Star Wars vs. Star Trek: it's a standing debate. In reality, most fans are like me: they might prefer one universe over the other, but they like both. Star Trek, Star Wars and their movies, TV shows, video games, comics, novels and more address key themes like humanity, survival, spirituality and ethics. In such a large universe, there's room for both, but deep down we all know there's a long-standing rivalry.
Who wins in a digital marketing battle involving photon torpedoes and the Force? Using SEMrush, other tools and my background in social media marketing and professional geekery, I took a closer look at how these franchises are marketed. (Also, it was a fantastic excuse to do a Star Wars photoshoot at SEMrush.)
It's not a Jedi mind trick: SEMrush is the digital marketing software you're looking for.
Let's be real: the buzz has mainly been about Star Wars with "The Force Awakens" opening on Friday, Dec. 18. When I mentioned the premise of this post to some of my geeky friends, they thought I was setting my beloved Star Trek up to look bad because there's so much hype about the Star Wars movie.
And then Paramount Pictures casually dropped the "Star Trek Beyond" trailer. Fellow geek and SEMrush Community Manager Kathleen Burns notified me as soon as it happened:
With this in mind, let's take a closer look at how Star Trek and Star Wars compare when it comes to digital marketing.
First Look: UX (User Experience) and Overviews of Official Sites
Both franchises cover a lot: merchandise, multiple media formats, social media channels and more. Presenting and promoting that information to users is undoubtedly a challenging experience for both Trek and Wars.
Both sites have comparable layouts. The Star Wars site is dark with color accents corresponding to light saber colors; the Trek site similarly utilizes a dark background and brand associated colors (uniforms and career tracks).
Official Star Wars website: click to enlarge or visit StarWars.com.
Above the fold, the Star Wars site features an invitation to watch live premiere coverage, a countdown to the movie release and video content for immediate engagement. They've also got their social media follow buttons in the upper left hand corner.
Official Star Trek website: click to enlarge or visit StarTrek.com.
Star Trek's website does a fantastic job of showcasing fans' favorite actors and characters. The above the fold content shows part of a featured Trek medical column and an ad (for socks). The white background on the socks ad is a bit distracting. Truth: I'd rather see Will Riker there.
Star Wars wants to sell tickets. They understand that fans want tickets and that their merchandise purchases will follow. They have a small but findable button for that on the upper right hand corner of their site. What message is this sending? Right now it's all about the hype, the new movie and your ability to see it.
In addition to the aforementioned ad, the Star Trek site also has a SHOP button in their navigation. As a Trek fan, I can tell you I'm not likely to go to the site to buy things. I'd rather buy licensed merch less expensively through a third party retailer. Even convention prices are often lower than what you see on the site. Having the shop menu there takes away from the humanist spirit of Star Trek.
Both sites encourage users to register and log in, which is a great way for them to collect email addresses and keep their communities engaged.
UX Deciding Factor
The real deal breaker here is navigability. While the Star Trek site does feature breadcrumbs to help users (and the Googlebot) get around the site, the Star Wars website has a simple, clear visual navigation menu right under its logo at the top of the page. UX winner: Star Wars.
Did you enjoy this digital marketing comparison? Take our Star Wars SEO quiz below and check out DC vs. Marvel: A Digital Marketing Showdown. See how you stack up against your competition in SEMrush.
Speaking of which, it's also important to pay attention to the set language of your website visitors in Google Analytics – and know what languages your fans speak.
Don't forget to find out where they live, too. Who searches for Star Trek and Star Wars?
Page Speed Analysis
I still don't have perfect page speed test scores on my own small website, and I feel bad about it.
Well, I did feel bad about it. I compared site speed between StarTrek.com and StarWars.com on WebPageTest and found that neither of them are perfect, either.
StarTrek.com site speed: Someone needs to repair the warp drive.
StarWars.com made a valiant effort: Do or do not...they tried and partially succeeded.
Looking at the grades and content breakdowns on WebPageTest, it's evident that images are part of the reason for this issue on the sites. Conversely, fans of Star Wars and Star Trek likely hope to find exclusive images when they visit these sites.
If you're having similar results, check out these tips to improve your site speed.
Star Trek and Star Wars offer expansive universes filled with fictional history that's been actively constructed over decades. That's a lot of information: characters, planets, ships and more. Whether it's for a piece of fanfiction or to settle an argument, sci-fi fans love resources for fact-checking.
I've used Wookieepedia (Star Wars) and Memory Alpha (Star Trek) for fact checking before (as I'm sure many fans do), but after seeing what both official websites have to offer, I will reconsider where I go in the future.
Star Wars offers a user friendly database and Star Trek offers the same. The graphics match their respective universes. I can see myself losing hours in on the Trek site on a tablet because of its LCARS-like design.
Both have brief but comprehensive amounts of information and are well organized.
On-site fan resources winner: Tied.
SEMrush URL Overview Reports
I looked at each site in SEMrush for a general comparison. Later we'll see if Star Wars and Star Trek compete for keywords, but right now we want to see if they're really even in the same league when it comes to audience and exposure.
Here are the results for Star Wars:
(Click to enlarge)
SEMrush detects no paid search traffic, but shows a predictably massive presence when it comes to indexed search results. Equally impressive are the backlinks.
The top organic keywords suggest that people are looking for the branded term and even StarWars.com itself to find the site.
Things get really interesting once you start to look at the referring domains, though.
Legion 501 is a fan-run nonprofit organization of Stormtroopers (or at least people cosplaying them). They work closely with the official Star Wars franchise and frequently do many charitable things with the blessing of the franchise. Their videos are really popular – and you can see how this trust and endorsement has paid off for the franchise when you see how much traffic potentially comes their way via that backlink.
TrekPassions is "A 100% free SciFi personals & social networking community site for science fiction lovers, including but not limited to lovers of Star Trek* and Star Wars. Find others who share your passion for Sci Fi." This is also beneficial for Star Wars from a competitive perspective, because they're possibly pulling in people who are Trek fans.
In fact, all of these top referring domains are fan-run communities, showing the reciprocity of the fan/intellectual property relationship.
Comparatively, this is what SEMrush shows for Star Trek:
(Click to enlarge)
Although Star Trek enjoys more backlinks than Star Wars, it isn't doing well in the organic search results.
As with Star Wars, branded keywords rank highly (including a misspelling). Impressively, the site ranks for both 'star' and 'trek' separately.
Like Star Wars, TrekPassions hosts a lot of links to Star Trek. The other represented communities are also fan communities, and some of them have pretty old looking websites.
Looking at total keywords indexed over time, Star Wars is the clear winner:
(Click to enlarge)
Here is the visual representation of the organic keywords presence of these two space franchises:
May the Force Live Long and Prosper: Competitive Keywords
When it comes down to actual keywords people search for in the SERPs, do Star Trek and Star Wars even compete?
When it comes to merchandise: yes.
Star Trek and Star Wars rank closely for clothing company brand names like "her universe" and "welovefine." Also on the merch front, Hallmark ornaments (and related keywords) rank competitively for these sites. Hallmark.com confirms the sale of both Trek and Wars merchandise:
Additionally, both domains compete for "jj abrams," the director who worked on both Star Wars and Star Trek projects.
There is often very little keyword competition between franchises that depend upon intellectual property. Users who look up "Han Solo" are going to want Star Wars content – not a bunch of Captain Kirk stuff, despite the fact that the characters do have some things in common.
But who will they fight over? J. J. Abrams, obviously.
Keyword Popularity Face Off: Star Wars vs. Star Trek
Who is a more popular captain in outer space? Would people rather wield light sabers or phasers? We can find out by comparing the popularity of these keywords in SEMrush.
Social Media Standoff
When it comes to popularity on social media sites, Star Wars is the clear winner. There's a theme here: Star Wars is continually more engaged with fans and fan communities.
Let's take a quick look at what they're doing on two popular social media sites.
Star Trek definitely has a more sales-oriented page. Surprisingly, the trailer has less than 2,000 shares (on the morning of December 16). Many other Facebook pages have higher shares for the trailer, suggesting fans go to these other websites and social media pages rather than the source.
Star Wars' trailer is also pinned to the top of their page, and also has less shares than one might expect, suggesting much of the same: movie content review pages and geek websites are getting more visibility when it comes to disseminating trailers.
And as you can see, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg likes the new Star Wars trailer and Star Wars responded accordingly. With such a large brand, you can't necessarily respond to each and every comment, but you'd better not miss an opportunity to interact with an influencer. Star Wars aced this interaction.
They also post countdown messages and videos in preparation of the release date. Hopefully Star Trek will do the same thing closer to its next movie release date.
Star Wars also upped engagement with this promotional idea. Some fans seem to think it's overkill, but it's certainly pretty popular.
As you can see here, both pages like their other properties. This encourage fans to like their other pages. Star Trek does something, curious, though. Why does Star Trek like Star Trek? Is there some sort of temporal disturbance that allows this Facebook page to like itself?
No. Star Trek has two pages called "Star Trek." One is for the TV shows and the other is for the movies. They should more clearly delineate this difference by labeling them appropriately. Furthermore, they're missing out on a huge opportunity with a lack of integration, even though different properties take place in different eras and universes. They should work hard to get movie fans to like the TV shows and vice versa, but the two "Star Trek" pages causes confusion.
Both Star Wars and Star Trek did something else right: they uploaded the videos to Facebook natively instead of posting YouTube videos. That helps visibility because Facebook provides more exposure to natively uploaded videos.
Star Trek posts consecutive sales-oriented posts. We get it: it's the holiday season and that means sales, but we need more content and less push to buy.
That said, Trek posts some really excellent and engaging images:
They promote and engage audiences with content, questions and trivia about movies, TV shows and more in an integrated fashion on Twitter, even though the Trek movies also has its own Twitter handle.
Predictably, Star Wars rocks Twitter.
Their pinned tweet shows their trailer, but seeing the '5 days until' pinned tweet on the 16th is a bit confusing to viewers. Like Star Trek, they also capitalize on fun events. Just as Trek posted a picture of Picard drinking his beloved Earl Grey Tea (hot) on National Tea Day, Star Wars kept this sweet treat in line for National Cupcake Day.
When it comes to numbers, the results are clear: Star Wars wins social media. They go the extra mile when it comes to fan engagement. That said, Star Trek isn't necessarily faltering.
They should post some more information about their upcoming announced movie and TV series, providing exclusive information only available from their social media sources. If fans can get used to going directly to the source for their Trek news, they may see more engagement.
Conclusion: Star Wars Wins
Some of StarTrek.com's key backlinks are pretty old. It's well-known that the Trek fandom was established really early, and it's astonishing that some of the early geocities-style sites still rank on Google and provide great link juice. Star Trek will still take advantage of these, but should interact more closely with the more current fan communities.
If you want access to do an in-depth study like this about your competitors and how you compare, SEMrush is the digital marketing software you're looking for.
With the Star Wars movie release just around the corner, it's also evident that the franchises are in different stages of marketing. Star Wars wants to sell tickets and generate hype about the movie. Star Trek wants to push merchandise and keep fans interested until it's time for their next show and movie. I look forward to revisiting this comparison when Star Trek's new TV show and movie debut as it's likely Star Trek will make some significant gains.
Are you excited for the latest Star Wars movie?
This post was created by the SEMrush U.S. Marketing Team. It was written and initiated by Blog Editor Tara Clapper with Data Scientist Qi Zhao. Images are by SEMrush Graphic Designer Bob Foster. They would like to thank SEMrush U.S. Director of Marketing Michael Stricker and the rest of the team for their support and suggestions in the creation of this content.
Tara M. Clapper is Blog Editor at SEMrush and Senior Editor at The Geek Initiative, a website celebrating women in geek culture. Tara is a prolific content creator, having written thousands of blog posts, small business websites and other inbound marketing content through the course of her career. Tara enjoys blogging about SEO copywriting, content management, corporate culture, personal branding, networking and LinkedIn. She has over a decade of experience in digital publishing. Connect with her on Twitter @IrishTara.
Qi (Vincent) Zhao is a data scientist in SEMrush. He loves making beautiful things with data. Connect with him on LinkedIn.
Bob Foster enjoys the arts and crafts and is a student of strategic design. He finds peace cooking dinner for friends and family and cleaning dishes, and relaxes by playing banjo-ukulele with a gentle breeze. Bob really appreciates the experience of working with all the intelligent and friendly people who are employed by SEMrush. Say hello to Bob at LinkedIn.