Promoting a sportsbook via Google is an increasingly complex and competitive exercise, but the rewards for operators that get it right can be huge.
SBC caught up with Jack Rose, Head of Sports & Gaming at digital marketing agency Receptional, to talk keywords, smart bidding and video advertising. Speaking ahead of the SBC Award-nominated agency’s What’s New in Search Marketing (for Gaming Marketers)? seminar in London on 12 November, he explained some of the steps operators can take to improve the effectiveness of their campaigns.
SBC: Could you give our readers an overview of Receptional’s services for the gaming industry?
JR: Our Sports & Gaming team is split into two specialisms: content and outreach. Our content team are experienced sports journalists that write over 3,600 pieces of unique content every year – which is more than many of the national newspapers. To give a quick overview, the most common topics are casino, football, horse racing and poker.
Our outreach team have an unrivalled network of contacts from which we publish our content. The sites are handpicked to meet strict SEO metrics, so that our clients gain maximum ranking benefit and the sites are also within sports and gaming niches.
SBC: What are the main SEO obstacles that gaming clients approach Receptional about? And are the main challenges faced by sports betting operators different to those that online casinos have to tackle?
JR: I believe the main issue for clients is staying ahead of the game and ensuring that they are on top when it comes to Google rankings. During The Cheltenham Festival earlier this year, the Sports & Gaming team helped our client to stay in the number one betting operator position on Google for all 20 of the keywords that were being targeted. In turn, our client registered an all-time high in rankings, impressions, clicks and activations.
Ensuring that the correct keywords are being targeted is hugely important and we work with our clients to ensure that they are utilising these for maximum benefit. By targeting specific sporting events – for example, the Champions League final – we are able to report on popular search terms and feed this back to the client, to ensure they are ahead of the competition.
To some extent the challenge faced by sports betting operators and online casinos is the same – they are both saturated markets and operators are wanting to stay ahead of the competition.
SBC: What steps do gaming companies need to be thinking about now to stay up to date with Google’s ever-changing algorithms?
JR: The main objective to remember is to be relevant. The choice of anchor text is key, whether that’s using your brand name or more specifically, what you do. (SEO software provider) Moz recommends that nearly a fifth of anchor text should be branded. Equally important is knowing what your audience is searching for. Many companies struggle with long-tail keywords and this is something our team are able to help with.
SBC: There’s a perception that PPC advertising is an expensive form of customer acquisition for gambling operators; is that really the case?
JR: PPC advertising can be an expensive form of acquisition, but it’s important to remember that, whilst PPC is an auction-based model, that only partly determines cost. It’s also very heavily influenced by keyword Quality Scores and Ad Rank for search-based PPC. This essentially means that you can pay a lot less than those below you in the ad listings by being best in class.
All too often, PPC can be far more efficient and effective than it is for gambling operators, who don’t realise that a keyword bid can range from £23/click to £230+/click, dependant on their keyword quality scores. We have developed a Quality Score Simulator™ tool that we use to show the full bid range risk and opportunity for all of an advertiser’s keywords.
SBC: How can gaming brands achieve greater ROI from their PPC campaigns? Is being creative the key?
JR: The primary opportunities to achieve greater PPC ROI can be summarised as follows:
Focus on Quality Scores and the three component metrics of these scores – expected click-through rates, ad relevance and landing page experience. This is nothing new, but it’s arguably more important than ever with costs-per-click (CPC) increasing. This seems to get forgotten with all of the other developments in the PPC platforms.
Leverage all of the data available regarding audiences to achieve greater ROI from PPC e.g. Google’s in-market audiences, in combination with…
Embrace smart bidding and automation, or risk becoming obsolete. With all of the data and audience signals now available, manual bidding just cannot compete with auction-time smart bidding, based on all of the different audience bidding permutations.
Work with your agency and/or Google to test the latest platform Betas, to be at the forefront of change, and gain a competitive advantage in PPC. There are currently more than 80 active betas across Search, Display and Video. If you’re not testing these, your competitors will be.
Use video, there’s still an opportunity to be an early adopter and get ahead. It’s incredibly effective, low cost and with ever improving audience targeting methods, it’s far more targeted than TV advertising, yet most of the budget still goes into TV rather than digital video.
Offer a good user experience. Mobile speeds are still slower than they could or should be for a lot of operators, yet the level of mobile traffic is phenomenal. We know that after 2.5 seconds, load time negatively affects quality scores (and therefore PPC bid prices), conversion rate, and organic rankings. Three very compelling reasons to make improvements!
SBC: What else can operators do to improve their visibility and reach prospective customers online?
JR: The single biggest opportunity is online video advertising, given its reach, audience targeting capabilities, and low cost. With video campaign types that only charge on a cost-per-view basis i.e. when someone watches >30 seconds of an ad, or interacts with one of the clickable elements of the ad, it’s a very cost-effective method of getting in front of your audience.
With all ad platforms constantly adding to their audience targeting capabilities, advertisers have more options and data points than ever before. This will only continue. As previously mentioned, there’s still an opportunity to be an early adopter and gain a lot of exposure, but this won’t be around forever.
We also predict that the ad platforms will ultimately integrate with more on-demand and digital TV services in future, meaning that the level of inventory and exposure would explode very rapidly. Operators will need to be ready for this opportunity, in order to strike first.
Receptional’s What’s New in Search Marketing (for Gaming Marketers)? seminar, which features speakers including Google’s Agency Development Manager Yiannis Pavlakis and Football Media’s CEO Dean Akinjobi, takes place at Google’s London office on 12 November. Places can be reserved via Receptional’s website.