Google’s fixture land grab

Premiership Rugby fixtures displayed on Google

Google’s fixture land grab

In the past week we’ve seen Google make a major land grab in terms of rugby union fixture and club information which could have a big impact on websites.

Fixtures and results have long been a big driver of traffic to sports websites.

Typically the fixture list is one of the most visited pages on any sports website with most of that traffic generated from searches.  Fans would search for the fixture information using Google and were directed to the club/union or tournament organiser’s website from a listing near the top (depending on how good your SEO is) of the Search Engine Result Page (SERP).

Since last Thursday (8th March) we’ve seen rugby union fixtures for many clubs and organisations including the NatWest 6 Nations and the Aviva Premiership displayed, in full, by Google at the top of the search pages, meaning that those looking for information on a fixture, such as date, venue or kick-off time need look no further.

Irish Rugby fixtures displayed on Google

Google have previously displayed football and American sports fixtures like this, however it would appear that their roll-out has now incorporated rugby union.

These are not just fixtures they also include live scores and tables. In the case of the Football Premiership they include in-game stats, line-ups and predicted outcomes, and for the UEFA Champions League, match highlights in the form of a YouTube clip.

Drop in click throughs from search

None of these carry a link to the organisation’s website, promote ticketing or recognise sponsors. Google are effectively cannibalising traffic that would otherwise have gone to the club or tournament website and we’ve seen traffic from click throughs on searches for some of our largest clients drop by 50-70% since this has been launched.

So what can you do if you are affected?

While we would always encourage clients to make the most of anything a third-party such as Google, YouTube, Facebook or Twitter has to offer, this land grab highlights that ultimately, your website is the only place online where you have complete control. You may have over a million followers on Facebook, but what if Mark Zuckerberg makes a similar play, or decides to charge you for the privilege of using his channel?

It also serves as a stark reminder of the old adage ‘content is king’. While fixture information has traditionally, been a solid driver of traffic there should be, now more than ever, a real focus on generating engaging content which brings people to your site.

In our view, you are best-placed to provide the most engaging, timely and compelling content about your club, tournament or organisation. This can take the form of both traditional news and features and of unique content such as quizzes, polls and video clips, which are more engaging when shared on social by your used and serve as touchpoints for increasing traffic from social channels to the main website.