The Impact of the Cubs, and other Chicago sports, on Google searches


You may have heard that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series this year.

Yes, for the first time since 1908, the Cubs brought home a world championship in what could be considered the biggest sports moment in Chicago history. Forty million people watched the epic Game 7 contest against the Cleveland Indians.

The team’s popularity this fall certainly showed on the web as well, as search engines were flooded with Cubs-related search queries.

In September of 2014, the Cubs were in the midst of a 73-89 season, their last losing season to date. It’s safe to say interest wasn’t quite as high as it is now. One way for people in the SEO industry like myself to put this into context is looking at the search volumes for different keywords, comparing October 2016 and September 2014, thanks to Google’s Keyword Planner. I used September of 2014 instead of October due to the fact it’s a more fair comparison, as the Cubs obviously weren’t playing games in October 2014.

For example, in September of 2014, as the Cubs we’re playing out the string of their fifth consecutive losing season, the term “Cubs” was searched 301,000 times in the United States, as you can see with the accompanying graphic. During the same time period, the term “Chicago Cubs” was searched 450,000 times and “Cubs Baseball” had 5,400 searches.

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Fast forward to October of 2016. “Cubs” was searched a whopping 20,400,000 times nationally. “Chicago Cubs” had 13,600,000 searches and “Cubs Baseball” had 246,000 searches throughout the same month.

Between the gigantic TV ratings and World Series tickets that went for hundreds of thousands of dollars, the impact the Cubs franchise had on web searches is yet another way to see what heights the franchise reached in 2016.

Speaking of those ticket prices, the term “Cubs Tickets” was searched 201,000 times in October, according to Google. Compare that to 18,100 times back in September 2014. The term “Chicago Cubs Tickets” was searched 74,000 times in October 2016, and 12,100 times in September 2014. Season tickets, which the Cubs not surprisingly will be raising prices for in 2017, got a ton of traffic thanks to Google searches as well.

The term “Cubs Season Tickets” was searched 8,100 times in October compared to just 1,300 times in September of 2014.

Another way the Cubs will continue to print money is by selling merchandise. Back in September 2014, when the Cubs were at the end of their brutal stretch, the search term “Cubs Hat” had 1,600 searches. Fast forward to October 2016, when the same term had 60,500 searches. The term “Cubs Shirts” had 49,500 searches compared to just 880 in September 2014.

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What this data can tell us is that obviously, the Cubs were very popular this past fall. It can also tell us that there were a number of businesses outside the Cubs themselves that probably took advantage of this recent run, whether it be third-party ticket brokers or retail outlets.

Wrigleyville Sports, which is located at 959 W. Addison, right across the street from Wrigley Field, saw its organic traffic jump dramatically during the Cubs’ postseason run. When the Cubs defeated the San Francisco Giants in the National League Division Series, Wrigleyville Sports marketing manager Eric Castellucci said organic traffic was roughly 3-4 times higher than the average month. When Chicago won the National League pennant after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, Castellucci said search engine was traffic was 9-10 higher than average, and things got really crazy after the World Series win, when Castellucci said organic traffic was about 19-20 times higher than normal.This year it was kind a slow ramp up,” Castellucci said. “People knew the cubs were good so it was exciting all around. … Everyone knew they were going to make it in (the playoffs).
Not all the Chicago sports-related searches are bright

While the Cubs are coming off a world championship, not everything is so bright in the world of Chicago sports, and the searches show that. With the Bears showing absolutely no improvement in head coach John Fox’ second season, the fan base is, not surprisingly, frustrated.
The term “Fire John Fox” was searched 590 times in Google in October. During the same month last year, the term was searched just 50 times.
It does not sound like Fox will be fired. If the Bears get off to another slow start next season, expect those search numbers to increase even more.
Chris Sale Rumors heavily searched

Things haven’t been so good on the south side of Chicago in recent seasons. The White Sox haven’t made the postseason since 2008 and have had two straight extremely disappointing seasons despite the fact they made a lot of big moves they thought would really improve the club.

This offseason, the White Sox decided to go in a different direction, something that has been long overdue. On December 6, the White Sox completed a blockbuster deal, sending Sale to the Boston Red Sox for four highly-touted prospects.

This fall, you could tell the intrigue the Chris Sale buzz was generating on the web. In October, the search term “Chris Sale” was searched 22,200 times. A year ago the term wasn’t quite as popular, with 8,100 searches.

“Chris Sale Trade” was searched 720 times in Google in October, while it was only searched 110 times in October of 2015. “Chris Sale Trade Rumors” didn’t have any searches in 2015, but the term had 260 Google searches in October.

Cubs popularity has surged

Over the past year, an average number of 2,740,000 users each month have searched for the term “Chicago Cubs” in Google.

That Cubs number are vastly bigger than back in 2013, long before there was a thought of a world championship on the north side, when “Chicago Cubs” had an average of just 246,000 monthly searches during the entire calendar year. In the calendar year of 2014, the term had 301,000 searches before ramping up to 1,500,000 in 2015, when the Cubs made it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Winning can certainly cure a lot of things, and there have been plenty of people and businesses that have taken advantage of the team’s recent success.

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