variation), despite the extensive related content on the site. At first glance, this may seem like it’s because the age prompt is keeping Google from crawling the pages of the site.

Budweiser Age Prompt

After all, their Super Bowl-specific page shows up in the Google search results like this:

Budweiser Super Bowl SERP

But actually, Budweiser uses JavaScript for the prompt, which is the technical implementation recommended by Google. Google sees the age check and the rest of the content on the page. Which is where the problem actually is: with the content on the page, or lack thereof. Once you turn off images (which is how Googlebot sees the site), the pages look like this:

Budweiser Page Crawl

If Budweiser put more text on the page as text and styled it with CSS or used ALT attributes, well, they just might show up for searches for their own commercial. But instead, the only text Googlebot sees is a list of dates.

Bud Light

Bud Light also had a popular commercial that asked who was #upforwhatever. And like Budweiser, the commercial showed up in search results for YouTube and where it was being talked about, but not on the Bud Light site itself (despite an abundance of content). And the brand result is less than compelling.

Bud Light SERP

Why? Same reason as for Budweiser (maybe the same agency developed both sites). The age check is done correctly with JavaScript, but with images turned off, the content disappears. The title tag could use some spiffing up too. It’s apparently normally the non-creative “Bud Light”, but was changed to the much worse “Super Bowl” in advance of the game. Since Googlebot hasn’t crawled the site since January 30th, the change will likely come and go before Google sees it. And there’s no meta description at all, so Google is using the menu navigation for the description in the search results display.

Bud Light Home Page

Bud Light Platinum

OK, the Bud Light Platinum page doesn’t even show up for searches for the brand name, but this mystery is pretty easily solved: the brand name doesn’t appear anywhere on the page (even with images turned on).

Bud Light Platinum SERP

Bud Light Platinum Home Page

Of course, they’re also still trying to make Shazam a thing. (For that matter, they’re still trying to make Bud Light Platinum a thing.)

Bud Light Platinum Shazam

Audi

Audi had that creepily disturbing commercial with the hybrid dog promoting the hashtag #stayuncompromised. They do fine for brand searches, but they are nowhere (and I mean nowhere) to found for the hashtag. Possibly because the hashtag isn’t mentioned anywhere on the site (there’s just an almost secret link to the YouTube video). It’s also not in the YouTube video title or description.

Audi

GoDaddy

Putting aside the content of previous years’ commercials, GoDaddy always did a fairly good job of integrating their online presence into their commercials. They typically had a “see more on our web site” teaser and included the domain name (although in the last couple of years, they confusingly started advertising both godaddy.com and godaddy.co).

This year, with a new CEO and all-new advertising strategy, they dropped the online link altogether. They promoted two hashtags: #liveyourdream and #itsgotime (apparently, the new grammatical hashtag rule is that drop apostrophes in order to properly irritate English majors everywhere). They also promoted the tag line “Get Found”. The web site has the commercials, which is great, but mostly promotes the tag line “It’s Go Time” (apostrophes get to come back in tag lines, to the joy of us all).

OK, so a little confusing, but how did all of this impact search? Searches for the brand [godaddy] are fine: they rank organically and have bought a paid search ad for brand searches. But they’re nowhere to be found (organically or paid) for any variation of #liveyourdream or #itsgotime (in any combination of spaces and hash marks).

Chevy

Chevy promoted its #silveradostrong hashtag with another creepy commercial (this one about group cow love). They have pretty terrible search results : it’s nearly impossible to find the commercial, except through a paid search ad that is triggered for #silveradostrong. But a search for [silverado strong] is a lesson in reputation management.

Silverado Strong

Coke

Coke promoted the hashtag #AmericaIsBeautiful. Which I read as #AmericalsBeatiful. With an “L” rather than an “I”. And I spent a good 20 minutes trying to figure out what “Americal” was. I found lots of people tweeting with that hashtag (and some who just assumed it was a typo tweeting with #AmericasBeautiful) so I wasn’t the only one. When searching for the hashtag, you only find the commercial on the Coca-Cola corporate page, but that’s better than nothing.

Ford

There’s some danger in using such as common phase as a hashtag.

Ford Nearly Double

Jaguar

Jaguar chose to promote about 12 different things. A “how alive are you” tagline. A “GoodToBeBad” hashtag. A britishvillains.com microsite. And oh yeah, a brand and car: The Jaguar F-Type. To their credit, the microsite redirects to main domain and they use all variations of what they advertised in the copy. And their site ranks #1 for it all (plus they bought AdWords for all the right things). Impressive.

Jaguar

Maserati

Was Maserati’s ad creepy or beautiful?

Maserati Tweet

Either way, they don’t need no search engine optimization.

Maserati Price SERP

Related:

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Features: The #Hashtag Bowl | Google: Search | Google: SEO | Super Bowl | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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