by Bartosz Burzyński

“Gambling is both a sensitive and extremely competitive niche”

The long-time Director of SEO & Publishing at Gaming Innovation Group, Milorad Matejic, talks to iGaming Express about how to properly manage the websites of such a large group as GIG. Milorad Matejic also points out that the gambling industry is extremely competitive, but appropriate SEO activities can help achieve a competitive advantage.

Milorad Matejic

You’ve been working in SEO at GiG for almost 8 years. Could you give us some insight into your daily responsibilities and tasks?

Since the Publishing department at GiG Media numbers over 100 people and since we manage over 100 websites, no day is exactly the same. 

Most of my time is split between communicating with my direct reports (Heads of SEO and Content), liaising with other departments around strategy and operational issues, and attending market or unit meetings. In the latter, we discuss what has happened over the previous month, what issues we have faced (if any), what the plans are for the upcoming month and anything else related to a specific unit or market in which we operate.

Although we have a big team that is capable of running things independently and reporting on progress, like every other person with an SEO background, I am still addicted to constantly checking how our websites rank in search engines. This is something I do during and outside of working hours, I can’t help it. And it, of course, gets worse during Google updates, like the ones we’ve just had.

With such a big team and so many websites, there is naturally a lot of fire fighting going on all the time and I step in where I am needed the most at any given time. During quieter periods, I like to look for new higher level opportunities, such as new website launches, new market entries and similar.

How does SEO contribute to the overall growth and success of the company?

We have two departments within GiG Media: Publishing, which relies on organic traffic to drive players to operators, and Paid Media, which purchases traffic via channels such as search engines, social media platforms, media websites, email marketing, and similar. Both departments are equally important and have huge growth potential.

However, Publishing has a higher profit margin since the traffic it relies on is “free”. Moreover, content that we publish on our websites today has the potential to bring in revenue many years into the future, provided that it still ranks in Google and is relevant to users. While we maintain content we have published in the past, we can also focus on producing new content in order to constantly grow traffic to our websites.

Due to this high profit margin and long-life nature of the business model, we consider ourselves to be an SEO-first company. This means that all our products are created with SEO in mind from the start. It is our ultimate goal to satisfy both our website visitors and operators with which we partner, but in order to be able to do this we must have visibility in search engines. 

This is also why SEO initiatives are at the heart of our business and why all our various teams ensure that all their actions are aligned with the SEO team. The SEO team has the final say about whether something should or shouldn’t be done with our websites.

Is SEO in the gambling industry unique in any way, or are there universal principles that apply here as well?

There are certain aspects of the industry that make doing SEO in it slightly different from other industries. Gambling is both a sensitive and extremely competitive niche, due to how lucrative it is.

Being a sensitive niche means that it falls within what Google calls Y-M-Y-L (Your Money Or Your Life) content, along with finance, health, medicine, and similar. This type of content poses a heightened risk to users in terms of their ability to lose significant amounts of money or damage their health or wellbeing.

Google’s aim is to show Y-M-Y-L content from trusted and reputable sources in order to reduce the potential risk to users. This is why it looks for E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authority and trust) signals on websites. A lot can be said about E-E-A-T, but some examples would be questions such as who is behind the website, how much experience does the person producing the content have, has the content been fact checked, are there links or mentions of the website on other known reputable websites, is the content up to date, among others. In essence, these signals should lead to Google serving high quality content that has been produced in order to help users. E-E-A-T factors are important for all websites, but they are even more important for websites about gambling.

Furthermore, gambling is one of the most competitive niches in search. To have a high-ranking website about gambling, you need to outdo the competition on as many ranking factors as possible. This requires a real obsession with details and constant improvements to both on-page, off-page and technical aspects of the website.

To summarise, all the universal principles of SEO also apply to gambling websites, but certain factors are weighted more and a lot more effort is needed in general than is the case with many other less sensitive and less competitive niches.

What key skills and competencies do you believe are essential in this field?

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many different SEO professionals. The most knowledgeable ones weren’t necessarily bringing in the best results. This is because success in SEO is all about execution, rather than abstract theorising. 

In a field that is more probabilistic than deterministic, as is the case with SEO, the more different things you try – no matter how unconventional they may be – the higher your chance of success. 

For this reason, it’s essential to possess certain personality traits in addition to skills and competences. These personality traits are: openness to new ideas, humility and accepting that you don’t know everything, perseverance, drive, and attention to detail.

When it comes to skills, SEO is peculiar because it requires a mix of analytical, technical and creative skills. You need to be able to analyse and segment data in order to draw actionable conclusions. You need to be able to perform website audits and understand the technical aspects that constitute an optimised website. But you also need a high dose of critical thinking in order to spot correlations and test creative solutions.

Last but not least, I would single out good writing skills. Many SEOs will never need to write content for their websites themselves and would be able to come up with briefs and optimise content for search engines without good writing skills. However, in order to ensure long-term success, content needs to be engaging and convincing for the user and this certainly requires the aforementioned skills.

Do you believe that effective SEO efforts can give a company a competitive edge in the iGaming industry?

Whether you are an operator or an affiliate, overlooking SEO would be a big mistake and having great SEO would definitely give you a competitive edge. 

As an operator, ranking highly in search engines for transactional keywords means you can save a lot of money on marketing and payouts to affiliates. There are instances of operators who have such poorly optimised websites that they even fail to rank for their own brand. This means more money for the affiliates who outrank them. Just solving this simple SEO problem would save the operator a lot of money.

On the other hand, for the affiliate who doesn’t solely rely on paid marketing, effective SEO is a prerequisite for survival. Knowing what keywords to go after and in which markets can help the affiliate extract more value from each referred player, leading to higher revenues. Having a website that Google trusts means being able to rank for big sports events, as well as evergreen topics. All this translates into lots of traffic and ultimately customers.

When compared to other marketing channels, there is no doubt that a proper investment in SEO, when done correctly, has the potential to bring the highest returns in the long run.

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