With my marketing hat on, I thought I would just share some thoughts about the iGaming sector and SEO. The subtext to all of this is my conviction that if you do a really good website that people love, even in a competitive sector like online casino… The site will break through the noise and do really well.
SEO – RIP the link.
Over the last two years, Google has conquered many of its Demons. One of the greatest afflictions it’s suffered has been links. IGaming, along with other competitive sectors, has been ultra-aggressive on link acquisition in its attempts to game the Google ecosystem.
In the past, a good well funded link purchase program could produce excellent return on investment. Even despite penalties being imposed on sites, the economics of link purchasing had been very compelling.
However in 2015, Penguin had reached a tipping point, where it had become very difficult to buy good enough links with a low risk of penalty.
Finally, in 2016 we will see the fall of aggressive, non-editorially driven link acquisition. In place of links in their traditional sense, will be user engagement as a ranking driver, along with a ‘nudge’ from very specific links.
There will be several consequences:
- the amount of iGaming related spam sites will decrease
- many iGaming operators will simply give up on SEO and end up using PPC
- sites that are genuinely better, will receive the kind of links that Google knows our valuable, and those sites will rank, as long as they get user engagement.
SEO – the machines are taking over.
Artificial intelligence is something which has been talked about for many years, but only now have hardware costs become cheap enough for mass scale data analysis, which can lead to artificial intelligence that makes itself useful. And Google has been a leader in this area.
Part of its shift away from relying on humans has been an update called RankBrain. It’s now Google’s third most influential ranking factor. Simply, RankBrain interprets search queries that aren’t specific and serves up the right search results.
This is a great example of how artificial intelligence can learn and figure out things in a humanlike way at massive scale. Like humans, artificial intelligence only gets more and more accurate through experience and accumulated knowledge..
In 2016, we will see Google’s artificial intelligence efforts begin to mature. More and more of the search results will be controlled by this technology.
Ultimately Google will be able to interpret a website, or a page more perfectly than a human.
The consequences in iGaming?
- To win the rankings battle this year, site owners will have to think about user engagement and satisfaction first.
- Because so many sites in iGaming suffer huge technical debt, I expect we will see fresh players coming through the rankings and comfortably beating mature incumbents who do not see the shifting tides.
Technical debt – a tide that kills.
IGaming has the luxury of being a rich industry and therefore relatively lazy. If you basically get traction with your brand and have a decent operating infrastructure, you can more or less print money. That’s why governments legislate around it, to harvest some of that cash. It’s also an industry that been around for nearly 18 years. In technology terms that his ancient.
In the early days of iGaming, technology was fresh and completely up-to-date. But over the years there’s been a cumulative buildup of what’s known as technical debt. This involves building upon websites that haven’t had sufficient investment, because of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality of so many iGaming operators.
The upshot for users is that so many operators have appalling websites which feel like something from 2006.
In 2016, we will see
- Google being a catalyst for change. If your website feels like it’s a decade old, with functionality belonging to another age, Google will not rank you because users will not want to engage with you.
- Whilst many iGaming operators will argue that search engine traffic is not that valuable to them… It’s important to remember rankings on Google not just about getting traffic from generic phrases. It’s also about brand awareness and confidence. If you don’t rank you will lose out.
- Beyond Google, I just think that users grow less and less tolerant of bad website experience.
- Related to users wanting a better experience, one fascinating trend which threatens operators is what I describe as ‘proxy betting’ , where an affiliate site will have an API with an operator, allowing their users to make bets directly from their own affiliate site.
- This means anybody who can build a good website and can out manoeuver and out rank an operator without the overhead of licensing and iGaming operations.
- With this combination of ‘proxy betting’, Google’s intolerance of bad websites, along with rising user intolerance, I expect to see sites like Oddschecker or OLBG taking on the big operators… and winning.