Taking the US by SEO storm part 1

By Martin Calvert

Entering the US market as an affiliate can be a complicated affair – and that’s before you figure out how to compete with the big fish already well established in the market. Martin Calvert, marketing director at ICS-digital, outlines the best SEO strategies to help launch any US entry.

The initial glamour of the US market may be wearing off with major brands counting the cost of acquisition, and affiliates wondering what it’ll take to compete with media giants.

If you’re pondering which steps to take next - or even if the US market is for you at all - this two-part article series might provide some reassurance.

Our goal in this article is to take a sober view of some of the fundamentals of organic acquisition and SEO. These are fundamentals that many across the US gaming landscape have not followed in the rush to flood the market with paid campaigns and celebrity endorsements.

While there’s no shortage of ‘gimmicky’ SEO and marketing topics that spike in popularity from ‘parasite SEO’ to rambles around ‘latent semantic indexing’ (urgh), any scalable SEO strategy in the US market depends on asking the right questions and taking a logical approach to the fundamentals of growth.

In part one of this two-article series, we’ll focus on how to analyse the competition and build stronger foundations for a US-based strategy.

Analyse the competition

In any highly competitive market, it’s important to get a reliable benchmark of where your brand sits compared to other players in the market.

Part of that involves putting ego to one side and making an honest assessment of the risks and opportunities ahead, based on your current (and future) resources.

In the US market, the positive news is that there is plenty of data to work with across all regulated states and identify where competitors have succeeded and failed. Then use that to help you avoid missteps while learning from what works.

It’s important to put guesswork to one side and systematically check out the brands with top rankings and prominently featured snippets. What makes their content so engaging and why is Google rewarding them with more real estate on the search engine results page?

It might be in-depth information on the latest sports picks, game reviews, odds or tips – or even just the basics of how to bet online or open an account or understand payment methods, given the relative newness of (legal) online gambling.

Wherever competitor content feels thin or out of date, and where you are, or can become an authority - that’s where opportunities lie.

To start looking into these opportunities, tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush are the industry standards, but there are many others available and don’t let anyone tell you these are for SEO agency eyes only.

Build strong foundations

To give your betting brand the best growth potential, your platform needs to be fluid and flexible. It definitely pays to shop around when it comes to platform providers. This will help gain as many testimonials, customer references and guarantees from potential suppliers as possible.

In this it’s important to look beyond the US.

One gentle observation from numerous years of discussions with US-based operators and affiliates is that it’s not uncommon for brands to disregard actionable information from mature markets. Many brands are making the same mistakes and following the same false shortcuts as European brands from two, five and 10 years ago.

With that in mind, verifying platforms and development partners based on their global credibility can help avoid pitfalls, and set your site up to succeed. This is true whether you’re an affiliate or operator.

Aside from the need to have a site that is fast and has the potential to perform well in SEO, adaptability is vital in evolving markets like the US.

The US is often rightly described as a melting pot - potential bettors will have different interests, queries, concerns and priorities – so a flexible site with the capacity to test out content and campaigns that respond to its specific goals is an advantage.

This is an area where affiliates hold the advantage as operator sites are typically rigid and inflexible due to regulatory restrictions and the nature of how the underlying software is sold.

Affiliates can, within reason, be much bolder and more expansive in their content choices and can benefit from a more flexible (and fast) site without all of the interactive elements of an operator site slowing them down.

Optimising technical performance and having the ability to easily adapt on-page content based on the needs of multiple audiences in multiple states will help you become searchable and findable in new markets, with an agile approach that can scale.

Asking the right questions

To make this possible, it’s important to ask the right questions at the outset to platform providers and developers -

  • Which brands are ranking well on this platform/the sites you’ve built?
  • What are the biggest development challenges when it comes to SEO?
  • What areas of SEO do you need extra guidance on?

Questions like this, no matter the answer, will help you tease out if your development and platform partners are equipped to deliver an SEO-friendly infrastructure. Don’t forget that it’s easier to optimise in the build phase than it is in retrospect.

To use a tired metaphor, rebuilding a ship while already at sea is very difficult so asking these questions up front is key and can save future pain.

Martin Calvert

is marketing director for ICS-digital and ICS-translate. The sister agencies work globally across multilingual SEO, content, digital PR and translation with a core focus on highly regulated industries.

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