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How SEMrush Helps Us Predict the World Cup Results

Gareth Cartman

I love football, and I love SEO. However — as both an Everton and an England fan — it's fair to say I've seen more SEO successes than in football.

So, when it came to the World Cup, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to combine SEO geekery and football fandom. That meant creating the SEO World Cup.

As SEO geeks at Clever Little Designs, one of our favorite tools is SEMrush. It seemed only fair, then, to exclusively use SEMrush metrics for one match. We looked at the United States versus Ghana, and predicted the score before game time.

Did we choose correctly? And how did we do it? Read on.

We decided that we needed a level playing field. Therefore, we analyzed each team’s respective Wikipedia pages:

For the USA: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_men's_national_soccer_team

For Ghana: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghana_national_football_team

To make it even more fair, we would use Google UK as the database, and not Google.com — and we would measure the traffic statistics for the respective URLs.

The "total traffic" statistic is as good an estimate as you can get for organic traffic levels to a specific website or URL. It takes the monthly volume for each keyword that is ranked, and calculates what percentage of traffic the page would receive for where it is ranked (e.g. if it is number 1, it could be as much as 50% of that traffic).

It’s as close as you’re ever going to get.

Measuring each team, we found out that the USA’s Wikipedia page only received 544 searches per month from organic traffic, while Ghana’s received 5,351.

Why was Ghana getting so much traffic? Have a look at their top 10 keywords:


Now, since we measured the keywords last week, the USA’s Wikipedia page has moved up to number 2 for the keyword “USA.” Google is probably thinking that when people in the UK search for “USA” at the moment, they’re probably looking for the football team. More proof that Google is altering its search results for intent.

Here are the USA’s results as of today:


That movement in the keyword “USA” has resulted in a near ten-fold increase in organic search traffic. Our prediction would therefore, have changed to “no goal,” as the two teams’ traffic statistics are too close.

Instead, as it was last week and that keyword wasn’t ranking as well, Ghana scored.

Then — as we all know — only results in the top 3 really drive significant volumes of traffic. So we measured the number of keywords each Wikipedia page had ranking in the top 3 positions.

The result was pretty clear — a score draw, 15-15. Therefore, under our rules, no goal was scored.

In our result, that meant that Ghana kept their one-goal lead. But if we were running the competition again, it meant that the score would remain 0-0.

Finally, we wanted to refine our keywords down and look specifically at those who were interested in the football team. So, we looked at the keyword combination of “nation + football” or “nation + soccer,” and analyzed who had the greater UK monthly volume for these keywords.

The result? The USA won by 1470 to Ghana’s 1260. For us, this was the equalizer. But running the result on today’s stats, that meant the USA won the match 1-0.

Our prediction

Leading into the game, we predicted the final score to be USA 1-1 Ghana.

If it hadn't been for one very, very late goal, we would have predicted the correct result!

Great insights

While combining SEO metrics with football for the SEO World Cup is just for fun, it does give us some great insights into the beautiful game. For instance, we could measure the Google UK search volumes for phrases such as “Ghana to beat USA” and “USA to beat Ghana,” or we could analyze the keyword difficulty for different phrases — and give a goal to the one that is most difficult.

We’ve also been able to award a red card to the spammiest football federation website.

This project has given us a chance to flex our SEO muscles, and try new things with our favorite SEO tools. We quite like the new Site Audit feature in SEMrush, so we’re going to use that for a game at some point, and we’re equally interested in how these metrics will change throughout the tournament.

As the World Cup goes on, we’ll be using more SEO metrics to decide the games. We won’t pretend that we’re going to get every result right, but it certainly makes for an interesting alternative tournament!

So if you like football, and you love SEO, let us know which metrics you want to see us use!

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Author bio: Gareth Cartman is Director of Digital Marketing at Clever Little Design, a Berkshire-based Digital & Web Design Agency. Catch up with the SEO World Cup: www.seo-worldcup.com.
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Eric Van Buskirk
Great job, Gareth. I've been pushing to have more of our blog posts about actually using our data and methods that work. A particularly liked how you show G increasing a rank for "USA" in such short order based on intent. That type of discovery would be painful slow to test w/ multiple keywords right on Gs Search page.