Manchester United may not be having their greatest ever season on the pitch but when it comes to SEO they are firmly at the top of the table.
We've analysed the backlink profile of every football club in the English top flight to find out which are world class when it comes to search optimisation and which are in a relegation dogfight.
Unsurprisingly it's the big clubs which dominate with Manchester United firmly ahead of the pack with a website attracting almost eight and a half million backlinks - more than three times as many links as their local rivals Manchester City.
Not only do Man United have more backlinks than any other club they also have the highest number of referring domains - more than 34,000 in fact - almost double the number of domains linking to Man City.
Liverpool come closest to matching Man Utd with three and a half million backlinks from almost 29,000 referring domains while Arsenal are in third spot with slightly more links - almost four million, but crucially fewer referring domains, only 26,000.
We used Ahrefs to analyse the domains and awarded each club a point corresponding to their Domain Rating (DR) on that site. The data tells an interesting story with the number of referring domains clearly being more important than the volume of links alone.
For example we were surprised to see that West Ham came closest to Man United when it came to link volume, with seven and a half million backlinks going into the Hammers' website. But this eye-watering number of links came from only nine thousand referring domains - around a quarter of the number of sites which link to Manchester United. It was this relatively low number of referring domains which meant West Ham only make a mid table spot in our League of Links.
After West Ham it was Chelsea who came in third in terms of link volume but they were behind both Liverpool and Arsenal in terms of referring domains and so only make the fourth spot in our table.
The blue half of Manchester took the fifth spot on our table with Man City clocking up more than two million links from 19,000 domains - well behind their Old Trafford rivals.
Less than half of the clubs in the Premier League currently enjoy more than a million backlinks into their websites - these are Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, Man City, Tottenham, Everton, West Ham and Aston Villa. Two more clubs are almost at this milestone with Newcastle and Fulham soon to join the backlink millionaire's club.
Elsewhere in the table it was evident that there's more to search success than just sheer numbers of backlinks. This was most apparent when comparing Southampton FC and Fulham. Fulham have almost one million links - more than double Southampton's 420,000. Not only that but those links also come from more referring domains - 6,230 compared to the Saint's 5,360 - yet the south coast club sits a point higher on our table (with a higher DR). This could be because the average quality of the links going into Southampton's site are slightly better than those going to Fulham. There could of course be other variables at play such as the age of the domain and volume of content on the sites.
At the bottom end of the table clubs such as Sheffield United, Brighton and Hove Albion and Burnley FC can only dream of attracting the level of backlinks enjoyed by the clubs at the top of the league. With just over 300,000 back links, Sheffield Utd has just 3.5% of the link volume of Manchester Utd, and 10% of the referring domains.
But it's actually newly promoted Leeds United who have the lowest number of links of any Premiership club with just 275,000 - or 3.2% of Man Utd's backlink total. However Leeds are spared the bottom spot thanks to a decent number of referring domains - close to 6,000 - almost double their Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Utd.
It was also interesting to see that most clubs in the top flight favour the more international dot com extension with just six opting for a co dot uk domain. Burnley are the only team to have the words 'football' and 'club' in their domain name.
Of course this is just a snapshot of the health of these domains with all data accurate on 20 November 2020.
If you'd like Motive to conduct some research into the health of your domain and your competitors please contact us.