SEO: Match search intent to rank.

Nick Garner
Jun 14, 2019 · 12 min read

This article covers online gambling / iGaming SEO. But these ideas are relevant to any industry sector.

Inspiration came from numerous client experiences where we made changes to UX & UE and user satisfaction…to see a lift in rankings.

Case study: ‘best online casino’ rankings.

The big idea:

Match user intent better than anyone else and you will rank.

Background

The problem with SEO: Ambiguity. No one knows exactly how ranking algorithms work and with the event of machine learning, Google don’t even know exactly what’s going on.

There is one key principle that drives rankings: satisfying users.

  • User asks Google a question: Key phrase.
  • Google serves results to you
  • If the results are satisfying, user comes back to Google.

If SEOers could manipulate Google very easily, Google users would get content that is unsatisfying. They would use another search engine. And Google would lose money.

So, Google does not want SEO’s manipulating their search results. But they do want SEO’s to help get the most satisfying results to rank.

Search intent

Match your content with user search intent, be more satisfying than anyone else and you will most likely rank.

Ahrefs wrote a great piece about this: https://ahrefs.com/blog/search-intent/

Of course, there are other ranking factors like link placement and indexation but let’s assume you are taking care of basic SEO. What’s left is satisfying the user with your content.

Key phrase: ‘best online casino’

This is a valuable key phrase which is dominated by affiliates offering comparison information.

Keyword: best online casino

Currency:GBP

Avg. monthly searches:5400 (UK)

Competition:High

Competition:(indexed value) 93

Top of page bid:(low range) 45.81GBP

Top of page bid:(high range) 70.73GBP

Obviously AdWords cost per click is a very good indicator of commercial intent. If you assume GBP50 cost per click, you need at least a 15% conversion rate to break even.

For the affiliate ranking number one in this phrase, it’s going to produce huge revenues.

Search intent: ‘Best online casino’

Somebody wants the best online casino. It’s a ‘commercial investigation’ query.

It’s helpful to think like the user and imagine you’re the person who needs an answer to a question.

In this case the question is: what is the ‘best online casino’

Overall with ‘best online casino’, the user doesn’t care much about free bonuses. Their main priority is finding the next casino to play on

This might be their internal dialogue:

  • “I want a casino I can trust that gives me good bonuses.“
  • “I’m not just looking for free spins, I want to use this casino for a while“
  • “I have played on other casinos, so I want to see what good new trusted casinos you’ve got“
  • “I want to trust the website that gives me this information“
  • “I want the information to be easy to understand“

Quiz time

This is a very easy quiz:

  • Imagine you want the ‘best online casino’ in the UK
  • I’ll show you 2 websites.
  • Guess the ranking for each site.

Of course, you can go and look at the search results but that wouldn’t be as fun!

Here are 2 websites:

Casino.guru — Rank: 1 or 7? For ‘Best online casino’

‘best online casino’ Google UK — | 837 referring follow domains | Onsite SEO score: 83/100 * | Google page speed insights score 62

Word cloud showing on page text:

Word cloud: Source https://voyant-tools.org/?corpus=3d688b8a3a0e28a4129b973b8cec7eeb

SEO score source: https://app.neilpatel.com/en/seo_analyzer/site_audit?domain=casino.guru&submit=Analyze+Website

Casino Reviews.co.uk — Rank 1 or 7?For ‘Best online casino’

‘best online casino’ Google UK | 542 referring follow domains | Onsite SEO score: 84/100 ** | Google page speed insights score 66

Word cloud showing on page text:

Word cloud source: https://voyant-tools.org/?corpus=c7d32d64cd915e392157bb2d6168e6f3

SEO score source: https://app.neilpatel.com/en/seo_analyzer/site_audit?domain=casinoreviews.co.uk&submit=Analyze+Website

Analysis

Both sites have roughly the same kind of keywords. Same online SEO score, so indexation is about the same. Roughly the same page speed score. But there is one huge difference… casino.guru has nearly 300 more linking domains.

If you were looking at this objectively from an SEO point of view, my guess is you would say it’s hard to differentiate the 2 sites. If anything the site with the most links should rank best: Casino guru

But, I’m not asking you to look at it from an SEO point of view. I’m asking for you to put yourself in the mind of the user.

Pick the site you trust the most to give you… the best online casino.

Casino Guru. Rank? 1 or 7?

Casino Reviews. Rank? 1 or 7?

Answers

What did you guess?

Rank? 1 or 7? CasinoReviews.co.uk | 542 referring follow domains | Onsite SEO score: 84/100

Rank? 1 or 7? Casino.guru | 837 referring follow domains | Onsite SEO score: 83/100

If you guessed casinoreviews.co.uk ranks No1 on Google.co.uk for search query ‘best online casino’, you are correct! Well done!

Why do you think casinoreviews.co.uk ranks number one? If you look at both websites from an SEO point of view, Casio guru should rank number one. It’s got more linking domains

So what’s the difference between casinoreviews.co.uk and casino.guru? Let’s dig into that now.

Satisfying users

Let’s set aside the usual SEO reasons for why one site ranks more than another and go back to a couple of points I made earlier:

  • Users ask questions and want satisfying answers.
  • Giving users satisfying search results is more important than ‘SEO scoring’

Outsiders and insiders

Working with clients, I came up with a concept: outsiders and insiders.

Outsiders: users who don’t know your website. If they are not ‘hooked’ in the first 3 to 5 seconds, they’ll go somewhere else.

Insiders: Users who know and understand a given website. They will have looked at a few pages and understood the general layout and content of a website.

Google users are typically ‘outsiders’. These people have gone to Google asking a question because they don’t know which other websites to go to.

If it’s a buying question, often users just go to Amazon or eBay. That’s why Google is pushing ‘Google shopping’ so hard. For many people Google is not the first place you go if you want to buy a thing.

Outsiders will give you 3 to 5 seconds before they move on. That’s why page speed massively important for outsiders. A web page needs to clearly say what it does and why it’s a good answer to a search query.

Casinoreviews.co.uk

Here’s why I think it deserves to rank No1 for ‘best online casino’.

I’ll chunk this analysis into separate elements so you can see my logic for why this site satisfies user intent better than any other for ‘best online casino’.

Domain:

https://www.casinoreviews.co.uk/ This is obviously a UK orientated website about casino reviews, because that’s what the URL says.

Favicon:

It’s the UK flag. You know this site is all about casinos and the UK.

Logo:

This logo explains the site is about reviews and that ‘experience’ of casinos is the most important thing. This is a valuable clue, because it says these are truthful reviews rather than the usual 10/10 ratings given by most affiliates.

This logo also feels very like a consumer report style website.

Main navigation:

Notice it says ‘topics include’. If you’re reading a content website, it’s about topics. This word ‘topics’ suggests there is some kind of analysis, rather than another list of casinos.

And then it frames the website by explaining that you can get reviews and comparisons of the best online casinos in the UK. Now you are orientated

Above the fold: left.

The site clearly lays out its promises. If you believe the site is credible, then you’ll accept these promises and probably read on.

Above the fold: right.

In landing page and advertising layouts, people are constantly used to highlight products, to grab attention or lend credibility to a pitch. Affiliates do not use this mechanic often.

Here we’ve got:

  • Quote from somebody who looks trustworthy
  • He’s validated that he knows what he’s doing, because he tells you he’s been in the casino industry for 15 years
  • Simon is looking at you, but not directly in your eyes, So he’s grabbing your attention
  • His picture tells you he’s an expert and author
  • He’s even signed his statement! We all know if you add your signature to a contract, you are legally bound to that contract. Signatures are powerful trust signals.
  • Recapping:
  • He’s got all the right visual signals to build credibility and reinforce a key point: that he can give you the best advice on finding an online casino in the UK.

The listing

And then he just has a standard listing like every other affiliate in casino.

The difference between this site and all the others for ‘best online casino’: he has delivered all the right trust signals to the user. And now the user believes this standard listing is more trustworthy than the others on this search result.

Casino Guru

The domain

https://casino.guru/ — A new TLD is not treated any differently by Google. So you can’t say it’s just because it’s not a dot com.

Were looking at this from a trust point of view. I don’t think a new TLD like this is necessarily as trustworthy as a well established localised domain like ‘co.uk’

In this case I’m looking for the best casino in the UK. And I want to see local knowledge.

Dot guru makes a promise of being knowledgeable… So now back it up.

The favicon and title

A cloverleaf is a sign of luck, but I’m more interested in local casino knowledge. I would rather see a Union Jack. It would tell me this is a UK focused website.

It says it gives me honest reviews. So let’s see if that promise can be backed up.

The logo

A cloverleaf favicon is inconsistent with the logo. Also the logo doesn’t make immediate sense. What it’s trying to say is that it’s a guru, hence the turban. The logo isn’t reinforcing a point about knowledge of the market.

Main navigation

It’s a simple navigation but it doesn’t suggest any in depth analysis. Casino reviews talks about ‘topics’ this site doesn’t.

Above the fold

This is OK persuasion copy. It’s giving you a key benefit which is finding your favourite casino, game or bonus. And then it talks about the most accurate online casino database in the world.

That’s a good promise, but there’s nothing here to back up the narrative.

All affiliates will tell you how good they are. What a user wants some evidence that this website is worth trusting. So far no evidence. Just promises.

And why is there a search box?

Above the fold: Lower

Here you’ve got a statement about the recommended casinos for the UK.

So far this affiliate has only made one measurable claim: “the biggest , most accurate database in the world”. As you go down the page this claim is not reinforced.

The listing grid

It’s just another listing grid.

You notice how the highest rated site: ‘fun casino’ is at the bottom of this sample…

If you follow the rule of; top ranking listing gets most click through, then why is Fun casino ranked 4th when it’s got the highest score?

Overall: Casino.guru

The site makes promises around trustworthiness and doesn’t back them up. If you want the best online casino in the UK, I think you would rather trust Simon Rose from casinoreviews.co.uk who knows casinos inside out.

How would I make Casino Guru more satisfying?

Overall I would focus on claims about largest UK database. I would validate the promise around methodical and thorough reviews For UK casinos.

I would:

  • Create a page only for UK casinos I.e.casino.guru/uk
  • Change the favicon so it is more consistent with the main logo
  • Change the title text from ‘honest casino reviews’ to something like: ‘UK’s best casino data’

Search box

This search box is a waste of real estate and distracts users from their mission. The affiliate is promising top 10 reviews, yet it says “we’ve got so much stuff you have to use a search engine” — which is goes directly against the promise of the page: top 10 reviews.

Reinforce the points around data quality and manual reviewing. Change the layout of the above the fold area. Have a picture of an individual making this statement (Text from the about us page):

“We put together an independent team of 10+ members working solely on gathering all available information about online casinos, evaluating them accordingly and then presenting the results to our readers in a form of casino reviews.”

This ‘face/signature’ mechanic works. It should be repeated on Casino Guru

Call to action above the listings grid

It says:

And I would reinforce the quality of the listing selection by saying something like:

And I would sort out the description text. Currently it reads…

“Select one of the top 10 casinos recommended by Casino Guru. This list contains a mix of casinos with official UK license recommended for various reasons, including big brands, smaller casinos with great bonuses and customer care, and other carefully selected alternatives. Better options, of course, appear first.”

Apart from the bad grammar, the statement is very vague. As a user I want to know why you’ve recommended casinos. There is no substance to the recommendations.

Therefore I would say something more like:

“We’ve reviewed 306 UK casinos and here is our top 10 selection. We’ve chosen these casinos because they all have UK licences, they are trustworthy brands and all have great welcome bonuses. We’ve used strict criteria for ranking these casinos. If you want to read more about how we rank casinos click here. “ (Then show an overlay explaining more about the ranking methodology.)

Finally

It’s obvious to me, and hopefully you…Google wants satisfying content to rank. They are bigger than you or me. They’ll work it out.

Once you start looking at search results from a user intent point of view, you’ll see a constant repeat of:

The most satisfying search result for a keyphrase…ranking No1.

Next steps.

Sometimes it’s very helpful to get an outsider to look at your website. If you want me to check your website out, contact me. nick.garner@rize.digital and Let’s talk about how you can rank better by giving users what they want.

About: Nick Garner is an iGaming SEO specialist. He was previously SEO manager for Betfair and then head of search for Unibet (Kindred). Nick has also been a successful affiliate and recently sold his site. Nick founded RIZE digital in 2017 and specialises in iGaming SEO and web development.

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