This is a time when you can expect offers of free bets, pay-outs for extra places and other enticing bets, and these are busy times for the sector.

Generic racing-related betting keywords have a pretty steady search volume over the course of a year, reaching a height of 27,000 in April. This is overshadowed by event-specific searches around these two big race meetings, however. While April sees Cheltenham-related searches reaching almost 80,000, the Grand National has more than half a million searches alone in the same month.

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The industry refers to the ‘Granny Bet’ phenomenon when it comes to the Grand National – these customers tend not to have much lifetime value for them, in many cases having their one annual flutter. But this doesn’t really apply to Cheltenham, and these specific searches are an opening bookmakers would be unwise to ignore.

In an analysis of this market last year we concluded that bookmakers weren’t making the most of this opportunity and this surge of search interest in key events. They did well for generic terms, but when it comes to the event-specific keywords, they were being outperformed by affiliate sites for these meets.

Have they learned their lesson in 2017 and made up ground on the affiliates? It doesn’t look like they have. The affiliates still lead around event-specifics but, unexpectedly, are moving ahead on generic search as well.

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In the run-up to Cheltenham in 2016, Paddy Power was the leader in whole market organic search, a combination of generic and event-specific keywords. Fast forward to 2017 and Oddschecker has seized top spot, doubling its number of monthly clicks in that year.

Other major players in this market have shed search share too, with SkyBet, 888sport, Coral, Betfair, Bet Bright and Bet Victor losing traffic that has gone to, and Only SkyBet and Betfair have retained their top ten visibility out of those.

Although they’ve lost their top ranking in our analysis, Paddy Power do appear to have gained some organic search traffic, along with William Hill and Ladbrokes.

The content difference

What the affiliates are doing so well in the bookmaking sector is content. While they don’t perform quite so brilliantly in other gaming verticals, sports bookmaking search is tailor-made for deep content and the affiliates have proved themselves to be proactive in this area.

They’ve shown agility in incorporating the useful content that is generated in the run up to key sporting events, such as debate, tips, opinion pieces and interviews, and refreshing it constantly. Bookmakers haven’t shown the same flexibility, often because they use unresponsive content management systems built to allow betting, not search engine-readable content.

Until the bookmakers can address the issue of content, they’ll be outperformed by affiliates for event-specific search, and it’s also clearly making a difference in organic search as well. If bookmakers can start to jostle for position here, allied to their brand equity, they’ll be in a very strong position. But there’s no quick fix – content needs to be year-round, not just tacked on before an event.