How Death Wish Coffee ranked #1 on Google using how-to's and un-branded keywords

How Death Wish Coffee ranked #1 on Google using how-to's and un-branded keywords

Georgia Bogert

Georgia Bogert

Best Practices

Apr 21, 2022

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Death Wish Coffee transformed from near failure to annual revenues of $15 - $25 million, becoming the top result in Google searches for key phrases. Their success is rooted in SEO, focusing on non-branded organic search traffic, which makes up 60.6% of their site's visitors. They target unique organic search phrases, optimize content for Google's Snippet Feature with step-by-step answers, and leverage high-search-volume keywords. This strategy aligns their products and content with user interests, cementing their dominance in search results.

In 2010, Mike Brown launched Death Wish Coffee from the basement of his struggling coffee shop. Three years later, the provocative and charming brand got the offer of a lifetime in the form of a Good Morning America feature. The company’s products and brand proved desirable, bringing in tens of thousands of new orders. However, their underdeveloped website and supply chain couldn’t handle the influx of traffic, and Death Wish was close to closing its doors.

Today, the coffee company that was almost toppled by its own popularity now brings in $15 - $25 million in revenue annually and is Google's #1 search result for several significant keywords and phrases. How did they do it? Their 2016 replatforming with the Shopify Plus enterprise resource planning system certainly helped them to bolster their supply chain and online presence, but there is much more to the story here. 

In short, Death Wish was able to prevail by prioritizing SEO at every level of their marketing and branding. They are well versed in the art of keyword searching, using unique tactics and highly strategic language and branding to direct customers to their site and keep them there. They are keenly aware of how Google prioritizes search results and keep this in mind at all levels.

According to Similarweb, their organic search traffic is up 92.96% over the last 3 months with 61.78% of all of their traffic being driven from search.

Their most remarkable feat is that 60.6% of the site’s traffic is non-branded. This means that the majority of visitors are directed to the site without explicitly searching for the brand by name. 

Death Wish keeps costs low and searches high by executing outstanding finesse when it comes to SEO and the strategic use of keywords. We’ll tell you how. 

Target unique organic search phrases and integrate them into your content

You don’t have to know Death Wish to be directed to their brand, you just have to be a coffee drinker. The most remarkable thing about Brown’s strategy for Death Wish is his absolute mastery of SEO and keywords. Significantly, only 12% of their site traffic (which totalled 294.3k last month) is paid. This is due to the company’s ability to intuit and capitalize on the interests and concerns of potential consumers. 

Death Wish’s most effective non-branded keyword phrase, driving 2.03% of all traffic, is “how to get coffee out of your system.” According to Similarweb, the majority (41.95%) of the traffic for this keyword goes directly to Death Wish, with no other paid competitors jockeying for their spot. The keyword itself garners 100% organic traffic, and the first Google search result for this phrase is Death Wish’s blog page about getting rid of coffee jitters. 

Similarly, “How to avoid coffee stains on teeth” is another strange and specific organic phrase in their top ten for keywords. They drive 67.82% of the organic traffic for this keyword, with their only other competitors coming from the health and dental industry. 33% of this traffic is zero click, meaning 67% of users searching this phrase will click on a result to find answers. Once again, if you search this phrase in Google, Death Wish’s article on the topic is the first result. 

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Optimize content for Google's Snippet Feature by giving step-by-step answers

For both of the above keyword phrases, Death Wish is displayed first through Google’s Snippet Feature. This feature aims to “help people more easily discover what they’re looking for” by including an excerpt from relevant articles as well as the link to the content, as opposed to Google’s typical list of relevant search results.

For example, if you search “How to avoid coffee stains on teeth,” the top result would provide an excerpt of Death Wish’s article on the topic closely followed by a link to the page. From what Google tells us, featured snippets are chosen based on a combination of web search listings and user feedback, “Google's automated systems determine whether a page would make a good featured snippet to highlight for a specific search request.”

SEO experts refer to this feature as “Position #0” as it is shown ahead of Google’s #1 spot. This position can increase your organic click-through rate as it garners 8% of all clicks for that search.

There are several types of Featured Snippets. All of Death Wish’s snippets fall under the ordered list category. This type of feature appears when search queries require a step-by-step answer. Death Wish and other articles are able to obtain this type of feature by arranging their content in a series of steps or numbered instructions.

Double down on keywords with high search volumes to snag the top spot

In spite of their ability to garner remarkable organic traffic, Death Wish is still innovating when it comes to paid keywords. The phrase “World’s strongest coffee” is their #1 keyword bringing in 2.02% of traffic. They drive majority of organic traffic for this phrase at 67.7%. 

Google Search Trends shows the keyword phrase “worlds strongest coffee” has extremely high interest especially in the United States. The higher the interest on a 100 point scale, the higher the search volume - interest in this keyword fluctuates between 0 and 100 over time.

SEMrush also shows that while “worlds strongest coffee” has a much lower search volume than “strongest coffee in the world.” The phrase is trending upwards and has great potential. Death Wish Coffee foresaw this trend and now that search volumes are high, they are already dominating the Search Engine Results Pages.

How? Two things - optimizing their own website SEO, and also ensuring their brand is associated with the same keyword under multiple domains.

They optimized their site SEO by including the keywords on their own homepage and product pages. On top of that, they appear in the next few search results on Amazon as well as an external blog post roundup of other coffee brands. In the blog post, their brand is also well-positioned in first place, with even their product image showing up alongside the search results.

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Here the company has integrated this searchable, paid keyword phrase directly into their product line rather than simply into the content of their blog. This way, users who may be simply trying to settle an argument about who brews the strongest coffee are instead invited to try it out for themselves.

Their value proposition, branding and content all perfectly complement one another. On their landing page under the headline “The World’s Strongest Coffee,” Death Wish promises “Coffee that naturally brews double the strength of the average cup.” The language here is linked to the products themselves and the keywords that lead consumers to their site, all while embodying the arrogant and cheeky ethos of the brand. This strategy creates a cohesive image that streamlines the Death Wish image and captures the interests of consumers before they even know what they are shopping for.

The brand’s use of unique, extreme language ignites organic user interest. When you search for Death Wish Coffee, your search results are accompanied by a list of prompted questions that Google suggests are relevant - all of which are related to the company itself.

These prompts are incited by genuine user interest, and have created buzz around the company at minimal cost and effort. 

Death Wish is relentless when it comes to optimizing their online presence, and streamlining their products, branding and content to be in line with preexisting points of interest surrounding the coffee industry. The genius of Death Wish is that they are able to anticipate the questions and concerns that ideal consumers will have, and beat them to the punch. Optimizing their content to be compatible with Google's Snippet Feature and harnessing the power of organic traffic has put Death Wish where all startups aim to be: the top Google search result. 

Georgia Bogert

About the Author

Georgia is a Digital Content Strategist for Airboxr where she helps develop and execute marketing strategies for email and social media. She is also passionate about teaching.

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