Sports betting in the time of Covid-19

21 April 2020

Lockdowns and the cancellation of sporting events have wreaked havoc on the sports betting industry, says Julia Logan. But operators are adapting in a bid to protect their revenues

With the coronavirus limiting everybody’s activities, many industries have taken a hit. One of the industries suffering heavily is sports betting.

Most sporting events are no longer taking place so there is nothing for punters to bet on, causing a loss of business for bookmakers, both online and offline.

Google Trends shows a drastic drop in global interest in the topic in March:

 

In the UK, the trend is similar, with search interest being at the lowest level for the last five years:

 

This change in interest has, however, hardly been reflected in the SERPs – we still see all the same elements and even the same sites ranking as before the lockdowns:


 

Some of the current sports betting-related news stories appearing in these SERPs tell a sad tale of the industry’s suffering, but apart from their inclusion, not much is different.

Little has changed in terms of which sites are ranking – below we compare the top 20 results as of March 1 compared with the current top 20 results:


 

Historically, this comparison displays a lot less volatility in the SERPs than is typical for this particular vertical.

Below is the ranking graph of the current top 10 sites over the last five years, clearly showing that the sites ranking highly today have dropped out of the top 10 completely a number of times in the past:

 

What really seems odd at the current time is the number of sites that are still running paid ads even though they can barely monetise that traffic now:

 

As per Betfair’s sportsbook page, the only three countries where football games are still taking place are Belarus, Nicaragua and Taiwan:

 

Of course, many online betting brands also have online casino, bingo and poker offerings, often even on the same site, but it’s unclear how enticing these are, even in the current circumstances, to a typical sports bettor.

What has been interesting to note is the rise of virtual sporting events and esports. Many betting sites are currently featuring esports quite prominently. For example, here is 888 Sport’s homepage:

 

Along with the rise of esports, virtual sports-related betting is another obvious replacement for live sports betting, as this rising coronavirus betting query shows:
 

 

 

Overall, it seems clear the betting industry is adapting to the current crisis and who knows, it may even push the industry towards further innovation.

Julia Logan is an SEO consultant at irishwonder.com. Her specialities include on-site/technical SEO and SEO security audits, link profile audits, reputation management, negative SEO investigations and private network consulting.