Gaming report reveals Google updates impact

Tombola, 888, Cheeky Bingo and Spin Palace are amongst the major brands that lost vital online visibility in 2013, as Google’s Panda and Penguin updates changed the face of search results in the gambling sector.

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Some of the biggest international brands in the online gambling sector have effectively vanished from online search results, as revealed in the third annual Stickyeyes online gambling report, which was officially launched this week at ICE Totally Gaming.

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Since our last report, published in January 2013, a series of algorithm updates that were designed to improve the quality of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) have decimated the keyword rankings for major brands including 888, Tombola, Spin Palace, Gambling.com and Cheeky Bingo. This has resulted in a radical reshuffling of the click share across the sportsbook, casino, poker and bingo sectors.

The Stickyeyes report, which is based on our wealth of experience in the iGaming sector, explains why brands have been affected by Google’s updates and takes a look at key markets in Europe and the US to determine how the same updates could impact the search results overseas.

Winners and Losers in the UK market.

The UK online gambling was set to be worth more than £2.5bn in 2013, as many operators recorded double-digit growth.

William Hill has maintained its position as the market leader, recording online net revenue growth of 18% in the first half of 2013, whilst brands such as Paddy Power, Ladbrokes and Bwin have also recorded significant growth.

Figure1chart
Growth of online sports betting in UK, 2009 – 2013

Much of this growth has been fuelled by an increase in search volumes for sports betting, which increased by 18%, and casino, which grew by 15%. Bingo remains the most searched-for keyword within the gambling sector.

However, despite the success of the industry, it is clear that Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have had a significant impact on some of the biggest brands within the sector and our report reveals the extent of the damage for some previously dominant brands.

Figure6chart
Google volatility chart

Whilst 888, Spin Palace, Tombola and Cheeky Bingo all featured highly in our 2012 report, all of these brands lost visibility as a direct result of Google’s attempts to discourage aggressive or unnatural link strategies. 888 fell from being one of the most visible brands in the casino sector to as low as 17th in our index in the space of just one month, whilst Gambling.com fell from fifth position to outside the top 100 in the space of just two months.

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888 organic rankings

 

International brands waiting in the wings for US market to open up.

Our report shows that we’re yet to see a major impact of these algorithm changes within the US search landscape, with tight regulation ensuring that the search landscape in the US remains an immature marketplace.

Figure28chart
Split of search impression volumes for the top 20 generic US online gambling keyword phrases.

Many US gambling SERPs feature a diverse mix of sites, including operators, affiliates, free games providers and tutorial sites, which vary in terms of quality and relevancy.

Interestingly, the organic results for casino is dominated almost entirely by land-based casinos, including Foxwoods, Pechanga and River Casinos, which collectively account for more than 80% of the total click share. However, the poker results are very different, with the click share index dominated by a range of established international brands that provide a pure play commercial online poker offering such as Poker Stars and Full Tilt Poker.

In the bingo sector, more than 80% of the click share is taken by free bingo sites, information and educational sites or bingo content aggregators, with only the established international operators, Ladbrokes and Gala, present within the click share index and offering a pure-play commercial offering.

Inconsistent regulation makes Europe a difficult battleground for international brands.

Our report highlights a number of challenges in the key European markets, with inconsistent regulatory frameworks between EU member states making it difficult for international operators to gain a firm footing in some markets. Whilst many international operators have flourished in markets with more liberal regulation, such as Italy and Spain, the click share index in other territories, such as Sweden, is heavily weighted towards local operators.

Figure36chart
Organic click share index for the most visible websites for the top ten casino keywords (Jan 2013 – Dec 2013) in Sweden
Figure37chart
Organic click share index for the most visible websites for the top ten casino keywords (Jan 2013 – Dec 2013) in Spain

The Italian market features a diverse mix of local operators and international brands, such as 888. In Spain, where local operators are less prominent, 888 also has a strong presence alongside other international brands.

Figure38chart copy
Organic click share index for the most visible websites for the top ten casino keywords (Jan 2013 – Dec 2013) in Sweden

In Sweden however, we see that local operator Betsson is the leading brand with a 24% click share. International brands, including 888, Poker Stars and Party Poker, feature much less prominently.

It is clear that regulation is a key influence in the online search market in both the US and Europe and, with lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic looking to reform legislation in this sector, there is a clear opportunity for international operators.

Want to know more? The third edition of the annual Stickyeyes international online gambling and betting report analyses more than 300 operators in five international territories incorporating more than 200 individual pieces of key insight and more than 100 pieces of statistical interpretation.

What to know where your brand ranks? Request a free copy of the report at https://www.stickyeyes.com/be-one-of-the-first-to-receive-our-global-igaming-report/

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