SEO in the iGaming: affiliates vs operators

In the iGaming world (or online gambling world, if you prefer), the B2C businesses are of two types: operators (casinos, sportsbooks, poker rooms, etc…), and affiliates (websites – or other properties like a Facebook page or a mobile app – that drive traffic toward the operators in exchange for a commission).

From an SEO point of view, affiliates and operators compete on search engines. What I’d like to point out in this simple article is about the main differences between the two, and try to help those going from one side of the fence to the other, highlighting where are the main challenges for them.

SEO is all about three different areas: technical, content and off-site (links), so I’m going to discuss each area for both affiliates and operators.

SEO for iGaming affiliates

For affiliate sites, organic traffic is by far the most important source. Sure, some use Google AdWords, and some others use social networks, but for the vast majority of affiliate businesses, Google is the traffic source (social profiles and apps work on different things to get visible, so they are out of scope).

By the way, please note I’d be happy to use “search engines” instead of “Google”, but, you know, the two terms are almost interchangeable…

Affiliates and technical SEO

Affiliate sites are usually optimised out-of-the-box from a technical SEO point of view because they are often content sites that rely on platforms like WordPress that are pretty good with it.

Of course, lately, some affiliates are evolving into something more complicated than that, for example with logged-in areas of the site, but still, technical SEO is usually easy, because there’s no need to complicate things.

What affiliates usually need to focus on are the two other areas of SEO: content and links.

Affiliates and SEO content

Content is vital for an affiliate site, and not just from an SEO point of view. Without useful, informative content, affiliate sites would have no reason to exist at all. For this reason, affiliates usually have good SEO content anyway: without good content, an affiliate site wouldn’t be bad just for SEO; it would be bad in absolute terms.

Affiliates and links

The hardest part for affiliates is off-site SEO.

Getting good links is hard in general; it’s harder in the iGaming; it’s even harder when a site is not a brand. Affiliate sites tick the boxes.

It can also be too expensive when the affiliate site starts as a side project of a single person because getting links costs money and time (and time is money).

The good news for affiliates, however, is that they are usually able to create any content they want and creating linkable content help them getting links more easily.

SEO for iGaming operators

Operators have other types of challenges. Here SEO is just another source of traffic, and never the most important (at launch, at least).

This is how it usually goes: a new casino gets developed, from the day of the launch all the traffic comes from affiliates who are offered a generous reward to promote the casino, and after a while, trying to diversify the traffic and reduce the costs in commissions, the decision of investing in SEO is finally taken.

But SEO is not a patchwork, and SEO should have been planned since the very beginning.

Operators and technical SEO

Sure, sometimes it’s easy to jump in and fix everything. It takes (a lot of) time, but step by step a site can be fully optimised.

Some other times, though (more and more often lately, with the explosion of technologies like Javascript web application frameworks), fixing a site is extremely challenging and, in the end, one has to choose between two alternatives: compromise on a not-really-optimised site or rebuild it from scratch.

In general, anyway, the big challenge for SEOs within iGaming operators is the same that most in-house SEOs in the world have: getting the priority.

Here, SEO competes with a lot of other things and, and if SEO is not the priority for the company, it will always be relegated to a suboptimal compromise.

And then operators are surprised when affiliates outrank them…

The hardest part for affiliates is technical SEO

Operators and SEO content

Content is a perfect example of conflict of priorities: marketing and UX might come to a good solution that will make both happy, but SEO often ends up with a sop like “you can add a line of text of the bottom of the page” or “we can put it hidden, but visitors can expand the text with a click”.

If SEO has no priority, content is going to be a problem. Not much a problem in having the content per se, but in having the content displayed effectively.

Operators and links

Off-site is possibly the easiest part of SEO with operators. At least, if they have enough budget to dedicate to this work. Off-site SEO is extremely time-consuming, but at least if there’s a budget it’s something that can be done without having to fight over priorities with others (well, except when it’s time to discuss the budget, of course!).

Mind, getting links is never easy, and getting good links is very hard, but with the right resources, it can be done efficiently.

Obviously, it’s always true that getting links to a site that has critical issues is like trying to fill with water a bucket full of holes.

So, fixing at least the main on-site SEO issues is vital anyway.

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