The Q3 2023 benchmarking report for English football clubs has just been published. Learn how 12 of England's top 12 teams perform on the digital pitch.
The latest Q3 2023 benchmarking report for English football clubs has just been published. It covers 12 English football teams including Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool FC, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Sheffield United, Newcastle United, Leicester City, Everton, West Ham, Crystal Palace, and Chelsea.
The research gives an inside track on who is winning the biggest share of voice online, and quantifies the gaps, risks and missed opportunities for each team to drive traffic to their site. Though, with built-in brand loyalty, these teams aren't strictly competing with one another on a digital level, the report highlights quick wins that will improve enquiries from their online strategies and identifies the barriers that may be reducing a site’s ability to optimise digital performance and drive sales to tickets and merchandise.
To see a preview and contents page of the Q3 report, click here. To get a copy of the full report and the key takeaways, please complete the enquiry form or schedule a call.
What The Industry Research Report Covers
The 70+ pages of research benchmarks each site based on 50+ metrics and indicators of a successful digital strategy, including organic visibility, domain authority, paid media ads, conversion performance, technical performance, site speed, universal search, content, social ads, accessibility, and mobile performance.
Driving Optimal ROAS from Paid Media Channels
Some of the leading players in the space are high spenders on paid media channels such as Google, Bing and Facebook - but have a poor or sub-optimal conversion improvement strategy. Without an optimised, sophisticated conversion strategy that maximises the conversion rate, the return on investment is unsustainable or will underperform. Scaling spend on paid media is not achievable unless the conversion rate delivers optimal performance in the sector. Some in the space have paid media spend levels from £30k+ per month but dedicate minimal resources and budgets to conversion testing. Given the cost per clicks on ad networks will continue to rise, we recommend spending at least 10% of your paid media budget on ongoing conversion optimisation testing schedules to ensure your paid media ROI maintains long-term viability, competitive advantage, and sustainability.
Technical Website Compliance
Savvy digital marketers know that having a technically sound website is an essential component of a successful fully integrated digital strategy - plus a site capable of maximising conversion performance. For the football teams in our report, they'll want to ensure key, profit-driving pages such as ticket sales and merchandise stores are easily accessible, and that fans aren't struggling to find what they need by being directed through old or broken links.
While most of these football teams' sites are well maintained with few errors, only Sheffield United saw no site errors. Liverpool FC recorded the highest levels of 404 errors, with 706 springing up in our crawl - an increase on their Q1 figure. Liverpool should be looking at where these errors are most commonly found, and whether they can be redirecting traffic to alternate pages offering tickets for similar events or products.
Site Speed & Conversion Rate Performance
When 62% of consumers are less likely to convert if they have a negative mobile site experience, ensuring that your site is quick and easy to load will see a significant improvement on your overall conversion rates. English football clubs will want to ensure every touchpoint for their fans is high-performing and provides an excellent user experience - especially if there is frustration elsewhere!
We have seen a universal fall in mobile page speed across all sectors we specialise in, so drops in performance alone shouldn't cause too much concern. In Q3, football clubs saw their scores range from 47 down to 16. Arsenal, which scored the lowest of all teams in Q1 (with 11) now has the second-fastest mobile site, scoring 44. This is a significant improvement by any measure, but particularly when we're seeing much tighter measures of assessment from Google.
Building Competitive Advantage with Domain Authority
Domain authority (DA) is an essential metric for measuring the effectiveness of SEO performance, and helps create a reliable overall gauge of how effective your site is at achieving organic traffic, i.e. ‘free’ traffic that isn’t gained through sponsored ads. Football clubs are likely to have high DAs, due to them being long-standing institutions which will naturally gain significant press coverage from highly-reputable sites.
A ‘good’ DA really comes down to how your competitors are performing, however, it’s generally considered average between 40 and 50, good between 50 and 60, and excellent above 60. As we'd expect, these long-standing teams all have very high domain ratings, ranging from 68 to 82.
Organic Performance – Mobile & Desktop
A strong organic performance is strategically important as it ensures your site ranks above competitors for core, transactional keywords. When 93% of your customers won’t go past the first page of Google, your absence or lack of targeting for essential keywords will cost you conversions. For English football teams, they'll need to ensure their targeted keywords meet their business goals for their site and are optimised in line with any commercial targets that are in place.
All football teams have now seen a drop in organic traffic year on year, indicating fans are currently less likely to be seeking individual match tickets or merchandise. Liverpool FC has seen the largest drop in traffic, losing 77% of organic visitors. Newcastle United and Leicester City have seen similar drops in digital footfall.
Universal Search Opportunity
Google Universal Search Results are an evolving opportunity to make your pages visible on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). Universal results often appear before traditional listings and are eye-catching for users. Universal search results refer to rankings on a SERP that are not the traditional ‘blue line’ Google link, and a site can appear for universal search results without being strong in standard rankings. Football teams can use the 'image pack' search result to highlight their merchandise to fans looking for their store, or 'people also ask' results to quickly answer questions about their stadium or facilities.
'People also ask' results have grown in popularity since Q1, with the result now being the most-appeared for Universal Search result. Liverpool FC has made the most use of this, with 9,200 appearances, along with 7,000 'reviews'. Though football club sites should naturally be the go-to for any questions about the club or grounds, football clubs will want to ensure that they are still dominating SERPs in order to ensure information shared is accurate, and direct from the source (as opposed to secondary sites).
The Longtail Keyword Opportunity
Longtail keywords are often considered high intent and potentially more likely to convert as a searcher is being more specific. Optimising for longtail keywords also puts your content strategy in a strong position to rank for new search terms as they enter Google’s index. Longtail keyword opportunities for English football teams can tie nicely into merchandise and ticket sales, including terms such as "Leceister City season ticket price" or "new Manchester United kit full range".
Both Sheffield United and Leicester City are still ranking for very few longtail keywords, when compared with competitors. While it's possible they're already ranking for any effective, high-conversion potential phrases, a review of targeted keywords would be beneficial, to ensure they're not losing ground to external merchandise suppliers or ticket sellers.
With the number of Facebook users in the United Kingdom (UK) forecasted to hit over 42 million users by 2022, it is not surprising that brands have jumped at the opportunity to advertise on the social media platform. Facebook’s UK digital advertising revenue has been estimated to have breached £2.6b in 2019. Football teams can use paid social advertising to drive awareness of new kits, special fixtures, or featured deals on either merchandise or tickets.
Below, we can see examples of Liverpool FC's Facebook ads. Liverpool have used video to engage their audience, along with including two creatives in a vertical video format to appeal to mobile users. By using the same copy across all creatives, Liverpool can effectively assess the performance of different ad formats, video lengths, or sounds.
Top Social Shares & Content
When it comes to social media and on-site content strategies, it is important to release content that has a longer shelf life. An article is considered 'evergreen' if it has maintained its relevancy to an audience for a long period of time. It's great for your engagement, but great for Google too, who will recognise content which achieves traffic over a long period of time. Social media could be especially useful for sharing information about team news, post-match analysis, new kits, and upcoming fixtures.
Social media can be used to boost team and supporter morale which, in turn, will increase the sales in match tickets and merchandise. All teams are maintaining a strong social media presence, although Sheffield United are still recording relatively low engagement when compared to other teams. Sheffield should consider if the content they're sharing is engaging for their audience, and whether improvements should be made to increase activity online.
Website Readability & Accessibility
Around 20% of people in the UK have a disability – 2 million of which are people living with sight loss. In addition, 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women have some degree of colour vision deficiency. Football teams will want to ensure they are welcoming to all fans at any point in their customer journey, so should take care to consider accessibility when planning their digital strategy and image.
Manchester United has increased the amount of on-site contrast errors, with this figure now standing at 92. Contrast errors make it more challenging for site users with a visual impairment or colour vision deficiency to see text and identify key pieces of information. Manchester United must ensure that its site is easy to navigate and that low contrast is not costing them trust or conversions.
Q3 2023 WINNERS LEADERBOARD
For a glance into just six of the metrics we evaluated these 12 English football teams on, check out our quick-look table below;
GET THE FULL 79-PAGE Q3 2023 REPORT
To get a copy of the full report, please complete the enquiry form. If you want to talk to us about accelerating your digital performance, please call us on 01543 410014 or schedule a call with Mike Movassaghi.