• SEO

Pandemic plan: Adapting your SEO strategy

By Aaron Noy

Search engine trends since the effects of the pandemic ripped through the sector show a predictable swing of keyword search activity away from sports and into gaming.

The coronavirus pandemic is (of course) causing enormous changes to how we spend our work and leisure time. We are all coming to learn new ways of staying productive, positive and entertained. Similarly, with the widespread cancellation of sports events, betting operators and affiliates are also having to make some fundamental adjustments to lessen the risks and take advantage of any opportunities. In such a dynamic and evolving context, it can be difficult to predict future developments – but from some initial analysis of search engine trends we can see a few potential clues about what might come next, as shown here in Chart 1:

What we can see very clearly from the chart is the rise in searches for broad igaming terms like online poker, slots online and online casino coinciding with the increase in social distancing measures in the second week of March 2020. Operators and affiliates should be digging into their Google Analytics and conversion data to go deeper into what is really going on here. In many cases it won’t just be a situation where casual betting fans are choosing to read up on poker strategy or play slots after 5pm in the evening. The rise in home working opens up possibilities (rightly or wrongly) for players to be more active throughout the day, at times convenient to them. At ICS-digital, our specialists are actively recommending that this be factored into any paid media strategy, whether your brand advertises on television, YouTube, social media, Google Ads or the burgeoning TrafficJunky network. With changes in working and leisure behaviours, firms must use all data available to craft digital strategies around ‘the new normal’ and adapt in line with player demand. Now more than ever, we should be using data to make business decisions, with assumptions put to one side. Meanwhile, the downward trend of sports betting keyword searches is, given the current circumstances, completely predictable as Chart 2 illustrates:
However, sports-focused brands shouldn’t – and mustn’t – retreat into inactivity. Sports fans remain fans even if games and events are cancelled – and they’ll need ways to develop and express their fandom given the long wait until seasons restart. One approach that can help satisfy this demand while also building SEO value is to refocus content production onto longer opinion pieces, exclusive player interviews and well-developed betting guides.This type of qualitative content is something small and medium-sized affiliates often find difficult to devote time to during the normal sporting calendar. After all, with so many match previews, reviews, tips and everyday web content to create, who has the time? Well, you have the time now, and it’s a great way to build your brand, provide collateral for social media and enhance the SEO value of your site.

What should betting brands devote their time to?

For casino brands, there are huge opportunities ahead – but the same opportunities are open to the major tier-one operators so it would be a mistake to expect an easy ride. Nevertheless, with a highly focused mix of onsite and offsite SEO, a muscular and quality-driven schedule of onsite content and headline-grabbing PR, there is enormous potential for smaller casino brands to take an enormous leap forward. For sports brands, many will be looking to reduce costs for the foreseeable future. However, if you do have reserves in the bank, now is the time to gain competitive advantage in SEO while your rivals are uncharacteristically cautious. Finally doing all of the onsite improvements that you hadn’t prioritised previously is key, as is the development of a structured and scalable SEO plan that is achievable but focused on the long term. Before we know it, the leagues will be back in action and we can all expect a rapturous response from fans with packed stadiums, passionate support and new levels of betting activity. We need to be sensitive in these troubled times towards struggling firms but for those with a war chest, now is the time to push forward and Google Trends gives us some of the answers. Keeping an eye on growing events such as esports, the increasing sophistication and appeal of virtual sports, and the ongoing, evergreen search queries that fans always come back to is key.
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