ormThis article originally appeared in iGaming Business in April 2013 –

SEO is a really tough area for iGaming right now. Numerous big brands have been hit by Google Penguin algorithm updates and Google are only going to get more stringent on bad link building.

All of this makes aggressive SEO a dangerous thing to do.

Fortunately there are other ways you win more sales through Google and its not PPC…It’s Online Reputation Management.

ORS and the Buying Funnel

Before we dig into all of this, it’s important to know what Online Reputation Management is. Wikipedia says:

”reputation management is the understanding or influencing of an individual’s or business’s reputation. It was originally coined as a public relations term, but advancement in computing, the internet and social media made it primarily an issue of search results.”

Another important concept to grasp is the buying funnel:

  • ‘Brand awareness’ and that is affected by TV for instance,
  • ‘Consideration’, where people know they want to place a bet or play casino, the question is which one do they go with, so they weigh up the pro’s and cons of various brands and finally they go into the…
  • ‘Buy’ phase where they have made their minds and all they care about minimal friction in the buying process. This is where conversion optimisation is so important.


Old school reputation management typically affects brand because it emanates from ‘broadcast media’ i.e. anywhere that typically has a centralised point of delivery like a newspaper, or radio or TV.

Because of the fragmented nature of the internet, ‘broadcasting’ is expensive and inefficient, so reputation management  tends to be far more targeted and centered around the ‘consideration’ phase of the buying cycle, because it’s closer to the buying end of the funnel where there is a tighter connection between influence and a purchase.

Back to Google. It is the gateway into the internet that 90% of use to find information on brands, products and services.

A recent study by Google demonstrated that on average when researching online, users will look at 11.5 different sources of information before deciding what to go and buy.

Which leads us into a remarkable fact. According to extensive research done by GroupM, only about 6% of all clicks on search engines go to Adwords, yes 6%. It also stated that monthly there were roughly 1,400,000,000 searches on Google in the UK alone.

Another study written up by seobook.com  suggested that Searches broke down into:

  • Transactional Queries: 7.06%
  • Navigational queries: 24.53%
  • Informational queries: 68.41%

Therefore monthly, around 950,000,000 queries in the UK were centered around information seeking.

All of this leads to a simple conclusion. Google is a great place to do targeted reputation management. Web users hunt for information before a purchase and that’s when they are open to suggestion.

So how does an operator steer messaging that influences users into buying from them?

Brand Phrase

The 1st thing is to look at the keywords that users use to get information on your brand.

The biggest ‘consideration’ phrase you have, is your brand phrase.

There is a school of thought that your brand phrase is simply a ‘navigation phrase’, but a number of studies disprove that idea. One recent study by Bluerank, an SEO agency, used data directly originated from Google via their webmaster tools console. Based on a moderate sample size of 14,507 queries, they found that found that for brand phrases users typically:

  • Do the search
  • Click on a result
  • Return to the search page
  • Click on another result
  • Return to the search page
  • Click on a final result

The average clickthrough distribution looks like this:

This potentially  invalidates a long run hypothesis that a ‘brand phrase‘ is just for navigation.

Reputation Management and iGaming

iGaming is different to most other sectors online because of affiliates, who as we know are the risk taking ‘commission only’ salesmen of the internet.

Affiliates affect how reputation management  is steered because they will give great reviews for whoever pays them the most revenue share or CPA deal. They infest the ’consideration’ keyword landscape who end up going with the most prominent affiliate banner or review.

The worst case is where affiliates rank on operator’s brand phrases, giving fake or unreliable reviews and bringing in funded accounts off all the hard work an operator has done through getting the user to search for your brand phrase.

To give you an idea how pervasive the problem is, we did an analysis of 15 of the top sportsbook sites in the UK. We looked at their brand phrases and used a scoring metric used for gauging the persuasiveness of a search result. It’s called the OPS™ score (Online Persuasion Score™). We also looked at the number of affiliates ranking and assessed the affiliates persuasiveness over the persuasiveness of the brands messaging.

To help you understand the OPS™ scoring:

  • -100: Totally Dissuasive.
  • -20 Quite Dissuasive
  • -10 Slightly Dissuasive
  • 0: Neutral
  • 10: OK
  • 20: Reasonably OK
  • 30: Beginning to be persuasive
  • 40: Relatively Persuasive.
  • 50: Fairly Convincing
  • 100: Compellingly Persuasive.

The scoring system is based on the widely adopted Net Promoter Score (NPS), used for assessing sentiment towards brands.

We have also assumed that a brand’s site is generally neutral, making an offer and telling you how wonderful the brand is and generally behaving as expected.  We have assumed that when a 3rd party site says something positive or reassuring about a brand, then it’s taken as persuasive.

The Impact of Affiliates

The upshot is that despite a combined monthly search volume of 7.3 million impressions, on average these brands would have an OPS score of only 0.7 (7%) out of a potential 100 (100%) without affiliates putting out their ‘questionable’ reviews.

So yes, they help raise the OPS™ scores, but brands lose control over messaging and they pay large affiliate commissions to have affiliates in situ.

Interestingly affiliates have tended to ‘camp out’ on the smaller operators, with Paddy Power being an exception. This is most probably because small operators aren’t aware of the issue.

2 years ago a thorough analysis was done on a top 10 European operator and it was estimated that about £70,000 a month was being lost in paying out affiliate commissions because of the number of affiliate signups off this particular operators brand phrases.

Rounding Up

The iGaming ‘Consideration’ landscape is almost unique. Affiliates, whilst a necessity for most brands have polluted the ecosystem with misinformation on which brands are the best. This Is fine if those brands can sustain large commission payouts, but these days every £1000 counts.

Affiliates who camp on brand phrases are smart enough to realise that there is lots of commission for them, however any brand interested in controlling the consideration phase of the user journey should do a combination of things:

  • Kick out affiliates from any brand phrases by:
    • Using safe SEO tactics to out rank them
    • Disincentivising them to bother ranking on your phrases
  • Work with affiliates to help manage your messaging better by
    • giving them better marketing assets (not just banners)
    • relevant content
  • Start doing real reputation management
    • Generate positive feedback on brand from authoritative 3rd party web sites and rank it on your brand phrases.
    • Use reputation management processes to place content on trusted 3rd party web sites, answering those questions potential customers will ask of you i.e. is my money safe? will I get paid out if a get a big win? and so on.

Final result: Affiliates will get your messaging out across the internet and earn their commissions, You control your greatest asset with Google: Your brand phrases, save money and make more money by building buyer momentum.

Nick Garner

Nick Garner

Nick is founder of 90 Digital. Previously he was head of search at Unibet and prior to that search manager Betfair.

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