ISPO 2017 - International Digital Marketing Report

by Florian Auckenthaler
03rd Feb, 2017

This international marketing report analyses how companies in the global sports industry are utilizing their web sites and online marketing. In addition of providing a snapshot of how the sport industry is performing online, we hope that we can point out some common mistakes, showcase best in class examples and provide some valuable takeaways for companies to improve their digital channel.

In order to create this report, we reviewed the ISPO 2017 exhibitors by analyzing website attractiveness, search engine optimization, as well as website localization.

This report is broken into 5 main sections

  • SEO and Usability Metrics
  • Website design Scores
  • Digital Globalization
  • 25 best sites – Case Studies
  • Key Takeways

1. SEO Metrics

Our SEO metrics are comprised of 7 key elements. The off page factors, the technical on-page SEO factors, mobile readiness, website load speed,  design score, website security and social signals. Doing well in these 7 areas form a good base for running a successful digital marketing channel.

Here are the average scores for 2104 ISPO exhibitors:

Off Page Factors          36 (0 to 100)

On Page SEO                38 (0 to 80)

Mobile Readiness         67 (0 to 100)

Design Score                6 (1 to 10)

Site Load speed           56 (0 to 100)

Site Security                13 (0 to 100)

Social Signals               15 (0 to 100)

We combined these 7 metrics into an ‘overall score’. This overall score is not on a scale from 0 to 100 but instead, the highest scoring site becomes the top score on the scale and the lowest scoring site becomes the low score, in our case we have a range of 17 to 79. Helly Hansen and Norrona reached 79 points. 




Click here to check out the scores for all 2100 ISPO exhibitors

Let's explore what these metrics mean, what they include and why they are important:


What is it: overall score of website rank and influence. This is based on domain authority, the number of visitors from search engines, the total amount of traffic and your incoming links. It’s called off-page SEO because you are not directly responsible for this on your site.

Why is it important: Probably one of the most important metrics for traffic and SEO. It’s also the most difficult to control. Basically this will determine how high you rank in google for a given key term. When somebody is asking ‘why am I not on google’s first page’ this metric is most likely responsible.


What it is: Overall score of internal search engine optimization. You can directly control this metric, as it deals with technical things inside your website. It’s things like how you structure your navigation, what keywords you are using in page titles, if you have any errors on page, how fast it loads, etc.

Why it is important: You need to structure your website in a way that it’s easy to use for your visitors AND easy to spider and understand for the search engines. This creates the base for high ranking pages. By itself it’s probably not enough, especially for competitive key terms, but you should get this right before you work on off page optimization.


What it is: The score we get after manual review of website design executed by our marketing team. We take a quick look at easy of use, messaging, and level of design proficiency. Of course this is a subjective metric.

Why it is important: Trust, engagement and goal conversion. You should have some goals for your visitors. This could be sales, lead capture, download or something else. The design, user experience and messaging on your website will be responsible for the goal conversion percentage.


What it is: We use googles test to see how well your website works on a mobile device. The test delivers a pass/fail as well as a score between 0 and 100.  

Why this is important: Mobile usage surpassed desktop usage 2 years ago. Many countries are skipping desktop altogether and going to mobile only. Additionally, google might not include your site in their search results for mobile users if your site fails the mobile readiness test. And lastly, Google announced a mobile first index for their search engine.  


What it is: This measures how fast your website loads on a desktop and on a mobile device. We use the google page speed test for this which is a metric from 0 to 100. A higher score is better. We typically try to be above 85 as a minimum and aim for a score in the 90s.  

Why this is important: Many tests have shown clear correlation between conversion rate and load speed. A faster website is going to provide your users with a better experience. We only have a few seconds until users look for a different site, aka your competition. Google also uses this metric as a ranking factor for your website.  


What it is: We check if your site uses a SSL certificate which will allow you to provide a secure HTTPS (the green lock in the browser address bar) connection.

Why it is important First off all for the security of your data, and your users data. Secondly for users trust in your brand and website and lastly for improved Google SEO rankings. Soon Google will provide a browser message for all sites that don’t use a secure HTTPS connection, meaning this will impact user experience and lower trust in your brand and website.


What is is: This score measures the amount of shares to your websites homepage. It’s not a measure of your followers, or the amount of tweets you send, but rather a metric of how often your brand gets shared.  

Why it is important: Maybe not a direct impact to sales, but an important metric for brand awareness.

2. Web Site Design Scores

Getting enough (of the right) traffic to your website is one of the most important aspects of online marketing. I personally would rather have a bad looking website that gets a lot of traffic as opposed to a really great looking site that gets very few unique visitor each month. Of course having both is the ideal combination.

It's essential to master the on page SEO and off page SEO in combination with paid marketing, in order to drive enough traffic to a website. At that point, it's up to the right messaging, the quality of the product, the level of design and the ease of use of the website to engage users and ultimately get them to take action in the form of a purchase, a newsletter sign-up, a download, or any other kind of goal that you might define for your users.

Our team manually looked at roughly 2000 ISPO exhibitor websites and assigned a 'design score' for each. We used a scale from 1 to 10 to rank each site in regards to the design and usability. We consider 1, 2 and 3 scores unacceptable and 8, 9 and 10 sites really 'good'. Here are the results.

A few interesting observations from our design score data:

  • Total number of websites which we reviewed for design: 1966
  • The average score at ISPO 2017 (out of the 1966) is a 5.5
  • 13 websites received a perfect score of 10.
  • 19% of the all sites have a rank 8, 9 or 10. The majority of these sites are from Germany (16%) and Italy (14%).
  • 124 websites received a score of 1.
  • 21% of all websites have a score of 1, 2 or 3.
  • 44% of the 1, 2 and 3 scores come from Asian countries.
  • 3% of all Asian companies have a design score of 8, 9 or 10.

Yes, design is a rather subjective matter. You could argue indefinitely if a site is an 8, a 9 or even a 7. Culture, taste, experience and personal preference are responsible for a variety of scores for the same sites. We added up our testers scores and took the average, in order to come up with a somewhat ‘fair’ score. I would say that the variance for the scores between testers was fairly small. In order to get on the same page, let's look at a few samples.

6 Sites with a design score of 9 or 10.

6 Sites with a design score of 1 or 2.

In my opinion, anything under a 5 is not acceptable. I would recommend to work with a professional to design a website. As an alternative, services such as squarespace (good example here) offer a semi-professional templated design which can be a good solution for smaller businesses. If your annual revenue is below $1million, I recommend to focus more on a marketing ROI driven strategy. Spend the minimum on a basic but professional design, and spend the bulk of your budget on demand gen, lead generation, lead nurture and conversion optimization.

3. Digital Globalization

The sport industry is quite international. At the time of our testing, we can count exhibitors from 55 different countries at ISPO 2017. Let’s take a look at these countries:

  • Great Britain
  • China
  • Austria
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Australia
  • Taiwan
  • USA
  • Poland
  • Iceland
  • Sweden
  • Pakistan
  • Norway
  • Netherlands
  • Czech Republic
  • Portugal
  • Spain
  • Belgium
  • New Zealand
  • Slovenia
  • Switzerland
  • India
  • Japan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • France
  • Hong Kong
  • Israel
  • Malaysia
  • Canada
  • Uruguay
  • Turkey
  • South Korea
  • Latvia
  • Ireland
  • Russia
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Rumania
  • Finland
  • Denmark
  • Columbia
  • Bulgaria
  • Singapore
  • Finland
  • Estonia
  • Greece
  • Monaco
  • Sri Lanka
  • Serbia
  • Vietnam
  • Malta
  • Lithuania
  • South Africa
  • Andorra
  • Slovakia

The traditional cross-border flow of goods developed over centuries and experienced huge growth in the second half of the 20th century. Digital cross-border flow didn’t exist 15 years ago, and one could argue that now digital globalization has a larger impact on the global economy than traditional flows of goods.

Essentially, by uploading a website to the internet, you are global. Let's define digital globalization in the context of web design when companies purposefully optimize their sites for an international or local audience other than their home country. This ‘optimization’ typically happens through language switching or country selection.

We study how companies facilitate this process. Which language are they optimizing for, which countries, how are they letting users switch between languages/countries. Are they localizing their product and services or are they standardized? What kind of domain format and structure are they using to present the localized or internationalized version of their website.

Let's begin out research by segmenting how many companies offer some form of internationalization:

885 companies include more than 1 language on their website. That’s 40% of all sites we reviewed.

Only 250 companies offer more than one country which is 11%.

That means just about 50% of all companies do not offer a language option or country selection to their users. In some case it might be enough to have English only, I would say it depends on the location of your customers, suppliers and partners.  

Here is a list of companies that provide the biggest number of country selection:

Company Website # of languages
Lotto Sport Italia S.p.A. 115
Ledlenser - Zweibrüder Optoelectronics GmbH & Co. KG 88
VOLVO Car Corporation 73
Skis Rossignol SAS 46
Polar Electro GmbH Deutschland 45
Polar Electro GmbH 45
2XU 36
Salming Sports AB 34
TrekSta 30
Garmin Deutschland GmbH 29
Merrell - Wolverine Europe BV 28
Sunday Afternoons 25
Freddy S.p.A. 24
GIBBON Slacklines - ID Sports GmbH 24

Companies with the most languages:

Company URL # of languages
Bhalla International 104
Ledlenser - Zweibrüder Optoelectronics GmbH & Co. KG 88
Columbia Sportswear International Sàrl 41
3M 38
Compex - A DJO Global Brand 23
Didriksons AB 21
Alpenheat Produktions- und Handels GmbH 18
Johnson Health Tech. GmbH – Horizon Fitness / Vision Fitness / Matrix Fitness 18
Chuzhou Combo Sports Co., Ltd. 17
Changzhou Bosket Plastic Products Co., Ltd. 17
Changzhou Grand Lead Trading Co., Ltd. 17
Wuxi Dofine Technology Co., Ltd. 17
Jinjiang Changda Garments Co., Ltd. 17
Changshu Top-Long Imp. & Exp. Co., Ltd. 17
Yungyaw Fabrictech Corp. 16

What kind of trigger link or button are companies using to indicate the language or country selectin:

The most popular trigger types are:

  • Flag icons:
  • 42% of sites use a flag for lang/country selection. From this 42% about half use only a flag. The other half combines flag with country name, language name or country code and language code.
  • Country codes (for example AT / CH )
  • Language code (for example DE / EN / ES)

68% of companies place the language or country selection at the top right of the website. 12% have it located top left.

4. Case Studies – 25 Best in class Examples

We analyzed over 2100 ISPO exhibitor websites and selected 25 for an in depth review. Take a look below to see how well these 25 sites perform when it comes to web design, website localization and search engine optimization.

The site reviews below were completed by our sister site (International digital Marketing spot). IDM specializes in website reviews for international businesses.

    It was difficult to come up with this list of 25. We have 377 websites with a design score of 8,9 or 10, and 93 sites with a score of 9 or 10.

    The 25 we selected are not necessarily 'better' than some of the other ones from that list, we simply had to pick a set of 25, from various countries, that rank at least 8 or higher in design which also offer some sort of localization or internationalization option.

    5. Key takeaways

    After working with hundreds of companies over the past 15 years at designingIT, and after reviewing thousands of websites for reports, research studies and for, we have a few suggestions about what makes a successful, international website.

    • Look into the ‘jobs to be done’ method instead of going with a traditional marketing persona. Check out Christianson to learn more about ‘jobs to be done’ .
    • Come up with a clear UVP. (Unique Value Proposition). Plenty of formulas exist for this, here is one: For {target} who {statement of the need or opportunity}, {Name} is {product category} that {statement of benefit}.
    • In other words, you are trying to answer:
    • how are you different / what sets you apart / how are you better [who are you?]
    • who are your ideal customers? where can I find them? where are they giving their attention right now??
    • Based on your UVP and the ‘jobs to be done’ the first step in the web design process should be keyword research. We call this a ‘keyword first’ approach. This step will inform a potential sitemap, key landing pages, and content needs. Trust us, this is the better way. Most of the time this step either gets skipped altogether or it gets done way after you launch your site. That’s not efficient.
    • From there, follow a typical web design process. Keyword first, then Content, then information architecture, sitemap, wireframes, interface design, development etc. There are plenty of different methods and ways to do this, make sure you work with a professional who has a proven process.
    • If you are adding language or country options to your website, make sure you follow the best practices for localization. Set the correct hreflang in your code, don’t use flags for language selection, make sure you know the difference between country code and language code. Consider a TMS (translation management system) if you are managing many languages and a lot of content.
    • Get a SSL certificate. There are free ones available. Paid ones start at $10 per year.
    • Make sure your site works with both www and non www. Every time we review an industry or conference exhibitors we find plenty of sites that don’t
    • Invest in traffic and lead gen first and a good looking site second.
    • Invest in a long term (whitehat) SEO strategy, produce valuable content, and use paid Advertisements such as Google Adwords or Facebook for short term results.
    • On page SEO (the technical SEO) is fairly easy and inside your control. Just get the basics right for that. Make sure you have good page titles, (know your audience, do your keyword research) the right landing pages, include a sitemap for both users and google, don’t block search engines with your robots.txt file etc. Off page SEO is time consuming and more difficult. Arguably, off page SEO is more important. 
    • Make sure your website is responsive and optimized for mobile devices. Just do it!
    • Be sensitive to load speed. Don’t upload huge images etc. The rest is up to your designers, developers and dev ops team to figure out the best server, technology stack and optimization techniques such as combining files, using http2 connection and proper caching.
    • Marketing is an exercise in testing, eliminating and optimizing. If you are starting out, make sure you have some money and time available to burn until you can eliminate all activities that don’t work. There is no guarantee.
    • Launch fast and often. Try to spend as little time as possible when designing and developing your website. Get to market as soon as you can and then optimize, with real user data. It’s cheaper and much more effective.

    I will stop at this 15 tips. Hopefully, you were able to pick up a few valuable insights. We could probably write an entire book on things to consider when developing a successful online strategy. The final takeaway should be that there isn’t one single activity that is responsible for having a successful website. You need all pieces working together, including planning, keyword research, design, seo, sem, content, server configuration, ongoing support and much more.

    When we get to align all these pieces for our clients, the ultimate measure of success is the client call that requests the reduction in marketing activities because the client can't handle the volume. At that point, you know that you are doing something right. Of course, this isn’t your average situation, but it does happen, occasionally.

    If you are looking for a partner that can plan and execute a successful website and online marketing strategy, may I suggest

    We happen to really dig the sport industry, are hard working, friendly and pretty good at what we do.

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    website & digital marketing.

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