I often make the point that small affiliates with limited budgets are able to win in the SERP dominated by large brands due to their better flexibility, faster decision making and speed of implementation. This indicates that gambling operators have something to learn from affiliates here. But it’s not enough to simply copy the tricks and techniques they use – it’s more important to adopt the mindset that makes these successful affiliates so efficient.
There are multiple ways in which affiliates are getting their sites in front of potential visitors ahead of their operator partners. To identify some of these ways– and the operators already successfully adopting them – let’s start by looking at the UK Google SERP for “online casino” (see Fig 1 below). Here we can see that the organic results are dominated by operator sites:
Paid ads seem to be where affiliates are a lot more active. PPC ads are allowed in the UK for both operators and affiliates, and the affiliates use the opportunity to get a slice of the SERP where they cannot be represented organically. If we look at the most active advertisers’ data in SpyFu, we will see that majority in this niche are affiliates (see Fig 2 below):
If we look at the organic results, we can see that some operators stand out, claiming some extra space in the SERP due to factors such as rich snippets (888casino.com) or FAQ schema (gentingcasino.com), which is a great example of how they have picked up successful techniques from affiliates. Affiliate sites were quick to adopt the FAQ schema when it was first introduced in 2019, and if we look at more affiliate-dominated SERP we can see many more instances of using the FAQ schema. It’s relatively easy to implement if the page has suitable content that could be added in the form of an FAQ section, but the benefit is the extra space this gains in the SERPs. It is also a way to provide extra information to potential visitors, hopefully persuading them to visit the site.
In the case of the 888 Casino rich snippet, we’re not dealing with something as straightforward as a schema markup. Google arbitrarily picks the info from the page to display in the form of this rich snippet and there’s not much a site can do to trigger it to appear – except for having the info on the page in a format easily readable for Google. Again, many affiliates have become quite adept at triggering the feature, and now we see an operator successfully doing it as well by having this on their page (Fig 3 below):
However, “online casino” is likely the very first in a chain of queries a potential online casino player will use before they end up on a casino site and start playing. After seeing the 10 operator sites in that SERP, where will they go next and what will help them decide which casino to play at?
Related searches at the bottom of the SERP can offer a clue to their further research process. These are the queries people are likely to type in next after searching for “online casino” (Fig 4 below):
This is where affiliates thrive, as many of these queries lead to very affiliate-dominated SERP. However, if an operator can get their brand into these suggestions, a searcher will likely end up on a brand-dominated page (Figs 5 and 6 below):
It goes without saying that an operator absolutely must rank for their own brand name (something must be very wrong with their site if they don’t). Operator brand-related queries are often a low-hanging and much desired fruit for affiliates as the queries are navigational in nature, meaning a late stage in a searcher’s journey before converting to a customer. Ranking for a brand name, showing a searcher a comprehensive review of a brand and reassuring them in their choice almost certainly earns the affiliates their commission. Therefore, some brand-related SERP are quite well stocked with affiliate sites!
But 888 does a good job not just ranking for its own brand name but also not even leaving much space on the first page of the SERP for affiliates. 888 is represented by two of its own domains (888.com and 888casino.com), as well as its Twitter account and its page on the App Store. Its site is also the source of answers for half of the ‘People also ask’ questions in this SERP (Fig 7 below):
These are just a few examples of operators’ proactive behaviour resulting in them winning in the SERP, though remember that the actual tricks and techniques used are not as important as the right mindset. Tricks and techniques change all the time and efficient affiliates constantly keep an eye on what works right now and what can benefit them.
Spotting these things is important, but reacting fast and implementing changes on the site is even more important. However, this is not always possible in large companies with complex internal structures. If approving a change to a site takes weeks or even months, and implementing it even longer, you cannot be as flexible as a small affiliate who is the sole owner and decision maker for their site.
Hence, operators need to think about optimising their internal processes, perhaps even allocating a separate R&D budget and resources to be able to quickly assess and react to new opportunities.
Justifying this may be tricky for some organisations, but not doing it would mean leaving the money on the table where affiliates are a lot quicker to pick opportunities up.