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How to Make a Sports Website Rank Higher in Google

By Paul Langhorst on 3/3/2016

SEO for sports website managersIf you manage a youth sports website, one question you may have is how to make your youth sports website rank higher in Google?  You are not alone! The process of improving a sports website ranking is called SEO, or search engine optimization.  SEO is most commonly associated with business and eCommerce websites, however youth sports organization can benefit from an improved website ranking by following these SEO tips for youth sports webmasters.  


Google is Still the King of Search


According to SearchEnglineLand.com, Google is the king of search, accounting for nearly 65% of overall search traffic, Bing represents 33%, and Yahoo, 12%.  Whatever you do to improve your rankings in Google, will automatically help the others.


What is Page Rank and Why is it Important?


When a search term (keyword) is entered, the search engine will return a number of related sites. The maximum number of sites returned on a search engine results page (SERP), not including ads is 10 per page.  Marketers refer to a website’s numerical position within that list as its “page rank,” so a page rank of 1 is the first site returned and page rank of 7 is the 7th site returned. The goal is to be within the top 3-5 sites on the first page of returns.


In addition to returning a list of websites, Google will display ads along the top and side of the page. Non-paid listings are called Organic listings. Why is this important?  The higher a site’s ranking the greater the likelihood that people see your site and click to visit.  However, paid ads fight for searchers’ attention and can pull away potential visitors. People tend to prefer organic listings over paid ads, so the higher your rank the less likely a searcher will chose an ad over your site.


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Developing Authority is Key


Google, which was founded in 1998, is continuously modifying its method of ranking and presenting websites and their methods are kept secret. Through trial and error marketers have developed a series of best practices, collectively called SEO, that have proven to boost website rankings.  In today’s search world, it boils down to how authoritative your site is for a given set of keywords.  Authority is derived through quality and quantity.  If you hit one home run per year, you would not be seen as an authority on the subject.  Hit 25 year after year and you’ll end up in the Hall of Fame.  The same holds true with your website. If you only have one area of our site focused on a keyword versus several, and other sites link to your site for those same words, you start to look like an authority on the subject and viola…you get a high page rank from Google.



Generate Keywords


Key words are what define your organization, the market you are in and the “product” of your organization.   A word like “baseball” is impossible to rank highly, as is “youth baseball” but by adding further descriptive words such as, Top St. Louis Youth Baseball Association, a site’s scope is narrowed, authority increases, and page ranking climbs. So, first step, brainstorm a list of keywords that relate to your organization and its goals and attributes. When coming up with keywords try to imagine how a typical person might literally type them into Google. With the advent of voice-driven search, matching keywords to how they are spoken is very important. A recent blog post by Google stated that 41% of adults use voice enabled search at least once per day.  Finally, rank order your keywords from most important to least important and those that come to the top of the list should be the focus of your on-page improvement efforts as discussed below.


Example: Let’s imagine you run the ABC Fast-Pitch League and your primary goal is to market your fast-pitch softball tournaments to nearby states. Your league, which plays under the USSSA umbrella, is based in Kansas City and the key draw is college exposure for the players.  Relevant keyword strings and their rank order would be:


Midwest youth fast-pitch softball tournament. 2

Kansas City youth fast-pitch softball tournament 3

Midwest college exposure fast-pitch tournament  1

Kansas City college exposure fast-pitch tournament 6

USSSA fast-pitch tournaments 5

USSSA college exposure tournaments  4


Since your goal is to draw teams from surrounding states, the top keyword string would likely be “Midwest college exposure fast-pitch tournament.”   


The Challenge


As you might guess, Kansas City is not the only town in the Midwest, nor is the ABC Fast-pitch League the only youth softball program in Kansas City. Were it not for that it would be easy to rank for keywords, but competition for the same words by other sites creates the page rank battle which is won by sites that are more strongly correlated to those keywords than others.  Just as you are working on ways to improve your site’s ranking, your sports competitors are doing the same, so staying at the top of the search return line-up, can be a continuous challenge.


On-Page Improvements


SEO best practices fall into two categories: on-page and off-page improvements.  On-page improvements, are just that…changes that are made directly to a website page. Off-page techniques happen outside of the website and will be addressed in a later blog post. The on-page changes discussed below can typically be done through your website content management system (CMS).   A sports website CMS, such as offered by Engage Sports, eliminates the need to know special programming skills and makes SEO optimization a much easier task.  Addressing each individual page will improve the total classification of your website better than just tweaking your home page. The image below will help visualize some of the on-page areas of adjustment.


Optimize Page URLs:  Each page of your website has a unique URL (or web address).  For example, www.ABCfastpitchleague.com/tournaments would be the URL for the page where tournaments are listed. As discussed above, “tournaments” is a very generic term, but by expanding the page URL with your target keywords, the page URL becomes more specific and will serve to increase page rank.  Example: www.ABCfastpitch.com/midwest-fastpitch-exposure-tournaments  how to improve sports website ranking


Optimize Page Title Tags:  Each page of your website has a title tag which appears in a search engine result page. Writing a great title tag is an art as it must quickly define and categorize a page with minimal words (under 70). As is the case with URLs, the title should incorporate your highest value keywords. Our example page titled “Tournaments” would be renamed: ABC Fast-Pitch League | Midwest College Exposure Tournaments.  The “|” is called a “pipe” and is used to separate blocks of keywords in a title tag.


Optimize Meta Descriptions:  Meta descriptions are brief descriptions associated with each page of your website.  Meta descriptions will appear under your page title as part of the search return.  A meta description helps Google and visitors get a quick snapshot of what your website and each page is about.  Meta descriptions should be kept to 160 characters or less.  Here again, you want a meta description to incorporate your highest value keywords.


Meta Description Example: “ABC Fast-Pitch League, the premier USSSA-endorsed college exposure softball tournament in the Midwest featuring  double elimination play and located in Kansas City”


Optimize Page Content:  Page content is comprised of all the text that visitors can read on your website pages. The more your content incorporates your keywords and phrases, the more likely your site will rank high for those keywords.  When writing your copy take time to work in all your keywords and phrases, but still make it readable and logical. This is a true art but the payoff can be huge.  Another way of increasing content around keywords is to create special landing pages where additional, but more highly focused content, may be shared, i.e. Fast-Pitch Exposure Tournament Tips for the First-Time Attendee


Optimize Photos (Alt Tags):  Google can tell that your website has images on it, but it can’t discern what the images depict. Words can be associated with an image, which is called an “Alt Tag.” As with the URL, you want the Alt Tag to reflect your keywords.  Ideally, all the pictures shown on the Tournament page described above would have names such as, Midwest fast-pitch tournament winners, Midwest fast-pitch tournament facilities, etc.   


Blogging.  Another form of content optimization can be accomplished by blogging.  Blogging is the process of posting articles to your website. A good sports website CMS tool will include a blog post editor. Google likes sites that have frequent updates and blogging is an ideal way to update a website without making changes to the main pages.  In the case of ABC Fast-pitch, if they blogged frequently (about once per week) about their college exposure tournaments, traveling to Kansas City, how to prepare, etc, they will create a highly relevant body of work that helps boost the overall website authority and page ranking. In addition, some of the individual blog posts may rank high; a person looking for Kansas City area tournaments, may find a blog post from ABC Fast-pitch and then navigate to their tournament page.  It is important to set up links within the copy of a blog to relevant pages on your site (internal links) just as I did when I linked to Engage Sports when talking about a good youth sports website CMS. Wink! Wink!  Note:  Always have linked pages open in a new window so that the visitor does not get lost when navigating around your site.


Summary

The SEO optimization tips for youth sports webmasters covered here are just the tip of the iceberg. Maintaining a high-ranking site can be a challenging task. The key is experimentation. Try different things, wait a day and see how the changes perform. Under a future post I will cover off-page SEO optimization for youth sports websites, which will include such techniques as external link building, Google local listings, social media efforts and paid advertising.  Good luck with your SEO optimization efforts and if you should need assistance, please don’t hesitate to give us a call here at Engage Sports.  

Management
Technology
Paul Langhorst

As a former softball coach and veteran business leader, Paul Langhorst is on a mission to help sports associations and leagues improve their operations and experience for players, parents, fans and their volunteer leaders.

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