Marketing Strategies

How SEO helps online betting operators achieve growth

Throughout its history, Fortis Media has developed an experienced set of skills concerning a specific niche: the online betting industry.

Our company has partnered with several relevant brands on the market, helping them to increase their online influence and raise their ranks in their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Therefore, we consider pertinent the development of this white paper, through which we analyze the performance of the most popular online betting brands in the United States on SERPs.

This analysis is the result of extensive research and our company’s interest in developing ties with the betting industry.

By sharing our knowledge and findings, we believe we can help our current and future clients to understand how keywords can oscillate in relevance due to numerous factors.

Our research also intends to underline the importance of developing a strong SEO strategy implemented by professionals in the field.

Brief History of Online Betting in the U.S.A.

Gambling was always an attractive market in the United States. Sports events were part of this and there was no shortage of scandals, like the Black Sox one in 1919. Athletes, coaches, and sports commissioners were overall worried about the integrity of the games.

With the popularity of the internet increasing in the early 90s, several operators turned to online markets and the alarm went off.

In January 1993, The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) became active, forbidding citizens or states from engaging in sports betting.

Despite this law, there were 3 states who could still operate under specific legislation: Nevada (where Las Vegas is located), Oregon, and Montana.

This law lasted until 2018, when the Supreme Court voted to vacate the PASPA, allowing states to take the decision into internal scrutiny. Since then, there have been several states taking legislation into a debate, with some having already sports betting bills passed: like New Jersey and Mississippi.

Despite the possibility of legalization, states are still threatened by illegal markets. Illegal operators are more likely to provide attractive odds and come up with alluring promotions. Mostly, because they don’t need to take part of their revenue to pay taxes.

According to Forbes, that is why there is an incentive on states to keep tax rates low for legal gambling providers: this way it will be easier to put illegal operators out of the market.

In the long run, this system will bring more profits, both to the legal betting brands, as well as to the state who repels the ones operating outside the law.

Map of the Regulated US States in Betting
Credits: OnlineCasinosElite.org

Brands Under Analysis

For research purposes and analyzing the influence of SEO factors into SERPs ranks, we chose to analyze the top 5 betting brands currently ranking in the U.S. for the keyword “betting online”.

These operators are MyBookie, Bovada, FanDuel, DraftKings and BetOnline.

MyBookie ranks 1st for the keyword ‘betting online’ right now. They are an online gaming brand created in 2014, offering hundreds of online casino games. MyBookie describes itself as a pioneer in improving services where other brands failed.

One may have noticed that MyBookie has a .ag domain, from Antigua and Barbuda. They profit from the Free Trade & Processing Act that the Caribbean country legislated in 1994, shortly after the PASPA became active in the U.S.

This Act allows organizations to apply to open online casinos, thus creating a loophole for online brands to keep operating in markets where gambling is not completely legalized. MyBookie’s headquarters are currently located in San Jose, Costa Rica.

BetOnline also has a .ag domain, operating under those circumstances too. The location which they currently operate in Panama City, Panama.

They have existed since 1991 and they offer the opportunity of betting in several sports, having their own stats center to help betting enthusiasts decide who to gamble on.

Meanwhile, Bovada is in Quebec, Canada, and was born nearly two decades ago, although they changed from Bodog to Bovada in December 2011.

They are the only online sportsbook that is exclusive to US residents and they do not allow client accounts from states which have uncertain jurisdictions on iGaming, like Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, and New Jersey.

FanDuel and DraftKings are different kinds of betting sites than the two previously mentioned. They offer fantasy leagues in NFL, soccer, basketball, and other team sports.

However, FanDuel also has a sportsbook and horse racing pages. FanDuel was created in 2009 and operates in New York, NY, USA, and has a second office in Edinburgh (Scotland).

Created in 2012, DraftKings is their main competitor. They launched their sportsbook in 2018 and have 8 million users. DraftKings is located in Boston, Massachusetts.

Retired NBA superstar Michael Jordan has been one of the investors since September 2020.

This white paper is purely for research purposes. Fortis Media is not affiliated with any of the brands and does not intend to promote them.

Whether the named brands operate under legal or illegal terms is also not relevant for this paper.

Keyword Volume

“Betting Online” is one of the most popular betting keywords in the US. The average number of monthly searches in the past year was 201000. In October 2019 it had about 250k monthly searches.

In 2020 this number started to drop due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching 135k in March 2020.  Search volume started to grow back in the Summer and in September there were 301k searches.

Monthly Searches for Betting Online

SERP – First View

SERP betting online keyword search

By analyzing the aforementioned search result page of Google for the keyword betting online we can acknowledge that:

  • The first three results have sitelinks.
  • The first two results have sports events snippets.
  • The first result is the product snippet – it has reviews, ratings, and prices.
  • The first result is shown with the site logo.

The SERP additionally contains a “People also ask” featured snippet with frequently asked questions, answers and URL’s from where they were taken.

At first glance, we can see that only the first two pages have structured data.

The most interesting thing that we can see from SERP is that the first result is marked as a product, something quite uncommon for betting sites.

However, since it is working, it should increase CTR (click-through rate).

Meta-Titles & Descriptions

One of the factors that influence the click-through rate on search engines the meta-titles and descriptions. These are the HTML attributes that show the title and a brief synopsis of the website content.

Here are the meta-titles and descriptions of the betting brands homepages under analysis:

MyBookie

Title – Sportsbook, Sports Betting Odds Site | Bet Online Vegas Style Sportsbook

Description – Welcome to MyBookie Sportsbook & Casino | Join 2020 America’s most Trusted Sportsbook & Bet America’s Favorite Sporting Pastimes Online with players from around the world with odds on all of the Best Sporting Events. MyBookie the Sportsbook you can Trust.

Bovada

Title – Online Sports Betting – Bet on Sports Online | Bovada Sportsbook

Description – Online Sports Betting – Bet on Sports Online Bovada Sportsbook

BetOnline

Title – Sports Betting & Online Betting at BetOnline Sportsbook

Description – BetOnline brings you the best in online sports betting, providing the latest and best odds on all sports. Bet with BetOnline Sportsbook today.

FanDuel

Title –  SportsBook – Legal Online Sports Betting – FanDuel

Description –  New FanDuel Sportsbook customers can enjoy their first bet risk-free up to $1000 when you sign up today! FanDuel Sportsbook features bets on all major U.S. sports, including professional football, soccer, basketball, baseball, golf, boxing, motorsports racing, and more

DraftKings

Title –  Sportsbook, Sports Betting Odds Site | Bet Online Vegas Style

Description – View the latest odds and bet online legally, securely, and easily with the top-rated sportsbook. Place a bet now!

All the pages except DraftKings are using “Online Betting” keywords in meta titles. It does not make any big difference if keyword words are next to each other or not. Keyword usage in the meta title is one of the most important ranking factors.

The DraftKings are using “bet online” instead, but it has a similar effect because Google understands “bet” and “betting” words as synonymous.

There are three pages that have the keyword in meta description – MyBookie, BetOnline, and DraftKings. Bovada meta description is the same as the meta title.

Google doesn’t show it and uses random text from the website. This really doesn’t help for the CTR.

MyBookie and FanDuel meta description is about two times longer than the max possible length so Google cuts them in SERP.

In conclusion, keyword usage in the meta description is not as important as meta title, but the inclusion of keywords still helps to get more clicks from Google.

Structured Data

Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content. For example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.

As one can witness from analyzing the 5 pages, MyBookie and Bovada are the only pages that have structured data. However, structured data isn’t a ranking factor.

Still, it does help communicate on-page content factors like the events that are the subject of the page. So, it’s important to consider adding relevant structured data to the page.

mybookie.ag Structured Data

As we mentioned before, MyBookie is using structured data as a product. Online betting is not an actual product and it shouldn’t be marked like this by Google rules.

We can say that this is grey SEO – a tactic that is driving results, but it’s a bit risky.

In conclusion, structured data helps to communicate what the webpage is about, and it can indirectly lead to better rankings. DraftKings and FanDuel are really missing Event structured data.

Content & Keywords

MyBookie Bovada BetOnline Fanduel DraftKings
Total word count 4300 197 300 172 270
“Online betting” keyword in the content 3 42 1 13 32
“Betting” keyword in the content 27 1 6 0 0
H1 headings 2 0 0 0 0
H2 Headings 14 0 1 0 0
Content-Type Events & Long Text Events Short Text Events Events

MyBookie

  • It has the most content (4300 words in total)
  • The “Online betting” keyword is mentioned 3 times
  • “Online” is mentioned 27 times, “betting” – 34 times
  • It has text with features and a post briefs section with 6 expert opinions
  • It has the biggest events list with featured lines and betting odds
  • The only page which has h1 headings, but it should have only one H1, there are two now

 Bovada, FanDuel, and DraftKings

  • There are only 200 – 400 words on the page in total.
  • There is no description or any additional text, just events with betting odds
  • There is no “online betting” keyword in-content
  • Bovada has one “betting” keyword
  • These pages don’t have any headings

BetOnline

  • It only has 300 words in total.
  • There are no events with odds
  • It has some text, but it is very small compared to
  • “Online betting” keyword is mentioned one time, “betting” – 6 times.
  • Doesn’t have an H1 heading, only H2, and H3

MyBookie is well optimized – they use “online betting” keywords in-content, while other pages mostly do not.

Therefore, there is a huge content gap for 2 – 5 position pages compared to MyBookie. Their competitors do not use any text, or it is very short, and they are missing H1 headings.

Page Speed

MyBookie Bovada BetOnline Fanduel DraftKings
PageSpeed Mobile score 61 14 25 5 11
PageSpeed Desktop score 91 42 84 13 32
Page Size 760kb 658kb 1.3mb 1.8mb 2.7mb
Requests 49 28 127 49 103

As we can see from the table MyBookie landing page is best optimized for mobile and desktop versions and the desktop version has a high score in most of the Google PageSpeed Insights audits.

Looking at how much content this page has compared to the other sites, these results are surprising. One would think that the loading speed would be compromised with all the added content, but it seems it’s the opposite way.

Page size is also one of the smallest compared to other sites. A well-optimized loading speed has a huge impact on ranking in 1st position.

Then we mention page speed. The most important thing is not about beating the competitors by a few milliseconds.

It’s more about making sure that the page is fast enough and is not having a negative impact on the user’s experience.   According to research conducted by Pingdom, 38% of the users will leave the page if it takes more than 5 seconds to load

MyBookie really puts some effort into giving an enjoyable experience to the user.

Web Page Load Speed vs Bounce Rate
Credits: Pingdom.com

HTTPS

HTTPS improves security for visitors by encrypting data between browsers and servers. Unencrypted pages now show a “Not secure” warning in Chrome when you visit them.

In 2014, Google announced HTTPS as a ranking factor. Since then, Google has upped its commitment to HTTPS, and now shows a “Not secure” warning in Chrome when you visit an unencrypted page.

Uncrypted page mybookie.ag

That’s a quick and easy win step, which almost all the websites nowadays are using.  These 5 pages we are analyzing all pass this test.

Mobile Version

About two-thirds of searches in 2020 are taken on mobile and there is no surprise that Google made mobile-friendliness a ranking factor for mobile searches in 2015.

Later, in July 2019, when Google moved to mobile-first indexing, they made it a ranking factor for desktop searches too.

That is why the mobile version is a must-have thing for every site.

Each page competing by keyword “betting online” has a mobile-friendly version. Our best-rated page would be MyBookie once again. It has the best functionalities and user interface.

MyBookie Mobile Layout

Off-site SEO

Off-Site SEO statistics

  • Majestic shows that BetOnline has the biggest amount of referring domains, but it is only ranking in the third position
  • MyBookie has the lowest Trust Flow but ranks in 1stposition
  • MyBookie has a big gap comparing its own Citation Flow and Trust Flow metrics, it shows that backlink quality is worse compared to other pages.

Based on metrics alone it’s hard to figure out why MyBookie outranks BetOnline and FanDuel.

It has fewer backlinks, fewer referring domains, lower TF or CF scores. The first result shouldn’t outrank others. It’s weaker in every traditional SEO sense.

Nonetheless, the reason behind this is that it has more backlinks from similar niches. Backlinks not only increase page authority but also help Google understand what they’re about.

Conclusion

After analyzing these 5 brands, we can conclude that MyBookie has put the effort to outrank its competitors in the organic search of SERPs.

MyBookie has about 4 times fewer referring domains compared to the BetOnline and worse Citation Flow and Trust Flow ratio. Still, the page is very well optimized for search engines compared to the competitors. It has tons of content, great keyword usage, and optimized page speed.

It looks like only MyBookie has really done a good job concerning their On-site SEO. Other competitors just did the basics – created good meta titles and meta descriptions.

There are around 200+ ranking factors and we just named a few of the most important ones. The most essential steps are the following:

  • Give searchers what they are looking for, visitors should enjoy being on the site.
  • Regularly updated content when it’s needed.
  • Get high authority backlinks from your niche.
  • The site should look authentic, be fast, and secure.
  • Build expertise in one topic, not everything.

And yes, this advice is not new. However, the main key is to have the knowledge to implement all these things and keep constantly making the necessary updates.

*After we made this analysis, BetOnline released the beta version of their new page https://beta.betonline.ag/ and redirects to it from the old page. It has a new design, there are some content differences, but meta tags are the same as before and it is still doesn’t have any table with events. They’re still staying in 3rd position by “betting online” keyword in US Google SERP.

SEO Tips

Top 10 SEO Tips for Sports Websites And Blogs in 2023

Updated: 1/18/2021

If you own a sports business – either a news platform, a sports betting website, or a sports merchandise online store – you surely know that it is a very competitive niche. Therefore, investing in a strong sports site SEO strategy is essential and you don’t need to become an SEO expert for that. The focus should be on optimizing your sports team website​ to improve your sports site SEO​.

Let’s start with the basics: it’s fundamental to diagnose why your page is not ranking as it should. You produce quality content on a daily or weekly basis and/or you sell quality products, so why are you not ranking higher on search engines?

It is highly likely that thousands of people search for products related to your niche every day. According to InternetLiveStats, Google processes 84.000 search queries every second!

To sum up, paraphrasing the iconic song Sweet Dreams, by Europhonics: ‘Everybody’s looking for something’!

Sports are no exception. People play sports, watch sports and bet on sports. Football, soccer, and basketball teams get thousands of retweets every time they make a new post. It’s a bubbly exciting world: perhaps too overcrowded with competitors, we’d say?

It is not easy to create a sports team website that is successful, mostly due to heavy competition. Most media sources around the globe have their own sports section and they dominate the first page of Google queries on general broad sports keywords.

Why is it so important for your sports website to rank high on Search Engines?

You want to attract people to read your articles and check your website’s products. Generating traffic will bring sponsors, clients, subscribers, and other opportunities that allow your business to grow.

However, just like in any sport: you have to define goals that you are looking to target. Are you looking to improve your sales? Lower the bounce rate so you have more returning visitors? Overtake a competitor’s first place in the sports SEO ranks for a specific keyword?

Defining goals is crucial because if you aim for a specific target you are more likely to score than if you shoot randomly. You might be lucky and get a breakthrough, but the wisest choice is to know exactly what you are looking for.

So, without further ado, here are Fortis Media top 10 tips for you to improve your sports website SEO rankings:

1. Find your niche

One of the most important reasons why we ask you what are your goals is that they are directly correlated to your niche. If you have a broad sports website and you just try to rank for the keyword: sports or sports betting, that quest will be nearly impossible.

Mainstream media and gambling pages are way ahead of you on that game and it is unlikely you can compete on that league.

Check our whitepaper that analyzes the most popular online betting brands and their SEO strategies.

However, if you offer products for specific sports or teams, you can target the fans of those niches. For example, check out the keyword related to the English soccer team Manchester United:

ahrefs manchester united transfers news
List of relevant keywords for Manchester United Credits: ahrefs.com

By using Ahrefs Keywords Explorer tool, you can search the relevant niche you are targetting and look for keyword opportunities where you can rank higher easily. In the image above you can see that ‘man utd transfer news‘ has 30k traffic volume, which means 17.000 people search for it monthly. Meanwhile, ‘manchester united news’ has a higher traffic volume, but the keyword difficulty is substantially higher.

So, if you are a starting business trying to rank on a specific niche you should look into keywords that fall under our first example: a medium or high traffic volume with low keyword difficulty is exactly what you should aim for.

2. Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Do you know that during the first quarter of 2020, 51.92% of the internet’s traffic worldwide came from mobile devices? On Google, the numbers are even higher, with 60% of all internet searches coming from mobile gadgets.

If your website is not compatible with all smartphones or its design is just not mobile-friendly, you are likely to lose half of your potential clients.

That’s why it is fundamental to make sure that you are using a mobile compatible theme on your page and that all your website functionalities are available on the mobile version. This is not only a SEO tip for sports blogs, but for all kinds of websites who have the intention to increase their ranks.

mobile friendly traffic worldwide
Growth of mobile traffic worldwide from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2020.
Credits: Statista.com

3. Optimize your page speed

As important as improving your sports site SEO, optimizing your page’s speed is crucial to obtain better results. 40% of the users abandon the web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

With the eagerly competitive online sports market, you can’t allow yourself to lose such a high number of potential clients due to slow loading.

If you are a developer or you have developers working for you, make sure to put on the first order of business the decrease of loading time.

Also, small things like JPEG images instead of PNG or larger formats, help to increase the website speed. The heavier the media on your page (images, videos, etc), the more time it will take to load.

loading speed
SOASTA Research (2017) found out that the bounce rate probability increases by 32% for every loading second that passes. This means 32% of your audience does not intend to return a second or third time to your website.

4. Use Structured Data on Your Sports Website

Title tags are very important, as they are clickable headlines on the Search Engines. So, before you make a new piece of content, think about structuring it in a way that contains a hierarchy of titles.

H1 title should be the main title of your article or piece of content. It should contain the keyword you are trying to rank for, as it will give SERPS (Search Engines) the information on the most relevant subject of your page.

Inside the article, you should define topics to create a hierarchy of subtitles. They should be numbered as h2, h3, h4, h5, etc. A useful tool to help you do this task successfully is Yoast SEO, a plugin that you can install in WordPress and easily manage your content’s structure.

H1 tags hierarchy
H1 is the main tag, while the others represent subtitles.

5. Publish High-Quality Content

You probably think that in order to get better rankings and increase your audience you need to make a new article post every day. This is actually wrong.

In fact, there is no correlation between both factors, and overflowing your website with content is useless if your content is too short and poorly written.

So, invest instead on improving the content you already have and that is already ranking. Every time you refresh your content with new pieces of information or new hyperlinks, Google and other SERPs receive the information that your content is new.

SEO expert Neil Patel has recently said how he produces 10 pieces of content per month but refreshes 90 of his old articles per day.

Besides updating your old sports website blogposts daily, you should also make sure your content is authentic, original, and informative. Avoid plagiarizing other pages, as that IS NOT a good strategy to improve the SEO for sports blogs. Your content should also have the proper hierarchy and structure as we mentioned.

Finally, you might be wondering what is the average number of words your content should have. There is not a specific answer, as it depends on what kind of content you are producing. Although Google says that word count is not a ranking factor, long content (2500 words on average) seems to rank higher than short posts.

Just think about this: you can insert more links on long posts than short ones, which will come in handy as we will explain to you below.

6. Delete web pages that you don’t use

From a SEO perspective, deleting lots of the webpages inside of your sports blog is not always a good idea. Google can punish you with reduced rankings if you decide to delete several webpages.

However, it is likely you got some dead URLs and those might be affecting your page’s loading speed. As we mentioned above, loading speed is an essential feature that your website must have optimized.

There are two ways to deal with deadweight pages: you can redirect or kill them.

Redirecting means that once the viewer enters that page it will immediately take it to an active one. There are many kinds of redirects, with the most common being the 301. Read more about that here.

Killing a page means that you will send a message to Google and other search engines that you have deleted that page from existence. There are 2 ways of killing a page: with a 410 or a 404.

The most indicated way is 410. When you do a 410 you purge the page and Google immediately knows that it should be removed from its index.

Meanwhile, the 404 do not always get deleted from Google, but get buried in their archives. It’s that sort of page that you will find saying ‘404 URL: page not found’. Make sure that if you have 404 URLs on your sports website, they contain a link to the homepage so the user can return to navigate safely on your content. A search bar is also helpful in this situation.

7. Link to other web pages and websites

Inserting hyperlinks to credible sources on your content will help boost your sports blog SEO rankings. So, make sure to have plenty of “Click here” links, but do not place them randomly. They should fit into the context and help people expand their insight on a specific subtopic.

You should also add hyperlinks for your ‘call to action’ pages. If you add your website contacts, services or about us, chances are that people will click on it easily, instead of looking back at the top or bottom of the page.

You can also hyperlink to older pieces of content on your website, which will help those static older pages to remain fresh and grow on traffic.

8. Earn relevant and authoritative backlinks

The same way you post links of different sources on the web to give credibility to your article, every time some other page does the same with any of your links it will boost your rankings. Backlinks are necessary to improve the SEO of sports teams and sports team websites​.

If the backlink directing to your page on that other website has a specific keyword that you are trying to rank for, then it’s even better. That’s why keyword research comes in handy while optimizing your sports team website.

Fortis Media makes that off-site SEO work for you, searching for pages with enough credibility where you can place backlinks. We also do the keyword research, to save you time and help your sports team website to improve its ranks.

9. Leverage Social Media

The power of social media should not be underestimated. According to BrandWatch, 54% of Twitter users have answered they took action after seeing a brand mentioned in Tweets.

If you open Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and go to the pages of brands you love, you will see that their social media engagement is part of their success.

2017 social media marketing importance
Most brands worldwide invest their marketing budget into social media, as you can see in this graph from 2017.

Experts say that you should make a daily post on each of the 3 main social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) and have icons for your social media pages visible on your sports blog.

You should, however, not abuse it. 3 or more tweets or Facebook posts per day will make you look desperate and you will lose engagement.

10. Do NOT forget meta-descriptions

Last, but not the least, you should always make sure that all the pages on your website have updated meta-descriptions. If you are not familiar with the concept of meta-description it is simply the little text under your title, that shows up every time you look for something on SERPs.

Despite Google claiming that meta-descriptions do not impact SEO rankings, they can indeed affect the click-through-rate. This means that a user is more likely to click on your page if the description is informative and explicit on the page’s content.

There are plenty of plugins on WordPress where you can easily edit your page’s meta-descriptions, including Yoast SEO, that we referred to before. Meta-descriptions should summarize the content of your article, without spoiling it completely.

They should also have a maximum of 120 characters and contain relevant keywords for which your sports blog website is trying to rank.

Is this all you need to create a successful sports team website​?

These are 10 tips to help increase your sports site SEO. However, there are many more factors to have into account: and we can help you find solutions for your sports website problems and we also provide SEO tips for casino and betting businesses.

Fortis Media agency is always focused on obtaining the best results for its clients and we welcome you to work with us, so we can help you achieve your goals faster. Click here for a Free SEO Audit!

Marketing Strategies

Quick Guide To Google Analytics 4 For Marketing Agencies

If you are a digital marketer and you don’t live under a rock, you probably know by now that Google launched Google Analytics 4.

However, many marketers are still questioning if the change is worth the hassle. Well, the answer is yes. You definitely should read this article and also take Google’s free GA4 training to learn about all the new features and the changes that are coming.

After 15 years with Google Universal Analytics without almost any update, Google decides to adapt itself to the market and releases a new tool that changes basically… everything. There is a new interface, metrics, data collection, installation and more.

Plus, Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is now prepared not only for websites but also for Apps, because nowadays there is no more web analytics but digital analytics.

Why Do You Need To Switch From UA To GA4?

If you are not using GA4 and you are trusting that you have time until July 2023, you are completely wrong. The data from your current Google Analytics DOES NOT TRANSFER for the new version. So you need to create a new account. Plus, the two versions will not coexist: Google Universal Analytics is going to be dead and buried after next July and you will not have access to it anymore.

And the change is completely understandable and perfectly timed. Even though Universal Analytics was a great tool to track your website’s engagement, GA4 does much more. It can integrate marketing and e-commerce websites, as well as native web apps that can give a broader analysis of how the users interact with your brand.

This happens because more and more web browsers are blocking ads and third-party cookies are step by step becoming obsolete.

Google Analytics Web App
Credits: Google

So, considering this change is inevitable and useful for companies to adapt to the new digital era, the web 4.0, how should you configure Google Analytics 4?

To Configure Google Analytics 4:

  • Create Google Analytics 4 Property

    You can use GA4 Setup Assistant here and follow the instructions one by one.

  • Find Your Google Tag

To do this simply login into your Google Analytics account and click Admin. Select property > data streams > web. View tag instructions under Google Tag. Select install manually on the installation instructions page and you should see the JavaScript snippet for your tag. It should start like <!– Google tag (gtag.js) –> and end with </script>.

  • Insert Tag In Your WordPress Website

If you have a WordPress website, install WPCode Plugin. Then go to Code Snippets and Header & Footer. You can now add an HTML code to your page header, so paste the Google Tag that you picked before here. Do the same thing in the ‘body’ section.

You can use Google Tag Manager for an easier setup.

New Features In GA4

There are many new features that are worth mentioning in GA4. Here are some of the most noteworthy that you should take note.

1. Explorations

This new feature allows you to interpret data in more detail. It uses a variety of techniques, including funnel exploration, path exploration, and free-form exploration, which help you to uncover insights.

2. BigQuery Export

You can now safely export your data to the cloud. Export your Analytics data to BigQuery and combine it with data from other sources. You can also run queries through all data sets.

3. Event-Based Model

If in UA the data was stored in sessions, now it changed to events. This means that before the data was grouped by user interactions that were taking place within a specific time frame. One single session could contain numerous hits, depending on how users interacted with the website.

Now, however, the session-based model will be obsolete. GA4 uses an event-based model, collecting and sending pieces of information that are more specific to the profile of the user. Such information can be the value of a purchase, the geolocation, and the titles of the pages the user visited.

So the event-based model will have an ongoing profile of each user, both on the web and apps, showing their usual behavior as a viewer and potential customer, instead of separating it into different sessions that are not connected.

Session based model vs Event based model

4. Reporting

In Google Universal Analytics reporting was quite limited across devices and across platforms. The new GA4 has completely changed that and it supports full-cross devices and cross-platform reporting.

So, instead of having separately reports of web and app users, you can now have both in the same report, showing relations in behavior between users of different devices and platforms.

5. Automation

While Google UA had very limited automation, GA4 is on the right track to keep up with the new era of the internet, the web 4.0.

Using machine-learning technology, Google is looking to improve and simplify insight discovery.

6. Audiences

One major change in Google Analytics concerns audiences. What are audiences? They are a group of users that you identify based on specific characteristics that are important to your business.

You can segment people by age group or by their preferences. Maybe they are sports fans, travel addicts, or shopping enthusiasts?! With audiences, you can track those features and divide them into specific groups. You can identify your audiences based on IDs sent to Analytics.

How To Identify Audiences In Google Analytics 4?

1. User-ID

One of the ways you can identify your audience is through their user-id. This is a customer-generated ID that is used to distinguish users in different categories, while also joining them in user events, that are useful for reporting and exploration.

2. Google Signals

If a user has turned on Ad Personalization to see ads targeted to their specific needs you will be able to use Google Signals to identify them.

These are session data from sites and apps, that Google associates with visitors that signed with their Google accounts and have the personalized ads feature enable.

3. Device ID

Since GA4 is all about cross-platform and cross-device, you will now be able to see a device ID for each user and thus be able to group audiences based on their preferred devices.

Either if they are browser-based or mobile-app-based, they will have their own identifier. When visiting a website the device ID gets its value through the client ID property of the _ga cookie.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide was useful for you to learn why you should change to GA4 as soon as possible, as well as everyone in your company or marketing team.

The changes might seem sudden and scary, but once you look at them they all make sense in the context of how the web is progressing into a new digital era.

If you have any further questions or doubts about how to implement GA4 in your company and on why you should do it, contact us and we will try to help you move forward.

SEO Tips

10 SEO Tips for Online Casinos and Betting Sites

Similar to sports websites, casino and gambling niches have very specific features when it comes to SEO. First of all, it is a market with several restrictions geographically, as many countries and U.S. states forbid completely online betting games.

Secondly, SERPs are very conservative about explicit attempts to trick their algorithm to promote gambling and casino related content.

However, with the right approach and with an experienced SEO agency like Fortis Media behind you, your casino business will grow sooner than later. Currently, gamblers are not as much looking for ‘casinos near me’ as they used to. Due to the situation of 2020, online casinos are the most popular trend right now and they offer real money at the expense of a click.

So, in this article, we share with you some important tips to help your professional gambler business to expand its online influence.

Poker Online seo

Why ranking a gambling website is so hard?

Besides the reasons already pointed, the online casino and gambling niche requires a strategic long-term strategy.

To get your business to rise from being an unknown online casino to ranking on the first page of Google for high difficulty keywords takes time and patience. Do not expect to see your organic traffic rise immediately: not in a few days or months at least.

It will take a decent amount of time, but once you set achievable goals you will collect the fruits you planted.

Organic traffic is an essential part of any online business. According to research conducted in 2019, 53% of internet traffic comes through organic search. Therefore, if you want to see your website grow and get a faithful customer base you should never discard the importance of an SEO planning strategy.

That’s why picking an SEO agency who knows what they are doing is crucial: you don’t want to compromise the integrity of your company and waste money on a short term strategy.

Things to have in mind when building your Casino Website

Your website might get blocked by Google or other SERPs if you put your SEO strategy in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. Google, especially, is able to track the overuse of keywords and is very severe with the gambling niche, as it might accidentally be shown on queries that are aimed for children (for example).

Casino SEO is expensive. To get backlinks from authority sources (such as newspapers and blogs with a high volume of traffic), the webmasters will require more money to publish it than they would for other niches. They know about the specificity of the business, the highly competitive market and some of them blatantly refuse to add any gambling related hyperlinks onto their website pages.

Thirdly, avoid PBN’s. Building a Private Blog Network might seem like an easy way to get traffic and perhaps some agencies might suggest it. Basically, what people do with PBN’s is to create a bunch of websites and try to publish as much content as possible (not exactly quality content).

We strongly advise against it, as it will be a waste of time and money. On paper, it might be an easy way of generating backlinks, as Neil Patel explains here.

However, those websites will have low authority, so you will have added work to make them rank. High authority websites are normally 3 years or older, and then there is the danger of Google tracking you down. PBN’s are easily tracked by SERPs authorities and they can be flagged and penalized. So, like a ‘get rich quick scheme’ all your money and effort might vanish in a moment of vulnerability.

how PBN works
How Private Blog Networks works? Credits: NeilPatel.com

So, we advise you against the usage of PBNs. Instead, we show you 10 tips on how to grow your online casino organic search results. Take a look at the advice below.

1. Keyword Research

Keywords are essential in any niche and in Casino and Gambling, there are even more reasons to go further into deep research. Tools like Google Analytics, AhRefs and SEMRush will be your best friends, helping you to find keywords that you have a realistic possibility of ranking for.

Aim for the low hanging fruits instead of the keywords like ‘casino’ or ‘betting’, who are probably out of the reach for beginners. Instead of overcrowded markets, focus on long tailored keywords that suit your specific target audience.

Casino Keywords SEO
A snippet of AhRefs keyword ideas related to ‘Online Casino’. Notice how ‘poker near me’ has a high volume of traffic but low difficulty, while ‘casino online’ is overcrowded and will be harder to rank.

Due to the volatile status of online searches, it is important to keep up with the race for the top keywords in the business. Quite often customer preferences change and new websites enter into the fight. Trying to rank on the first page of SERPs, such as Google and Bing, it’s a very aggressive competition. So, it’s necessary to check keywords sometimes more than once per day.

Also, since the nature of gambling makes Google and other search engines be suspicious of its intentions, avoid stuffing betting related keywords on your articles. Also, when posting backlinks try to make it as natural as possible and add naked URLs and brand names when possible.

2. Content Optimization

Many SEO experts defend that it is more important to spend time updating old articles and keeping them relevant, than creating fresh new content every day. Online casino and gambling are constantly changing: betting odds change, casino games are updated and so it’s important to revise your articles with new information. SERPs will crawl your website and notice that it has been updated and it will get a boost in its rankings.

You can also update your old articles with hyperlinks to new articles you created, or to new services or products you have added recently. Make sure you don’t have any links that lead to nowhere or pages that are not user friendly. The easier you make it to navigate between articles and pages, the more likely it will be for your consumers to stick around and visit your website again.

3. Consistent content

As well as optimizing your content on a daily basis, you should also prepare a plan of content for your online casino website. This means you should know how often you can post new articles, giving a sense of continuity to your page. If you don’t have many resources to post articles every day, it’s not a huge problem. Just make sure your users see that your website is alive and relevant.

Quality is more important than quantity. Search engines give priority to informative content, original and that differs from all the other available. If you answer the questions you propose in your article and you go straight to the point, instead of filling your pieces of content with ‘fluffy words’ to make it seem longer, you will be rewarded eventually.

4. Pay attention to reviews

One thing that distinguishes online casino and gambling niches from others, is the importance of user reviews on their websites. Similar to hotels and restaurants, for example, reviews have a huge impact on what consumers decide between two similarly ranked brands.

As you can see in the results of the survey below, most of the consumers read reviews of the businesses before making a decision between two or more companies or establishments. Leaving reviews of your business visible on your homepage will testify the quality of your service and help you notice what are the suggestions and criticism that your audience found while browsing your content.

online business reviews
Online reviews survey from 2018 Credits: BrightLocal

5. Answer query questions quickly

There are 3 types of keywords: informational, navigational, and transactional. The first tries to answer ‘HOW TO’ questions, the second one refers to searches answering to ‘WHEN’ or ‘WHERE’ and the third one finds solutions to ‘HOW MUCH’.

Search engines process the most searched query questions and you can have that information easily available. If you go to Google main page and search ‘How casinos’ for example, you immediately have a list of what questions people have related to that niche.

Bonus tip: to avoid conflicts with your own cookies and preferences use the anonymous navigation (CTRL + SHIFT + N)

One simple and straight forward way of answering the most searched questions related to your niche and to your service/product is to have a F.A.Q. page. The Frequently Asked Questions answer straight forward query questions, like for example ‘how old do you have to be to go to a casino’. Thus, it increases your chances of appearing on SERPs’ front pages.

Google Auto complete tool
Example of Google auto-completing feature for trigger words “How Casinos”

6. Website accessible to SERPs

Before you do any of the steps mentioned in this article, you should make sure that your website is available to be indexed by Search Engines. Every day Google, Bing, and Yahoo crawl the web to find new pieces of content.

If your website is new it will take a while until it becomes indexed into Google search engines. However, there are a few pieces of advice we can give you to have your website indexed quickly.

First of all, you should update your ‘About Us’ and ‘Contacts’ page. By having your contacts and professional info on your website, Search Engines understand that you are not a robot and that your website is legitimate.

Secondly, try to place your website link into an authority page that is already part of Google search lists. For example, if you or someone you know has a website with a significant volume of traffic, using it as to place a backlink will give credibility to your website and you will be indexed faster.

Finally, you must have access to Google Analytics and Google Search Console tools. With its crawl analysis functionality, you are able to learn how many visitors you are getting, and when was the last time your website was crawled. Read more about it here from Neil Patel expertise.

google search7. Improve CPR and focus on KPI’s

CPR (Content Performance Rate) and KPI (Key Performance Indicators) are two of the main tools to evaluate how your website is doing. While the first one measures the content quality of your website, KPI is a series of indicators that measure other issues non directly related to content: traffic, bounce rate, and conversion, to name a few.

Make no mistake: content is indispensable and it is the prime source of everything, including traffic. However, as CPR measures things like the hierarchy of titles, meta-descriptions, and alt-texts of images, KPI’s focuses on numbers and stats that help you rank the efficiency of your website.

It’s very important to keep track of these indicators using the proper tools, such as Google Analytics, AhRefs, SEMRush, and many more. You can also install the WordPress plugin Monster Insights if your blog is running on WP.

Here are some further tips to improve your online casino website KPI’s.

KPIs SEO blog tips

8. Improve loading time

In a highly competitive market, like the online gambling industry, decreasing loading time is one of the key factors take will distinguish you from the rest.

According to a 2018 research, 53% of the users will leave a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. That’s why it’s important to track how fast is your loading time since a first time user would rather try a competitor, instead of sticking around and waiting.

We recommend that you install Page Speed Insights, another app from Google. This tool helps you to evaluate your loading time while giving you some advice on what you can improve to lower it.

loading time seo tips
Credits: velocityconsultancy.com

Another piece of advice is choosing to upload your videos in mp4 format and images in JPEG. These formats are lighter and will reduce the loading time. Also, make sure you delete any dispensable cache which might be slowing you down.

9. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the best ways of promoting your online casino business. Basically, you promote your website on other high authority blogs and each of the sides gets a percentage: the advertiser and the promoter.

It’s basically revenue sharing and all parts involved win and profit from it. Like in all transactions, the client is what makes this system go around. How? When the consumer clicks on the link and makes a purchase, the affiliate promoter and the original source get a share.

Due to the sensitive nature of casino and betting-related websites, affiliate marketing is one of the most interesting ways to increase your client base. By setting partnerships with trustworthy blogs who have a high number of subscribers and traffic, you will make a name for yourself and give credibility to your brand.

10. Make sure your website is mobile-friendly

Nowadays most of the traffic comes from mobile devices. In fact, in the second quarter of 2020 51.53% of traffic worldwide came from cellphones, tablets, and other mobile gadgets. This means that ignoring mobile compatibility on your website will make you probably lose half the audience you could be achieving.

Therefore, make sure your website has a correct and clean presentation on all different mobile settings. Test it on Android and iOS devices before launching and see if all the pages and links are operating in the right conditions.

For online casinos and gambling websites besides having a mobile compatible website, it is quite essential that you coordinate it with an app that allows your users to browse through odds, live scores, casino games, and other assets comfortably. Developing an app that is accessible and that gives your client a satisfying betting experience, will boost your brand and your website traffic too.

Why you should invest in an SEO agency?

After all these tips you might think you are ready to take over the search engine rankings by yourself. Maybe you expect to rank on the first page of Google tomorrow or next week. We got some unfortunate news for you: it won’t be such a sweet piece of cake to achieve that.

That’s why SEO agencies, like Fortis Media, exist. They provide you quality service, give you guidelines and spend time researching keywords for your website, while you are doing something else.

If you still have some doubts on whether you need an SEO agency to provide quality service for your website here are 3 good reasons:

It will save you money

We mentioned before that SEO is expensive. All those tools (AhRefs, SEMRush, etc) are not free and to access all its features you need to buy the Premium packs. Add all of it and soon you will have huge expenses that you could have saved. Fortis Media has access to all these tools and due to the nature of our work, we are always looking for upcoming software that adds value to our services.

By hiring Fortis Media you save money on all those tools and software that you would probably only use once or twice. You pay for one single service, instead of paying for 10 or 20.

It will save you time

Time is money, as they say, and we know how our clients value their time. By working with a professional SEO agency, you delegate the tasks into a team of experts in that area, leaving you with time to work on other things.

Remember that quality takes time, so raise your eyebrow when you see someone promising you cheap and very quick results. SEO is a work in progress, it takes time and communication between both parties, so you should hire someone trustworthy who is worth your time and money.

Finally: Fortis Media works on your goals

One common mistake when starting an SEO campaign is trying to get immediate results and aiming for unrealistic targets. If you expect to get 100k users per day next week on a website that you launched yesterday, you must know that it’s very unlikely to happen.

Some freelancers might sell you the idea that they will obtain very quick results in a short span of time, but did they explain to you HOW they will manage to get there? SEO is a science: it takes time, expertise, and lots of tries and experiments that may or may not work properly.

Collaborating with a proper SEO agency, with credentials, will proportionate you to have access to a personalized experience. We work with you to define goals and we explain and clarify the whole process. We set realistic targets to grow your traffic, subscribers, and to improve your KPI’s overall.

Furthermore, Fortis Media has partnered before with several casinos and betting industries and we have knowledge on the specific details that define these niches.

Final Thoughts

If you are looking to grow your online casino and betting website you should be aware of what makes this niche so different from the rest. Besides the competition, search engines are suspicious of online gambling, so you have to be smart and truly honest about your intentions to grow your business in the market.

Check out Fortis Media services and what we can do for your online casino and betting website today.

Case Studies

Fresh Clean Tees – SEO Case Study

Case Studies

Client Case Study

The client: – Fresh Clean Tees (FCT), is a t-shirt subscription box service for men, based in the United States.

Our Mission: FCT contacted Fortis Media to improve their SERP rankings and to surpass the competition’s trust flow and citation flow.

Key achievements:

Referring domains: >150
Above 150 referring domains delivered since the client onboarding.

Quality referring domains: 117%
Compared with the main competitor results­.

Trust Flow: >10x
More than 10 times higher trust flow compared with the main competitor.

Our Work

We have compared our achievements with the client’s main competitor metrics to evaluate the quality of our input over the past 6 months. Findings showed that even though the FCT’s main competitor achieved higher amount of referring domains, we have increased the amount of quality referring domains by 117% compared with the competitor results. Therefore, despite not having as much quantity as the competitor, FCT’s referring domains have better metrics. This results in a higher trust flow for FCT, due to backlinks placed in higher-authority sources. 

Conclusion

Although our professional partnership is still quite recent, the results show how profitable the collaboration with Fortis Media has been for Fresh Clean Tees.

Not only did their trust flow and referring domains increase, but so did their organic traffic. In the future we will continue to work on improving these metrics, focusing on the increase of citation flow and on continuous growth in trust flow.

The results achieved were only possible due to a cooperation between Fortis Media and Fresh Clean Tees. Their ambition to move forward and the trust they deposit in our expertise is crucial to any present and forthcoming success.

Our client’s satisfaction motivates us to continue delivering the best results possible.

Case Studies

Which Factors Have the Highest Impact on Ranking?

Many brands and digital marketers seek to know which factors have the highest impact on search engine rankings. In fact, it’s very difficult to come up with a specific list of key factors, as they keep varying and are influenced by updates from Google and social media networks.

Besides, it always depends on which industry you are aiming to rank for. If you are seeking for higher rankings in casino SEO the factors that are going to be of relevance to your strategy might be different if you have a clothing brand website.

With Fortis Media’s expertise and the tools we have within our reach we conducted an in-depth analysis to come up with the best ranking factors and also show some data that can help you take decisions when choosing in which direction to take your SEO strategy.

In January 2021 we conducted an analysis for a leading US horse racing company to identify, which factors have the highest impact on Google rankings. Therefore, the data presented in this article is immensely more relevant if you represent a horse racing brand or you are interested in learning the ranking aspects that define this industry.

We used a novel approach using Machine Learning and decided to share some of our findings in this report. As part of the research, we also did Exploratory Data Analysis, T-test, Cohen’s D, and Regression Analysis (Linear and Logistic).

This was done by collecting top 100 ranking positions for 2907 keywords, which resulted in 274 952 data points. The data was further enriched by third-party suppliers such as Majestic and Semrush for domain-level metrics. We started with 95 variables: 79 from data suppliers and 16 new variables as part of this analysis.

The following is some important advice to digital marketing specialists and also to companies curious about how SEO works, which comes from the extensive research and analysis performed.

Note: Analyzing one company in a particular industry and time frame shows results most relevant to those limitations. This means that if we change the company and the industry, the results may vary.

SEO Ranking Factors

1. Article Titles Should Be Similar To Search Queries You’re Trying To Rank For

Assuming causality Search Query and Title Similarity is an important ranking factor, having more targeted articles with Titles that are close to the target queries could improve ranking, rather than having broad titles and articles.

All analysis methods agree that Search Query and Title Similarity Index are most closely associated with the ranking position. Search Query and Title Similarity Index as a variable penalizes Titles that are long but contain all the Search Query terms, meaning that Titles that are succinct and on the topic tend to be associated with higher ranking values.

This does not consider semantic mapping that might be happening on Google’s side where different words are treated as synonyms.

2. Search Query and Description Relevance Rank Is Not So Important

Search Query and Description Relevance Rank was the least impactful ranking factor (while statistically significant in the regression analysis).

It could be that Google in some cases chooses a description based on the user query, which might distort the results, it’s also possible that the method to catch relevance used in this analysis is deficient.

3. Building a strong portfolio of external backlinks is essential

Both Regression analyses and ML approaches showed External Backlinks to be an important ranking factor.

Before modeling in regression analyses, External Backlinks had to be log-transformed for any meaningful association could be discerned, meaning that for External Backlinks – one unit of increase in ranking is a factor of 10 increase External Backlinks.

For example, assuming for one increase in rank from the current rank it requires 100 extra External Backlinks, the subsequent increase from the new level – it would require 1000 extra External Backlinks.

There is a decrease in the effectiveness of each new External Backlink creates as the total portfolio of External Backlinks increases.

Having the largest External Backlinks portfolio does not guarantee top ranking as shown in the Bivariate Analysis section, one way to look at it could be that having a good External Backlinks portfolio is a necessary but not sufficient condition for high ranking.

4. Social media domains tend to cluster around the 10th position

This analysis found that the largest mean External Backlinks values are at position ~10. After a deeper investigation, it was identified that this pattern is mostly driven by social media websites.

They tend to cluster around the 10th position, especially youtube.com, which on its’ own takes ~10% of all results for position 10.

5. Pay extra attention to the Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio

Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio showed up as an important ranking factor in the ML model section. The ideal value should be between 0.5 and 1.5.

Investigating the variable’s relationship with ranking in isolation, the mean value tends to shoot up for top ranking positions, while staying rather steady for the rest of the positions.

The ML modeling section displayed a penalty for domains with low Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio, while hovering around zero above a certain threshold.

As with other variables, there could be some other confounding factors – one way to interpret the results is that domains with a higher Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio tend to have a better External Backlink portfolio.

Ranking Overview

This section reviews the patterns between ranking and a selected set of potential explanatory variables, investigating the type of relationship (linear or non-linear) and outliers.

Selected on-site variables, like Average Search Query and Title Similarity Index, tend to display a more linear pattern than off-site variables in relation to ranking.

Off-site variables such as External Backlinks, Citation Flow, and Referring Domains display a non-linear relationship, where the mean value for a given rank increases until ~10th position after which the trend reverses.

Part of this pattern for off-site variables is driven by social media websites. Removing social media websites changes the pattern.

Two hypotheses could be considered to explain the pattern for social media websites peaking at the ~10th position.

1. Users are downvoting social media websites

By clicking on them less often and as such Google simply down-ranking them as a result.

Social Media Downvoting

2. Social media websites have less relevant content.

Overall the relationships between ranking and other variables are weak due to the wide variance of each SEO metric for any given rank.

So, in conclusion, off-site metrics tend to display a piecewise pattern with a transition point at position 10, as can be seen below.

Disclaimer: The data displayed in this section is from January 16th 2021, and does not represent the current context but is included to show the overall context of the analyzed data.

Average External Backlinks Value Per Rank

Average External Backlinks Value Without Social Media
The red line marks the 10th position ranking on Google.

The average number of external backlinks tends to grow until the 10th SERP, then we see the drop.

However, removing social media domains changes the distribution for external backlinks with higher ranking positions tend to have more backlinks.

Social Media Listings are Potentially Skewing Results

Social media websites comprise only 0.003% of all unique domains but represent ~3 percent of all listings and ~ 70 percent of off-site metric value mass.

This means that social media listings exhibit a pattern of possibly skewing results. According to Investopedia “skewing means a distortion or asymmetry that deviates from the symmetrical bell curve, or normal distribution, in a set of data’.

Social Media Websites Proportion

Social Media Pages As A Proportion Of All Rankings

Machine Learning Analysis

Examining SHAP patterns showed that Search Query and Title Similarity Index seem to display a linear pattern in relation to ranking. While having higher Index values is associated with a higher likelihood to be ranked on the 1st page or rank higher on the first page. If you are not familiar with the concept of SHAP in Machine Learning, learn more in this article from Towards Data Science.

Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio is another important ranking factor according to the model, tends to show a penalty for low ratio values and being neutral past a certain threshold, this could be because domains with low Ratio values, tend to have a poor quality external backlink portfolios.

Highest External Backlinks (or Citation Flow) values are not necessarily associated with top ranking positions, but having lower values tends to be associated with lower rankings.

Ranked variables when all ranking factors are included:

Classification ML Model
The graph shows a list of ranked variables when all numeric variables are included.

After Organic Traffic, Search Query, and Title Similarity Index is the second most important variable for model performance, Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio is in the top 5, but neither Citation Flow, Trust Flow nor External Backlinks is in the top 20.

This is partly because the model uses other variables, such as Referring IPs or Referring Domains type HTTPS, which are highly correlated with the before mentioned ones, and being highly correlated among themselves would split the difference further diluting their contribution.

Importance of Ranking Factors According to ML

The graphs show variables in descending order as considered important in predicting rank. After extensive internal discussions, we decided to focus only on those factors we have the strongest influence.

Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio came out as the strongest predictor. However, the graph doesn’t show whether there is a linear relationship between the rank and variable value. Later in this article, we will present a deeper look into potential emerging patterns.

Classification ML Model 2
Data relevant to (|SHAP value|)

Low Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio is associated with lower rankings

Trust Flow To Citation Flow Ratio
Trust Flow To Citation Flow Ratio

By visually inspecting the ML models it can be seen that a lower TF/CF ratio is associated with lower rank predictions. Both Machine Learning models learned that lower Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratios is associated with lower rankings.

For the classification model, the threshold seems to be at ~0.5, where the majority of the values are below the 0 value (less likely to be on the first page) and stabilizing beyond that point – having both positive and negative values. Take note of the color gradient – pages with lower Citation Flow Values and Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio seem to be especially penalized.

Similar pattern holds for the Learn-to-Rank model, except for the ratio value where most of the SHAP values lie below the 0 lines being slightly below 1.

Learn To Rank ML Model

Higher Search Query and Title Similarity Index Values Are Associated With Higher Ranks

Search Query and Title Similarity Index display a rather straightforward linear relationship – higher values are associated with a higher likelihood of being on the 1st page. This is noteworthy as the ML model can learn any pattern to fit the data, yet the pattern is linear.

This pattern holds for both the classification and Learn-to-Rank models, meaning that both models find higher Search Query and Title Similarity Index values to be associated with higher ranks.

It corroborates the findings from the Linear Modeling and the Variable Relationships sections where it was shown to have the strongest association with our target variable – Ranking.

Search Query And Title Similarity Index

Learn To Rank Search Query

Citation Flow Displays A Non-Linear Pattern

The Classification ML model consistently displays a pattern where the highest contribution towards being classified on the 1st Page is in the range between 40-50. It holds, even if we switch out Citation Flow for External Backlinks, Trust Flow, Referring Domains, and sample different queries for model building. The pattern persists when we build an ML model with only a single input variable – Citation Flow.

Note that the data points with high SHAP Values (contribution towards being classified as being on the 1st page) tend to also have high Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratios. This is consistent with the findings investigating two-way variable relationships, which showed that the 1st page does not have on average the highest External Backlinks values – the 2nd page does.

SHAP Value For Citation Flow

SHAP Learn To Rank

Description Relevance Rank Is The Least Predictive

In comparison to other variables in the model, Description Relevance Rank seems to be the most weakly associated with the target variable and as such not very predictive. The variable is the rank ordering of the Search Result Description Text and the Search Query bm25 Score (an information retrieval metric) ranked for every query – the best matching description starting at 1 and increasing as the metric value decreases.

In the linear modeling section, the variable was statistically significant but with the smallest effect from selected variables, the same holds when using ML models. The variable displays a linear trend when classifying for the 1st-page ranking or ranking the full list (100 rankings per query), but no discernable pattern is visible when ranking the results of the first page.

SHAP Description To Query Learn To Rank SHAP Description To Query

Client Ranking Profile for Classification (Ranking on the 1st Page)

The red dots show where on the contribution scale (SHAP) our client‘s results lie. Due to them being one of the most ranking domains and have the highest mean and median rankings in the data set, it’s reasonable to assume that the results are biased towards their domain, assuming causality.

Citation Flow SHAP SHAP Search Query SHAP Description To Query CLIENT SHAP Trust Flow To Citation Flow Ratio

From off-site metrics in the model, the client seems to have rather good values, maybe having some improvement in the Trust Flow to Citation Flow Ratio. On-site metrics are query by query basis, but it seems, that there would be some gains to be had in those cases where the Search Query and Title Similarity Index value is low.

Further Analysis

The analysis as is found some significant factors associated with Ranking, but other potential factors could be relevant.

Online literature, like Cognitive SEO, as well as SME input, suggests that Recency (time since the article was published) is a potentially important variable, this analysis tried including the variable, but due to formatting inconsistency from the data supplier it was not feasible to do, with better quality data, it could be worthwhile including this variable in future research.

Another aspect worthwhile investigating is page-level content, such as text length, text relevance to query (BM25, TF-IDF), and others. An effort was put in to gather the HTML documents for all 274 952 ranking results (91 522 unique URLs), but too much data was missing, with non-random gaps in data (lower ranked results tended to have more data missing), which could have led to bias in the analysis.

Research Competitor Analysis

This was partly because the scraping was done a few months after initial data gathering and because the ranking scraping and page scraping were done from different locales.

Plus, several sources, like the Search Engine Journal, suggest Page Load Speed is an important factor, this data was unavailable for this analysis, but future analyses could consider including it. Another area of investigation which came up during this analysis was Content Accessibility Metrics as explanatory variables, but due to the same reason other page-level content metrics were not included, future research should consider including them.

Lastly, a more generic model would be warranted, this analysis was based on 2907 selected keywords where twinspires.com is already a well-ranking domain, as such the patterns learned from the data will be biased towards the domain (and other top-ranking domains).

Creating a model with other keywords (randomly selected or from other subject areas) could improve the generalizability of insight.