This is an article I had written for the June issue of iGaming affiliate magazine 

—–

Introduction and Background

igaming_state_of_searchWe had been in discussion with the editorial team at iGaming affiliate for a while about coming up with some kind of ‘state of the nation’ data set on affiliate marketing on Google in the UK and after a lot of research and data crunching we came up with some very insightful information. We hope it’s useful to you.

To come up with this insight we had to look at the top 20 search results for the 210 biggest keywords in iGaming, broken down into 60 keywords each for poker, casino and sports betting and 30 for bingo because the tail was so short i.e. there are only a few phrases in Bingo worth ranking for.

We analysed 73,793 separate search results over a 19 month period. The 4,326 unique domains that came up in the search results, were split out between Casino, Poker, Sports Betting and Bingo and were then manually tagged up as either ‘Other’ i.e. not iGaming, Affiliate or Operator.

To do all this number crunching we use a lot of Excel. We gather data using a mix of API’s and direct scraping.  To make Excel more efficient, we use a lot of VBA scripting along with a plugin called PowerPivot to push Excel to its limits. And it’s all housed on a powerful remote server so it doesn’t lock down anyone’s machine.

In case you’re wondering why we’re clunking around with Excel, generation II of the Share of Search tool will run on a database.

So let’s get on and look at the findings. Data shows affiliates are having a tough time. Google is progressively making it harder for affiliates, so affiliates who have fewer resources or knowledge in SEO are getting squeezed out of Google.

Churn

If you look at search results from a ‘churn’ point of view, i.e. the percentage of web pages still around after one year within the top 20 for a particular keyword, affiliates come off worst compared to operators, but not by a huge margin.

On average across Poker, Casino Sports Betting and Bingo only 25% of affiliate pages rank top 20 after a year, 36% for Operators, surprisingly only 21% for ‘other’ sites.

Churn rates in iGaming

Search Visibility

If you look at the same data set from a search visibility point of view i.e. who occupies the top 20, accounting for search volume and cost per click, then affiliates have lost about half of their search visibility, going from 45% search visibility down to 30.75%.

Most of this loss is not because operators are out competing affiliates, it’s the near doubling of share from the ‘other’ category of sites. The main offenders are sites like Wikipedia.com, imdb.com and bet.com

The volatility in search visibility in Casino are very different from Poker, bingo and Sports Betting. This is because the new funded account values are so high and the number  of ‘money’ phrases are so low, spammers constantly attack casino search engine ranking positions (SERPS), leading to a lot of churn and volatility.

To understand why this is an important metric, we need to explain how it works. We take a keyword:

  • Get the paid search cost per click (CPC) figures

  • The local search volume (VOL), in this case UK figures.

  • We then multiply CPC x VOL X click through rate (CTR) percentage with 1st being the highest and 20th being the lowest. (The CTR figures came from a large study by optify.com).

  • Run these calculations for each domain and end up with a table of results.

  • We then aggregate all the search results from the 210 keywords

  • Tabulate them using Excel

Share of visibility: Sports Betting

Comment: we are at an interesting juncture with sports betting because as we see affiliates have been tied very closely with operators for months now.

Insight : Affiliates are great at plugging niches, this is especially relevant to sports betting because the spread of keywords is vast compared to segments like Bingo and Casino. Sports betting works well for affiliates because the revenues per customer are solid and the spread of keywords relevant to betting is substantial. In other words it has a very ‘long tail’.

Share of visibility: Poker

Comment: Affiliates are holding out against everyone, however operators are being hammered by the ‘other’ category.

Insight: There are very few pure ‘money’ phrases in poker i.e. ‘online poker’, but there is a huge appetite for news and skill content in poker that affiliates are very good at rankings on. The gains from the ‘other’ category coming from sites like wikipedia.

Share of visibility: Bingo

Comment: As you can see here, operators had dominated for a long time, however they are losing out to ‘other’ sites. Bingo has been stable because operators have dominated over the last year and a half.

Insight: It seems to be easy for operators to re skin a site and launch a new bingo brand targeting a specific audience, so every niche of this keyword set appears to have been filled by operators. Also affiliates have typically stayed away from Bingo because of the low acquisition values, and its likely this trend will continue.

Share of visibility: Casino

Comment: Where there is money, there are affiliates and this chart demonstrates how there has been a constant battle between affiliates and operators.

Insight:  Penguin has been especially aggressive here. Straight after Penguin, the most aggressive black hat spammers were gaining substantial visibility, however Google released an update to target sites that would ‘pop’ from nowhere, rank for 2 weeks and be manually penalised. As a result affiliate share has tanked in favour of operators.

If you want to understand how to game Google, then watching the best spammers who rank on keyword ‘online casino’ is a good start. Analysing these sites is a separate case study, which we plan to do another time.

Overview across iGaming Affiliate

Here we have the overall trends across iGaming, aggregating Poker, Casino, Sports Betting and Bingo.

Comment: As mentioned before, affiliates are having a tough time. The question is where everything will settle.

Insight: Ultimately Google cannot squeeze out all affiliates because they are too resourceful, operators need them and there is too much money to be made.

Longer term outlook: In search terms, we are in times of massive flux. Whilst Google appears to favour operators, they are also having big problems with SEO. ‘Not provided’ is becoming a real headache because it means a lack of attribution for SEO internally and compounding this, is the doubling risk of a penalty from 4% i.e. 1 in 20 to 8% i.e. 1 in 12.5 in the last 19 months (we did a large report on this recently)

Risk and lack of attribution means only the resourceful and knowledgeable operators will fight it out and since Affiliates outnumber Operators by about 3 to 1, it’s very likely affiliates will fight back and regain share of search in time.

Who are the winning operators and affiliates?

If you take ‘winning’ as most revenue generating, then it is casino affiliates. Onlinecasinos.co.uk takes the crown as most revenue generating affiliate in the UK right now. Paddypower.com is the most successful operator.

The table shows the top 10 domains by monthly value of search, broken into affiliates and operators

Affiliate

July 15, 2013

Operator

July 15, 2013

onlinecasinos.co.uk

£           615,394

paddypower.com

£        2,441,645

casinoaction.com

£           293,347

jackpotcity.co.uk

£        2,287,453

ukcasino-club.co.uk

£           292,817

ladbrokes.com

£        1,359,437

freeslots.com

£           201,014

williamhill.com

£        1,190,097

loquax.co.uk

£           147,904

skyvegas.com

£        1,155,950

safe-online-casino.co.uk

£           129,077

32red.com

£            781,468

onlinecasino.co.uk

£           109,179

partypoker.com

£            378,314

freebingo.co.uk

£           101,701

galabingo.com

£            317,308

jackpot.co.uk

£              93,697

foxybingo.com

£            254,307

oddschecker.com

£              85,930

888.com

£            195,735

 

Final thoughts

Data is beautiful. It clarifies things and with clarity comes good decisions. This is why, as a company SearchWorks Digital is collectively a bit obsessed with good data.

This report answers a lot of questions and it raises several others around what it takes to be a winning affiliate. As they say, ‘go where the money goes’ and that is in Casino. In future reports we will dig into more detail around specific disciplines, looking at the winners and losers, the macro trends and what it takes to win.

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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.