All football clubs need search traffic.
It provides a solid foundation for building fan engagement and increasing revenues. Which is why strong visibility on search engines like Google and Bing is essential for any club.
But football is an industry like no other. Clubs don’t compete against each other for keywords. Instead, the global appeal of the beautiful game means there is a seemingly endless list of impartial football websites, fan blogs and general information sites competing for your clicks.
So what should a football site rank for? And what competition does it face for traffic?
1. Club news
Fresh, relevant content is a core component of any successful SEO strategy, regardless of the sector. In football, fresh content can come in many forms; from matchday updates to the latest fixtures; however, it is a club’s latest news that provides the greatest opportunity to keep things fresh and attract users on a regular basis.
The challenge is that clubs face competition from the plethora of news sources carrying similar content. When a story breaks, newspapers, dedicated sport and football sites and fan forums are quick to publish the details to increase their own traffic volumes. Its appeal for users is often its impartial take on the story, enhanced by insights the club may be unwilling to share. Furthermore, given the nature of football fandom, they are often better placed to attract visits from fans of other clubs.
So how can you compete?
In most instances, a club will be able to break its own news first. There are exceptions, of course, particularly around stories where there is interest amongst the press, but a club’s ability to keep its cards close to its chest can be a big benefit when it comes to attracting traffic. With greater access to the players and manager, a club can add value - such as longer quotes, better imagery and behind-the-scenes video footage - that other news sources can’t compete with.
As an example, at the time of writing, a quick search for ‘Wayne Rooney’ sees a recent article on ManUtd.com appear at the top of Google’s listings within its ‘In the news’ section. This ownership of the story will be generating significant traffic for the club.
2. Player names
Whether fans are hungry for the latest transfer and injury news or seeking the ammunition to settle a pub debate, player information is high on their list of priorities; and that means lots of potential traffic for a club to attract.
The Google results that appear following our search for ‘Wayne Rooney’ sees the player’s official profile on the club’s website feature below the his personal Twitter profile, Wikipedia page and Instagram account.
Twitter and Instagram offer personal insight into the man himself and provide unique content that can’t be found elsewhere. Another advantage is that they are regularly updated, meaning users can see something new each time they visit. One option for clubs is to weave this content into their own site, although there are times when separation between personal and professional is important. At the very least, however, offering regular and unique insights about the player will make profile pages more appealing.
With Wikipedia, lots of useful and interesting content - including stats, career history and news - is collated in one place, making it the ideal one-stop-shop for fans looking for quick information about the player. And whilst player profiles on the official club website carry a lot of the same information, that alone is not enough. Fans have a level of familiarity with Wikipedia that means they know how to quickly find what they’re looking for. It’s therefore important to make that information just as easy to find on your site and, where possible, add value through unique content that can’t be found elsewhere.
3. Commercial streams
Whilst all traffic to your site provides upsell opportunities, there are times when you have the opportunity to attract visitors who are ready to make a purchase or booking. It’s therefore essential that your ticketing section/site ranks at the top of Google’s listings, so that fans can quickly find the information they need about availability. A smooth and easy-to-use booking system, coupled with useful content that goes beyond basic information will help ensure the section ranks and meets each visitor’s needs.
Ranking for merchandise is slightly different. It’s more than likely that you’ll have a dedicated site for your official store, so that’s obviously the one you want to rank for. The challenge here is to overcome competition from sports retailers that stock some of the same items - including the team kits. A best practice approach to retail SEO - incorporating useful internal links, easy-to-crawl URL structures, detailed product descriptions and optimised product images - will help you stay at the top of the rankings.
Of course, your commercial interests will go beyond tickets and merchandise. Hospitality, weddings and sponsorship opportunities all need to be found in order to generate further revenue for the club. Quality, detailed content contained with dedicated pages that are easy to find, and which feature strong calls to action, are all essential for making these sections of your site easy-to-use and effective.
Adding value to the fan experience
A holistic SEO strategy that encompases proven organic search tactics and an intuitive user experience is essential for all clubs. But the biggest advantage you have is your ability to offer something unique through fresh content, updated regularly, that provides fans with behind-the-scenes access to the club they love.