The online gambling sector provides an excellent case study for online marketing more broadly. Casino operators exist almost exclusively within the online bubble, and as such, they need to find and retain players within the virtual market. There are a number of different techniques at their disposal, which can be used to drive growth in player numbers, as well as encouraging existing players to come back time and time again. In reality, online casinos spending vast amounts of budget on online marketing, and employ teams of specialists to execute each strange of their strategy.
The results speak for themselves, with the online gambling industry now a multi-billion dollar market around the world each year, and growing. Much of this can be attributed to the success of their online marketing models for both player acquisition and retention, and there are a number of key techniques deployed in making this growth a reality.
PPC advertising, or pay-per-click, is one of the favourite strategies of casino marketing departments, both for acquisition and retention and it has many benefits over other forms of advertising. It allows casinos to effectively buy traffic in a highly targeted way, demanding attention in exchange for budget. One of the beauties of PPC is that it’s a known quantity – if you’re paying £1 per click and your budget allows for £10,000, you know you can buy 10,000 visitors. From the total visitors sent to their landing page, the casinos know a certain percentage will sign up, based on their available data from previous users, and they also know how much each player is worth on average.
While the process can get technical, this is as easy as it gets for acquiring customers, and ultimately feels like you’re buying customers for a fixed acquisition cost. When you customer lifetime value is higher than the acquisition cost, you can scale campaigns infinitely. So with the help of PPC, casinos can ensure they are always on the right track for growth by finding new players.
It enables casinos to bid for specific and targeted keywords such as “online roulette”, “blackjack” and “video poker” which narrows down the target audience improving conversions. A good example is PartyCasino who bid on roulette related keywords in order to drive traffic to their roulette landing page. Even though roulette keywords are expensive with the keyword “online roulette” having a CPC of £91 it is worth the investment because of the players life time value. PPC is of course also used in retention promotions and keeping players coming back for more, but the primary function for PPC lies in acquisition.
While PPC is short-term and fixed in terms of the cost to benefit ratio, SEO is a much longer-term play. Think of SEO like the snowball effect – as it rolls down the hill, the snowball becomes bigger and bigger and bigger still. This is the effect of SEO, with all optimisation efforts eventually increasing traffic numbers on a long-term basis. SEO isn’t a short-term fix, but a long-term, daily process for casino operators. Much of this revolves around creating high quality content, as well as developing linking relationships with other media. The goal is to promote the casino website in the search engines, and to find new sources of organic traffic.
The costs of SEO are not connected to the marginal traffic in the same way as they are with PPC, and this can lead to a much higher ROI for casino marketers. However, SEO is a long game, and it can take many months for campaigns to gain serious traction. But when they do, the result is effectively ‘free’ traffic for casinos on an ongoing basis, which helps drive the leads for new accounts necessary for long-term growth.
When you know your acquisition costs from PPC, and to a lesser extent SEO, you have a baseline number to work with. Say your acquisition cost is £200 by PPC, and the lifetime value of each player is £300. It then becomes a good deal for casinos to offer, say, £100 to any third party who can refer them a new player – or affiliate marketing. This is a win/win for the casino – they pay less than their current acquisition cost to find new players, or they pay nothing at all, because affiliate marketing works on performance basis. The third party marketers only get paid when they refer a new player, so it’s a direct ROI form of marketing for casinos to engage in.
The beauty of player acquisition through affiliates is that it’s like recruiting a marketing team on the cheap. Affiliates will go out and do the marketing for you, effectively amplifying the marketing reach of the casino. In turn, they get paid for each referral at a rate set by the casino, which allows even more control over the acquisition cost.
So what about retention, and reaching out to past players? Facebook Retargeting is one form of advertising casinos deploy to good effect in encouraging repeat play. Whenever a player lands on the casino site, they are targeted with a Facebook pixel. Then, when they eventually head back to Facebook, ads for the site they’ve already visited can be specifically targeted to them.
This allows casino marketers to focus in on specific people they already know have seen their site, and can be extended to include players who have previously set up an account and gambled with the casino. Retargeting allows for much more efficient marketing spend than any other online advertising because the prospects are so targeted, and is a hugely effective way for casinos to encourage existing players to revisit their account and try their luck again.
By the same token, email marketing allows casinos to reach out directly to their existing players and subscribers, with no marginal cost. Rather than paying for this traffic, they can blast an email out to their players for no marginal cost, time and time again, for traffic on demand. This is great for pushing new promotions or for offering additional bonuses, for example, which can both work well in encouraging one-time players to return to their accounts, or just generally driving demand around certain events.
In reality, casinos use a combination of all of these techniques and more in their online marketing. While the specifics can tend to get quite technical, in terms of ensuring efficiency of marketing spend, control of player acquisition costs, and conversion rates across campaigns, these are the broad measures every casino marketing department uses on a daily basis to grow their player numbers and retain those that have already signed up for accounts.