Major football clubs are no longer merely sporting entities but powerful global brands: they mobilise millions of fans around the world, and any information related to them exceeds the interest and expectations that are generated by many companies or economic sectors. That is why applying an SEO strategy to their digital assets is fundamental to achieve relevance and visibility in the digital space.
For two years we worked with one of the most important clubs in the world on the development and implementation of an SEO strategy. The collaboration was structured around both more traditional SEO objectives – positioning brand assets and giving the club’s official communication medium a voice – and more innovative content optimisation for mobile devices, virtual assistants and voice searches.
SEO to position the content: information and brand search
According to data from Comscore, the website of this sporting entity was the most visited among all the football clubs in the world in 2019, with more than two million unique users per month. The second most visited website was that of Liverpool FC, with 863,000 unique users per month, and the third was that of FC Barcelona, with 812,000 unique users per month. These figures give us an idea of both the enormous appeal of the brand and the effectiveness of the actions carried out in recent years as part of the club’s digital transformation strategy.
The website is accessible in nine languages but our work focused on optimising traffic in the three most important languages (Spanish, English and French). As the first step in that multilingual SEO strategy, we carried out a complete content categorisation, inventorying all the digital content, cataloguing it and tagging it with tags and certain metadata, HTML elements that add information about the web page that contains them and that search engines use to crawl and index the pages.
Next, we defined the keywords associated with the main searches in two different areas: brand searches and non-brand searches. It is important to make this distinction since the volume of queries so great that it is necessary to establish a separate strategy for each type of search.
By ‘brand search’, we mean all searches related to the brand and product: equipment, balls, tickets, stadium visits, merchandising, etc. Here we included queries about the players themselves, which should be considered a fundamental part of the club’s heritage and its own brand.
The other category, non-brand searches, includes all information (news, current events) from the club. Here, our work was focused on providing the official communication media of the entity (its TV channel) with the ability to compete with powerful media specialised in sports information, trying to position the official information ahead of the information produced by such media.
In order to achieve this objective, we carried out training with the editorial staff: we gave courses on writing SEO optimised copy, and we adapted the format of the news to position them in Google News, where they had no presence before.
Within the content strategy, and with the idea of capitalising on the maximum volume of traffic, we carried out event positioning work. The sports performance of football teams has a huge impact on searches: the better the results, the higher the volume of queries. In the case of our club, we carried out specific work for the big moments of the season, especially the Champions League finals.
Of course, there is uncertainty around those highlights: you cannot know in advance whether the team will be present or not, so it is not possible to design positioning strategies months in advance or build an ad hoc website. In the case we were dealing with, there was an exception: the Club World Cup, with a date known far enough in advance to build a specific minisite.
“We accompanied the SEO adaptation work with paid media campaigns in social networks”.
For this reason, we accompanied the SEO adaptation work with paid media campaigns in social networks, which were faster to create and agile in implementation.
Technical SEO: mobile and voice search optimisation
Within a global positioning strategy, technical SEO actions are just as necessary and complementary to those of content. Among the most outstanding initiatives in this field, we highlighted the migration of the sports entity’s website to a secure https environment, the semantic markup and the adaptation of all content to the AMP format, optimised for mobile searches, becoming the main source of traffic for the website.
But the most technical project, pioneering at the time, was the adaptation of all the content to voice searches, so that it would be accessible to virtual assistants (Siri, Alexa, etc) and voice searches on Google from mobile devices. In general, when search terms exceed seven or eight words, the user prefers to dictate them to the mobile device rather than typing them in.
Firstly, we carried out in-depth keyword research to understand the types of searches and the most common questions asked about the club (“How many European Cups have they won?”, “How many games has their captain played?”, “What is the capacity of their stadium?”, “How tall is their goalkeeper?”, etc.).
We then readjusted the contents, both at the editorial and technical level, to suit the voice assistants’ trackers. Finally, we developed dashboards for an agile and simple visualisation of the main insights: visits generated from voice searches, destination pages “sung” by the voice assistant, etc.
Immediately after the deployment of these improvements, the number of new users obtained via the optimised AMP pages reached almost 100,000. We also achieved a 26% annual increase in the number of unique users obtained from SEO. Above all, we helped to strengthen the digital footprint of the best football club in history.