Queen Elizabeth, Harry and Meghan

Harry and Meghan’s website trumps the Queen’s

Harry and Meghan’s website launched in January and in its first month attracted an astounding 1.7 million visits.

On top of this, visitor engagement was better than the Queen’s website - in January visitors viewed more pages per visit, stayed longer and had lower bounce rates.

And it looks like it could overtake the Queen’s website in terms of total visits in February.

Her Majesty will not be amused…

As widely reported, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex can no longer use the 'SussexRoyal' brand following their decision to step back from royal duties. This means things like their Instagram account and website, which both feature the name SussexRoyal, will have to be rebranded.

This prompted me to check out the sussexroyal.com website and I was surprised by what I found.

I was expecting something pretty big and sophisticated. Instead, it’s a tiny site with just 10 pages.

But what blew me away is the amount of traffic this website gets and the number of other websites linking to it. The numbers are amazing, given it only launched in January this year.

SimilarWeb is a service which allows you to check the comparative performance of different websites. One of the metrics they provide is an estimate of the traffic a website receives. For Harry and Meghan’s website they estimate it had an astounding 1.71M visits in January.

That gives it a worldwide global rank of 34,908. In other words, only 34,907 websites got more traffic in Jan 2020.

Impressive, when you consider it’s a brand new website and there’s over 1.5 billion websites on the web today.

And to put the performance of sussexroyal.com in perspective, www.royal.uk, the website of the British Royal Family which has been around since April 2016, has only a slightly higher global rank of 34,601 and got an estimated 2.03M visits in January. 

royal.uk website performance versus sussexroyal.com

Source: www.similarweb.com

From the above chart, it looks like SussexRoyal.com could eclipse Royal.uk total visit numbers in February.

And already SussexRoyal.com out-performs Royal.uk in terms of site visitor engagement metrics. In January, SussexRoyal.com got more pages viewed per visit, longer average visit durations, and bounce rates were lower than Royal.uk.

The majority (39%) of visits to SussexRoyal.com came directly to the site which illustrates the huge brand awareness Harry and Meghan have.

The next biggest source of visits (29%), was referral traffic from other websites (mainly news media sites), and then Social (17%). Only 13% of visits came from Search.

Sussexroyal.com  traffic sources in Jan 2020

Source: www.similarweb.com

Of the visits generated by social media, half came from Twitter. Instagram was the next biggest source, while Facebooked trailed a distant third.

Social media traffic sources

Source: www.similarweb.com

As mentioned earlier, the other aspect that surprised me is the amount of external links the site has managed to attract over the last month or two.

According to the leading backlink analysis toolset, Ahrefs, SussexRoyal.com currently has a total of 19,800 inbound links from 3,147 external websites.

This is incredible, given how new the site is. As you can see from the chart below, immediately the site launched in January it instantly attracted links.

Growth in sites linking to sussexroyal.com since launch

Source: ahrefs.com

Not only does the website have thousands of other websites linking to it, the quality and authority of sites linking to it are ones most SEOs would give their right arm for.

Sites such as NY Times, The Guardian, BBC, Washington Post, Time, MSN, Mashable. The list goes on…

While having such a powerful backlink profile gives the site significant help ranking in Google, the main impact from these external sites is the amount of referral traffic they are sending, (as shown in the SimilarWeb data).

According to Ahrefs, most of the keywords the site ranks for are, not surprisingly, related to Harry and Meghan’s names, their official titles, and the SussexRoyal brand.

Under the Hood

SEO geekiness got the better of me so I decided to look under the hood and do a quick technical SEO review of the site..

The website is mobile friendly and reasonably fast loading - both things being important from an SEO perspective.

Page load speeds are a Google ranking factor, but more significantly, they impact user experience. Slow page load speeds frustrate users, especially on mobile devices, and lead to people abandoning websites.

The Google Mobile Speed test shows the homepage mobile site speed is 2.2 seconds in the USA on 4G networks. And Google Page Speed Insights scores are pretty good, at 86/100 for desktop and 69/100 for mobile. 

However, there are opportunities to improve mobile page load speed. The main ones – as with many sites – relate to images used on the site.

The site loads oversized images which then have to be scaled in users’ browsers. Scaling images in the browser is bad for performance because it takes extra processing time and visitors end up downloading data they don't use (particularly an issue over slow mobile networks).

Apart from some images being oversized, overall site image file size could be further reduced by compressing images.

The site is hosted in London by Amazon but doesn’t use a CDN, which is a little surprising, given the global audience of the site. Implementing a CDN (content delivery network) would speed up the website – particularly for visitors on mobile devices.

The further away a site visitor is from a server hosting a website, the longer it takes to load. According to Google’s Mobile Page Speed test, the homepage takes 1.6 secs to load over a 4G network for users in UK. But for users in New Zealand and Australia it takes more than twice as long. 

A CDN is a network of local servers positioned between where a website is hosted (e.g. London) and users in other parts of the world (e.g. New Zealand). Copies of a website are hosted locally on servers that are physically closer to users. This means those visitors experience faster page loading times.

There are a few other small SEO issues, such as missing alt tags and duplicate meta descriptions, but nothing major.

In summary, whilst Harry and Meghan’s website could benefit from a few SEO tweaks, it already has rock star performance.

Change of Domain

The big issue facing Harry and Meghan is the need to rebrand the website which necessitates a change of domain from sussexroyal.com.

Speculation on my part, but after checking various domain registrars, I bet the new domain will be sussexfoundation.com. The reason being this was registered 1 month after the domain sussexroyal.com was registered (15 March 2019) and both are with the same domain registrar.

Whatever new domain gets used, it’s essential that appropriate redirects are implemented from the old domain to the new one. This will ensure that all the link equity and associated referral traffic from these sites is not lost.

I expect the requirement to change their website domain will only be a small hiccup and the meteoric rise of Harry and Meghan’s website will continue. 

About the Author Mark Sceats

Mark is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire which he founded back in 2002. Prior to establishing SureFire he worked for KPMG Consulting. Today Mark heads up SEO, embracing the challenges that can come with complex website implementations. Outside of work, his interests beyond his family are running, snowsports, diving and fishing (badly).

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