How Should the National Lottery Change its PPC Strategy?

Ian O'Rourke Posted by Ian O'Rourke

Want to miss lots of online traffic, stagnate your brand’s growth, and discourage customer loyalty? Be sure to advertise for only one day at a time!

The National Lottery is arguably the most popular game in this country. With owner Camelot Group reporting ticket sales of almost £3.5 million in six months, the state-franchised lottery enjoys widespread appreciation.

Spurred on by the ease of online participation, players are buying an ever-increasing amount of tickets over the Internet. In fact, it might seem as if the Camelot Group has no reason to put any extra effort into paid search.

This is because the majority of the National Lottery’s traffic comes through organic searches (66,435 paid vs. 1.6m visits that are organic). In comparison, other gaming sites rely to a greater extent on paid search or a balanced organic/paid approach.

We at Adthena bet that the National Lottery could discover some hidden potential in expanding beyond its traditional one-day PPC campaigns.

Mixing SEO and PPC: Game-Winning Strategy?

Unlike its major competitors, William Hill and Betfair, the National Lottery only runs one-day PPC campaigns according to the ad copy analysis.


National Lottery ad copy, Jan 2014-November 2014 – Adthena data

It starts and ends its most prominent campaigns on Mondays and Thursdays, two days before the draws of the Lotto, which take place every Wednesday and Saturday, and a day prior to the draw of EuroMillions.

Ad copy varies according to the draw at which the ad is targeted. Those campaigns that were longer over 2014 show generic copy, while the ads presented at particular campaigns (such as rollovers) are displayed for limited days.

National Lottery ad copy, November 2014

National Lottery ad copy, November 2014 – Adthena data

Over the last 30 days, however, the National Lottery has ensured all its campaigns are short and sweet, perhaps finding that the longer campaigns it ran earlier in the year were not as successful as the long-running, generic strategy.

There’s very little evidence of repeated ad copy, although the ‘Official Euromillions’ copy seems to be taking place of the longer campaigns seen earlier in the year, with the company deciding to bet on smaller, more relevant audiences (those looking to bet on the EuroMillions draw) rather than trying to attract new customers.

Although short-lived PPC blitzes are rarely successful, as they permit few opportunities to develop the campaign, make enough A/B split testing, compare working strategies, change bid prices, and improve ad copy, they can be coupled with SEO in order to boost visibility, which is exactly what the National Lottery has done.

For example, the company has utilised both long-tail and short-tail keywords including competitive terms such as ‘lottery’, ‘play’, ‘info play’ and ‘mega friday’ to gain traction in organic search, but it seems to be missing out on these when it comes to paid search.

Although the cost of some of these keywords may be putting the National Lottery off bidding for the words, the average bid for ‘play’ seems very low (£0.38) considering the estimated volume of monthly searches (450,000) and low competition.

With just a modicum of strategic thought, PPC campaigns can greatly improve brand positions. Their aim is not just to generate traffic on a given website, but also to help build a brand online, draw in potential long-term customers, encourage loyalty, and drive up revenues.

Opportunities to Bring into Play

Given the cutthroat competition in the gambling industry, every little mistake costs a lot. A quick analysis shows some gaps in the National Lottery’s PPC efforts.

For example, the keyword, “Euro millions,” presents a huge opportunity that the National Lottery has so far neglected in terms of PPC, but could explore to extend its reach.

Beyond the fact that the Lottery’s ads use highly general keywords that don’t profit from long-tail searches, they also frequently miss this top keyword.

Considering that there are as many as 70,000 potential monthly clicks related to “Euro millions” alone, it’s safe to say that the Lottery could boost its reach and ROI by focusing on this keyword and its derivatives through sponsored search in addition to organic search.

The Lottery should also start using very obvious terms like “lotto” in pursuit of higher ROI. Despite the traffic of this phrase surpassing 10,000 monthly clicks, it only figures in five National Lottery ads, all of which use short-tail keywords.

Safe Bet Advice

Every PPC campaign starts with the question, what search terms do I need to target? Beyond analysing potential traffic, to improve its campaign performance the National Lottery needs to diversify its keyword portfolio to include more long-tail phrases. This strategy would help them not only retain old customers, but also gain new players.

Digging deep to come up with possible terms and phrases to target can be demanding, with considerations like relevancy and popularity further complicating the process. Adthena’s tools provide a comprehensive market analysis and a detailed list of all relevant keywords, including new terms and phrases, those used by competitors, and keywords whose use fluctuates seasonally.

Though the National Lottery can’t compete with the large bookmakers in terms of budget, it could spend its money more wisely. Given the general increase in the use of mobile devices, it’s safe to assume that many lotto fans are playing on their smartphones, too.

In order for the National Lottery to optimise the way paid search helps attract new customers and retain current ones, it needs to analyse its PPC campaigns to check for overlap with parallel activities on other digital channels. Moreover, the National Lottery could benefit from integrating its SEO strategy into paid search in order to get the best results from its SEM campaigns.

The future growth of the gambling industry depends to a large extent on savvy PPC practices. It will be interesting to see how the UK’s most beloved lottery adapts to the changing digital marketing environment.

(Main image credit: Carlos Bonilla/Pixabay)

About the author

Ian O'Rourke
Ian O'Rourke
Ian is the CEO and Founder of Adthena. After 22 years being involved in technology businesses and start-ups, he has driven Adthena forward since 2012 and it is now experiencing rapid growth. Ian likes to foster a culture of common sense and self-reliance at Adthena, and ensures everyone has the tools they need to succeed, His flair for innovation and business has been recognised with the Developing Entrepreneur Award at the WCIT Enterprise Awards – commonly regarded as the Oscars for technology entrepreneurs. A graduate of the University of Queensland, Ian is also a fluent Chinese speaker having lived and studied in Taiwan. He is married with two children and is an avid rock climber in his spare time.