By Max Aquilino, Director, 77 Agency.
Since Google re-opened its main advertising space (Adwords) to UK gambling advertisers in October 2008 there has been a lot of confusion on the real benefits that PPC brings to gambling sites and whether gambling companies are taking full advantage or just spending money for the sake of it.
With over 8 months of PPC gambling campaigns running on Google Adwords we should have enough data to start drawing some conclusions on what these advertising investments have and are producing. This is an important issue since we have seen large portions of advertising budgets shifting to PPC from other areas.
According to MSN (the other big search players in UK) after an initial shifting of budgets towards Google Adwords they have seen, since the beginning of the year, many advertisers in the gambling industry going back to their previous level of spend, and since the investments on Google have not certainly decreased maybe we could start announcing our first winners:
a) Google – More revenues for the big boys! Regardless of their official statement (“Over the last few months we’ve been reviewing our gambling advertising policy in Great Britain to ensure it is as consistent as possible with local business practices” said James Cashmore) lifting the ban on gambling advertising means big bucks for the internet giant.
b) MSN – The fact that they have not lost revenue share (through AdCentre) since Google new gambling policy release, should definitely make them a Winner.
c) Yahoo? – Definitely not! Constantly losing market share in every single business sector they operate through poor traffic quality and unethical activities (to say the least) they have managed to upset agencies and clients. As things stand now, they are a sinking ship at full speed and they’ll be lucky to survive to the end of the year, but that’s another story.
d) Affiliates – How could we possibly forget about them? Some people in the gambling industry claim that they represent the real driving force, always trying new tricks and bypassing any SEO restrictions and PPC regulations. Others claim that they are way too aggressive, adopting malicious techniques, even straying into unethical territory. According to Google latest policy on gambling “… advertisers … who wish to target online gambling ads to Great Britain must be licensed … in their respective country…”. Wow, that must have really scared all those nice affiliates, or maybe not? Bidding on long-tail terms, disguising Ads, abusing on brand terms (Trademark Protection? That’s another funny story…), scheduling campaigns at night, building multiple sites with similar urls… all this is just easy-peasy stuff and simple routine for the clever boys. Yes, they definitely deserve to be a Winner in the PPC battle, just for beating the system once again.
e) PPC Agencies – How are they coping with the tough competition? Running PPC campaigns in an aggressive sector like Gambling is becoming a complex activity and requires technical and analytical skills as well as the use of advanced technology. When it comes to recruiting quality players at the lowest cost possible you can forget about routine checks and initial setup; the PPC optimisation becomes an ongoing process. Whoever can produce the goods (Low CPA and good ROI combined with volume) should be considered a Winner. PPC is about knowledge, skills and optimisation and agencies failing on that front won’t make them a Winner. Statistics on PPC performance in terms of CTR (click-through-rate) and CPC (cost-per-click) are made available to agencies during their quarterly meetings with Google and MSN. This is a very effective way to judge their performance compared to the rest of the market.
f) Gambling companies – Looking at the frenzied spending (without any real logic) of some companies makes you wonder if some of the brands out there are really making any money out of PPC, but I guess that we could say the same for other media spend like TV and online display. In reality it is a real battle about getting an extra spot available on Google first page and gaining market share.
The real issue on Gambling and PPC is about the future, we are not talking about years but rather months and maybe weeks: new rules and policies causing more confusion, tougher competition for Google (Bing could be the miracle everyone has been expecting for). I guess that for now we’ll have to wait and see!
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