Brazil: SEO trends for affiliates ahead of regulation

With Brazil’s political and legal chambers still churning through the documentation to legalise sports betting, Martin Calvert, marketing director at ICS-digital takes a look into the market. Calvert identifies the SEO trends from existing affiliates in Brazil and how things will shake up when the market becomes fully regulated.

When we last looked at the Brazilian betting landscape, the gaming Presidential Decree hadn’t yet passed but 2023 appears to be the tipping point for regulated sports betting at least.

At the time of writing, the government is proposing an 18% levy on the revenue of sports-betting websites revenue as well as a $R30m (£4.89m/€5.69m/$6.10m) licence fee for a three-year term. From here we’ll see which ‘grey’ brands go legit and if the draw of operating out of the shadows is tempting enough to offset these costs.

Like many regulating states, there are many operators and affiliates who have been paying close attention - and making their own plays in Brazil for an extended period.

While they may be followed by more international operators once regulation is in full swing, it’s fair to say that there are already plenty of battle-hardened betting brands in the mix. They already know the potential of the market.

Grey operators

Not every brand will ‘go legit’ and so in the wild west of Google, the SEO challenge will be multi-faceted.

For grey operators, there will be some advantages in their continued strategy to be bolder than those toeing the line of regulated market rules. Similarly, those who can openly advertise, build brand partnerships and step fully into the spotlight will find that they don’t need to rely on SEO ‘tricks’ that can go out of date fast.

More than this, the draw of uninterrupted PPC advertising will be ample for many brands though, as I write often, the monstrous CPCs some brands are faced with can make this ‘easy’ route to traffic less palatable over time.

For those seeking to build a brand and more scalable traffic, SEO remains the main game in town. Over the years offshore operators have made enough of an impact in Brazil to engage large audiences and familiarise bettors with betting phrases, bonuses and brands.

Let’s take a look at the current picture of shared keyword rankings between some of the most notable brands:

As we can see, there are muiltiple variations on keywords around sport and football betting and some international brands are picking up an almost surprising amount of traffic.

This could be in part due to having proven sites that already have a propensity to rank for highly competitive terms, but as the market opens up we can expect the picture to get much more interesting.

A significant proportion of Brazilian audiences are accustomed to offshore books and ‘mature’ keyword searches

Once local presence can be amplified with conventional advertising and a greater proportion of bettors look to regulated solutions – or even bet online for the first time – we can expect search volumes to rise. Also, there could be an increase in the ‘how to bet’ type queries that have for example defined regulating markets in the US states.

In this, we’d expect to see affiliates become more of a presence with the capacity to broker better deals with existing operators and those new to the market.

As in our previous analysis, the cost-per-click estimates given here by SEMrush should be taken with a pinch of salt. This is because as licensing starts to take place we can expect Google, Meta and all the usual suspects to ‘officially’ run gambling ads, opening up competition, higher bids and more specific, betting-focused keyword targeting.

It’s worth remembering that a significant proportion of Brazilian audiences are accustomed to offshore books and ‘mature’ keyword searches. These are mostly found around bonuses, odds and incentives rather than the ‘new’ bettor searches that often focus on the practicalities of signing up, withdrawing and understanding legalities.

So, as in other markets, we can predict a smaller proportion of bettors who can be targeted in organic SEO and paid advertising with very specific keyword strategies. However, it’ll be up to brands to determine if former offshore bettors will represent more value to them (due to knowing the ropes) or if they risk losing out due to bonus-hunters and savvier bettors being in the mix.

More than this, official books will have to demonstrate value if they’re to capitalise on all the effort needed to rank organically and cost-effectively advertise. Even in regulated markets, some audiences still prefer grey and offshore operators.

It remains to be seen to what extent this will factor into player protection messaging and also, let’s face it, marketing messaging.

Gaming keywords

It’s worth looking closely at the top performers for top-level, competitive keywords in Brazil to compare and contrast onsite and off-site strategies.

In the data table below, we compare the top 25 rankings for the term ‘casino online’ from our initial analysis in March 2022, comparing how things stand today.

As before, the top performers are a varied collective, judging by SEMrush snapshot data

With some familiar names alongside some sites that have clearly gone ‘all in’ with a Brazilian strategy, it’s notable that there isn’t a direct correlation between the quantity of backlinks and performance. Some brands may in time regret a ‘quantity over quality’ approach.

While we might expect media outlets and publishers to move into an element of affiliation – or launch their own sportsbooks in time – for casino terms it feels like there will be an initial trend towards high-level keywords and, in time, more long-tail searches around specific games.

For those already experienced in international SEO, it’s intriguing how some blockbuster games always seem to find an audience regardless of language and market but it’s worth paying attention to what the larger brands ‘push’ prominently based on player interest.

Planning a scalable strategy

For affiliates and smaller brands, a balanced strategy could work best. This would involve taking on board your own data and insights about where you can compete effectively in organic search based on the scale of competition. An element of deconstructing market leader strategies will help to build a foundation to grow in Brazil.

As discussed, huge-traffic sports news sites like Globo.com, SuperEsportes, Terra.com.br, ESPN Brazil and so on may decide to monetise their current platform and positioning by adding an affiliate component to its operations, and the continued presence of offshore books does add extra complexity.

An element of deconstructing market leader strategies will help to build a foundation to grow in Brazil

Given the size of the population and nature of the competition, a logical SEO strategy may be best grounded in an understanding of the multiple audiences who could be engaged.

As a regulating (rather than regulated) market some decisions will need to be taken by startups, affiliates and operators who don’t have the deep pockets of global powerhouses. Trying to do everything will lead to an unsustainable burn rate.

A sober outlook focusing on achievable goals and making use of existing data will help, as with the data shared in this article, there is no shortage of opportunities to analyse where the strongest brands may have weaknesses.

Even the ‘pioneering’ work of grey operators is arguably helpful in giving data to work from about the type of content that ranks, the nature of backlinks required to compete and the search terms that may be the most financially rewarding.

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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