Thursday, March 04, 2010

Super-competitive SEO: You’re gonna need a bigger boat!

This was recently published in iGB Affiliate Magazine, If you don't subscribe and you're in the iGaming Affiliate space, I suggest you do so ASAP. :)

Gaming SEO is as tough as it is monetizable. Top positions for big keywords worth millions in new player revenues. Attempting to compete for these positions requires scalability, efficiencies and budget. This article looks at a few aspects of delivering top rankings in the most competitive markets, including budgeting, financial justification, risk mitigation and most importantly; knowing when you’re gonna need a bigger boat.

David the Affiliate vs. Goliath the Operator

Both sides of the fence have distinct advantages, these can be summarised as follows:



It’s critical before engaging in any SEO that you understand your strengths, and play to them, in your selection of keywords. This article will focus on the affiliate’s strengths.

• New affiliate opportunities to explore inexpensively – if you’re a poker or bingo affiliate you might want to cross-sell to the rummy market, or dip a toe in the forex market.

• New self-service techniques to deploy – testing a new social ad platform is simple for example.

• To take a punt based on gut instinct – smaller affiliates have the freedom to experiment; use this to your advantage.

• Different commercial models to operators – an experienced SEO with self belief and confidence in their art will be happy to share the risk, providing there is a reward for over delivery.

• Deploy both long and short term strategies – Let’s say you run an odds comparison site with a home page (the most powerful page of the site) optimised for “compare odds” / “odds comparison”. You might want to leverage your home page’s authority and rank for “Cheltenham betting” for 3 weeks every year? (See Google insights comparison).

• A single product affiliate may diversify easily – adding poker, bingo, and niche casino games to your casino tips is quick and easy with most modern CMS systems. Going international is also relatively simple with a little local iGaming knowledge (note: always speak to an experienced multilingual search specialist beforehand).

• Greater freedom to adapt to Google changes - Eg. 26th June 2009 (Vince) - if you were displaced by larger brands who (let’s face it) deserve to be there, regaining position may be costly. Vince only impacted a very small number of queries; it may be the case that a more mid-tail term should be targeted, while you regain the position on the larger generic term.

• Greater freedom to respond to competitor activity – unlike a typical Plc marketing budget which is usually agreed and signed off in the previous year, the affiliate has the flexibility to adapt based on changes in the competitor landscape.

• Greater freedom to respond to wide market changes – the adoption of new gaming behaviour, driven by mainstream advertising may be pre-empted and form part of an affiliate’s medium to long term game plan.

All in all, the affiliate has a number of aces they can play to their advantage, but when it comes down to it:

“Picking a Keyword is Picking a Fight”

No one likes to get hurt, and picking a fight that cannot be won is one way to guarantee a painful defeat.

Don’t think that because you are an affiliate, you cannot compete for big keywords. If your site is optimised correctly and you have link history, you could still be in the running for a page #1 ranking for one or more of the big terms. Never fight a battle on more than one front unless you are very well resourced – target one keyword at a time (mixing up the anchor text, but ensuring your target keywords occur in the link anchor text mix).

The following tables show the estimated click through rate for a typical Google results page. The table on the left is applicable when there are 3 sponsored results at the top of page 1, the table on the right, was published by AOL and more closely represents the click though rates where there are no sponsored results i.e. in markets where gambling is prohibited by Google.

Basic revenue modelling for a given position is as simple as...

Monthly Search Volume X CTR X Conversion to Active X Lifetime Value

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in trouble” Sun Tzu

Note: If you’re planning to displace the brand in position #3 for a big keyword, you need to be adequately resourced; not only to achieve the position, but also to deal with the backlash that will occur once the position has been achieved – don’t expect your competitor to step down without a fight.

Here’s loosely how it will play out:-

  • Marketing exec reports Google organic player volumes to his boss
  • Marketing Manager completes his report and sends to his boss
  • Marketing Director asks WTF happened to our player volumes this month
  • Marketing Manager responds let me get back to you with the figures
  • Marketing Manager asks marketing exec WTF happened to our player volumes this month
  • Marketing Exec replies let me get back to you with the figures
  • Marketing Exec reports a one position loss which has pushed the result below the fold at a cost of ‘x’ players per month
I’m sure you can imagine the rest... Result: escalating aggression!

If you don’t have the required resource to deal with the escalation, the victory will be fleeting and expensive, particularly if you’ve only moved from position #4 to #3.

This becomes even more apparent when battling for position #1. Given the significant increase in traffic volumes when moving from #2 and #1, it’s important to anticipate an escalation in aggression. This retaliation will be proportional to the loss incurred by the brand you’re planning to displace.

When budgeting for SEO at this level:-

1) Ensure that you have sufficient resource to get there.
2) If your agency or in-house guy suggests £25K/per month in budget – allocate an additional 10% to cover margin of error.
3) Don’t haggle them down and expect the same results
4) Ensure you have additional budget to defend the position once achieved

Victorian social thinker, John Ruskin, once wrote:
It is unwise to pay too much, but it is unwise to pay too little. When you pay too much you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing you bought it to do.”
Nowhere is this more applicable than in iGaming SEO. SEO budgets in the most competitive markets can leave an affiliate financially exposed, you would be advised to take a measured progressive approach, fighting one battle at a time and incrementally up scaling , once your figures justify increased activity.

Assessing and mitigating risk

At Stickyeyes we operate a White Hat approach and operate ethically and within Google guidelines both on-page and off. That said, given Google’s dominance in the search market - having all your eggs in one basket carries risk.

It’s no one’s God given right to rank in Google, and if you’re operating outside of what is acceptable then you’re running a potential risk to your traffic, revenue or even your future employment prospects.

It’s important to know what’s at stake and factor this into your project. If you’re currently only ranking for brand terms, let’s say, your brand is delivering traffic. Some degree of risk mitigation is recommended if you’re planning to undertake any activity outside of what Google finds acceptable.

Your Google search traffic will dictate this level of risk, if you have a long term mission involving any level of brand equity, then I would advise you avoid off-shoring any link building activity to the lowest bidder.

One way to protect your brand traffic is be to create a new micro-site or use an existing web property which could be optimised for your brand. This would ensure that should you run into trouble, you’re alternative site will protect your business from the loss of brand traffic. Strong affiliate relationships can also help to some degree.

While a solid contingency plan can mitigate a risky strategy, the long term impact of burning a domain for financial gain could still bring about your downfall for a number of reasons which we won’t go into here.

In summary... believe...

In SEO, as per all endeavours in life, our limitations are entirely self-imposed as Shakespeare put it:
“Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”
With an executable plan, adequate resource and budget, there’s no reason why you cannot outrank the big boys. Good luck!

1 comment:

hector said...

It is hard to optimize your site if you dont have enough knowledge and good tactics that could help out rank your page fast. Thanks for the informations you provided.

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