• SEO

Spring-cleaning your site and its content for a ranking boost

By clariondevelop

If you want to catch the eye of both Google and new players, you need to remove duplicate or cobwebbed content and replace it with indexable material with the ‘wow’ factor.

Much has been said in the last few years about content strategy and a lot of it is indeed very important.However, most conference talks and articles treat the question generally and little of that sort of approach can be applied to an industry as specific and unique as online gaming.Online gaming has traditionally been one of the most competitive industries,and this fact has had its impact on how content is treated by the industry players. First of all, let’s agree on what we define as content. Generally, content can be:

  • text
  • video
  • images
  • apps etc

At first glance, there is no shortage of any of these types of content in the online gambling industry. Game and casino reviews are being mass produced by and for affiliates.

Video channels are run by many affiliates and brands alike. Most gambling sites are of course very image-rich. And apps are at the core of this industry — every conference expo hall features countless app developers, and every brand invests heavily in getting new games developed or purchased from industry providers.However, the quality of content or even the attitude towards it is an altogether different story.

Let’s take, for example, the top 10 sites ranking for “online casino games” in the UK SERPs at the time of writing and analyse the word count of each (see Figure 1).

The word count varies a lot: from 357 to 4,163 words. However, because those numbers have been collected automatically using Screaming Frog, they are very misleading. In most cases, if a visitor arrives at a URL with a 4,000+ word count, they will not see a long page of text — most of these words will be invisible to them.

The ‘content’ that Screaming Frog just counted is in most cases just titles of hundreds of games, out of which the visitor will likely see only the few best converting ones immediately (without clicking or scrolling), and the text is not even displayed on the page.

This is at best. At worst, the text is just some keyword stuffed filler squeezed at the bottom of the page, below all the shiny banners, away from the visitor’s eyes. Hence, this sort of analysis gives us nothing for our content strategy.

Content audit: what to analyse

Content audits should have two goals:

  1. Identify possible issues with the existing on-site content: thin content, unindexable content, duplicate content etc.
  2. Identify the site’s content needs for onsite and off-site use (ie what a site needs to be more appealing to its visitors, and what it needs to attract external links)

Some of the on-site content audit aspects are really SEO 101 but I will repeat them here as many industry sites still don’t get them right.Unindexable content is one of the most difficult issues to diagnose. Many sites, especially older casino brands, use old CMSs built with no regard to crawlability and SEO, and the biggest problem with them is often that no tool used for on-site auditing will even identify the issue.

It is not even unlikely that nobody in the organisation will even know that the content in question exists! Do not just trust the tools — take a careful look at the site manually.

For one of my consulting clients, I literally discovered this sort of content by accident. Content hidden behind JavaScript, shown only when a user takes some action and not linked to by a direct HTML link, is likely to be unindexable and therefore uncrawlable by any tools. Yet your site can have literally hundreds of pages of high-quality, relevant content that could have been helping you rank, attract visitors and convert them into depositing players.

That content probably cost a lot of money to create — yet you’re not getting any benefit from it if it can’t be indexed.Check your site’s text-only Google cache — if you can’t see your content there, Google likely can’t see it either (see Figure 2).

Check the page’s source code, figure out why and make changes to eliminate indexing problems.

Cross-domain duplicate content is a huge issue for any affiliate-rich industry.If a casino brand is providing game reviews for its affiliates, they better make sure this is not the same content they use on their own site. Feeds, widgets, game rules and descriptions used on multiple sites will devalue the content on the original site.

Do not expect Google to figure out the original source of content, because they have never been particularly good at it.

Rather, avoid doing anything that is likely to increase the amount of your content’s duplication by other sites. (Of course, there will always be unscrupulous site owners who will just scrape and steal other sites’ content and there is no real way to protect yourself against it except for legally copyrighting your content and filing DMCA complaints against perpetrators.) Also, if you are buying games from a provider and using the same game description as every other casino who buys the same games, this is also a source of duplicate content. On-site duplicate issues are typically discovered during an on-site SEO audit. These could arise from the same content accessible via different URLs (eg because of the CMS specifics or incorrect setup).

The issue is not unique to the gambling industry so I won’t dwell on it much. But one aspect of it more typically seen on online gaming sites seems to be the practice of using the same title for multiple pages, sometimes even the same title for all pages on the site. This also constitutes duplicate content and can cause issues with your site’s indexing and ranking.

This can affect your clickthrough rate from the SERPs, so treat each title as a brief presentation of its corresponding page — make it relevant for that page so that your potential visitors understand what your page is about and would want to visit it. The same rule applies to meta descriptions — although depending on the query, Google can modify what they show as a snippet for your URL in the SERPs and it may not always coincide with what your meta description is.

If this happens, Google uses onpage content or a combination of onpage content and the meta description. Hence, it helps to keep the overall page content consistent.

This leads us to the issue of thin content — since Google rolled out its first Panda update, it has been targeting thin content pages consistently and demoting them— sometimes this can mean complete deindexing.

To the online gaming sites it means you can no longer get away with little to no content on the page. You have to have something indexable, readable and of value.which brings us to the second goal of content audits: what exactly should your content be?

Content ideation for online gaming

If we have already eliminated the content issues analysed in the first part of our content audit, we now come to the point where we really need to consider humans rather than search engines. We now need  to answer these questions:

  • What do your visitors want to see on your site? What do they search for, what do they talk about, what is important to them?
  • What is the ‘wow’ factor that would make people willingly link to your site?This is where it gets really complicated. Most tools traditionally recommended for content ideation fail miserably in the gambling industry, simply because the artificial manipulation level (in other words, spam) is much higher than in most other industries. 

Figure 3 shows an example.

BuzzSumo is a tool typically recommended for content research. It lets you see the most shared socially and linked-to content in your vertical, and research who’s writing about your topic, etc. But what do you see if you search for, say, “online casino”? Why would anyone share a casino’s home page?

Hardly for the quality of its content. If a casino gives you bonuses for sharing on Facebook, that is exactly how that casino gets the most Facebook shares. This may be classified as smart social media marketing — but it has nothing to do with the value of the content.

But it gets even worse. If we look into Twitter shares of some of the top shared sites, some accounts appear to be sharing any random spam or even have no shared links apart from the one of the casino in question (see Figure 4).

However, BuzzSumo has another feature called Question Analyzer which gives you a glimpse into questions people ask about a topic on Q&A sites and forums (see Figure 5).

Of course, these can get spammed as well — but this tool can give you a good idea of what is being discussed by your potential visitors and players and, therefore, how you can better target them with the content on your own site.

Another tool you can use to see what is being searched for online related to your topic is Answer The Public. It works by collecting Google suggestions for queries based on your topic plus various questions and prepositions (see Figure 6).

These give you a real glimpse into the mind of not only your target audience but also those who may link to you.Not every suggestion is worth using as a content idea, but if you look further and see what already exists for these suggested queries, you will be able to identify the gaps you could fill.

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