The online image of Manchester

Internet has now invaded our everyday life. If one is looking for an event, some music or a park to rest, a short click on google will do it to find everything one needs together with a lot of superfluous information. The internet with around 7.82 billion websites in March 2012 ( is the most democratic and at the same time the most chaotic medium, if not google would keep it sorted. This web giant influences the way we search and receive information. Google became a marketing and PR-tool for private persons, companies and even cities. And with the world wide web, the online reputation becomes increasingly important.
Our initial idea to analyse the online marketing of Manchester’s two marketing companies, was proven to be more difficult than expected. It was impossible to interview the responsible persons about their strategies. Instead we try to analyse the reputation through the eyes of the potential visitors, citizens or interested companies. What do you do before visiting a city? You google it! And as Melissa Gonzalez stated there are only 68% of users that go beyond the first page of results. So the image of this first page of google results is crucial for the city and its online reputation. City marketing aims to provide a positive image of an area. Of course the promotion of a city or area is not all about media and WEB 2.0, but the Internet technology can be seen as a beneficial distribution platform for the marketing strategies used by the local government.

The goal of the research for the MMU course ‘Popular Urban Cultures’ aims to analyse the given online image of Manchester from the first page of google findings. In order to find the most objective results we used computers in Romania, Belgium, Luxemburg, Greece and Croatia. Eight common websites of every country on the first page will be analysed.

Analyzing the different results based on Google ranking, it can be easily outlined that the results about the city of Manchester are more or less the same among the different countries that we studied. The main webpages that are always appearing in the first Google results are Wikipedia, Google maps, Visit Manchester webpage, Manchester UK guide, Manchester United official website, Manchester airport webpage, Manchester online webpage and the City of Manchester NH official website.

Observing the variety of the results, we can tell that the target groups of the above websites are including visitors and tourists as well as citizens and private companies/organisations interested in the city of Manchester. The latest news, together with a variety of cultural, music, sport and other types of events are presented in these websites as well as further information about best places to visit, nightlife, job opportunities, accommodation and public transport in Manchester.

All the websites are translated in many different languages and are designed to function simply and attract their visitors. They all have links to other social media like Facebook and Twitter and a number of them are including online shops for the users. Webpages such as the one of Manchester United Football Club is designed particularly for its supporters and is including fanzone and online official membership. We should also refer to the City of Manchester NH official webpage that is for the very first time referring to Manchester, the largest U.S state of New Hampshire.

In general terms, Manchester is constructing a profile of a sport as well as business/conference and international city in the region. Being represented by the websites that we analysed, it can be seen as a global city providing links, connections and services to the rest of Europe therefore being seen as a popular destination for many different categories of visitors and citizens. It is also easily linked to the rest of Europe while providing job opportunities by being linked to the international market. Its cultural field together with it sports scene makes it interesting and popular destination and as a consequence its tourism is boosting and the number of newcomers is increasing.

The current marketing strategies of Manchester are developed around the two big marketing companies, CityCo and Marketing Manchester. In the following lines, the two companies will be presented on the basis of the pieces of information found online on their official websites, and

CityCo is an independent, non-for-profit organization which focuses on the promotion of Manchester’s city centre only. Its aim is to make the city centre a more dynamic and interesting area, but also an accessible place to visit and develop businesses. They deliver a series of projects in a very vast range of sectors and for the years 2009-2012 the organization developed a strategic plan.

As activities, in 2011, CityCo took part in the I Love MCR campaigns – and organised the N4 LOVES U Festival as part of the campaign – and the MCR Loves February initiative, in collaboration with Marketing Manchester and Manchester City Council. Again related to the I Love Manchester campaign, Marketing Manchester launched a ‘We Love MCR day’. In 2012 CityCo wants to start new projects: Heart of Manchester BID and Manchester Garden City (Waterways) and Animating the City.

Marketing Manchester, founded in April 2004, is the agency which promotes the city on a national and international stage and their aim is to develop the whole Manchester city-region. They opened an office in Manchester and in New York as well. The agency is known also for its division, Visit Manchester, founded in January 2008. Whilst Marketing Manchester is the tourist board for Greater Manchester, Visit Manchester houses all of the tourist board functions. Compared to CityCo which wants to connect locally by strengthening relationships across the city and between Manchester and Salford, Marketing Manchester wants to connect internationally.

They want to increase the interest in Manchester as a city and attract more visitors through the creation of a world-class events programme. By ensuring that Manchester is further established as one of Europe’s leading business destinations, Marketing Manchester’s objectives intersect with CityCo’s. At the moment, Marketing Manchester has eight main projects in progress: MCR Loves February, Soccerex 2012, MIPIM 2012, Manchester Conference Partnership 2012, Great Days Out 2012, Manchester Live 2012, International Confex 2012 and Manchester Image and Video Bank.

Manchester has a positive on-line image, but not a clear one. All the companies and websites have their own aims for the city and generally there is no reflection on strategies on the websites, there is no straight-forward plan for its image development. Although the city is using three of the four different uses for repositioning cities – iconic structures (the Urbis/future National Football Museum and the Beetham Tower), mega-events (the Commonwealth Games in 2002) and heritage mining (Castlefield) -, these uses are not clearly marked on the websites we analyzed and not even by the marketing companies. Besides this, Marketing Manchester and CityCo are nowhere to be found on the first page of Google results.

This gives the impression that their role is unknown. And except for the Visit Manchester webpage (, no other websites from the first Google results mention Marketing Manchester and CityCo, so the collaboration between the actors in the city is weak. In addition, on the main page of Google results, there is no reference on a website dedicated to the citizens of Manchester, United Kingdom. But there is one for Manchester, New Hampshire, USA citizens. The only website where people can find documents and important information on Manchester, UK is the City Council’s (

So what should finally be done? Manchester should have its own clear definition. All the actors mentioned above should come to a conclusion on the thematisation of the city and a general webpage for vistors and new persons in town has to be made because for the moment people have to surf on different webpages to gather all the necessary pieces of information on Manchester. Another suggestion is that the two marketing companies should make their names more known around the city. They are dealing with a lot of different projects, but most of the times people tend to know the general concept of this work and not the companies behind them, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but for a company’s website to be more visited, people have to relate names with activities.

Ioanna Sakellaraki, Julie Metzdorff, Simona Balan