How SEO can help online casino operators at a global level
Sports betting and casino gaming has exploded worldwide, so developing your SEO strategy to target multiple countries and languages can lead to sizeable growth pretty quickly. However, it’s important to execute it properly. If the wrong steps are taken, it can lead to a loss in organic traffic to your existing market, and negatively impact how visible your website becomes globally.
The good news is there’s plenty of information and guidance out there to help you with this, even from Google. The bad news is that a lot of it is outdated, and there’s often several different options you can choose from, each with their own pros and cons. In this article we aim to guide you towards the option that is the right fit for your plans.
Let’s start by answering some common questions that crop up when you first start thinking about international targeting:
Should I build a new website for every country I want to target?
In short, this isn’t necessary, however, the structure you choose should be based on your specific needs, such as whether you are country or language targeting, the current structure of your already existing markets and what the competition is doing in the countries/ languages you want to target.
Let’s look at the options:
A new site with country code top level domain (ccTLD) i.e. internationalcasinobrand.es
Ten years ago the ccTLD, such as .co.uk, .mx, .es, was a strong ranking factor for Google. It still remains a ranking factor, however, Google has evolved over the years and the introduction of various other geotargeting indicators such as hreflang tags and the ability to specify a target locale via Google Search Console, has opened up the options for successful international targeting. There’s also some evidence that ccTLDs aren’t as strong a ranking signal as they used to be, with generic top level domains (gTLD), such as .com, outranking their country code specific counterparts.
If you’re planning to target countries where the common language is the same in another country, such as Spanish or English, for example, there’s another option better suited that we’ll explain further on.
If you’re planning to target a country such as China, where it’s a strong ranking factor on China’s most dominant search engine Baidu, then going to the effort of building a new website is the best option here.
A sub-domain i.e. es.internationalcasinobrand.com
Rarely do you hear many SEO practitioners recommend the use of sub-domains. Mainly because they’re viewed by Google as a new domain requiring the need to build up SEO value from scratch.
On the positive side, sub-domains do allow you to build up languages or country specific targeting quite neatly, and are the most viable option when you want to avoid adding levels of depth to your site, or there’s some technical reason why sub-directories are an issue, such as it being impossible to change product offering and navigation between each country/ language version.
A sub-directory i.e. internationalcasinobrand.com/es/
In our experience, the 3rd option of building a sub-directory for each country/ language on a gTLD (.com) is favourite. The pro’s of this option far outweigh the cons in most scenarios.
With a sub-directory it’s easy to set up and maintain, as it’s simply another folder on your site. It’s less expensive than building, hosting and maintaining another website and the strength of your new sub-directory inherits all of the strength of your root domain, the benefits of which are two-fold:
All future SEO efforts to build strength and brand are concentrated on one domain and shared amongst its sub-directories.
The sub-directory gets off to a head start, with a level of domain strength, rather than starting from scratch with a new domain.
With everything though, this may not be the most ideal option for the countries and languages you plan to target, so let’s dive into some examples of what will work well in a few different scenarios.
Your target audience is distributed across many different countries speaking the same language. For example, you want to target Spanish speakers across Latin America.
One option would be to create a local version for each country, for example:
internationalcasinobrand.com/es-mx/ (Spanish speakers in Mexico)
internationalcasinobrand.com/es-pe/ (Spanish speakers in Peru)
internationalcasinobrand.com/es-br/ (Spanish speakers in Brazil)
This would enable you to serve the most personalised content to each country, and if currencies needed to be shown, they could be served to the right audience. It would also enable you to implement geotargeting indicators for Google, such as hreflang tags and Google Search Console targeting, ensuring Google understands where each version of your site is targetting.
Another option could be to create a sub-directory for all Spanish speakers:
Hreflang tags could be implemented to help Google understand which countries this subdirectory is targeted towards. The downside of this is that this generic Spanish version couldn’t contain localised content differences for your users.
This is how redbet.com do it. For example, they offer Spanish:
And the hreflang tags tell Google that it is targeting Mexico:
href="https://www.redbet.com/es/casino" hreflang="es-MX" rel="alternate" data-reactid="35"/><link data-react-helmet="true"
The reality is that at the beginning there will likely be a mixed approach, whereby country targeting will be used for your important markets, with language targeting for the lesser important, smaller countries. In a similar fashion to Unibet.com:
You currently target the UK with a .co.uk domain, and wish to target many countries speaking many languages.
The possibility of introducing subdirectories on your .co.uk domain to leverage its already established domain authority, isn’t possible.
One option could be to target other countries using country-specific ccTLDs, like unibet do:
The benefits of this would be that each site could be developed to uniquely target that country, hreflang tags could be used across domains to communicate with Google the different localized versions. This would however require a lot of effort to grow the authority of each domain and technically requires more work and infrastructure to maintain.
An alternative option here would be to introduce a gTLD (.com) that would enable you to efficiently serve different country specific, language versions of your gaming platform from one domain; opening up sub-directories that can be geo targeted through Google Search Console and specifying hreflang tags. You could either keep your .co.uk site separate, and associated to the .com domain through hreflag tags, or migrate it over to the .com domain.
You plan to target countries where multiple languages are spoken, for example, Canada, where French and English are spoken in different regions.
Our preferred option would be to create subdirectories for each main language-country combination, such as:
internationalcasionbrand.com/en-ca/ (English speakers in Canada)
internationalcasionbrand.com/fr-ca/ (French Speakers in Canada)
In a similar fashion to:
Is the hosting location important?
It’s not as important as it used to be. As we have covered, Google has made many changes to allow for a more global setting, and criteria including:
Backlinks to the page from other local sites
Country targeting via Google Search Console
Structured data and local addresses and phone numbers on the pages
language and currency usage
the use of Google My Business (where available)
All contribute as well.
Is it OK to redirect users based on their IP address?
We see this quite often with sites targeting many countries, and it’s not recommended. As an example, this would involve redirecting a user (and search engine) located in Spain to the spanish version of your website.
While this may seem tempting, the problem with this from an SEO point of view, is that it could stop the search engines from traversing all versions of your site, as Google states here:
“Avoid automatic redirection based on the user’s perceived language. These redirections could prevent users (and search engines) from viewing all the versions of your site.”
Instead, we suggest putting in place the recommended geo-targeting signals mentioned above, and allowing the search engines to work out the best version to serve; in our experience, it works!
Offering users the ability to change their country / language version in an obvious place, such as in the top navigation also ensures any incorrect targeting is rectified easily:
Do I need to use canonicalisation for duplicate language versions of my site?
No, you don’t.
Far too often we see companies eliminating same language duplicate content, which is targeted at different countries, through use of the canonical tag. This is a huge mistake, because essentially, if the search engines honour this, they will remove the duplicate versions from the index, rather than serve it to its target audience.
Implementing the hreflang attribute essentially eliminates the duplicate content issue, because you are telling google that they are targeting different audiences.
Once you’ve decided to optimize your site for international audiences and gained the necessary licences it’s time to decide on your strategy. In our experience, you can focus on the low hanging fruit relatively quickly by translating your site and implementing the different target versions within subdirectories on your site.
You will need to decide if you want to target countries, languages or a mixture of both. For important markets, our suggestion would be to target the country and its languages if there’s various spoken, as illustrated in scenario 1 above.
When it comes to translation, we’d suggest going with a native translator and avoiding automatic translation tools like Google Translate. A native translator paired with search volume tools will help you understand important keywords to target, as well as helping you with cultural references / differences to include or avoid in your content.
International SEO is a huge topic and impossible to cover in one article. However, we hope this one has helped to illustrate some important considerations that can’t be ignored if you’re planning to target the international igaming market.