Kevin De Bruyne — I’m coming for you

In my previous post, “In search of Man City players”, Man City Digital and Content teams were getting back to basics in order to boost our rankings for player profile pages on Here’s a quick update on how we got on, where De Bruyne has gone and what’s next.


This was the Slack message I sent to our Content Editors.

Maybe a little harsh perhaps with all the CAPs. To be fair, the team are working tirelessly to link up our player names to help boost our player profile rankings. A little too well…

They started linking up the nicknames too. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be averse to this, if our players were ranking well and we could sweep up those smaller search terms that can convert well, however we’re not there yet and no one (very low search volumes compared to his full name), is searching for Kun to find Sergio Kun Aguero.

His profile page is doing well, as I write [29th Nov 2016] his profile page is #3 on the first search page for “sergio aguero”. That’s a huge improvement on the #50+ rank he had in September. Two months of steady progress to get him there, these are no quick fixes. That top spot doesn’t seem so untouchable now.

Figures vary, but it’s around 30–33% of traffic goes to the top spot, compared to around 10–12% to those in position #3 (random Google searches on the topic seem to sit around these figures).

‘Sergio Aguero’ search volume sits anywhere between 100k-1M [Google AdWords]. To get 10% of this traffic monthly is a good nudge…to get a third would be an amazing boost.

And that’s just one player.

Granted some of our players don’t generate the interest Sergio Aguero does, but the value in collectively getting those top spots is significant. Not to mention, they’re our players, we should be visible from a branding point of view.

We changed the player profile locations to the root folder, creating a shorter This indicates their importance to us — eg no longer buried.

Canonical links were added and redirects (301) to ensure the pages didn’t lose too much ranking. We’ve also added in People schema to highlight that these are…well…people!

What about Kevin De Bruyne?

His search volumes are currently around the size of Aguero’s but his player profile page is sitting in a lowly #30 ranking. Eeesh. No one is digging that deep for his details, sorry Kevin.

To remedy this, we’ll focus on his profile page, update modules on here, ensure every news article relating to him has appropriate linking and look to add articles and focus pieces to help improve his internal linking within the site.

We’ll look at external links to ensure his profile is being linked to from elsewhere too. Those back links are important but can be time consuming to find and place.

He’ll bubble to the top — in time.

De Bruyne’s player profile page

Through all of this we have seen fluctuations. Testing new changes takes time in organic search and we have seen some players have decreased, only to return a few positions higher a week later.

Test, wait, tweak, repeat.

Other search activity we’ve been looking at…


It seems an obvious one, but there’s been a fair about of tweaking on news from a technical point of view.

We’re adding more schema (going live soon). While it’s debatable whether it directly improves the ranking, it helps Google understand the site, which can only improve the ranking over time. This is picked up in the search console so you can see when it’s working and track it is indexing.

We’ve had sitemaps since launch, but they were missing a few key tags which we’re adding in. And the sitemaps are big size wise. Years of content being mapped out; it’s weighing us down when it comes to news updates.

They’re being trimmed down and separated out into different areas (EDS, Women’s, Academy) to see if that helps to improve the speed and frequency in which our news is crawled.

In all this we’ve made sure it’s all submitted in Google News Publisher Centre — and others — Bing etc. This was a bit tricky when the first review failed as Google thought we were plagiarising ourselves! It was still referencing, thanks to the forums this was resolved quickly.

Which brings me onto the content itself. Generally, I believe we have good content on our site. Well written, thankfully now linked better and the frequency is steady throughout the day. But we’re a bit rubbish at going back and updating articles once they’re live.

More effort required here and a change in mind set within the team to set up breaking news articles. Google loves a breaking news story…who doesn’t. Sometimes this a struggle when some of the breaking news is sensitive and we must provide the official word. I don’t think we’ve cracked it, but I’m not sure football Clubs will. Not when other broadcasters have the freedom to speculate without repercussion should things go awry.

So, it’s been a busy few weeks behind the scenes. The progress is steady and positive overall.

In all this I must thank Craig Johnson and Georgina Rayner at Kagool who have been helping and advising us on our search journey. Thanks guys.

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