SEO Risk in iGaming

TAGs: Editorial, Google, Guest Contributor, iGaming, Keywords, nick garner, SearchWorks Digital, SEO

Our clients have constantly asked about the risks of with doing an aggressive SEO campaign on Google. They are thinking:

REWARD + EFFICIENCY + RISK = how much to spend on a project.

seo-risk-in-igamingRisk is an important thing to factor in, because it affects your SEO strategy. For anyone who doesn’t know much about SEO, everything begins with keywords. Different keywords have different commercial value, so a phrase like ‘odds sunderland v tranmere’ is going to have very little search volume and if it converts, it will be for a football punter who is typically only worth £50 a year in revenues.

But ‘Online Casino’ is different because a lot of people search using this phrase and a converting customer can be worth £450 a year in revenues.

If you want to rank on ‘online casino’, then what are the risks of your whole investment going down the toilet? Maybe the risks are too high and so you want to take a safer route to ranking on less competitive terms?

For operators, understanding risk is also really important because they have ‘ brand awareness’ which they have invested millions of pounds and if their site is penalised by Google, they lose the single most important source of new traffic to their site.

So you see why we wanted to answer this BIG question: SEO risk in iGaming

To answer these questions we took the top 220 biggest ‘money’ keywords across sports betting , casino, poker, and bingo, generating an estimated 767,190 search queries monthly.

We then looked at the top 20 rankings for all these phrases over the previous 17 months. We  used 69,593 data points in our analysis, 10.564 web pages and analysed 4,378 different domains. We made sure there were no  keywords with the names of operators so it would keep the data ‘clean’. We categorised the domains as:

  • Poker / Casino / Sports Betting / Bingo
  • Affiliates  67%
  • Operators 8%
  • Other 25% (sites not related to iGaming)
  • 54% were considered small sites and 46% large.

This way, we could get quite granular and come up with actionable information for everyone.

So… what is the risk be getting de-ranked?

 “Risk of losing 6 or more ranking positions, but remaining in the top 20, doubled over the last

17 months, from 4% to 8%. Risk of disappearing from the top 20 remained stable during 2012, but rose in the first 5 months of 2013 from 17% to 26%. Note that this percentage includes sites that dropped for reasons other than ‘spammy links’.”

SEO Risk in iGaming

What does this mean?

If you are an average  affiliate, your risk of de-ranking is consistently high. This makes sense because affiliates often don’t have the money to compete with operators when it comes to spend on SEO, so they often resort to spamming.  Since Google has actively targeted ‘spammy’ sites for some years, our data just validates what we already know – affiliates get their ass kicked. Saying that, affiliates are a resilient group and they just keep on coming back with fresh sites and fresh strategies.

But the operator profiles are different. As you see from the diagram above, the risk of de-ranking has constantly been fairly low up until this year. Now they are now as likely to be hit as an affiliate.

This is most  probably because of Penguin 2.0, a Google update that targets spammy link building.

In the past, operators with decent budgets would go out and buy lots of web links from networks of sites and in order to rank on certain keywords, they would use exact match anchor text i.e. the link would have ‘online casino’ to make the operator rank for ‘online casino’.

Because of this new update two things are happening:

  • Those old ‘spammy’ links are now losing their ‘Google juice’ so operators (and affiliates) are falling in rankings

  • Sites with spammy anchor text are being hit

Add the two issues together  and you get massive downward movements of operator sites.

For affiliates risk hasn’t  changed much,  but for operators, it’s time to rethink strategy.

One big strategy theme we’re advising on is for operators to split their web properties into groups i.e. their brand sites where they take very few risks and separate ‘brand look alike’ sites which they can push hard and afford to have them penalised by Google if everything goes wrong.  We are also helping them get more creative in how they win links from other sites. This means really working hard on content that can win great placements with sites we know will help them rank.

So the main point of all of this? You now know the overall odds of being ‘nuked’ by Google and you can make a plan.

The full report is here:

SEO Risk in iGaming by Nick GarnerNick Garner is CEO of 90 Digital, the iGaming Search Agency with offices in London and Leeds. Before 90 Digital, he was head of search in Unibet. He loves data, making sense of Google and above all ranking well. Fun facts on Nick; he was an international sportsman for several years, loves big motorcycles and thinks Becky Liggero makes iGaming more glamorous😉


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