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Searching for the impact of coronavirus on igaming

By - 4 May 2020

Covid-19 has caused international chaos, both in terms of health and the economy. It’s a pandemic that has had devastating impacts on lives, and many businesses around the world could never have envisaged the utter turmoil it has caused.

Specialist iGaming link building agency, Panoptic Media, has sought to answer a question being asked by many – what is the impact of the Coronavirus on the search behaviour of online gaming players? The data we’ve unearthed shows how gambling industry link building perhaps could, and should, shift during the Covid-19 pandemic that we’re currently facing.

Taking the topic ‘Online Casino’ and looking at Google Trend data over 30 days to March 17, it has remained fairly stable. However, over the next five days, with businesses closing and countries going into lockdown, searches around the topic of online casino saw an upward trend. The incremental increase may be somewhat marginal, but nevertheless, there is certainly a pattern there. However, the same marginal increase cannot be said for online poker related terms.

If we take a look at the data for Google searches around the topic ‘Online Poker’, the trend is remarkably different. Rewinding back to the end of December, when Covid-19 wasn’t the household term it is now, and wasn’t causing the devastation we’re seeing today – searches around ‘Online Poker’ remained fairly constant. However, since the world has gone into isolation and lockdown to varying degrees, the surge in these types of searches have been somewhat staggering.

Searches for topics around ‘Online Poker’ have seen a sudden surge, to the extent they’ve seen almost a 400 per cent increase in search volume over the period February 23 to March 23 – quite a staggering statistic. Furthermore, the same can be said about searches relating to ‘Online Bingo,’ which has seen an increase of over 400 per cent in the same 30 day period.

These sharp increases in online poker and online bingo related searches coincide with the worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic. It’s no coincidence that as the situation worsened, and more and more people were forced into taking residence in their own homes – there was an incremental increase surrounding these online gambling related topics.

As the pandemic enforced that almost all major sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, less and less people are searching for terms around this. As an example, Google Trends data for the 30 day period, on searches around the topic, ‘Sports Betting,’ took a massive nosedive, so that be March 23 only around 35 per cent of people searched around this topic, in comparison to February 23.

So, what does this mean for online gambling companies and affiliates? It certainly presents a real opportunity for those who operate in the games, casino, poker or bingo space – or indeed those who wish to shift their strategy towards these areas. There are more searches, arguably than ever before, for topics around online bingo and online poker. As people are being forced to stay in their homes, it is clear that there is a large chunk of the population who are looking to entertain themselves with particular products that the iGaming space has to offer.

As such, link building in the iGaming space should change. If we take, as an example, the site that currently ranks in No.1 position (at the time of writing) for the search term, ‘best online bingo sites’, Bingo Views – and plum their landing page for this the aforementioned search term into Ahrefs, we see that organic traffic to this page has almost doubled over the past 25 days or so – likely as a result of the significant increase in searches around this term.

Likewise, if we analyse the organic search data from Ahrefs for the top rated site in Google, for the search term, ‘play poker online’ – Party Poker – we can see that organic traffic to the page that ranks for this term has also shot up. According to Ahrefs data, organic visitors to this page have increased from around the 143,000 each day, to over 165,000 a day– an uplift of 22,000 visitors each and every day to this page. Of course, Ahrefs data isn’t entirely accurate – nothing is, unless we had Google Analytics data. But it gives a good idea.

IGAMING GENERAL SEARCH DATA

Moving onto iGaming search data in general – what is the data showing us? We searched behaviour over the last 12 months, for four specific iGaming products and search terms, in the United Kingdom: Online Casino, Online Betting, Online Poker and Online Bingo.

The term ‘Online Casino’ has the most searches, followed by ‘Online Bingo’, ‘Online Betting’ and ‘Online Poker’. The search trends for these online gambling products are such that we can deduce the following:

  1. Online Casino is typically searched, on average, to a degree of 3.5x that of Online Sports Betting.
  2. Around 20 per cent more people search for Online Casino than Online Poker, and around 75 per cent more people search for it in comparison to Online Poker.
  3. Online Poker sees around double the searches than Online Betting.

 

HOW ARE THESE TRENDS CHANGING?

Searches around sportsbook products appear to remain fairly consistent, with a small recent decline – which of course we can attribute to the postponement and cancellation of major sporting events, in light of the Coronavirus outbreak.

The same can’t be said for searches around casino, bingo and poker products – all of which appear to have been on a steady increase, even prior to the pandemic we currently face.

So, what does this mean? It means that link building in the iGaming sector needs to channel its efforts into the relevant products, where applicable. Of course, some operators only offer one product, and some gambling affiliates only send traffic for one particular product – but that’s not the case for everyone. Whether you’re an operator or an affiliate, search traffic is key to success – and just like every other industry, keyword rankings in Google, for relevant search terms, form the forefront of that battle. And we’re far better off ranking for search terms with greater demand – as we’re seeing in the online casino, bingo and poker areas.

BRAND AWARENESS AND RELATED QUERIES

Gaming operators, and indeed iGaming affiliates, are taking brand awareness evermore seriously. From the voice of Ray Winstone in bet 365’s adverts, to OLBG’s sponsorship of the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham (up until this year), over to Better Collective (BETCO) floating on the Stockholm Stock Exchange – brand coverage, PR (both online and offline), and getting the brand in front of people is essential.

And we have some data to back that up. If we look at Google Trends, and take a look at the top related queries to ‘Online Betting.’ People are searching for William Hill’s brand. Likewise, with ‘Online Bingo’ related searches.

Specific bingo sites are being evermore searched, with branded search queries. And the same can be said with rising related searches – those queries which are on the up, that are relative to ‘Online Betting’: And, again, the same for rising related searches around ‘Online Bingo’.

The data shows us that more and more people are searching for brand related enquiries, thus showing an increasing need to get the brand in front of people online.

ADAPTING OUR IGAMING MARKETING STRATEGY TO SUPPORT THE DATA

Data is key in anything we can do digitally, and the online gambling sector is no different. The data is telling us a couple of key things:

  1. If we are an operator or iGaming affiliate, who are looking for traffic from an array of gaming products – pick the right ones.
  2. People are searching for brand related keywords.

So, how do we get our brand in front of people, to encourage them to search for our brand? Aside from the traditional media buying offerings available, link building can play its part. Here is our take on it.

As an iGaming link building agency, we’ve built tens of thousands of links for our clients in the gambling industry. But given
we’re specialists in the area, and gambling industry link building is different, we’re always looking to work with our clients to ensure we’re working to the best possible strategy.

Old-school, black-hat techniques don’t work like they used to, and put the offending site at serious risk of a Google penalty – both algorithmic and manual. Gone are the days, as most people know, where we could get 10,000 forum spam links, or indeed build hundreds of links into deeper, commercial pages, with an exact match anchor text strategy.

Now, we must move with the times – not just to avoid a penalty, but to do things the right way, and to ensure that we’re getting the best results we can. There is a lot to be said about homepage links, with branded anchors – yet many seem to want to avoid this strategy, in favour of a more aggressive approach. Our response is a clear one: iGaming link building needs to be natural, and we need to ensure we’ve got the right balance of branded/non-branded anchors, exact match/phrase match/no match anchors, and homepage/deeper page landing pages.

Building links into the homepage, with branded anchors, is a great strategy when combined with a proper internal linking programme. Send the SEO equity into the homepage, and then use a proper internal linking/anchor text programme to channel that equity into the relevant commercial pages.

SEO isn’t all about external links – the internal ones need to be right to. And if the two are running in tandem, both cogs of the wheel are aligned – that’s where we typically see the best results.

Back to the brand awareness topic – how does this help? It’s fairly simple – links from high traffic sites, will see more eyes on the brand within the body of the text. And furthermore, it’s a great strategy to get the site ranking, as a whole, for more commercial, non-brand terms.

Greg Tickner is Managing Director of Panoptic Media, a specialist iGaming search agency, who work with both operators and affiliates alike. Having plied his trade at both bet365 and Ladbrokes previously, Greg has a strong knowledge of the iGaming industry, and is able to apply this to search behaviour within the sector.

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