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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.
Diving in to the details, this continues to hold true — when and where is the game:
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.
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.
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?
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:
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].
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.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.