BCS Rankings vs. SEO Rankings. How Do They Compare?

Here at SEER we work with a bunch of different clients. I feel that having a diverse client list is helpful when you are learning SEO because you get to be exposed, not only to different kinds of clients that are passionate about some interesting things, but you also get to be exposed to a wide range of SEO experiences. Since many of the best practices that I have learned are highly scalable across all of our clients, I sometimes find myself applying these ideas to some other sites that I visit often – just to see what I would do/change to make the site better from an SEO perspective.

I spent time on a campus that was obsessed with college football. So, it is pretty natural that I would spend a considerable amount of time checking out the latest ESPN College Football Rankings. Now that the BCS Rankings have been announced, I thought I would compare those rankings to what they would look like if they were only judged off of SEO best practices. So, just as both Google and the BCS have different pieces that make up their overall “score,” I thought I would tally up a score of the teams in the top 25 to see how they would compare.

My method consisted of taking a series of SEO best practices, assigning a value to each one and recording the value for each school. The best way that I could think of testing this was to use the key phrase “[SCHOOL NAME] Football Schedule.” Each of these schools has a football schedule on its site and it would be best (from a user perspective) if this particular URL ranked #1 for this key phrase. For example, if I am searching for the “Notre Dame Football Schedule,” I wouldn’t expect the USC Football Schedule (that gets no link love from me) to rank #1. I would expect the official schedule to show up, which would more than likely be on the school’s domain (or at least a site that they operate.) So, once I found the schedule’s landing page, I used a series of metrics to rank each school’s SEO efforts JUST for the football schedule page. The higher the score the school got, the better the school ranked. Here are the metrics that I used:

  • Analytics (Google Analytics or Omniture) installed (0.5 points)
  • School Name in the Title Tag (0.5 points)
  • “Football” and “Schedule” in the Title Tag (0.5 points)
  • School Name AND the words “Football Schedule” in the H1 (0.5 points)
  • The words “Football” and “Schedule” in the URL (0.5 points) NOTE: Many of the URLs looked like this So even though, they didn’t have the actual “football schedule” words in the URL, I gave them 0.25 points instead of the full 0.5 points for having most of it
  • Whether the football schedule landing page ranks #1 in Google for the query (1.0 points)
  • PageRank (PR1 = 0.1 points, PR2 = 0.2 points…….PR10 = 1.0 points)
  • Unique Linking Root Domains to URL. I got this data from the mozbar for chrome (each unique linking domain = 0.01 points)
  • School Name AND the words “football” and “schedule” in the meta description (0.5 points)
  • Page Load Times – I loaded the URL three different times and recorded the time it took each site to load according to the Firefox YSlow plugin. I took each school’s load time average and I sorted from 1-25. The fastest average got 0.25 points, the second fastest got 0.24 and the slowest got 0.1 points.
  • Deductions – If a team didn’t get a score for a category, I just gave them a zero, however, there was one move that warranted a deduction from the University of Iowa due to a meta description slip-up. I will let you check it out and I am sure you will agree that they deserved this. (-0.25 points)

Here are the BCS Rankings Compared to their SEO Rankings

One thing that I want to point our here is that most of the sites were pretty much using the same CBS College Sports Networks template. Some others were using a different one, but this made it a little more challenging to score the teams – hence the reason for adding site speed and linking domains. If you were wondering how Notre Dame would do, they would have ranked eighth – tied with Nebraska at 3.14 points :)  Here is the spreadsheet with each team’s scores for each metric.

Surprised by these rankings? Any feedback? Do you have a team that wasn’t ranked here that has a better score than all of these? Leave a comment and let the debate begin!

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President