NHL Playoff SEO: Yahoo Beats NHL.com in Shutout

by Aaron Bradley on April 24, 2009

in SEO

I jumped onto Google Canada today to look up schedule information for the NHL playoffs (I don't usually use Google.ca, as the vast majority of my business relationships are US-facing). Used a pretty likely query: nhl playoff shedule. Here are the results.

NHL.com Playoff Result

All good and well, right (except for the seeming lack of a description caption for the first result)? But here's what you get when you click on the first result.

NHL.com Not Found Page

Bob: What a great move by the server, Jack! It really looked like the user had a sure goal there, but NHL.com just wasn't going to roll over that easily.
Jack: Very impressive save, Bob! And not only did NHL.com keep the user from finding the information he was looking for, but look at that 404 page! No possibility of the user digging deeper at NHL.com.
Bob: No chance of a rebound at all. That user query is as dead as they come.
Jack: Just an outstanding user barrier there, Bob! They've gotta be running IIS to get performance like that.
Bob: Nope. Our booth technician just confirmed they're running Apache, Jack. Easy to set up a custom 404, but they've made this a bullet-proof user barrier.
Jack: I saw this last season happen with just with a query string URL…
Bob: No, they've locked this down, Jack. No custom 404 at all.
Jack: Well, some great action in this first round, Bob. NHL.com has gotta be happy about this performance.
Bob: You'd better believe it Jack. The NHL.com server and operations team has done a great job driving the user to that second domain in the Google stack.

Yahoo Sports Result

Far be it for me to belabor a pretty straightforward point, but clearly when you "own" an important search term it seems pretty sensible to make sure your ranking target page resolves correctly or redirects (and suspicious of my own semantics, I did check out my query, and it does seem to be the right target).

By the way, in a not-too-uncommon web experience, it turns out that a fairly appalling looking site called Johnnyroadtrip.com had the best NHL playoff schedule. It's not unusual for a basic HTML site to beat out the big boys with their Flash, complicated dynamic server pages and other "enhancements." What's curious here is that the Google route to this page was from the top PPC result in the right sidebar.

Hockey Playoff Schedule
Get Information on Ask.com
Searching with Ask.com gets results
www.Ask.com

I know, I know … Ask.com! But despite results #2-#10 totally sucking ass (the JunglePlex Field Hockey Playoff Schedule???), it did push out Johnnyroadtrip.com at #1.

Finally, speaking of PPC, an honorable mention goes to that player with a lot of spunk and spirit, good old Ebay.

Jack: Do you think the user's going to get Ebay off the bench for this game, Bob?
Bob: I love that kid, Jack, and I know Google does too. But I just can't see him being put in against that Ask.com line.
Jack: I've got to agree, Bob. It really doesn't seem that he's ready to come through with the click-through.

Nhl playoff schedule
Fantastic prices on nhl playoff schedule
Deal with Canadians and save
www.ebay.ca

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