Search Marketing for the Gaming Industry – Top 10 Considerations (Part 2 of 2)

Continued from Traffic Report, June 2008.

1.    The 'gaming industry' is not one industry
2.    The big search terms are very big search terms
3.    Limited long tail but not for long
4.    Plan for Seasonality
5.    Loyal users aren't so loyal

6.    Relevancy or Credibility?
7.    Gaming on the move
8.    UGC brings in the VIPs
9.    Don't forget the emerging markets
10.  PPC is still a good gamble

 

6.    Relevancy or Credibility?
A huge misconception in highly competitive online markets is that on-page SEO, designed to improve your relevancy for key search terms, will work rapidly and essentially be all you require to achieve that Page 1 ranking in Google for 'poker'. The problem is that, in those competitive industries, there are thousands if not millions of websites taking that approach, but only 10 of them will make it on to Page 1. So the rationale is heavily flawed - if everyone is making SEO changes to their pages, why should you rank above them, given that you're doing exactly the same things as them?

The problem with relying on 'relevancy' to deliver you your rankings is that it has a ceiling - there's a point at which you can't change your site beyond what you've already done, at which point everyone now undertaking on-page SEO will all reach that ceiling. So your rankings don't really improve because everyone else is improving their sites at a similar rate.

'Credibility' however - often called link popularity, link equity, or link reputation - is another matter entirely. This refers to the number and quality of links pointing to your site from other third party sites. The major search engines use this as a measure of a sites credibility and value, and where a site should rank in Natural Search. The better your link popularity, the better you will rank.

Credibility beats Relevancy because, unlike the latter, Credibility has no algorithmic ceiling - you can always have more links than the next site, and having more equates to higher rankings. So, given that the on-page relevancy playing field is equalising, Credibility becomes the deciding algorithmic variable and should be the most important online marketing priority for a gaming site today.

7.    Gaming on the move
Online Gaming is one of the only industries which has experienced demonstrable success in Mobile Search. People seem to like playing poker, bingo, and slots on their mobile phones. One of our clients has a punter who lost, in one sitting, £25,000 whilst betting online on his mobile phone in the back of his chauffeur drive car (which suggests he could afford to lose that money!).

It's important therefore to not only ensure that your site is accessible to and works for mobile users, but also that you look to rank for search terms that suggest the searcher is looking for 'mobile gaming'. Whilst not huge in volume this kind of search behaviour is set to grow - I've been keeping tabs on the number of searches for queries like 'iphone poker online' over the last few months and it's rising fast.

8.    UGC brings in the VIPs
Most online gaming sites are pretty much identical, many using the same providers, suppliers, and pools of gamers. This creates a crowded market where loyalty is thin on the ground. It's important therefore to think about what you do with a user once you've succeeded in acquiring them through your SEO and PPC activity, and how to make them come back to you time and time again. A great way of doing this, and something that the gaming industry has traditionally been poor at engendering, is to create a sense of community within your site which makes people feel as though they are part of a discussion, a conversation, and a group of like-minded individuals. This can all be constructed through investing and promoting forums and other methods of attracting User Generated Content (UGC).

UGC is also great for SEO because people tend to link to forum threads, blog articles, and those kinds of things, all of which adds to your link popularity. Ultimately, it will help make gamers feel more loyal to your brand and will help turn you into one of the handful of accounts they decide to hold indefinitely.

9.    Don't forget the emerging markets
It's been suggested to me several times that online gaming in the UK is largely saturated with too many gambling websites (1,700 at last count) are fighting over too few customers. I'm not sure whether this is true, although the bounties paid to affiliates for high volumes of new players suggest that it is very much a sellers market.

So whilst it could be suggested that the UK is a nightmare market to enter right now, other parts of the world represent a huge opportunity, given that the demand and supply within online gaming outside of the UK appears to be far healthier as a route for expansion. For example, Spain is the fastest growing market in the industry, with growth rates around 240%, and a liberal attitude towards online gaming (in contrast to the US, France and Germany, where online gaming has suffered of late). William Hill, for example, has established joint ventures in Spain to move rapidly into that market.

It's important therefore to be aware of where the growth is occurring and to exploit the fact that SEO and PPC can allow you to enter markets more rapidly than would have been the case even 5 years ago. It's imperative however that you also ensure that your strategy reflects the culture and playing habits of the respective national audience. For example, the Spanish are crazy about their Lotto, the Spanish lottery market being one of the largest in the world. Given that interest in the Lotto, there's value in building strategies around attracting Lotto search traffic and cross-selling other games, as well as exploiting 'Lotto Fever' more directly of course.

10.    PPC is still a good gamble
Google does not allow Paid Search advertising that promotes online gambling or related sites. That means that any of the following is out of bounds:
•    sports books
•    lotteries
•    bingo
•    poker
•    sites that provide tips, odds and handicapping
•    software facilitating online casinos and gambling
•    gambling tutoring online
•    gambling related eBooks
•    'play for fun' gambling or casino games of skill including sites where the primary purpose is 'play for fun' gambling
•    affiliate sites with the primary purpose of driving traffic to online gambling sites

This is significant given that Google currently powers over 80% of all searches made in the UK. This is good for those with high Natural Search rankings of course, given that the omission of any PPC advertising in the search results essentially doubles the click-through rate enjoyed by the sites sitting in the top 3 positions, but is less helpful to sites that might want to use PPC in the UK to rapidly grow the interest in their websites and their current promotions.

That said, PPC for the gaming industry is still a good gamble. Firstly, MSN and Yahoo still allow gaming advertising and given that they attract a slightly older audience (you need to be over 18 to game online), the conversion rates are very attractive. Secondly, the contextual networks offered by the likes of Miva have exploited Google's exit by building significant inventory that is targeted towards a predominantly male demographic that is highly receptive to gaming advertisements. Thirdly, Google's 80% dominance really only extends to the major Western European states and not really much further a field. Therefore, PPC is as strong as ever in most markets outside the UK, France, and Germany, the latter two having less than liberal online gaming laws anyway.

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Key insights & figures courtesy of Greenlight's Profiler Unit
Greenlight's Profiler Unit is a dedicated research and strategy unit delivering the knowledge required for market domination in Natural and Paid Search.
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