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Winners, losers &
link building in igaming

We’ve been taking a look at how the search market for online casino has changed over the last 6 months in terms of overall visibility and rankings for the top 10 sites.

Our analysis has revealed that there have been some big changes particularly for domains that had previously held strong rankings for some time. More interestingly, we’ve identified some surprising optimisation strategies and results for some sites that may have a wider impact in the igaming market in the coming months.

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For clarity when we talk about visibility we’re referring to how visible a site is based on its rankings for organic search terms. Our analysis has looked at 100 highly search terms that relate to online casino and slots. How we calculate a visibility score is explained at the foot of this article.

From October 17 to March 18 there have been some major shifts in the online casino search market. In October 2017 the top 10 sites in terms of overall visibility are listed below:

domain October 17 Visibility
grosvenorcasinos.com 143,059
21.co.uk 113,797
expresswins.co.uk 104,071
pinkcasino.co.uk 95,276
freeslots.com 91,269
32red.com 89,765
paddypower.com 84,568
winzino.com 81,268
swankybingo.com 72,024
newnodepositcasino.co.uk 70,744

At this time grosvenorcasinos.com was dominating the results with the closest competitors being 21.co.uk and expresswins.co.uk. We tracked how the overall visibility changed each month as shown below:

domain oct 17 nov 17 dec 17 jan 18 feb 18 mar 18
grosvenorcasinos.com 143,059 146,548 160,425 189,796 180,536 130,144
21.co.uk 113,797 82,265 123,537 134,389 169,523 112,498
expresswins.co.uk 104,071 104,400 92,479 28,948 12,154 8,215
pinkcasino.co.uk 95,276 129,242 172,593 175,295 183,021 148,051
freeslots.com 91,269 92,538 98,111 88,774 84,500 50,796
32red.com 89,765 110,854 118,416 83,258 71,421 70,366
paddypower.com 84,568 70,793 64,924 35,258 38,045 21,897
winzino.com 81,268 116,376 21,137 10,369 8,351 4,447
swankybingo.com 72,024 41,592 23,915 17,047 11,447 1,020
newnodepositcasino.co.uk 70,744 70,626 65,944 79,675 60,860 79,852

By March 2018 there have been falls in visibility and rankings for 8/10 sites that were in the top 10 in October 2017. Expresswins.co.uk, Winzino.com and SwankyBingo.com have seen the most significant falls in rankings. Other sites 32red.com, freeslots.com and PaddyPower.com have also seen considerable drops.

Grosvenercasinos.com still has strong rankings, but it has seen a big drop since February 2018. 21.co.uk has overall remained fairly stable with only a 1% loss in visibility.

In comparison to the general decline experienced within the top 10 ranking domains PinkCasino.co.uk has seen a significant increase in rankings and visibility (+55%).

What happened with Winzino.com?

We started to analyse Winzino.com.
This was of particular interest as back in June 2017 the site had very little visibility. In fact in June 2017 the rankings were very similar to where they are now. However, from July 17 to November 17 rankings and visibility increased significantly.

The graph below shows estimated traffic levels based upon visibility and rankings.

As the chart shows traffic and rankings increased and peaked in October 17 and from this point they began to decline once again until they’ve reached a similar level to where they started; although probably a little improved.

We found this type of performance increase and decline in a relatively short space of time unusual, so we looked a little deeper.

Some of the search terms that had seen the most significant improvements related to ‘no deposit’. For example there are approximately 14,000 phrase match searches that contain ‘no deposit bonus’; winzino.com went from position 26 on Google.co.uk in July 17 to position 1 by September 2017.

Prior to, and during this period, we can see that the site ran a no deposit promotion with a landing page. Unique content is important, but in our experience this should not explain why the site jumped from page 3 to the top of page 1. The page is definitely going to play a part as you can’t expect to rank for something if you don’t have a landing page.

We analysed the link profile and found that one month prior to the increase in visibility and rankings there was an influx of links which happened over a 4 month period. This increase in links (shown in the chart) does follow a similar pattern to the curve in the estimated click chart above.

An analysis of the links shows that in general there is nothing nefarious happening; the vast majority of the links are from affiliates and affiliate networks – so nothing unusual for igaming. Notwithstanding this the pattern of the backlink profile and the timing would suggest that this may have played a part in winzino.com gaining those high rankings. As the influx of new links continued over a period of months the rankings appear to have improved and then fallen away when the activity receded; or the search engines decided to discount the value of those links.

Based on our experience and analysis in the sector we believe affiliate links have no bearing on rankings and that they were dealt with by the search engines, but maybe something has changed.

As far back as 2012 Google’s Matt Cutts said the following on affiliate links,

We handle the vast majority of affiliate stuff correctly because if it is a large enough affiliate network we know about it and we handle it on our side.

Of course we’re talking about organic optimisation so there will always be many other potential factors at play. Key factors include domain age, legacy issues, link history, site structure and Google updates to name a few; these areas and more all play their part in how well a site ranks with search engines.

However, then we saw this...

Taking a look at March 18 visibility for the top 10 rankings sites for online casino search terms.

domain mar 18 visibility
kingcasinobonus.co.uk 153,943
winkslots.com 152,970
pinkcasino.co.uk 148,051
grosvenorcasinos.com 130,144
21.co.uk 112,498
newnodepositcasino.co.uk 79,852
32red.com 70,366
netbet.co.uk 69,190
tradacasino.com 65,187
ladbrokes.com 62,466

The number 1 ranking site is kingcasinobonus.co.uk, an affiliate. In November 17 the site had no real visibility, but rankings have improved each month. Between February and March 18 they have rocketed.

domain oct 17 nov 17 dec 17 jan 18 feb 18 mar 18
kingcasinobonus.co.uk 44 18 1.690 8.285 26.257 153.943

The link profile for kingcasinobonus.co.uk is shown below.

This link acquisition activity has continued and increased throughout 2018.

The site has approximately 1800 pages indexed and a significant amount of content, but a scan of the site reveals flags for duplicate content.

I’m not really going to comment too much on the links, let’s describe the vast majority of them as ‘old school’ and based on the results it does possibly point to a change in how the search engines are dealing with links. Historically, mechanisms existed that dealt with the quality and the speed with which links were being acquired. So as you can imagine we’re really interested in is what will happen next with this domain in the coming months and how will the search engines react.

We’re undertaking on-going analysis across the sector as this could point towards a major shift in how search engines are assessing the value of links or how they are monitoring such activity. If there has been a change in the search engines when it comes to link building this could have considerable implications in the igaming sector in 2018.

If anyone would like more information regarding our analysis or if you would like to discuss optimisation strategy please get in touch.

We’re optimisation experts. Do you need help increasing traffic?

Call us on 0800 634 8283 0800 634 8283 to find out more.

Methodology

For the purpose of our analysis we calculate a simple visibility score using search term positions and the corresponding search volume (visibility = search volume / positions). The visibility score is the search volume weighted down by the position, so the lower the position the less the search volume counts towards the overall visibility score. We looked at the top 100 search terms. We hope that makes sense!

Sources

Sayu Labs, Majestic, SEM Rush

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