The Search for Online Gambling

By Greg Taylor and Les Romhanyi

Five years ago, we thought of the Web as a new medium, not a new economy. ~ software engineer, Clement Mok (1999)

Now nearly 10 years later, we still can’t truly grasp the full potential of the Internet on business today. But we do know that the “trend” of online advertising has changed forever the way businesses and consumers interact. And we also know that the web is here to stay.

The clutter on the Internet is growing at a phenomenal rate, with 3.9 million more websites appearing on the web in the month of June alone. Today, there are over 178 million websites and 48.7 billion individual web pages, that number having increased by 50% in the past 12 months. *

This is why search engines have become so ubiquitous, and now are synonymous with web surfing, so much so that over 80% of all customers use search engines to find new websites. *

So the big question is: With all these websites, how are you to be found?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the answer.

SEM is the form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). And the two methods of SEM are organic search or search engine optimization (SEO), the other being sponsored links, or Pay Per Click (PPC).

Organic search refers to the main body of search results that a search engine will display when queried. Usually, and in the case of, there are 10 listings of results per page and they are lined up on the left side of the results page.

When a search engine spider crawls a website, it gathers information about that site and ranks it against all other sites for that particular topic. The search engine assigns certain values to specific properties of the webpage and the resulting score or algorithm, determines the sites ranking (SERP) for that topic, and displays the link in the organic listings.

Fortunately for website owners and those who practice the art of SEO, these rankings can be manipulated by applying some search engine optimization techniques.

The basic method is to provide meta content — the text contained within a web page’s Meta tags, which form part of the document head used to describe aspects of the document, such as title, description and keywords – inbound links and matching keywords on the page to the meta content. Further optimizing can be done with each website’s architecture and structure, which can either help or hinder how easily it’s indexed by search engines, as well as the use of content management systems (CMS) and other content feeds on the website.

PPC results refer to the listings on the search engines that are usually on the top, bottom, right hand or combination of the three, of the results page. These listings are ranked by bidding on the keywords with the highest bidder taking first place and so on.

However, the online gambling industry’s access to this lead generation channel was eliminated as a result of ongoing pressure applied from the U.S. government and the Department of Justice on the Big 3 search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN.

All forms of government ultimately are not going to succeed in trying to control or censor the Internet ~ Rupert Murdoch

Since the spring of 2004, generating leads through PPC has not been an option for online gambling. The US government’s mandate of restricting this industry through various means, including access to US-based mainstream media, led to the elimination of buying paid listing for anything associated with online gambling.

Google, MSN and Yahoo were all forced to not only stop receiving any future revenues from the online gambling industry, but to also pay retroactive monies earned in the years going back to 1999. The trio agreed to pay a total of $31.5m to settle claims that they accepted online ads promoting gambling. None of the three firms ever accepted any wrongdoing as part of the civil settlement, which concluded an investigation dating back to 2000.

This is the same pressure the US government placed on on Pay Pal, Neteller and The Sporting News to name just a few.

So this push by US authorities to get a stranglehold on mainstream US advertising has now put a huge onus on search engine optimization for today’s online gambling marketers.

This focus and expectation for achieving top search results has created an ever-escalating battle among the top poker rooms, casinos and sportsbooks, each spending more every year to attain top results for a myriad of search terms, all in the name of fresh traffic and increased revenues.

Some online gambling operators have spent upwards of $1-million and more annually, employing as many as two dozen full time staff just to ensure they are “above the fold” on the first page for the top 200-300 keywords relevant to their specific vertical.

And with more websites going up each month, and the increased importance of search engines to drive new customers to various online gambling sites, the monies being spent on search engine optimization will only increase year over year.

But for the various online gambling operators who have focused resources and budget on this dynamic medium, search marketing has proved to be very profitable and will continue to be so for at least the foreseeable future.

Long live the web and SEO.

* (source Netcraft webserver survey).

Greg Taylor – President, Big Juice Media
Greg has worked in the online sports betting industry for over a decade, working in a marketing and communications capacity with some of the largest online sportsbooks such as Bodog, Bet365, Nine, betED, BetOnline and Sportingbet. In the past few years, Big Juice Media has focused on the Search Marketing channel for both online gambling and fantasy sports.

Les Romhanyi – Director of Search, Big Juice Media
Les has optimized websites for search engines before it was even called Search Engine Optimization, going back to 1995 while working on the Net Sheppard project. Since then, he has provided SEO services to the online adult, real estate and pharmaceutical verticals, as well as online gambling.