Arguably one of the biggest yet still the fastest-growing commercial sectors in the world, the online gambling industry has been going strong for over 20 years and is still yet to reach its peak.
There have, of course, been numerous advancements and developments in the industry; many of them being technological and user-driven, helping to propel the sector forward.
Transitioning to mobile was, arguably, one of the biggest game-changers over the last couple of decades for the industry, with operators identifying the huge potential behind adopting a ‘mobile first’ mentality following the improvement in mobile handsets and the proliferation of ‘smartphones’.
As a result, the number of registrations for operators increased significantly, with mobile proving to be the most popular method for users to register and deposit.
Of course, there have been other notable developments in the industry, such as the integration of more payment providers, especially when considering the birth of the Fintech sector and, by extension, cryptocurrencies, which are starting to become popular in the online gambling industry.
In most industries, SEO has played a big part in a business’ growth, though it wasn’t until Google came along, that most started to take it seriously, as those that realised the potential quickly started to reap the benefits.
Naturally, there was a lot less competition and internet search was still very new; indeed, Google essentially made savvy business owners see how much value and return on investment there was, if they were clever about how they optimised their websites.
Keywords of course became an important element in Google’s search engine and over time, this has evolved significantly. While in the early days, the algorithms enabled websites to rank by including relevant keywords in content and webpages, Google itself quickly adapted to make it harder for websites to rank.
The earliest, most successful websites could effectively do what is known today as ‘keyword stuff’, though in the years that followed, Google’s sophisticated algorithms quickly started to filter out those websites that were deemed as ‘spammy’.
The earliest, most successful websites (even in the online gambling industry) had to adapt and quickly change their strategy. While previously they could make a lot of money by creating pages of content that had important and searchable keywords, Google’s sophisticated search engine quickly realised that the algorithms had to change.
It became more focused on quality, with an emphasis on what the reader would want from a webpage - indeed, ‘keyword stuffing’ became almost a thing of the past.
Industry experts leveraged this by creating highly valuable, long-form content aimed at educating webmasters about the importance of this and how much return on investment could be generated by following their advice.
The best websites in the online gambling industry are the ones that quickly evolved and paid attention to what Google was changing and, as a result, you started to see affiliates with long-form, more informative content.
Effective online casino and sports book review creation for example has moved on. Many content writers believe that 3,000 word reviews are still the answer, though readers do not want to spend 20 minutes reading about every single element about how an online casino works. There are other ways a site can provide information about the more specific elements of a casino site, which we talk about further down, which is a lot better in Google’s eyes.
There were a number of things, driven by Google that began to influence results for websites, many of these being content-orientated. In the early stages, it was believed that a 300-word page was sufficient for a website, though this quickly moved on.
Pages that were even more informative for readers became an important priority for Google when its algorithms crawled websites. One example in the gambling affiliate industry would be the introduction of long-form casino reviews.
A simple 500-word review would no longer suffice. It would have to delve into every aspect of a casino site to stand any chance of ranking and be particularly user-friendly.
The use of screenshots, multiple headings and images to help break up content, in addition to bullet points that would provide quick, easy-to-digest information for readers became the next step in the improvement of on-page SEO.
This led to the best affiliates being able to go further into detail, with pages and sections that explored specific niches, so Google became aware that they were focused on creating in-depth content that the user would find important. Relevant sections included:
- Casino & sports book reviews
- Slot guides
- Software provider guides
- Payment method guides
- Testing agency guides
- Bonus & promotion guides
- Dedicated informative blog section
- Industry news section
- Betting tips section
- Resources section (RTP guides, Volatility guides, Variance guides, In-play betting guides etc)
As such, compared to the earliest websites, these later ones essentially moved the industry forward and the detailed level at which they were mapped out, with content created on a regular basis, assisted in helping to form robust websites that Google liked.
SEO is a lot more important for affiliates, because operators often have a far bigger budget and are able to leverage this to create a brand and as a result, engage in more traditional forms of marketing.
As a result, it means that more people are often aware of who they are, due to television exposure, corporate sponsorships (especially football club partnerships) and the use of brand ambassadors that help to elevate their status.
While it is still important for operators to engage in SEO, it is often affiliate sites that see this as a lot more crucial.
Where an operator site often differs, is that they spend a significant amount of their online budget on link-building and outreach, in order to rank certain betting pages higher than their competitors for example. As a result, the effectiveness of link placement on other websites is often determined by the quality of the content that is created, in addition to its relevance.
It is not uncommon for big gambling operators to hire an external marketing agency to engage in this, who will take responsibility and accountability for the identification of target websites, the purchase of links and the creation of highly relevant articles.
Link-building strategy for operators, certainly over the last decade has become a lot more advanced and has changed considerably as Google’s algorithms set precedents for links to become more relevant and less spammy.
Over the last few years, more of the top affiliate websites have also started to engage in link-building practices, due to increased competition in the regions that they operate in. With other marketing channels also having recently restricted online gambling content, especially adverts, affiliates are becoming even more reliant on link-building as a means of staying competitive.
For affiliates, paid links can be an expensive outreach strategy and it is only those companies that have serial investment behind them that engage in this. As a result, many affiliate websites usually engage in more traditional online PR campaigns. This often requires a significant amount of creativity, in order to convince news and media outlets to link back to an affiliate site; especially for something that would be of interest to their readers.
This technique usually tends to be the most effective; types of content often include reviews or unique studies that help to set them apart from their competition. For many, this type of link-building strategy is enjoyable, because they can really leverage their creative ability, while it is also seen to be a lot more credible and builds trust quicker than a paid post.
The last couple of years has provided considerable clues that the industry has a long way to go until it reaches its peak, demonstrated by the regulation of online gambling in more and more new countries. The LATM (Latin American) market in particular, is arguably one of the biggest growth regions in the world for online gambling; the US is already a behemoth that is nowhere near its full potential, while other markets across Europe have opened up as well.
As a result, the likelihood is that more and more iGaming companies will be looking to expand their horizons over the next 12 months and beyond in these regions, with the aim being to capitalise as much as they are able to.
Also, iGaming sites will still be relatively new in these markets and, as a result, the competition is likely to be low, indicating that there is a lot of potential to establish themselves as an authority.
Certain regions, such as states in the US market is likely to require any new operator or affiliate to have a licence in place, depending on specific legislation, though, if the strategy is right, it could turn out to be well worth the investment.
Especially considering the the US had a market capitalisation of nearly $60 billion for 2021 and this is before the regulation of the New York mobile sports betting market, which smashed records last year, generating average revenues of over $1 billion every month. Furthermore, other states such as Illinois and others have since been regulated, which suggests this figure of $60 billion will have increased significantly.
New growth markets that operators and affiliates may look to explore include:
- Canada (Ontario)
- US (specific states)
- LATAM (Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia)
- South Africa
- New Zealand
Another way iGaming sites may be able to stand out is through more specific market research for particular regions, from a demographic perspective. Thereby understanding which age ranges, certain types of online gambling appeal to and market in such a way.
Capturing data such as email addresses, could be an effective way to launch email marketing campaigns, which can still be effective when done right and targeted to the right people, with enticing information.
Defining the right link-building strategies, aimed at specific target markets can also be a highly effective way for affiliates to sky-rocket themselves over the next couple of years - especially when considering the new markets that have opened up. The opportunity here is considerable, particularly from a creative standpoint.
In this case, you would pay particular attention to the region for the site that you are building links in, ensuring that the content appeals and is topical or relevant (or both), based on Google Trends in that region for example.
A quick Google Trends search will give you an idea of what people are searching for by region, which can help to form the basis for an effective link-building campaign. The image below illustrates what people have been searching for in the US over the last week.
Some of the best link-building practices that casino sites engage in are:
- Defining an accurate anchor text strategy:
- Link profile relevance:
- In-depth competitor analysis:
- Being realistic with budget:
The last decade has seen the online gambling industry move forward considerably, with technology playing a major part.
While an improvement to mobile handsets effectively changed the game, this enabled online gambling companies to leverage other industries such as fintech as more payment methods were developed to provide choice to customers. In recent years, we have also seen the creation of crypto gambling sites, due to the explosion in the popularity of digital currencies like Bitcoin.
Making sure that you are ahead of the curve can be a key contributor to beating your competition. There could be several new trends that may open up over the next couple of years and, as a result, see the iGaming industry look to capitalise.
Already VR (Virtual Reality) has shown signs that it can have a contribution to the industry and appeal to a potential new target market, while the same could be said of AR (Augmented Reality). Sites or affiliate companies that look to leverage these elements may find themselves more established than their competitors.
Certain markets may also yield different results based on how customers place bets for example. Some could spend hours doing research about different sports, teams and players before placing a bet and this could lead to the creation or development of more advanced statistical research technology that affiliates may look to leverage. Being aware of the differing customer behaviour in each market will play a major role for the best-performing affiliates.
While it is key to get the initial research right when it comes to building your site, or even improving it, once the key pages are created and the foundations are in the right place, maintaining this is crucial for an operator or affiliate.
The most important priority for any site should be establishing yourself as an authority and there are other ways in which you can do this, apart from link-building campaigns, which can be costly.
The majority of sites have blogs or news sections, while some do not really understand that news and blog articles are completely different. A blog article should answer a question, provide a guide or discuss a regional / topical event, while a news article reports industry events. In fact, don't call it a blog - be creative, your blog could be called 'Tips & Tricks' or 'Resources', essentially it just has to host topical, relevant and interesting content that your audience or users searching on Google want to see.
Therefore, having two separate sections on your site can be vital, especially from an SEO perspective - Google will have a clear picture of what is going on.
As such, for your "blog", having a monthly content strategy that is based on research that helps to answer customer-focused (FAQs) questions about the industry can help to give you an edge from an SEO perspective and ensures that Google knows you are creating valuable customer-driven content that users actually want to read.
The news area of your site (should you choose to include one), shouldn't just be a general page that has news of different types. The best thing to do is have this split into different categories, such as ‘business’, ‘regulation’, ‘finance’, so that it is easier for Google to understand what is going on.
Simply regurgitating the news, is not good enough. If you get this right, you can really establish yourself as an industry authority and even an original thought leader. As such, if your ‘news articles’ can join dots, look at implications and knock-on effects of that particular news, Google’s algorithms will look at this favourably, because you're standing out from the crowd.
This is, effectively, when you become a brand - especially if you send out a snapshot of these via an email marketing campaign as a way of beginning to establish yourself as a respected authority.
Most affiliate companies and operators usually have specialist, highly knowledgeable partners that they trust to cover their SEO and online marketing. Getting it right is not an easy task, especially if you are not aware of the best practices, while investing too much time in SEO, over something more immediate such as performance marketing, can be counterproductive from an efficiency standpoint; if you can do these areas concurrently and not chose one over the other - you will supercharge your digital marketing efforts.
Handing over responsibility to people who really understand both the industry, particular markets and also have a solid technical expertise can weigh considerably in your favour over the long term, which leaves you free to focus on growing your business and engaging in other elements.
At Digital Fuel we have over 100 years of combined experience and expertise growing brands from all regions and niches in online gambling, with a key emphasis on revenue generation, helping to position your brand as an authority and even exit strategy identification and negotiation.
Our initial consultation process helps us to get to know who you are and define a possible roadmap that includes a route to market if you are new to the industry, or even re-defining this, if you are currently witnessing a decline in performance.
Clients that we work with in this industry have seen considerable growth over the last few years, due to the fact that we are right on the cutting edge and invest in highly strategic partnerships to allow you to achieve your goals. Get in touch today and let us provide the fuel to ignite your site.
Ultimately, SEO in the online gambling industry is as important as it has ever been.