Data-Driven Guide to Improving Online Casino Sign-ups

In May 2011, Microsoft put out a report on the state of the online casino industry from an advertising perspective using data available from a number of different surveys provided by GMI/Mintel.[1] Although some of this data is almost five years old, it shows a number of underutilized approaches that could be used effectively to increase conversions.

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Before we get into what you can do to likely increase conversions, let’s offer some perspective on what I’m talking about here first.

An Inside Perspective

I have been writing full-time in this industry for a little over three years. In that time, I’ve seen more or less the same content strategy used by just about everyone. I’ll boil it down to a few points:

  • Online casino reviews that discuss the software, bonuses, customer service, licensing history, etc.
  • Game reviews (almost exclusively slots) that hype the graphics, features and available jackpots.
  • General articles that usually revolve around basic strategies and how to play the games.
  • Relevant news for the casinos and software companies that are being promoted.

All of this is pretty basic stuff that isn’t really surprising anyone, and there are definitely good and bad ways to go about handling all four of these types of items. However, there’s hardly any data-driven direction on how this content should be structured. That’s what we’re going to be looking at here.

Why Do Players Join Online Casinos?

Here’s a simple question for you: Why do people join online casinos? What’s interesting to me is that most of the affiliates I have worked with have misguided notions as to the answer to this question.

I should know just as well as anyone how easy it is to be wrong on this because I was off in a few major ways myself.

GMI/Mintel asked people who played at online casinos a simple question: What makes you play at an online casino? Nine major answers stuck out for having at least 10 percent of players agree with them, and I’m listing them here along with the percentage of players asked who used this answer. Note that players were allowed to give more than one answer:

How They Choose an Online Casino:

  1. I often join up to new sites if they offer free bets/credits. (~48%)
  2. I prefer to stick to a brand I know and trust. (~39%)
  3. I tend to stick to sites where I am familiar with the layout/interface. (~34%)
  4. Loyalty/rewards schemes have encouraged me to stick with a particular site. (~30%)
  5. I only use brands that have a reputation for being trustworthy and responsible. (~27%)
  6. I prefer to use the same website for all my online gambling needs (eg: poker, casino, sports). (~25%)
  7. I have signed up for a site because of a recommendation from a friend. (~16%)
  8. I like the idea of being able to chat to other players while I’m playing casino games. (~14%)
  9. I have used/would be interested in using a casino app on my mobile phone. (~12%)

These nine points focus almost exclusively on three particular areas: financial incentives, familiarity and social interaction.

How to Leverage This Data

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Financial incentives, familiarity and social interaction are the three main areas that we’re going to have to make sure that we focus on if we want to get the best conversion rates possible. I think there’s still a lot of room to think outside of the box in these three areas in particular, and I’m going to throw out some ideas here that affiliates could try.

Financial Incentives

Free chips are a really big incentive here because nearly one-half of everyone interviewed for this survey said it was a reason they would join an online casino. Along these lines, we need to make sure that we’re staying on top of things when it comes to these promotions since we all know they don’t always happen on a regular, predictable basis. I often see affiliates being pretty lazy about this in terms of not putting much priority into getting this information out there, and I think that’s a major mistake.

[pullquote]There are two parts to this that we want to focus on for maximizing the value of our SEO traffic: Maximizing CTR and maximizing conversion rate after they click through.[/pullquote]

Application: Maximizing SERP CTR

Quick SEO Lesson: Maximizing your click-thru rates in the SERPs helps you in two ways. First, it gives you more traffic from your existing rankings. Second, higher click-thru rates in the SERPs have been shown to help your rankings, which makes sense. In short, improving your SERP click-thru rates is a pretty big deal. Along these lines, here’s a simple test you can run.

In Google Webmaster Tools, you can see the click-thru rates for various pages by going to Search Traffic -> Search Queries and clicking the “Top Pages” tab. From there you can download the table in CSV format. Download your table for a period of time (say 30 days for our example) with your current meta titles for casino reviews. For this test, go through and change your meta titles and descriptions to reflect that you’re pushing a free no deposit bonus for that casino.

After making these changes, allow a few days to pass, and check Google to see that the updated meta titles and descriptions are showing up. Once they are, you’ll start a new 30-day test to see how your click-thru rates are affected.

Familiarity

I’ve really got to hammer this point in particular because I hardly ever see affiliates focus on this in their content. If you want a basic example of how I would use this point to do something differently, consider the application of screenshots inside of casino reviews.

Usually my clients want me to focus on the features like graphics, game selection, speed, etc. Instead, I would prefer to talk less about those things and talk more about how the software easy it is to use. The data is showing that this type of thing is king.

The two key points here are building trust and social proof.

The key to successful testing is finding ways to measure the impact of leveraging these two points. I have an idea to get you started here.

Application: Improving Conversion Rates

A simple change in focus and perspective could do a lot of good. For example, instead of taking the perspective that we want to tell the reader how awesome a casino is, a slightly different approach would be telling the reader how awesome other people think the casino is.

I would like to see someone perform a test where a landing page takes the user to one of two different casino reviews. The first is the traditional “Casino X is great because of X, Y and Z” and the only change in the second would be slightly different wording along the lines of “players who have played at Casino X think it’s great because of X, Y and Z.” This should also involve including quotes from players (and linking to their Twitter accounts to increase trust, for example) along the way.

I would also like to see the changes in perspective in the anchor text used in the calls to action, etc. I suspect that conversion rates would increase with this approach.

Social

Some online casinos are figuring this one out on their own, and it’s no surprise that we’re seeing more multi-player games and chat functions in the software than ever before. However, affiliates can probably gain a lot from implementing more of their own social features that build a community. I see three main options used by affiliates the most often:

  • Forums
  • Chat Rooms
  • User-Submitted Content

Something that’s really missing from this list is participation in comments on articles. A lot of websites that do not have forums or chat rooms have built up communities in the comment sections of their posts, and a lot of blogs do this in particular. There’s nothing stopping this type of interaction from taking place in the online casino industry except that I haven’t seen anyone decide to really focus on it so far.

As far as applications go, there’s already a ton of material out there about building a community from these methods.

Because I know what the first objection to this idea will always be, I’d also like to point out that moderating comments takes a similar level of oversight as moderating a forum with the right back end.

Conclusion

As saturated as the online gambling market can seem at times, we can see from this data that there’s still a ton of room for improving the approach of the content and the overall structure of how we interact with players.

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Sources

1. Microsoft Report – Gambling.Casinos.May2011_External.pdf