Searching for the Superbowl Start Time: How Are The Engines, the NFL, and CBS Doing?

Last year, I took a look at the spiking searches leading up to the Superbowl to see how the search engines, and those who want to be found in them, satisfied those queries. This morning, I took another look, and while things are a bit better from a searcher satisfaction perspective (primarily due to increased blended results pulling in news content), the primary organizations that likely want to connect with Superbowl viewers (such as the NFL and CBS) are still, well fumbling the ball a bit. If only they’d read last year’s article, in which I provided a clear game plan for a touch down. (You may be wondering, am I really planning to carry this metaphor all the way through the article. And I’m thinking perhaps I won’t.)

As with last year, the tidbit of knowledge that searchers are looking for more than any other is the game start time.

Google Trends: Superbowl

Diving in to the details, this continues to hold true — when and where is the game:

Google Trends: Superbowl

Even if neither the NFL or CBS read my article last year, a bit of market research via Google Insights could have told them the same thing. Searchers are looking for the same thing every year. This can’t possibly take anyone by surprise.

Google Insights: Superbowl

Google Insights: Superbowl

Surely CBS and the NFL would love to engage with this audience. Both sites have all kinds of content available about the Superbowl that they’re clearly hoping people interact with before, during, and after the game. If they could show up for all these searches about game time, think of the page views! The ad impressions! And undoubtedly a certain percentage of visitors would see the great complementary content and keep the web site open during the game for an even greater number of pages views. This audience might find the content so compelling and useful that they’d remember it next time they were watching a sporting event and would come back again and again. Yep, seems like a great plan to me. If only those organizations could be found for what people are really searching for.

Let’s take a look. Earlier, Matt McGee noted that all the engines are doing better this year with the generic [superbowl] query by way of their Onebox-style results, but what about true algorithmic results for what people are really searching for?

[superbowl start time]

According to Google trends, [superbowl] is the top spiking search this morning. Google answers the question with its Onebox result, which is coming from nfl.com. This placement, however, is entirely due to Google deciding they should pull NFL content in order to better answer the question, and has nothing to do with the NFL’s efforts to be visible to searchers.  The NFL does rank 5th organically, but the visible domain is superbowl.com, which just makes for confusing branding.

Google: Superbowl Start Time

All told though, these are the kinds of search results that make me sad. I spend a lot of my time explaining why spamming isn’t worth it. And then results like this come along. Even the news results are cringe-worthy. The first news result begins with an impressive bout of keyword stuffing:

Super Bowl Start Time: Super Bowl Kickoff Time: Super Bowl Ads. Super Bowl 2010: With the Super bowl time starting now, the excitement level of fan is just getting augmented.

The second news result isn’t any better:

Here are the answers to your questions for which you just landed on this page. Q1: What is the Superbowl 2010 Start Time Kickoff Time? Q2: What Time Does Super Bowl 2010 Start or Superbowl Schedule?

Really Google News?

What about the organic results? Well, you be the judge. The first result includes text such as:

The Super Bowl start time is pretty well set. The pre-game shows starts at 4:00 P.M. Eastern and the game itself gets underway at 6:00 P.M. Eastern. All the television stations have the Super Bowl time slot already scheduled. The Superbowl is always played on the last Sunday in January or the first Sunday in February. In 2007, the Super Bowl will take place on February 4 in Miami, Florida at the Dolphins Stadium. Superbowl 2008 is scheduled for Phoenix, Arizona. The pre game show and the half time show always include the top performers and entertainers in the country.

The second result is at least a bit more timely, but something is suspicious…

So when is the Super Bowl 44 start time? What is the Super Bowl Time? Football fans all over America would be anxious for the game to begin on 2010 Feb 07 at Land Shark Stadium, Miami, Florida. The Super Bowl 2010 start time is pretty well set. The pre-game shows starts around 4:00 P.M. Eastern Time and the game itself gets underway at 6:00 P.M. Eastern Time. All the television stations have the Super Bowl 2010 time slot already scheduled.

These are the top two results for today’s hottest query? Sigh.

Does Bing do any better?

Bing: Superbowl Start Time

No.

The top organic result doesn’t even have a title or description, and the second result is for last year’s game (for that matter, so is the third result, and the ninth result is for the game in 2008). Bing also lists the same spammy pages Google returns. (The top organic result on Yahoo! is also for last year’s game and doesn’t include the NFL site at all.)

How could the NFL done a better job?

I have three primary suggestions:

  • Use 301 redirects rather than 302 redirects - superbowl.com uses a 302 redirect to nfl.com/superbowl/44. It’s great that they’re redirecting, rather than simply creating duplicate domains. But a 301 is the way to tell search engines that the real content is elsewhere.
  • Create a permanent location for the Superbowl rather than start from scratch every year – The NFL is hosting its current superbowl content at nfl.com/superbowl/44. Next year, it will likely be at nfl.com/superbowl/45. This seems logical, but a better approach from a search engine perspective would be to host the content at nfl.com/superbowl/. Once the content for Superbowl 45 is ready to launch, move the content for Superbowl 44 to nfl.com/superbowl/44 and place the content for Superbowl 45 at nfl.com/superbowl/. Why? Because that URL can build up links, authority, and relevance to Superbowl-related queries over time. The current structure requires search engines to learn a new URL for Superbowl queries every year. This situation is common with recurring events, such as conferences. For consistent rankings that improve over time, create a permanent landing page that always contains the latest content. This is generally a better user experience as well as visitors can bookmark one URL that they can return to later.
  • Put the words that people are searching for on the page - As you can see above, it should be no surprise to the NFL that people are searching for variations of [superbowl start time] and [what time does the superbowl start]. And yet, those words don’t appear anywhere on the page. The page does have a countdown ticker, with no words at all around it:Where's the Superbowl Start Time? This may be somewhat useful for visitors who do end up on the page, looking for start time information. Of course, this information is of no value from a search engine perspective, not only because the words from a searcher’s query don’t appear, but because with images and JavaScript turned off, the page is an empty white box: Superbowl Home Page

Where’s CBS?

CBS doesn’t rank in the top ten for this search on any of the major search engines. Surely they want to be found. They even have “exclusive pre-game content”, and this set of searchers is an ideal audience for that. Well, they have the same problem as the NFL in that they’ve locked all of their content away from search engines. Here’s how the page looks with images and JavaScript turned off:

Superbowl: CBS Home Page

They also have neglected to use any words that searchers are using. Their home page not only doesn’t use words related to “Superbowl start time”, it doesn’t even list the start time! And that promo about exclusive pre-game content? Doesn’t actually specify that the “game” in question is the Superbowl. Which is OK contextually. But will never help the page be found in search engines for a query such as [superbowl pre-game].

CBS Home Page

What about the advertisers?

So the NFL, CBS, and the search engines haven’t done a great job at connecting with searchers who want to know what time the game starts (6:25 eastern, by the way). Are advertisers smarter about search this year? As I did last year, I’ll be keeping score, so be sure to come back after the game and see how they did.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Search & Society: General | Search Marketing: Search Term Research | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | Top News

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • http://incrediblehelp incrediblehelp

    More CBS “Sportsline” fail in the SERPs. The only thing they seem to rank decent for are athlete names. I wonder why they dont fix some simple architecture issues and add some content dealing with what people are actually searching for. Nice tips Vanessa!

  • http://www.push2digital.com push2digital.com

    Great article Vanessa, the thing I don’t understand is why does google and others continue to rank these spammy — keyword-stuffed posts that are clearly gaming the system and preventing users from seeing truly relevant content. NFL and CBS are missing the boat for sure, but so is google — I expect more from Google, less from NFL and CBS. I posted on this very topic last June “Google Put a Stop to Keyword News” and it irks me to no end.

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