iGaming was one such sector that did not escape unscathed and this piece looks under the hood somewhat as to why some iGaming sites saw an upturn in google referrals, while others saw their traffic fall through a virtual trap door!
Let us know your thoughts and experiences of the 2020 Google May Core Update in the comments section below.
Google Shaking Up Organic Results In The Gambling Industry
On the 4th of May 2020 Google confirmed that it was rolling out its second broad core update of 2020. As the dust began to settle following the update, early indications highlighted that there had been a significant impact on organic visibility for a number of prominent players in the iGaming industry.
As always with a core update there will be winners and losers, and in this article we will have a look at who they are and what may have caused these changes.
What Is A Core Update?
Core updates usually occur several times each year and refer to significant and broad changes being made to Google’s algorithm. While the search engine typically rolls out smaller and more focused algorithm updates on a daily basis, these are usually hard to detect; core updates generally have a larger and much more noticeable impact on search results.
Google doesn’t disclose specifically which ranking factors are included in core updates, however it has suggested that they involve adjusting which websites or pages are ranked highest to account for new or refreshed content, as well as to meet changes in search behaviour and the intent of users.
Factors relating to E-A-T (Expertise, Authority and Trust) have been a key part of recent core updates, including the last two which occurred in September 2019 and January 2020. In comparison, the May 2020 update appears to have had a more significant impact on search results, suggesting it was potentially broader in scope than previous core updates.
How Has The May 2020 Core Update Impacted iGaming Websites?
The impact of the core update on websites in the iGaming sector has been reasonably significant. It has resulted in some sites achieving noticeable improvements in organic visibility, while for others the update has had the opposite effect.
To understand more thoroughly the extent of the update, we analysed positional data that we collect on a daily basis for almost 1,000 keywords relating to the iGaming sector.
Based on estimated search volumes, and the rank of each website for these keywords, we calculated the relative clicks each site could get from the total number of searches carried out by users.
For each domain we then aggregated the data to provide an estimate for the total number of clicks for all keywords in our list. While this isn’t necessarily a reflection of the exact number of clicks each site receives, it allows us to compare the relative proportion of the total estimated volume of clicks in the sector that each site will get.
The positions recorded include both organic and non-organic listings. This takes account of the fact that the CTR of organic listings will vary between queries; it can be significantly influenced by SERP features including paid ads, Featured Snippets and Knowledge Graph boxes. For example, a website ranking in position one of the organic listings, when there are no other listings appearing above it, may get a CTR of 15%. However, a website that ranks in the first organic position but appears below 3 paid ads will get a much lower CTR.
There are some other domains that have seen an increase in estimated clicks, but this is due to improvement in position for a smaller number of high search volume keywords.
For example, videoslots.com has seen an improvement for the query ‘videoslots’, moving from position 3 before the core update to position 1. This has played a big part in the site’s number of relative clicks doubling.
Pinkcasino.co.uk has seen an improvement in position in quite a large percentage of keywords (69%), with some marked improvements in some of the bigger volume keywords such as ‘free spins no deposit’ (position improved from 9 to 5), ‘no deposit bonus’ (position improved from 4 to 2) and ‘no deposit free spins’ (improved from position 11 to position 1).
What Are The Reasons Sites Have Been Impacted By The Update?
As previously touched on, Google’s core updates are broad changes to their search algorithms designed to deliver relevant and authoritative content to searchers. Google says that pages or sites that have been negatively affected by a core update haven’t violated their guidelines nor been subjected to a manual or algorithmic action. Instead, their changes focus on rewarding content that was previously under-rewarded.
So what kind of content is Google rewarding? According to Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, page quality is determined largely by the E-A-T of the page:
Expertise – The expertise of the author of the main content on the page
Authority – The authoritativeness of the creator of the main content on the page, the content itself and the website
Trustworthiness – The trustworthiness of the creator of the main content, the content itself, and the website
In a generation of ‘fake news’ it has become more important than ever for Google to serve factual and trustworthy content. Content should therefore be unique, produced by experts and updated regularly to remain correct.
E-A-T & the iGaming Sector
Understanding what the winners are doing in this sector, in relation to E-A-T can go a long way in determining what sites should continue to do, moving forwards, if they want to remain visible in this competitive space. Similarly, looking at the top losers, we can build a picture around what caused Google to depreciate these sites, and what they should look at improving in time for the next core algorithm update.
Let’s look at some key metrics:
The strength of your link profile is still a powerful indicator of authority. If your business and your content is getting linked to from trustworthy sources, this is a vote of authority. It is of course Google’s mission to understand which links are there because there’s real buzz around your company / content, and which links are there because they have been paid for / incentivised in some way.
Google is getting increasingly better at knowing which votes to trust and the latest core update has likely tightened up on this. If your site has seen a drop in visibility around the time of a core update and your backlink profile contains links from low-authority sources, it’s very possible Google is simply rewarding your competitors because they have earned links from trustworthy sources and you haven’t.
If we look at Trust Flow, a MajesticSEO metric that scores a website’s perceived trustworthiness from the quality of the backlinks, we can see that the Trust Flow of gambling.com increased towards the end of 2019. Perhaps this is one of the reasons they have been rewarded in the recent core update. We can also see that the Trust Flow for kingcasinobonus.co.uk and slotsia.com, who both lost visibility in the recent update, has taken a slide.
To ensure this doesn’t happen to you with future updates, the greatest control you have is over creating great content on your site. Putting linkable content on your site and having an outreach plan in place to attract links from high authority sources tells Google that your content is exemplary, trusted and worthy of being ranked. In fact, we believe that even a nofollow link or mention on an authority site counts towards your perceived authority.
Mentions of your brand, and we believe nofollow links, across the web can help to improve your authority, assuming they’re positive and on trustworthy sites.
If we look at a snapshot below illustrating brand mentions across the web from the past month (April – May 2020) we can see that Gambling.com and 32Red.com, both winners in this recent update, have had a lot more mentions of their brand across the web, when compared to casinogorilla.com and kingcasinobonus.co.uk, both of which lost visibility in the latest update.
One of the first things you can do to increase your brand authority, and therefore mentions, is to create unique link worthy content on your site. Concepts for linkable content in the gambling sector can cover a broad range of topics, such as data on popular and trending topics that appeal strongly to a variety of target verticals.
Unique & Fresh Content
While iGaming has seen some major fluctuations, one of the main sectors affected by this core update, and past ones, has been the medical and health sectors. In fact, one of the core updates was coined the “medic update”. Google gave some direct advice to this sector:
“High E‑A-T medical advice or information should be written or produced in a professional style and should be edited, reviewed, and updated on a regular basis.”
While this advice is directed towards the medical sector, the same algorithm is at play in iGaming and all other sectors so we can assume that fresh and updated content is important more generally across all sectors if you want to benefit from future core updates.
Keeping your content up to date and factual is an indication of trust for Google, and there’s data published by Neil Patel in his recent post here: https://neilpatel.com/blog/google-may-2020-core-update/ that shows those sites that regularly update their content are benefiting from core algorithm updates.