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Government taxation on FOBT – What it means for SEO

TAGs: Fixed Odds Betting Terminal, FOBTs, Google, Guest Contributor, Ladbrokes, Mobile, online gambling market, Paddy Power, Patrick Kennedy, SEO, SEO strategy, William Hill

It’s well documented that Bookmakers are up in arms at the Government’s tax increase from 20% to 25% on FOBT (fixed-odds betting terminals) a.k.a. the “Crack-cocaine of gambling”. According to The Guardian, FOBTs account for half of bookmakers’ gross profits, with William Hill estimating a loss of 420 jobs, and an estimated loss of £22m if the tax increase had come into force last year. Confidence from hedge funds managers is lacking, with some betting that share prices will fall in William Hill and Ladbrokes. So it’s no surprise that Bookmakers are disgruntled.

Government taxation on FOBT – What it means for SEOSo what does this ultimately mean for the industry? Whilst some of the smaller players with a high street presence may feel a greater impact, this may lead to a greater increase in competition online. The online gambling industry is currently worth more than £2 billion and has grown by 80% since 2008. The loss of betting shops in the UK may help accelerate the online gambling market to grow further.

The increase in popularity of online gambling may evidently encourage vigorous competition between the leading betting companies online, meaning SEO professionals would have their work cut out trying to find ways to gain a competitive advantage.

Key areas of opportunity in Online Gambling

In order to put together an effective SEO strategy within the online gambling sector, there are a number of key areas to consider.

For a vertical so competitive, gambling is an area where good quality content has largely been ignored in favour of the quick win – aggressively inflating backlink profiles. Therefore, the lack the content on one site is an opportunity to rank well for another. Many SEOs cite the phrase ‘Content is King’ and with Google getting better at understanding content, there’s a clear focus in expanding a site’s content offerings.

With quick wins, comes poor/black hat techniques. The gambling vertical attracts some of the worst links in the industry and some of the worst backlinks profiles. With Google identifying link networks and penalizing sites for unruly link development tactics, these sorts of links have the potential to have a negative effect on a site’s search performance. Any sort of algorithmic or manual action could mean a loss of revenue for the business. Identifying the poor quality links and proactively fixing the backlink profile by removing or disavowing these links will go some way in preventing worst-case scenarios.

Mobile is another market for opportunity. In March, Paddy Power Chief Executive Patrick Kennedy told the BBC, “The adoption of mobile across our markets, combined with our e-commerce capabilities, technology and brand, means we now have nearly twice as many active online customers than we had in 2010.”

Almost all betting sites have a mobile version of their site for their customers to play on the go. However, not many of them are optimised as well as they can be. For example, a responsive site means the same URL for desktop and mobile – great for link equity as it’s not split between mobile subdomain and the desktop site. Another quick win that is largely overlooked is to use the rel=”alternate” and rel=”canonical” tags, which gives Google a clear understanding of which are your mobile and desktop URLs. No more having your desktop homepage appear in mobile results, and vice versa.

Having the government tax put forward is a shame for companies who have resorted in closing down a number of their betting shops, however it gives gambling operators an opportunity to expand the online side of their business to make up for the loss, which will inevitably lead to an even more competitive, which will inevitably lead to an even more competitive online gambling market.

Ryan Murton is the Head of SEO at Betfair which includes inbound marketing through http://betting.betfair.com. If you wish to submit your own editorial please contact Bill Beatty.

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