The World Cup 2014: Which news and media sites are best placed in SEO?

In 2012 the most searched term in Google was not “The Olympics”, but “Euro 2012“. Each claimed over 2m searches in July 2012, with their derivatives gaining many times that. So for this summer I think we can all agree that the search term “World Cup” and its derivatives will attract huge amounts of clicks and offer an immense opportunity – especially to media outlets – to increase traffic, impress advertisers and to sell lots of things on the back of it.

World Cup 2014 SEO media

As Fifa has trademark protection on terms such as “World Cup”, “FIFA” and “COPA 2014” the chances of Google Ads appearing for “World Cup” terms are very slim and because of this organic ranking is even more important.

So as the tournament commences, we have decided to investigate who from our media companies are best placed and have the best strategy to accrue some of this traffic, and who isn’t.

The Google Trends chart below shows interest since 2004 for the search term ‘World Cup’ and how it is beginning to peak again with tournament only hours away.

Chart 1: Interest shown in Google Trends for the search term “World Cup”

Google Trends Chart showing interest since 2004 for the search term "World Cup".

Google Trends showing interest over time for the search term “World Cup”

Already in April 2014 “World Cup” was searched 400,000 times. In June it’s going to be immense.

Who is performing best in SEO for World Cup search terms?

Using the Pi Datametrics SEO Platform, ten big news and sports websites were selected to view their visibility score for the search term group “World Cup” consisting of nineteen World Cup related search terms such as “World Cup”, “World Cup 2014” and “World Cup Fixtures”.

This search term group was then compared to their positions in Google UK and Google UK Mobile search engines since the start of 2014 which then returns a visibility score. A visibility score is a score between 0 and 100, 0 being the worst and 100 being the best.

Chart 2: World Cup Visibility Index – 1 Search Term Group

A chart showing the visibility of ten major news sites for the search term group "World Cup"

Organic visibility of ten major news sites for the “World Cup” search term group. (click to enlarge)

It is clear to see from the chart above that the BBC (in pink) are leading the way with a visibility score just short of 80 followed by The Guardian and The Telegraph both level on 53.7 while the worst performers are Talk Sport and The Metro with visibility scores of under five.

Using Pi Datametrics position explorer we now looked at the positions of major news and sports websites for the search term ‘World Cup’ in Google UK since the start of the year.

The y-axis represents the position in the selected search engine (1 – 100) and the x-axis represents the time frame selected. The top segment of the chart (1-10) in this case represents page one of Google UK.

Chart 3: Position Explorer – Search Term: “World Cup” – Google UK

Position chart showing Google UK positions of the BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph for the search term "World Cup".

Google UK positions of the BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph for the search term “World Cup”.

The chart above follows the same pattern as the visibility chart in that the three top players are the BBC (pink) , The Guardian (purple) and The Telegraph (grey) hold the top three positions and maintain a consistent page one position. The other seven sites show extremely volatile performance as seen in the chart below.

Chart 4: Position Explorer – Search Term: “World Cup” – Google UK

Position chart showing volatile Google UK positions for the other seven news and sports sites

Volatile Google UK positions for the other seven news and sports sites. (click to enlarge)

Using the SEO platform Pi Datametrics it’s easy to see which URL Google is serving up each day and from this it became apparent that for the BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph they consistently have their World Cup landing pages returning.

A dedicated World Cup page for the BBC

The BBC have a central page for all World Cup related articles. Furthermore they link to this page from their articles. This is perfect for users and the search engines know that this is their primary page.

The BBC's dedicated page for the World Cup 2014.

A dedicated World Cup page for The Guardian

Screen shot showing The Guardian's dedicated World Cup page.

A dedicated World Cup page for The Telegraph

A screen shot showing The Telegraph's dedicated World Cup page.

Chart 5: Position Explorer – “World Cup” search positions and the returning URLs

The position explorer table below shows the returning URLs at the start of the year and then on the 8th June 2014 for the search term “World Cup”. The URL structure that was returned for the BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph stayed consistent over the last five months. These 3 publications have therefore planned ahead and gained links to push their landing pages up in the SERPs.

Position explorer table showing the positions and URLs returning for the search term "World Cup".

“World Cup” positions. The yellow boxes show the sites with dedicated World Cup pages. (click to enlarge)

The other sites that saw very erratic performance return different URL’s and some that are unrelated to the World Cup suggests that they didn’t have their World Cup pages accessible at the start of the year or if they did Google wasn’t picking them up.

Sky Sports News however did have their designated World Cup page accessible in January but now a page for the Rugby League World Cup is returned instead and because of this have dropped over twenty positions.

Why are the BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph performing much better than the rest?

Is it just because they have dedicated World Cup pages that they perform so well?

Here we look at the Pi Datametrics Intelligent Copy tool. This tool gives an overall score for the page theming for each URL and search term we specify as well as looking at the amount of social shares per page. Here we look at URLs for the term “World Cup”.

Chart 6: ‘World Cup’ – Intelligent Copy tool

Intelligent Copy tool showing on-page score and social shares for BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph World Cup pages.
Each URL here has a high on-page score with the five main header attributes covered for the search term “World Cup”. The BBC also has a high number of Social Shares for their page.

Why are the others not performing as well?

After further investigation we discover that all the other sites that don’t perform as well for the World Cup search term group do actually have World Cup landing pages, so why isn’t Google serving these up consistently?

Internal Conflict

cannibalisation occurs when when two or more pages within a site compete for the same search term.

The charts below are examples of how the other sites which aren’t performing as well for the search term ‘World Cup’ are suffering because of cannibalisation and show how their World Cup landing pages compare against their main domain URL.

Chart 7: The Daily Mail – internal conflict

For the Daily Mail we see the landing page (in yellow), never going above page 4. Every few days articles are published (the pink lines), which usurp the landing page. Google can not decipher between the two types of pages: Landing page v article.

The apparent lack of strength of the landing page is probably down to two reasons. 1) There are not enough internal links to the landing page. With the Guardian we see that they link back to their world cup page in almost every football article. 2) The article pages are too strong. We know that every time the Mail release an article that page automatically gets 100s of links from sites that use its RSS feed or link to it in social media. It could be the case that every single article is actually stronger than the landing page, which probably doesn’t receive the same love that articles get.

A position explorer chart showing internal conflict between The Daily Mail World Cup landing page and main domain.

Internal conflict between The Daily Mail landing page and main domain.

Chart 8: Sky Sports News – internal conflict

As with the Daily Mail above, here we see that Sky Sports separate articles (all amalgamated in pink) perform better than the World Cup landing page (in yellow).

Internal conflict between Sky Sports News World Cup landing page and main domain.

Internal conflict between Sky Sports News World Cup landing page and main domain.

Chart 9: Sky Sports News Internal Conflict 2

Here for Sky we notice that there is a separate type of internal conflict based on a cannibalisation of the “world cup” and google confusing the rugby world cup page with the football one.

Position explorer chart showing how World Cup pages for Football and Rugby are competing against each other

Internal Football and Rugby League World Cup pages competing.

Chart 10: The Mirror Internal Conflict

The Daily Mirror is similar to The Mail, but it at least has started to perform much better for its landing page (in yellow). It seems that their World Cup page has gained performance over the last few weeks and so may reach page one by the time the tournament ends.

A position explorer chart showing internal conflict between The Mirror World Cup landing page and main domain.

Internal conflict between The Mirror World Cup landing page and main domain.

Chart 11: The Metro Internal Conflict

The Metro World Cup landing page (yellow) has not featured in the top 100 at all yet.

A position explorer chart showing internal conflict between The Metro World Cup landing page and main domain.

Internal conflict between The Metro World Cup landing page and main domain.

Chart 12: Talk Sport Internal Conflict

Maybe due to snippet content, huge amounts of links on every page to other World Cup articles or just a generally weak landing page, Talk Sport has hardly featured at all for the “World Cup” search at all.

A position explorer chart showing internal conflict between Talk Sport World Cup landing page and main domain.

Internal conflict between Talk Sport World Cup landing page and main domain.

A dedicated landing page doesn’t mean consistent organic ranking

As we have seen having a dedicated landing pages doesn’t mean that your site will automatically gain high and consistent rankings. The charts above show all of the sites do have them and Google is trying to return them in most cases but they do not have the authority or Google can’t choose between pages that are too closely themed. A great example of this can be seen in Chart 9 for Sky Sports News where two World Cup pages for completely different sports are fighting it out for the best position. With the Rugby League World Cup finishing last year and Football World Cup so close there should be no argument as to which page should be returned.

In Chart 7 for the Daily Mail it is clear to see that their World Cup landing page is actually hindering the overall ranking with their optimum position coming when it drops out of the SERPs. Every time a new article is published this is seen as more authoritative and pushes the landing page out and the article position spikes but only for a short time while this content is fresh and new.

For The Metro and Talk Sport it is always going to be hard for them to compete with the likes of the BBC and The Guardian but they could do better then they are. Talk Sport articles are generally very short often with more links than content whereas for The Metro accessibility to their World Cup page is poor even though it has a link from their Hot Topics navigation but there is no link from their Sport or Football pages.

Sites like the BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph produce content rich articles multiple times a day and have good intra site links linking back to these landing pages which in turn gives these pages the extra authority needed to gain and sustain their consistent positions within the SERPs.