Welcome to the first Digital Premier League Table by Foss Digital which is a piece of content I’ve wanted to do for a number of years now, but never truly found the time to sit down and actually get it over the line. The basic premise is that I have taken the 20 Premier League teams who are starting the 2018/19 season in a couple of weeks and looked at them across a number of different digital data points.
In essence, this is a top-level snap audit which uses industry benchmarking tools and statistics and places that data into one master spreadsheet to measure the digital efforts of the 20 teams and compare them against their 2017/18 positions. In the interest of rankings, the 3 newly promoted clubs being Wolves, Cardiff and Fulham are occupying positions 18-20 in the order that they finished in the Championship. If you’d not guessed, I’m a huge fan of data and spreadsheets which I see as a pivotal part of digital marketing in 2018. It helps inform decisions and back-up theories of results-driven marketing for agencies, clients and brands. Also helps me with my side project which is Spreadsheet Betting, which will have lots of new data for the start of the 2018/19 season.
Before we get into the actual breakdown of the data and audit, it is important to see just how important digital is within sport in 2018. The increased consumption of digital content and the requirements of sponsors who are investing serious amounts of advertising spend with clubs has pushed the boundaries in the different types of content that are created and at the purpose of that content. There has been an increase in branded content used generally across many different niches, but especially in sport. The Playing Surface platform developed by the 13strides team in 2014 is a fantastic example of how visual content can be used to maximise reach in an ever increasingly crowded social media space. The platform allows social media teams to craft posts that can be used during live coverage with the added benefit of pulling in live data from partners such as Opta.
An example of how they integrate data feeds to create visual content is shown below.
Kante was another colossus in midfield today, crucial in helping #FRA get that clean sheet! 💪
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) June 21, 2018
Diving into the data below you will find a section for each element of the snap audit with a key summary of the observations on what was discovered when looking through all the teams. The menu below allows you the chance to jump to a specific section, along with the opportunity to download all of the data in an excel spreadsheet at the bottom of the page. Please note that all data for this piece of content was collated on the 24th July, so numbers and statistics are likely to change over time.
(click to navigate to section)
To start with we carried out some manual checks against each of the domains for the 20 Premier League teams. It is obvious that there are varying approaches and resources within the different digital teams across the teams, which is to be expected. 75% of the teams have adopted a .com domain as their main domain which with the ever-growing international audience interest in the game accounts for this choice of domain.
The interesting side and a personal pet peeve of mine is the number of clubs who either don’t own the mirror version of the domain (so .co.uk if resolving on a .com and vice versa). My views are that this is brand protection where someone may assume you have a .com when you have a .co.uk domain and enter that into a browser to find the domain. It prevents a poor user experience and also any lost traffic with a 301 redirect solving this, even on a parked domain that is owned by the club.
Interestingly, I discovered 3 instances of people not directly connected with the relevant club having purchased the mirrored domain and are 301 redirecting it to a website of their own choice.
www.brightonandhovealbion.co.uk redirects to a Medium article from 2017 that talks about Danny Baker saving the club.
https://www.nufc.com/ is a Newcastle United fanzine
www.htafc.co.uk redirects to Ross Brown marketing and communications specialist www.rossbrown.co.uk
In total, only 9 clubs have the mirror version of their website set-up with a redirect to the mirror version even if they own it, which would be an immediate action.
One final observation is on the Watford website which appears to have a redirect for the .co.uk version in place, however, the redirects are causing a warning of non-secure content via Google, so this is worth looking into.
Following on from looking the URLs for each club, the importance of serving content via an https connection in 2018 is highlighted by Google confirming that from the 24th July Chrome browser (49.57% UK market share http://gs.statcounter.com) will start marking sites that are insecure from a data perspective. There are two websites (Everton and Fulham) which do not resolve on https so it is likely that they will end up being flagged by Chrome. This doesn’t apply to the store aspects of their websites, however, as Google has been pushing hard for the adoption of https since January 2017 it is strange to see larger sites not pushed to https.
By not resolving on https, any visitors to the sites being passed via a referring link that links via https is going to present the user with a very clear warning that the site could be compromised (even when it is likely not to be). There are lots of options to fix this and it could be that the https certificate on either site has just not been configured to cover the whole website, but it would be worth both clubs looking at this.
As this is such a big part of security, I have penalised quite heavily in the audit from a scoring perspective.
The Premier League is so much more than just a UK audience in 2018 and therefore it is not a surprise to see multi-lingual versions of different clubs websites going live. From a search perspective, it is important that these websites are coded correctly, adopting the hreflang attributes with the website markup. This allows for search engines to understand which content should be returned within which set of search results in a specific country. The implementation of International SEO is something that can pay serious dividends. I highly recommend anyone exploring this, to look at Aleyda Solis’ International SEO Guide.
5 teams have multi-lingual versions of their websites, but no hreflang markup implemented, with Manchester City being the only website to pass validation using http://hreflang.ninja/ from Distilled was therefore awarded 0 points and every other team picked up points for no internationalisation or invalid markup.
There are many facets to a digital marketing campaign, but one of the largest ways in which a website can be discovered is via a search engine. This section used the search marketing tool SEMrush to determine the volume of keywords for which a website appeared which is a good indicator of the opportunity for the website to be found for a combination of branded and non-branded related keywords.
This section was dominated by the larger teams who potentially have invested more digital budget into the creation of content on their websites, with Liverpool leading the way, who appear for over 64,000 keywords within the SEMrush index.
Below you can see how clubs overlap in terms of the search terms that they appear for and also where some clubs have a more dominant ranking position in terms of available volume for organic traffic.
As with many of these metrics, there are many third-party tools that provide you insight into a website domain. Domain Authority has long been seen as a trusted metric in terms of how search engines view the website and therefore it is likely to influence the organic positions that it would be returned for within the search results. For the purpose of this snap audit, I took the metrics of Domain Authority, Page Authority and MozRank to provide a table score of 1-20 with the best-performing sites receiving the lowest scores.
Man Utd had a clean sweep in this section, collecting just 3 points (unintended football reference) as they were ranked the highest team on each of the 3 metrics.
Domain Authority (DA) is calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and number of total links, into a single DA score. This score can then be used when comparing websites or tracking the “ranking strength” of a website over time.
Page Authority (PA) Like Domain Authority, Page Authority is calculated using a machine learning algorithm and thus will fluctuate as the data being fed into the algorithm changes. For this reason, it’s best to use Page Authority as a relative metric to compare against other pages as opposed to an absolute value “scoring” the the rankability of any one page.
MozRank quantifies link popularity and is Moz’s version of Google’s classic PageRank algorithm. Pages earn MozRank based on the other pages on the web that link to them and the MozRank of those linking pages. The higher the MozRank of the linking pages, the higher the MozRank of the page receiving those links.
Whilst the Google Algorithm is made up of many different metrics, there has been a particular focus on the metrics contained within the Google Lighthouse which is an open source auditing tool that can provide insight into the performance of a website. It produces a score on a scale of 1-100 for each of the 5 main areas, which are:
- Progressive Web App
- Best Practices
The full breakdown of how Google scores the Lighthouse audit report shows the varying elements along with suggestions that can be used to improve a website’s performance within each area.
It is interesting to note that this was one of the sections where Manchester City performed poorly in comparison with the other metrics and one where Newcastle came away with the top spot
Sub section scoring tables
Pagespeed is something that Google has been pushing over the last year alongside https implementation and naturally it probably not only rewards websites in the algorithm, but users as a standard would look to have sites that react quickly when being used across a range of devices.
For this section, we used a combination of the Google Page Speed Testing Tool and GTMetrix.com to benchmark the websites against each other.
Columns 1 and 2 are taken from the Google Page Speed Tool across Mobile and Desktop with Newcastle United being the most consistent performer here, registering two scores over 80. The overall winner of this section was Newcastle, followed by Bournemouth, Crystal Palace and Fulham. It was the part of the audit where Arsenal, Man Utd and Man City all uncharacteristically scored poorly.
The growth of social media and content created for this medium has grown exponentially over the last few years with fans demand for content from their favourite teams both on and outside of a matchday. This section purely focuses on the UK social media official accounts for each club, but social media extends so much further now, with many clubs utilising player’s accounts and having dedicated accounts for other countries to extend the reach of the club.
As with many of the other sections, we have had to use top-level benchmarks and therefore some of the figures in the social media section aren’t always seen as being indicative of well-executed social media strategies and more as vanity metrics, however, it is what we have chosen to benchmark each club.
Unsurprisingly, the larger clubs do dominate as they naturally pick up likes and followers from being perceived as more popular. The interesting metric that stands out in this section is Manchester City’s YouTube performance. They land 1st place not only on the number of subscribers (just over 133,000) but on view count they are nearly 2 million views ahead of their nearest rival being Liverpool.
NB. Brighton’s YouTube subscribers are set to private and no data could be collected, hence the 0 and 20 point penalty.
And the moment you have all been waiting for, the final league table. As this is the first time that I’ve pulled the data together I am open to feedback on the scoring and methodology behind this snap audit. It most definitely could go into further detail and other metrics could be included, however I believe it provides a fair reflection of the digital performance of the 20 Premier League teams that we looked at.
The inaugural winner of the Digital Premier League Table is Arsenal who ‘win’ the league by 14 points from Manchester City, who are closely followed by Leicester City.
The contentious points of the audit will be the penalties occurred by certain teams, which highlights that Chelsea, Man Utd, Tottenham and Liverpool would have been your Digitial Premier League top 4 with correct hreflang implementation.
If you would like a copy of the data set or to know more about the audit then please contact me using the contact form or drop an email shown at top of the website.
NB. All data for this blog post was aggregated on July 24th 2018 and is subject to change.
Premier League Clubs included in this year’s Digital Audit
- Crystal Palace
- Man City
- Man Utd
- West Ham