The Oban Blog

Pogba: Search star of Euro 2016

This month Europe’s finest footballers are locked in competition and have us glued to our screens. Euro 2016 is a quadrennial football festival that delivers sensational performances, a fair share of surprises and a few shocks. But how do its leading players line up in the search rankings and is there anything we can learn from their online performances?

We picked the three favourites to win based on the gambling odds (France, Germany and Spain), starting with a detailed look at trends and search results around their star players (Paul Pogba, Thomas Müller and Andrés Iniesta, respectively).

Unsurprisingly, interest in each player increased around the start of the tournament. In the graph below, which plots weeks Sunday to Saturday before and during the tournament, we can see that interest in the French striker Paul Pogba rocketed as France played the tournament’s opening match before the close of the week.



Using google trend search interest indices we’ve tracked interest for our top three players over four weeks. We’d expect these interest spikes to repeat each time the teams play. Meanwhile, global searches for each player differ from those made within their home countries and in their national languages: these reveal the aspects of players’ lives users are interested in.

Success at home or away?

In the same way that some football players can’t repeat their domestic form on the world stage, their local search popularity also isn’t always reflected globally. By reviewing average search volumes from the last year we can see France’s Paul Pogba tops the global average monthly search volumes by some margin (450,000) with Germany’s Thomas Müller in second (165,000) and Spain’s Andrés Iniesta some way back (14,800) in third.

However, when we look closer, it’s clear the players command their interest differently: Pogba receives most of his from global searches; Müller’s interest comes disproportionately from local searches – those in Germany conducted in German – while Iniesta’s results were so low we were left questioning the data…



These initial results might suggest that France’s Paul Pogba is more of a household name globally, but could he really be so much more popular?

Professional or personal?

Looking in detail at the searches around Pogba it’s clear that interest is as much ‘personal’ as it is ‘professional’ – further evidence of the level of celebrity that leading players today achieve, although results do vary depending on location.


Globally, and excluding branded searches e.g. those on the player’s name or a variation of it, more than half of searches (55%) were for personal terms, such as ‘Paul Pogba haircut’ or ‘Paul Pogba girlfriend’.


Locally, at home in France, there was much more interest (75%) in Pogba’s personal life. This pattern continues when we look at Thomas Müller (58% of global and 70% of local searches were for personal terms). So locally fans are far more interested in the nitty gritty, in players’ private affairs – and especially in their wives, girlfriends and haircuts.

But what of Andrés Iniesta, the FC Barcelona captain and hero of the 2010 FIFA World Cup final? Surprisingly, there was little global search detail for the player globally – that is until you remove the accent from his name…

It’s all too easy to overlook these localised details and here is a great example of just why you shouldn’t: Average monthly searches (global) for Andres Iniesta not Andrés Iniesta jump from just 12,400 to 165,000!

Accents and Umlauts

Accents are seen in many European languages and are one of many marks, known as diacritics, placed above, below, or to the side of a letter to alter its pronunciation.

The sharp eyed of you will have spotted the ‘umlaut’ on Müller’s surname. So, does this affect the search results? It certainly does – average monthly searches (global) for Thomas Muller not Thomas Müller top more than a quarter of a million (246,000), up from 55,000.


Now while neither set of figures is exclusive to the football players, it’s evident that overlooking language considerations can have a dramatic effect on your data. So, how might this knowledge be used to improve how we conduct and interpret keyword research? Kezia Bibby, head of strategy,

“We’ve found time and again in keyword research that considering special characters or blended language we can have a significant impact on visibility for our clients. For instance, the German letter “ß” (scharfres S), which represents a double ‘s’ in words such as “Fussballschuhe” (football shoe). More search volume can be found for keywords without the scharfes S symbol. Meaning selections for keyword optimisation on sites needs to be thought through to make the most of this opportunity.”

Final results and post-match analysis

Clearly attention to local details dramatically effect results and need to be closely considered when formulating any strategy. So, having added searches that also exclude the regional Spanish accent and the German umlaut, the results are in. What we now see is a far more even spread of interest in our three football superstars, not the surprising lead for France’s Paul Pogba.


What’s also perhaps notable is that globally we are not used to, or don’t bother, with the specifics of local language when searching. Ask yourself: would you search for Jägermeister or Jagermeister? These issues do affect brands and some German companies have removed the umlaut from their names.

Sybille Kircher, founder of the German branding agency Nomen International, previously told The Telegraph: “We know that abroad the umlaut is problematic. Names need to be found quickly on the Internet and need to be pronounced easily over the telephone.”

And when it comes to pronunciation, our own football commentators have a thing or two to learn, perhaps starting at home with Portuguese Premiership prima donna Jose Mourinho – or should that be José Mourinho?


Image credits:

Euro 2016: Francia-Irlanda link diretta video gratis ore 15 by Flickr user Nazionale Calcio