Paid search can deliver quality traffic for new affiliates but to ensure a solid foundation for success there are some potential pitfalls to avoid, writes Feargal Byrne
For new affiliates, paid search is a great way to get highly qualified traffic that converts really well. However, it can be a minefield if you have no previous casino or sports betting experience.
Here are five important PPC mistakes to avoid from the get-go.
1. NOT STORING PPC DATA ABOUT OPERATORS’ AFFILIATE PLATFORMS
All major affiliate platforms allow affiliates to store their own tracking data. This data is essential for paid search optimisation – if you include Google Ads or Microsoft Ads tracking parameters you can see the keywords, device, match type and click ID, etc. for each successful referral. Doubling this with your own onsite tracking URL parameters, in respect of clicks from your site to operators’ landing pages, gives you powerful insights that can be used to improve your return on ad spend.
2. NOT REMOVING THOSE OPERATORS WITH WHOM REPEAT VISITORS ALREADY HAVE ACCOUNTS
For CPA deals to trigger you need to send new customers to a bookmaker – you will not be paid if a visitor already has an account with an operator. This has massive implications for your paid search performance.
In an ideal world, a visitor would click a PPC ad only once. However, in reality, one visitor may visit two or three times a month all through PPC. As a result, you must work out a way to customise the operator grid on your landing page to maximise the exposure of any sites where visitors do not already hold accounts.
Google, for example, does not allow remarketing for gambling. As a result, you must use a personalisation tool outside of Google Ads. Ultimately, you should look at maximising the real estate of operators that you can generate revenue from and consider minimising listings that have zero chance of generating a commission for each unique user.
3. NOT BID-MODIFYING AROUND THE SPORTING CALENDAR AND START TIMES
The three core dimensions of PPC are position, location and time. However, when it comes to sports betting, time is a more significant factor in driving profitability for your account.
It’s obvious, but if you come from another sector into betting this can be an adjustment that takes you by surprise. You see, the search intent of generic keywords changes according to how close it is to a key sporting event. Using the UK as an example, people searching for betting sites during midweek mornings are likely to be horse racing punters while those searching the same keyword at 2pm on a Saturday are likely to be football punters.
Increasing bids in the lead up to kick-off or the start of a race is a way to increase customer acquisition volume as conversion rates increase due to time sensitivity. It’s also important to remember that planning your bid modifiers is key to wringing the most out of your sports betting PPC account.
On the flip side, some major events do not attract regular punters. Instead, they primarily attract people who only place one bet on that particular event and don’t subsequently place a bet until the same event next year. The Grand National and the Super Bowl are prime examples.
Most operators and affiliates are wise to this. But in some cases, if an operator maintains their CPA deal with you over the event, you could do very well during the event itself, only to damage your reputation by delivering low-quality customers to the operator once it has finished.
4. IGNORING GLOBAL MARKETS
From my perspective, the UK gambling market has been my bread and butter. I built a career on it. However, it is sad to say that a combination of increased competition and new regulations have made it very difficult for operators (and by association, affiliates) to achieve a reasonable profit margin.
Look, we all embrace regulation and player protection is correctly a major priority. However, in hard business terms, the one-two of intense competition and more robust compliance requirements makes it harder and harder for smaller bookmakers to make ends meet.
The UK market is currently in the shakeout phase of the industry lifecycle. For affiliates, this means that a decreasing number of operators will be looking for UK traffic. As a result, from a PPC angle, you should embrace global opportunities. Yes, gambling approval requirements vary for each market but to build a long-term affiliate business in gambling via PPC you must go global by targeting regulated markets outside of the UK in 2020.
5. NOT INVESTING IN MARTECH
If you want to be a successful casino or sports betting affiliate then you must invest in technology to support your marketing. This could be in the form of user analysis tools, artificial intelligence, through-the-line API integration from ad platform to affiliate platform, or building self-service options for affiliate managers who work for operators.
All in all, you want to get the highest CPA deal from operators and the highest conversion rates from paid search. Some of the larger affiliates have marketing tech teams backing them up. This is what all affiliates should aspire to as they grow.
You certainly have to think about tech investment if you are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per month across multiple territories. Believe me, you will get payback several times over if the tech addresses your optimisation needs.
However, increasing ad spend as a PPC affiliate is not the only way to grow. Improving conversion by using technology to improve your marketing fundamentals is another way to increase affiliate commission.
By avoiding these mistakes and you will have a good foundation to expand your affiliate PPC activity. All in all, paid search is constantly evolving, especially for affiliates. One last thing: remember to keep testing and regularly analyse what other advertisers are doing in the auctions you compete in.