Author: May Thawdar Oo
One of the foundational principles Google emphasizes is to create high-quality content and provide an optimized user experience. However, that hasn’t always been the case.
Granted, the global tech giant has gone to great lengths to disincentivize tactics to “game” the system.
However, many site owners – perhaps you, even – would agree that even the best websites delivering value and high-quality content could struggle outranking those that use, uh, cunning SEO tactics to achieve their ends.
Well, all that’s about to change – big time.
Here’s a glimpse of how it will be:
Back in May 2020, we wrote about how page experience will become one of the Google Search ranking signals in 2021.
Google is implementing a new algorithm update again this coming May, wherein page experience will become one of its primary search ranking signals.
This will include a visual indicator that identifies pages that meet all the necessary page experience criteria. The indicator will let searchers know whether a particular result would deliver a great experience.
iGaming content creators, brands, and marketers, in particular, should therefore become more invested in providing the best page experience they can deliver.
That said, if you want to find out how to rank higher on Google with iGaming content – and deliver the page experience that Google looks favorably upon – it’s essential to optimize your site to take advantage of the upcoming changes just around the bend.
Let’s discuss what iGaming site owners can expect from this Google update and how they can prepare their sites from the SEO side of things.
What Is Page Experience?
Google was set to roll out the page experience update back in 2020, however, due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the search engine giant decided to postpone it until May 2021.
This update combines the factors below into a single, consolidated ranking signal for page experience as demonstrated by the following diagram:
Google evaluates signals in order to determine how a user perceives the experience of a particular page.
These include page load times, mobile-friendliness, security on HTTPS, not having intrusive interstitials, safe browsing, apart from fine-tuning usability and speed metrics. These signals comprise the page experience.
In essence, Google will be measuring user experience quality while browsing. This means that the margins that determine the link between user experience design and search ranking performance are about to get much finer.
Now, let’s take a look at each element that comprises the page experience criteria and why it is one of the most important SEO marketing strategies for iGaming content marketers, brands, and site owners alike to implement.
1. Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals includes the three following signals linked to on-page loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability as follows:
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
Measures on-page loading performance. According to the Google benchmark, a good site should have LCP triggered within the first 2.5 seconds when the page begins to load.
First Input Delay (FID)
Indicates site interactivity or the responsiveness of interactive elements accessible on your page. Google states that an FID of less than 100ms is required in order to quantifiably deliver a good user experience.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
Measures visual stability. Visual stability detects element movements after they’ve been loaded on-page and checks if everything is in order. Per Google, in order to deliver a top-notch user experience, sites should have a CLS ranking of 0.1.
📢 Action Item: Speed It Up
It’s time to take an audit of your iGaming site. How fast does your content and visual assets appear on the screen? Does it take forever to load?
It’s all about page speed. And, based on experience, iGaming sites are frontrunners for optimizing Core Web Vitals.
Why? Some iGaming websites are stuck in the paradigm of using intricate, flashy visual assets designed for client engagement, which tend to slow down page loading times and diminish user experience.
Given how tight the competition is in the crowded iGaming market, being outperformed by your direct competition on Google’s Core Web Vitals signals may leave you in the dust in the SERP rankings. Speed matters more than sizzle ever will.
Google has set forth interactivity and visual stability benchmarks, and websites need to meet them for each Core Web Vital to substantially impact and benefit their page experience signal metrics.
As of July 2019, mobile indexing has been the default method for indexing new websites. That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that mobile-friendly sites outperform their desktop counterparts on the rankings.
It should serve as a clarion call for you to deliver a superb page experience for your users across a wide array of mobile and desktop devices.
Google has a Mobile-Friendly Test tool to check if your website is optimized for mobile users and is easily accessible on the Google Search Console for mobile. This will help you ensure your website is 100% ready for the upcoming page experience updates.
📢 Action Item: Optimize For the Majority of Mobile Devices
There are practically millions of new users accessing the internet for the very first time – every single day.
And, with 5.22 billion mobile users as of 2021, two-thirds of the world’s total population accesses the internet using a mobile device – accessibility will be a critical success factor.
You don’t have to optimize for a Nokia 3210. However, your iGaming site should run well on a reasonably older mobile device (talk about your iPhone SE and iPhone 6.)
No one wants to wait – particularly when they’re engrossed in their favorite pastime or when they’re trying to nail a live bet or take advantage of a hot baccarat run. It’s an agonizing wait that will turn off your potential customers for good.
The 3-second rule applies to the mobile experience – according to Google’s findings; Over half of mobile users hit the “back” button if a page doesn’t load within 3 seconds.
Don’t leave money on the table by not making your site pages compatible with most devices. Because if your UX doesn’t suit part of your clientele, another competitor will.
3. Safe Browsing
Google naturally has an interest in keeping its search results as safe for its users as it possibly can. That’s why it rewards sites that are secure, free from malicious or deceptive content.
That said, if your iGaming site has been hacked before or has had a sketchy past, it’s best to check any security concerns that might knock down your site ranking.
The Security Issues report on Google is your friend – use it or lose it.
As we’ve just mentioned, Google has long held security as one of the key tenets of page experience.
HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure and it officially became one of Google’s ranking signal back in 2014.
Suppose you just set up your iGaming affiliate blog, and you haven’t the faintest idea of how to implement HTTPS. Don’t worry, your hosting provider should be able to help you.
Google also shared a guide on securing websites with HTTPS – so don’t forget to check it out too!
📢 Action Item: Implement HTTPS
Nothing will scream “fly by night” than a site that’s not HTTPS-secured – unless you don’t care about rankings.
So, if you haven’t sorted out your site’s security in the current year and haven’t forced HTTPS on your site, then get to stepping right now – be it asking help from your hosting provider or learning it yourself.
5. Fewer pop-ups or interstitials
Interstitial spaces are a kind of web page that appears before or after a page is accessed.
They are generally used for promotions, surveys, coupons, and signup forms, among many others – practically anything that appears on user screens when they arrive at your home page is counted as one.
As you can see from this image, our friends from Casumo played it well by placing just one small pop-up banner at the base of the screen – which doesn’t interrupt the navigation but is still static throughout the page.
So, if your pages feature too many of them, it may be time to reconsider your UX strategy before Google implements the update.
That’s because nine times out of ten, intrusive pop-ups harm user experience and accessibility — and that’s why Google announced back in 2017 that inaccessible sites wouldn’t rank high as they used to.
Too much of anything is bad, and pop-ups and overlays are best used only when needed, particularly in the case of age verification and cookie banners.
📢 Action Item: Use Pop-Ups Only When Necessary
Overbearing interstitials – particularly those on mobile – remain an issue for some iGaming sites to this very day.
UX hasn’t changed much in that space for the past decade.
Aggressive interstitials like CTAs, cookie disclaimers, age verification screens, and offers can detract from user experience, particularly when they make users jump through hoops to dismiss pop-ups before allowing them to view their content, especially on mobile.
Sites that do will run afoul of the new page experience update in May 2021.
iGaming brands need to step their game up in terms of creativity, user experience, and customer focus in all aspects of their collective online and mobile presence.
Not many iGaming platforms are developed with the best SEO practices in mind, and content quality tends to be tired, repetitive variations on existing themes.
We’ve also seen iGaming brands and their affiliates being criticized for a low-quality approach to promoting their brand – if not downright in breach of certain regulations.
The key takeaway? Long-term quality is here, and it’s here to stay.
iGaming brands and operators that implement Google’s recommendations to create better customer experiences focused on positively engaging customers.
Sites that fail to do so, on the other hand, will fall by the wayside. Tread accordingly.
Prioritizing UX/UI Considerations
The iGaming industry has no shortage of enthusiastic customers ready to get their skin in the game.
iGaming and sports betting fans will find a way to scratch their itch, so to speak, and dedicated fans will find their way to a content provider that is most suited to their likes and dislikes. That’s where UX and UI come in.
After all, it’s difficult for any iGaming brand to build loyalty if it takes their sites forever to load. Anyone who’s played in any iGaming site will attest to this.
Sites that are too busy, noisy, and have too many things going on will tank user and page experience, and detract from their content.
On the other hand, user interface deals with how your site looks. As graphics evolve, so does the clientele.
Not implementing proper UI will kill off any buzz your site already has, because an outdated page design will turn off new players before they get to learn more about how awesome your offers, games, or customer service are.
It should come as no surprise that great UX and UI practices lead to better conversation rates. This may include live prompts, data feeds, and statistical odds and ends that have become granular and immersive.
In the case of online casinos, there’s definitely some room for improvement on deposits and withdrawals, how games are categorized and presented, and how fast transactions, customer service, and registrations are handled.
In fact, auditing your iGaming site may reveal opportunities to tighten up your off-page SEO strategies, answer the questions that your users value, and build the trust and confidence that drives the bottom line.
As Google stated, delivering an excellent page experience allows users to achieve more and gain deeper engagement, whereas a bad one will prevent users from finding value on your page – and ultimately turn them off from visiting it in the future.
iGaming affiliates are slightly at an advantage considering they don’t have to deal with the complexity that iGaming operators do. Nonetheless, some affiliates have customarily put together sites with the ultimate goal of getting as sportsbook or online casino reviews online as fast as they can.
In the end, content is king – and focusing on content quality will become increasingly a critical battleground for iGaming operators and affiliates alike. That’s because not too long from now, Google will be able to tell what an indistinguishable mass of websites already repeating the same drivel about the same old claptrap.
Websites shouldn’t be mere content repositories; they should be seen as real, tangible resources that can make the difference between profit and loss.
To summarize, iGaming site owners should focus on the threefold guidance given by Google:
- Create content that is easy to process and consume, instead of focusing on being the most comprehensive source of information on the topic.
- Focus on stunning, yet fast, accessible, and responsive design.
- Interactive elements, site content, visual assets, and content should make your user experience better for your users.
In the end, each brand is different, and there are a variety of approaches that can be taken to tailor the perfect iGaming content marketing strategy for any brand. But there is an existing mutuality that most experts will tend to agree on: the paradigm is about to change.
What Google considers a good user experience may not necessarily be the same as what your in-house marketing team thinks.
It’s high time we do away with the days of web copy that falls over itself talking loud and saying nothing, or pretty bells and whistles that don’t necessarily add value to the user experience. That’s an old hat.
In the end, what users want is value, functionality, speed, and clarity.
Granted, it’s your prerogative to take what Google is implementing as part of its page experience update. You might even choose to pursue a different direction.
One thing’s for sure, however: you need to play by the rules if you’re looking to build a sustainable strategy zeroed in on future growth and progress.
Header Image Source: Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
How did you like May Thawdar Oo’s blog post “Understanding the New Google Page Experience Algorithm Update”? Let us know in the comments if you have anything to add, have another content idea for iGaming blog posts, or just want to say “hello.” 🙂