SBC catches up with Nick Garner ahead of a busy month for the igaming industry. Nick Garner CEO of Search and online Reputation agency 90 Digital discusses the latest trends in SEO, PR and online reputation management for igaming. Nick is a veteran of SEO for the igaming industry, having headed up international projects for Unibet and Betfair.
SBC discuses SEO and content with Nick Garner ahead of ICE 2014: –
SBC: Nick good to catch up. Can you define to our readers what online reputation management entails and how it benefits a gaming operator?
Nick: For us, its about reputation on Google because that’s how we navigate the internet. Google is as trusted as a newspaper and around 73% of believe search results are fair and unbiased. So when someone checks you out how do you look?
Reputation in igaming is an odd one because affiliates have swamped the search results with positive reviews about whoever pays them the most money. Of course there is a certain self fulfilling prophecy here, because operators who convert best and hold on to users the longest, tend to pay put the best, so there is some correlation between user satisfaction and affiliate reviews bizarrely
Where reputation really matters for operators is around searches where affiliates won’t make money and where consumers are very sensitive to what they read. Were talking about fear / consideration keywords like: [operator] ‘stole my money’, ‘[operator] is rigged’ i.e. key phrases where there is the potential to cause great consumer unease.
If done right, reputation management can make a brand ‘check out’ in a really positive way and ultimately that means more confidence in the brand and more business.
SBC: You have mentioned that SEO is now a riskier proposition for igaming operators to undertake. Why has this become the case?
Nick: Google cares about two things; making profit and keeping market share. Both profit and share are down to the quality and makeup of their search results. Much of SEO is about gaming Google to get your brand up the search results. When the system gets too gamed, poor quality search results rank and users become disenchanted with Google and go somewhere else.
Because of this, Google has been rolling updates to its algorithm to combat gaming the system. The most notable update is Penguin, where they are targeting anyone who is intentionally acquiring certain types of web links that are designed as a link scheme.
In iGaming, the competition s so fierce on Google, operators have resorted to vast link schemes to get ranked on big money phrases like ‘online casino’ and so on. As a result there is a far higher risk of penalty amongst iGaming operators than in other less competitive sectors. We did some analysis about 9 months ago and found that the risk of getting a penalty had doubled in the previous 17 months. It’s about 5%. It doesn’t seem a lot, but only 20% of all operator sites are really pushing it hard.
SBC: Is SEO for igaming now a closed field for a select group of operators with extended resources. Can other smaller players gain SEO competencies and benefits?
Nick: In SEO we think of keywords because they represent intent. There are very few keywords in Igaming that make money as compared to travel for instance. Because of this there are a lot of operators competing for very few keywords that make really big money.
So those with the most powerful brands and the biggest budgets tend to be the winners. There is also another not so obvious dimension and that is sites rank because they have good links and you get good links by being accepted on better sites. Big brands are more likely to get links on better sites than unknown less trusted brands.
Of course for smaller player there are niches, for instance mobile casino is emerging and there are still some opportunities there because that segment is still in some flux.
SBC: What new factors have you seen creep into igaming SEO. What should operators be aware of when planning their strategies?
Nick: In the old days and i mean a year ago, you could spam i.e. buy lots of low quality links and feel fairly confident that you will rank and probably not get a penalty. Now because of penguin the value of these spammy links has been zeroed out and so buying spammy links won’t help you and will get you flagged up for a review and probably penalty. So today everything is about quality of links in sufficient volume.
To get quality links, it involves having something worth linking to i.e. you have to have good content and offer good content to 3rd party websites to earn a link placement. In other words its more like public relations, where the relationships you have within a sector are your greatest asset. Because those relationships will get you links that are not spammy.
So in summary: think like a PR person and not like and SEO’er
SBC: 90 Digital has a strong on brand story boarding/telling, can you explain this practice and why is this an important practice to operators?
Nick: Because reputation is based on what others say about you, its important to position brands with the right backdrop on Google. Part of this is brand positioning and working out what the implicit buyer questions are.
For Instance ‘[operator] stole my money’ is interesting because on the face of it, its a bunch of screaming punters moaning because they tried to game the system and had their account closed. But if you read some of the stories they are compelling and very believeable.
If you are wavering about whether to get an particular account with an operator or if you have had a bad experience with an operator and you read this toxic content, you will become a detractor of the brand and help spread negative sentiment. Thus exacerbating an already bad issue.
So by coming up with the messaging and brand positioning and getting this content ranked where an operator needs to have their say, can reduce the anger and fear people will feel.
As you say its storytelling, but telling the right story.
SBC: Should igaming operators have to look beyond traditional SEO methodologies (link building, link buying, content building) in order to gain long term success for their products in SEO ?
Nick: Of course and in fact just revisiting something i spoke about earlier, to succeed in the future a brand will need a big network of strong relationships with online media owners.
It’s a bit like this interview. You are interviewing me because we go back several years and so you know me. It’s the same with media owners. The better an operators is at connecting and having tight relationships, the more likely they will get placements on 3rd party sites that Google thinks are important as a ‘trust’ and ‘ranking’ signal. So to summarize : relationships are key!
SBC: Why did you decide to organise the free event The iGaming Think Tank?
Nick: I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Kristjan Mar Hauksson who set up a very successful conference in Iceland, the Reykjavik Internet Marketing Conference (RIMC) and i asked him what his motivation was… and simply he said, its my way to give something back.
With that big idea I figure people want to learn more about iGaming search marketing, so I put the idea to Lindex who are working with me on this and they loved it… from there I’ve been able to get some amazing speakers who all feel the same way as I do about sharing their knowledge.
SBC: As a speaker at ICE 2014 – what do you wish to gain from speaking at the conference?
Nick: it’s more about what i can share and I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited on a panel discussing the UK gambling bill and the effects t will have on marketing. Its a subject i am very interested in because of the effect operators reputations will have on licensing. It is also important for the industry to start to prepare for its implementation and try to get an understanding on its potential effects with regards to marketing.
Finally I would like to extend all ICE 2014 delegates the opportunity to come to the ‘iGaming Strategy & Search Think Tank’ at the Dominion Theatre, Tottenham Court Road on the 30th of January 2014, to gain more insight into igaming SEO and content strategies. It’s going to be a fun and interesting event and it’s free!
Nick Garner – Managing Director of 90 Digital – Search & Reputation Management
Nick Garner is organizing a 1 day iGaming Strategy & Search Think Tank’ as a warm up to ICE 2014. He has persuaded the best search marketing people he knows to share their knowledge at this special free to attend event in London on January 30th 2014. For more information on this event please click on the tab below.
Content Provided By Clarion Gaming – ICE 2014 Conference