How to promote an online casino in 2021 part 1: acquisition
What do online casinos need to succeed? It’s a puzzle with many pieces, but most of them are nearly identical: players. But bringing in enough players to get a project started — and keep it going — is as daunting as it is necessary. This article dives into the biggest trends in online casino and sportsbook marketing.
An effective marketing plan is absolutely essential to survive in the online gambling industry. In an age where players have seemingly infinite options, catching their attention — and keeping it — is an uphill battle that has operators constantly searching for new ideas to make their casino or sportsbook stand out.
In this article — the first of two covering online casino player acquisition and retention — we look at how to grow your traffic by partnering with affiliates, optimizing your site for search engines, advertising on television, radio, and social media, and using digital marketing.
Online gambling platforms need a steady stream of new players in order to thrive. Affiliates specialize in creating content that generates massive followings and need a channel to monetize that traffic. Affiliate partnerships, when properly executed, can be a match made in heaven.
Affiliate marketing is a form of performance-based marketing where affiliate partners earn a commission for redirecting their traffic to businesses. As businesses only pay for successful conversions, they’re better able to evaluate their marketing budgets. They can also compare the performance of various affiliate partners.
This form of marketing is common in a number of industries, and it’s especially prevalent in online gambling. The iGaming affiliate space is huge, with events and conferences that draw thousands of attendees in an average year.
Affiliate marketing for online casinos takes one of two forms.
In the first form, affiliates join a network. Online casinos sign an agreement with the network, and then the casino’s banners and ads appear on the affiliates’ online resources. Affiliates and networks find each other on aggregator sites, a kind of online marketplace for partnership arrangements.
In the second form, online casino brands have their own proprietary networks. Affiliates who join their networks direct their traffic exclusively to the same resource. This is a less common option, normally taken only by well-established brands.
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Who are affiliates?
Experienced players who want to share their tips, advice, reviews, and opinions about the world of online gambling often start their own blog. As with bloggers in any other sphere, they hope to build enough traffic that they can generate advertising revenue. Over time, they can develop a loyal following as their readers come to trust their opinions and recommendations.
Streamers are popular internet personalities who stream themselves playing online casino games such as slots. Viewers tune in to see the streamer’s emotional reactions when they hit a jackpot and to hear their opinions about the game they’re playing. They provide commentary during gameplay, and often compare games and review them. While they’re easiest to find on YouTube, they often publish content on their own site as well.
Casino portals and review sites
Online casino portals, which act as gateways to the world of online gambling, are a common choice for an affiliate partner. Players visit casino portals to look for news, reviews, and information on different kinds of bonuses. Portals also sometimes have a forum for complaints, and can serve as an intermediary to handle disputes between players and casinos.
Players value casino portals for their versatility, making them very highly valuable affiliate partners.
Gambling affiliates don’t have to be strictly gambling-related. Online casino players can have disparate interests, so cooperating with influencers and content creators in other spheres could effectively reach new pools of potential players. A variety of influencers, such as musicians, professional fighters, auto enthusiasts, and anyone else whose audience might overlap with that of online casinos can be an effective affiliate partner if the partnership is managed effectively.
But be careful not to cooperate with multiple affiliates of the same type — if their audiences overlap they might steal traffic from each other and complicate your efforts instead of augmenting them.
Affiliate compensation models
There are several common arrangements for how online casinos and sportsbooks compensate their affiliate partners.
With the revenue share (RevShare) model, affiliates earn a percentage of the losses from each player directed from the affiliate’s resource to the online casino or sportsbook platform. This is the most common compensation model in the world of affiliate marketing, as it encourages affiliates to generate relevant traffic containing long-term, loyal players. The more the players lose, the more the affiliates win, so they have every incentive to send the casino quality leads.
Casinos prefer RevShare as they only pay for effective conversions instead of blindly spending money on marketing, crossing their fingers, and hoping at least a few high rollers see their ads somewhere. The RevShare model also lets casinos clearly see which affiliates are performing well and which are not.
The percentage of the revenue that affiliates receive usually varies from 20% to 45%. More established affiliates will be at the higher end of the range, whereas newer affiliates who’ve yet to prove themselves will start lower and try to work their way up.
The Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) model is less common than the RevShare model. With CPA, affiliates receive a flat fee for each lead they direct towards the casino that performs a certain action — usually signing up or making a first deposit. Usually, the CPA model is reserved for very well-established affiliates with a history of generating quality traffic. Affiliate programs that offer the possibility of CPA compensation usually do so on a case-by-case basis.
Some affiliate programs arrange a hybrid model of compensation where affiliates receive both a flat fee for players who perform a certain action and a percentage of the lifetime revenue generated by the player.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the (sometimes endless) process of calibrating your site to rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs) on search engines like Google and Bing. SEO is an essential part of a marketing strategy in a world where common wisdom dictates that if you’re not on the first page of Google’s SERPs, you might as well not exist at all.
Search engine optimization is a creative and technical process that usually requires a highly skilled professional. Dumping popular keywords across every page of your site might feel right at the time, but a few months later you’ll realize your mistake when your traffic fails to grow. When optimizing your site, it’s essential to bear in mind that while the requirements you must satisfy are dictated by algorithms, those algorithms are designed to satisfy searchers’ intent.
Trying to appeal to everyone will only yield unappealing results. Common keywords with a high search volume will inevitably come with a high volume of competition. Instead, define an exact target audience, research them, and go after less competitive keywords that match their exact tastes.
The best keywords (and this is especially true for new casino brands) are longer, detailed, specific queries. These nearly sentence-length, lower-volume keywords will have you both facing less competition and zeroing in on your target audience.
There are a few tools you can use to find the best keywords for your platform.
Doorway resources are webpages built for the sole purpose of ranking for a keyword and accumulating traffic, which the webmaster can then redirect. Search engines view doorway resources as a form of search engine manipulation — like underhanded techniques such as keyword stuffing — and actively try to shut the sites down. For that reason, doorways are not reliable sources of long-term traffic (you never know when Google will de-index them) but they are a good indication of which keywords are valuable.
High bids on Google Adwords can also be another indication of keyword value.
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External links from other sites to yours give a big boost to your site’s authority. Link building is the process of acquiring these backlinks. The more backlinks you have, the higher your placement on the SERPs will be. Some strategies for acquiring backlinks include publishing guest posts on other online resources, and including a link when contributing to online forums. Link building can be time-consuming and expensive, but it’s an integral part of SEO.
For as long as search engines have designed algorithms to help searchers find what they’re looking for, some webmasters have tried to game the system by over-optimizing for certain parameters or requirements. One early strategy was stuffing pages with keywords, creating unreadable content that nevertheless found its way to the top of the first page of search results by virtue of keyword density. Another tactic was to include large numbers of the target keyword in the footer of the page, with the text color matching that of the footer to disguise the underhanded strategy.
However, whenever a strategy like this appears, another update to the search algorithm is never far behind. Webmasters who abuse the algorithm are likely to be penalized by the next update, so in the long run it’s best to stick to simply creating quality content that matches searcher intent.
Television and radio advertising are still widely used to promote gambling businesses. However, these forms of advertising are often tightly restricted. For example, it’s common for regulated markets to prohibit television ads from 6 am to 11 pm — or even to ban them altogether. In markets that do permit television and radio advertisements, they are often prohibited from appearing to appeal to those who are underage or from giving a misleading impression of gambling, such as portraying it as a reliable source of income or even a guaranteed means of becoming wealthy.
Always make sure to adhere to the regulations governing gambling advertising in your markets of operation.
Social Media Marketing
It’s hard to overstate the power and reach of social media marketing. Ads on channels like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Telegram are sure to reach a staggering number of users. The detailed targeting offered by social media platforms enables advertisers to hone in on potential leads with pinpoint accuracy. Age, gender, and location are just the beginning of the criteria that advertisers can select.
When a social media user loads a page, behind the scenes is a furious bidding war between advertisers vying for the user’s attention. Advertisers set their bid limits higher or lower depending on the ad’s performance.
There are a few guidelines for proper advertising on social media channels. First, you’ll have to abide by the platform’s policies for gambling advertising, which often involves registering with the platform and showing proof of license. Social media advertising will also be subject to the regulations of the market where the ads will be shown, as well, so advertisers will have to keep that in mind.
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Text copy should be snappy and to the point — in all likelihood, users are endlessly scrolling, so you can’t count on them puzzling out a paragraph of text. Your ad has to grab their attention in the millisecond they eyes slide over it, so it’s necessary to pique their interest with both text and visuals. Users usually respond best to visuals featuring other people, with the frame as close as possible.
Pay Per Click (PPC) ads appear on the search engine results page above the organic search results. Keyword research for PPC ads follows the same principles as that of organic search — choosing less-used keywords that are in line with your target audience — with the added dimension of bidding on the chosen term. One mistake that many start-ups make is neglecting to bid on their own brand as a keyword. If your competitor outbids you on your own brand name as a keyword, their site will pop up first when players search for you.
Display ads are text- and image-based ads that appear on various web resources. When users click on them, they are brought to a landing page — in this case, often a page where they can sign up for the online casino. Display ads can be banner ads at the top of the page, interstitial ads that are overlaid on the page the user is accessing, and other forms.
Nothing beats word of mouth. People inherently trust others who have been through the same experience. That’s why one of the best acquisition strategies you can use is providing a quality gaming experience with fast, effective customer service and technical support. Slow withdrawals, technical issues during gameplay, and lackluster customer support are all reasons for players to leave a less-than-favorable review on a player forum or casino portal.
On the other hand, players are also more than happy to rave about their favorite gambling platform. Players will definitely browse reviews before signing up on a new casino, and if all they read is good news, it could just be the nudge they need to make their first deposit.
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The power of players to influence each others’ opinions through reviews leads to a tried-and-true principle that applies to every industry: the best marketing strategy is a superior product, and no amount of marketing can compensate for.
How can Slotegrator help?
This is just an overview of the strategies that new online casinos should use for player acquisition. For a deep dive into the world of brand-building, with further exploration into keyword research, social media advertising, affiliate marketing, paid search, and more, download our ebook on online casino player acquisition and retention.
This article is the first in a two-article series on online casino and sportsbook player acquisition and retention. Click here for the part 2.