Analysis of 5 Popular Turkey Brands Reveals Thanksgiving Mess

Tens of millions of Americans will cross over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for the cherished turkey dinner on Thanksgiving. One of our most venerable holiday traditions will be busier than ever after Covid threw a (turkey?) wrench into plans last year. Now online searches will no doubt be the first step for many of those millions in deciding what brand of bird will grace their table on Thursday. 

The least favorite time of year for turkeys is when many of us pick up this year’s bird ahead of the annual feast. First-time turkey cooks, as well as price checkers and recipe seekers, will no doubt consult the world’s greatest turkey authority and largest wealth of information – you guessed it, Google.

These folks piqued our curiosity at Lightbox Search. We spent the past week monitoring five of the most popular brands of turkey with our breakthrough tech platform and discovered there were four that got off with a pardon and one we’re calling foul on.   

Our subjects were Jennie-O, Perdue, Honeysuckle, Shady Brook and Butterball. Using Lightbox Search, we ran an automated monitoring campaign that analyzed each brand’s page one of Google daily.

No Pardons for Bad Search Results

Fueled by an enhanced A.I. system, Lightbox Search analyzes Google content for sentiment, website type (such as e-commerce or review) and SEO strength. Simultaneously, Lightbox Search aggregates critical audience insights like related keywords, advertising costs and monthly search volume. This information is saved as an interactive report that is automatically benchmarked along historical charts for easy tracking. 

The search results for Jennie-O, Perdue, Honeysuckle and Shady Brook Farms were all “pardon-worthy,” meaning no negative stories appeared on page one of Google. But none of these companies “owned” many of their high-ranking results for branded queries. Instead, most results were shopping pages on e-commerce sites selling turkey. While typically an ideal scenario that makes it easy for searchers to find and buy turkey, poor control of page one content makes it harder to withstand a crisis. 

A lesson Butterball isn’t thankful to learn this holiday season. 

Over the course of a week, Lightbox Search captured multiple negative news stories with high search engine visibility (SEV) that appeared for Butterball.

butterball turkey recall USDA FSIS

On Nov. 16 an article from CNN Business, Butterball is recalling more than 14,000 pounds of turkey, first published on Oct. 14 lands on page one in position 10. In this time, the story has been linked to at least 250 times. By the next day, this story has dropped from page one. As of Nov. 23 this result lurks in position 15 on page 2 of search and has gained 18 new backlinks.

butterball turkey shortage search result cnn lightbox search

On Nov. 16, a video news story from CNN, Butterball turkey shortage could leave Thanksgiving a dish short, enters Google Top Stories in position two. This story stays in position 2 until Nov. 18, when it has been pushed out by new news and positive PR released by Butterball.

butterball recall search result cnn lightbox search

On Nov. 18, a news release from the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), first released on Nov. 13, lands in position 6 of Google search results for Butterball. The release, Butterball, LLC Recalls Ground Turkey Products Due to Possible Foreign Matter Contamination. In position 6 this result will be visible on page one across all desktop, tablet and mobile devices and command 10% to 15% of clicks. Further, as “organic content” it will have more staying power than temporarily injected Google News stories and garner more attention overtime. This is evident by its 2,626 backlinks at its point of capture.

butterball glass sausage search result cnn lightbox search

On Nov. 13, in an article from the San Antonio Express, San Antonio woman alleges she ate glass shards in Butterball turkey sausage, enters Google Top News Stories.

The USDA FSIS result remains on page one of Google Search in position 8 and has been linked to an additional 40 times since first captured by Lightbox Search.

Unless Addressed, Google Will Serve the Leftovers from the Crisis Indefinitely

So what could Butterball do better – aside from making safer products? Though it already owns three of the top four results, much of the page is controlled by third-parties.

Its corporate site,, does appear first, as it should. Of course, that’s a great positive. also ranks highly, though that’s geared towards restaurants and operators of food service cafeterias. Not necessarily a positive for Thanksgiving, but it maintains Butterball’s food expertise.

Is there anything Butterball can even do to improve their results?The answer is a resounding YES. Butterball does very well with its Facebook page, but by and large their social media presence isn’t translating into powerful search results. Butterball’s popular Facebook page ranks in position 3 as of Nov. 23, but their other channels such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram are harder to find on pages 2 and 3. With optimization and backlink building these results could rank higher and potentially push the negative release on off of page 1 and on to page 2 where few will ever see it. 

A more creative and perhaps powerful opportunity would be to utilize Butterball’s famous “Turkey Talk-Line,” its 800 number that attracts tens of thousands of caller queries per year. Such an asset could easily be showcased with its own website and social media accounts – all which have the potential to outrank negative news if properly built and maintained.

Hopefully this turkey talk can serve  as a cautionary tale for Butterball’s competitors. To safeguard your search results, work your own content and OWN your own content. A higher percentage of page 1 ownership leaves less chance for negative news to take hold allowing you to really kick the stuffing out of your search results and leave your customers hungry for more.

All of us at Lightbox Search wish our friends, colleagues and clients a very happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, Gobble! 

Written By

Jim Gold

Project Director
With his combination of multimedia skills, solid judgment and global communications experience, Jim ensures Lightbox Search engages with all of its audiences and delivers consistent client service excellence.

Lightbox Search, a new tech platform built for communication professionals, analyzes, benchmarks and monitors Google search results. We help agencies identify strengths and mitigate threats to their clients’ digital profiles, uncovering opportunities for content development, public relations efforts and search engine optimization. Additionally, Lightbox Search instantly creates vivid, shareable reports to streamline both proposal building and client reporting.

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