Part 1: SEO – Search Engine Optimization
Content is King
While most affiliate webmasters concentrate the bulk of their time on link building and making their portal look pretty or trendy, too few put the effort into quality content. The truth is, if most affiliates spent the time researching and writing articles, that they invest in link exchanging, they'd achieve better rankings for their keywords. Most SEO experts agree that doing bulk link exchanges has very little effect on search engine rankings. They believe there is far more value in keyword rich, relevant content.
I would rather have an ugly site that's stuffed with good content than an eye catching template with little relevant content. What good is all that link building doing for you if you can't keep a visitor on your site long enough to close a sale?
A side effect of writing quality content is that you will often attain back links from better ranked sites than you could ever get from trading links.
Another side effect of having a content rich site is you will gain rankings for the keywords that you target without having to spend half your time trading links with shitty sites. Plus, an added benefit is getting ranked for keywords you didn't target. It happens all the time, I promise it will happen for you too.
Still another benefit of creating a content rich site is the potential of becoming an authority site. Ever see those sites in Google searches where a site has a first page listing plus a sub-listing right under it? Those listings are recognized as authority sites.
What makes good content?
Any page that holds the reader's interest is a good page. You don't have to be able to write like Stephen King or Edgar Allen Poe. Just do your research and put together enough interesting and informative material to form a 250 – 500 word article. Making an article too wordy can bore the human visitor and confuse the search engine… it's easy to dilute your keywords to the point where the search engines don't place enough relevance on them.
Write for your human visitors – not the search engines! If you keep your content focused and on-topic, the search engines will index it properly regardless.
Make sure you sprinkle your keywords throughout the article. Don't over do it. Your keywords should only take up a maximum of 5% of your content. In other words, no more than one word in twenty should be a keyword. Too many keywords in an article can be perceived as link spam by the SE bots, plus your human readers will lose interest quickly and move on.
Focus your article on a single theme. Only optimize for one or two keywords or key phrases in each article. Use pictures or graphics to break up the text. Add humor when appropriate. Use bolding and italics lightly – bolded or italicized words are deemed to be more important by the SE's so be careful when choosing which words to highlight. Highlighting your keywords once or twice is a good idea.
Don't forget to include calls to action on each page!
Before publishing your page – USE SPELL CHECK !! And proof read for glaring grammar mistakes, punctuation, etc… If you aren't sure the page is ready to go, ask a friend or family member to proof it. Email is your best friend in this case, just mail it to someone you trust and ask for their feed back.
You don't have to be a world class writer but you do need your article to look professional and make sense.
Use the correct word! Should it be there or their or they're? Is it rogue or rouge? To, two or too? Take the time to learn the difference, If you want to be taken seriously as an authority on your topic, you need to present yourself and your site in a professional manner.
Remember this. Practice makes perfect. Each article you write will be better than the last. Don't give up!
Effective Link Building
We all need some in-coming links since it is, in essence, how the search engines find our pages. There are dozens of ways to acquire back links for your site. Some good, some not so good.
Unfortunately, most affiliate webmasters spend most of their time on the “not so good” methods of link building.
Trading links on a massive scale with low quality websites that offer little or no value to your rankings is an epic waste of time and effort. Search engines place value on links when they come from older, more established sites, or sites that have good, relevant content that matches the content of your site.
Submitting your pages to link directories is another low value way to gain link juice. Most directories are overflowing with links but contain no other content. The search engines recognize these directories for what they really are, link farms. As a result, they do not assign any significant value to the links they find there.
Hiring a SEO company to do your link building will almost always end badly. You will usually find out they spent most of your budget buying links in directories. Many of these so called experts, just take your links and place them on other sites they've set up just for that purpose. These site tend to be very low quality and gain you nothing. You may even find out that these experts didn't do anything other than spam some forums and blogs with your links. Not a good way to make friends!
So, what is a good link building strategy?
If you have scads of cash, you could buy high value links (ads) on some authority sites. This is effective but if you plan on targeting the “Hollywood” terms such as “poker”, “rakeback” or “online casino”, you better have very deep pockets. Most new affiliate webmasters don't have a big budget and the money they do have is better spent on hosting, content, artwork, etc…. Never fear, there are many FREE ways to gain back links.
Social Networking is the hot new link building strategy. Facebook, twitter, forums and blogs all offer the opportunity to gain some free one way links for your website. There are dozens of social networking sites to choose from. Doing a search for the term will produce pages of results. I list a number of affiliate communities on my “resources” page that allow signature links once a member has passed the probationary period.
Inter-linking within your own network of sites is very effective if you have more than one portal. Just don't over do it or the SE's may not like it and could penalize your site in some way.
Trading links with a few trustworthy affiliates (people you know) is perfectly fine. The SE's will not penalize you for it as long as you do it in moderation.
Writing decent quality articles that include a couple links to your site, then giving them away to webmasters who have established sites, is a great way to get some quality one way links. Just make sure the webmaster agrees to keep your links in the article permanently and that the links will be “do follow”. Also be fair, make sure the article is original material, not scraped or spun. No one likes being taken advantage of.
Writing and submitting articles to e-zines or article directories is another effective method of generating one way links. Submitting press releases is another. Like I said at the beginning of this article, there are dozens of ways to gain safe, one way links that actually benefit your site.
One of the best (and most overlooked) link building strategies is simply writing and publishing great content on your site. If your content is great, others will link to it. It's true, content is king!
Part 2: Marketing
Budget Affiliating: Opening an Affiliate Portal on a Budget
It takes very little money to break into the online gambling affiliate business. All you need is a domain name and a website, a blog or a forum, and you're in business! If you take advantage of the free blog services such as Blogger and WordPress, or the free forums provided by a growing number of companies, you can literally be in business for the cost of a domain name. Alternately, more and more affiliates are going the “social media” route, marketing their offers through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. Another free (and possibly the best) option is partnering with a white label software provider such as Poker Affiliate Solutions.
Free Blogging Services
Both WordPress and Blogger offer free options. The downside to using the free versions of either service is that you end up placing your content on a sub-domain hosted on their servers. While Blogger allows gambling content on their servers, WordPress has been known to block blogs containing gambling and/or adult oriented content. Because these blogs are hosted and regulated by the software provider, you are at their mercy should they decide that your content does not meet their approval.
There are a number of companies providing free forums. Forumotion is one such provider. EZ Boards is another. These forums are fully customizable too, so you can give them your personal touches. The drawbacks with these forums are mostly SEO oriented, the search engines don't crawl them as efficiently as V-Bulletin or Joomla powered forums.
Affordable Paid Hosting
Whether you choose to go with a static site or set up a licensed WordPress blog or purchase a license for a V-Bulletin Forum, there are many affordable hosting options available. It is quite possible to find adequate, good quality hosting for less than $200 per year. A couple hundred a year is pretty reasonable to get a business up and running, don't you think?
If you're determined to go with a free hosting option, and you're planning on promoting online poker, give Poker Affiliate Solutions some consideration. They really do offer the ideal all in one poker affiliate solution.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning…. Social networking is the fastest-growing segment on the internet. If you're a social animal who spends several hours a day on Facebook or My Space, there is definitely potential money to be made by marketing casino or poker to your contacts. I don't think you'll get rich but there is virtually no cost involved either.
Calls to Action
Writing great content is only half the job! It surprises me that so many affiliates seem to forget that we are operating our websites to earn an income. Each element of our portals should be designed in such a way that we are leading the reader toward making a purchase.
The art of manipulating your visitors to move from point A to point B and eventually convince him or her to click on a casino or poker room link is done through “calls to action” (CTA).
In the old days, banners were very effective calls to action but these days the consumer has become “banner blind”, he simply ignores them. In fact, if the page is banner heavy and too flashy, you're likely going to drive him away.
Today, CTA's take on many shapes and forms. Text links are the most effective CTA's in use today, but only if used properly. Company logos are effective due to the branding aspect. Even videos have become popular. Having one or two banners on your page isn't going to hurt either, especially if they advertise the latest bonus, promotion or jackpot amount.
One of my favorite calls to action is the use of screen shots. Screen shots are pictures of the actual product – the poker room, the latest slots game or even the casino bonus page. You turn them into a “call to action” by making them a click-able link. Screen shots serve a dual purpose since they help break up long bodies of text and a picture is worth a thousand words.
Don't over use your CTA's. Sprinkle them through the page but don't let the page look too much like a sales promotion. If you over sell the product, you will likely drive the customer away.
The best calls to action are the ones that convince a customer to make a purchase he or she will not regret later, so be honest when writing your ad copy (reviews, etc). The best customers are happy customers – happy customers are repeat customers!
- The most effective CTA's are text links. The best use of text links is in the body (content portion) of your article.
- Banners are effective if used very sparingly, one or two per page.
- Logos are very good CTA's due to “brand recognition” and should be placed at the top of the page, paragraph or article.
- Screenshots work very well. Use them about halfway through the article or review to break up the text.
- Place your calls to action at the top, in the body (several times) and at the end of the page.
Earning Player Loyalty
Advocating for Player's Rights
If content is king, trust is solid gold!
As online gambling affiliate marketers, we have a number of resources available to us where we can check out programs before committing to promote them. We have Affiliate Guard Dog, Gambling Portal Webmasters Association and Poker Affiliate Listings, to name a few. But what about the players? Who do they turn to? Players must rely on us for the information they need to make educated decisions about where to invest their hard earned money. How do they know what casino or poker room is safe to deposit at? Who can they trust?
Trust and loyalty must be earned!
The basic casino or poker portal contains bonus listings, strategy articles, rakeback offers, or other similar information. Some webmasters focus on niche marketing such as Bingo sites or Mac compatible poker rooms or country specific promotions. There is really nothing new that sets these sites apart or creates customer loyalty. We all need an edge, a reason for our visitors to click our links and to return to our sites again and again. Establishing yourself as a player’s advocate, someone who puts the player’s interests first, gives you that edge. You get the best of both worlds, a loyal player base and the satisfaction of knowing you are looking after your players.
Being a player’s advocate, what does it entail?
There are several factors that go into determining whether a program is safe to work with. Ask yourself these questions before agreeing to promote any brand:
How long has the program been in business?
Are the player terms and conditions fair? Are there any predatory clauses?
Do the T & C’s contain questionable or unreasonable clauses?
Do you understand the T & C’s? Are they confusing or misleading?
Are the banking options suitable/varied enough to satisfy your players?
Is the program AGD (Affiliate Guard Dog) certified?
Are the bonus terms reasonable?
Did customer support respond in a timely manner?
WOULD YOU TRUST THE SITE WITH YOUR MONEY?
If a site is less than six months old, you’re best to pass. Wait a few months before spending any time on them.
Carefully read the T & C’s. Look for terms such as “Abandonment of Account”. Many programs charge as much as 10% of account balances each month an account remains inactive. Also look for clauses where players are only allowed to make low maximum withdrawals. High rollers want to be able to withdraw and move their money at will, these conditions are NOT player friendly.
If you don’t understand the terms and conditions, your players won’t either. Pass!
Can your players withdraw their money? Are the banking options good for your player based on physical location? For example, American players can not use credit cards so they rely on options such as Pic-Club. Canadians love Instadebit. If players can’t deposit or withdraw, what good is the site to you or them?
Affiliate Guard Dog is your best resource, use it. If a program is not AGD certified ask them to apply for certification. If a program is on AGD’s rogue list, run! We also maintain a list of rogue affiliate programs for your convenience.
Take time to research each site’s bonus terms. Some are very easy to clear (player friendly) while others are nearly impossible. You often have numerous choices when it comes to bonus offers, often the highest offer isn’t the best choice. It depends on your player’s playing habits. Providing clear explanations and examples on your website makes it much easier for your players to choose a bonus that’s right for them.
Testing customer support is vital. If a player has questions or issues, they need and expect prompt, knowledgeable customer service. In my opinion, 24 – 48 hours is the maximum time it should take to resolve an issue or answer a question.
The final test!
After you’ve completed your research, would you trust the casino, poker room, bingo site with your money? Would you deposit your money with them? If the answer is “no”, don’t promote them!
Know your affiliate manager!
Acting as a player advocate will require regular contact with your AM’s. Ensuring an open line of communication from the beginning is essential for resolving issues and disputes that will arise in coming weeks or months. Developing a positive relationship with your Affiliate Manager will make your life much easier when that time comes.
Talk the talk and walk the walk!
Do your homework. Research takes time but the pay off is worth the effort. Speak out! When you discover predatory terms or bonus conditions that are impossible to clear, go public. Use the message boards and forums to “name and shame” the program in question. Just make sure you have your facts straight. Also, to be fair, contact the affiliate representative for the program in question and ask them to look at and correct the offensive or predatory term. They will often work with you to make their program more player friendly.
Publicize rogue programs and predatory T & C’s on your website or forum. Create a blacklist or rogues gallery. Keep it up to date!
In your room/site reviews, point out the good and the bad points about a casino/poker room. You want your players to make an educated decision. The more information you provide, the safer the player will feel. Be honest! If you’ve tried the site yourself, give your views on the software, graphics, game speed, ease of use, navigation, etc.
Publish an “About Us” page on your site. Explain your goals and philosophy. Tell your visitors why they should trust you. Let your visitors know that the programs you promote have passed your scrutiny and meet your standards. Make your readers aware that you will go to bat for them if they have issues with one of the room/casinos you promote. Publish your results, both positive and negative so your visitors know you followed through on your promise to act as their advocate.
Make yourself available!
Provide a contact form. Let your players know they can contact you with questions and concerns. Respond to any queries in a timely manner. Keep your player informed about your progress when trying to resolve an issue for them.
Successful mediation – resolving disputes!
In order to successfully mediate a dispute between your player and the casino you will need to be an effective communicator. Collecting and sharing relevant facts and sensitive information in a professional, respectful manner can be tricky, especially when emotions and money are involved.
Before making contact with the casino or program in question, you need to communicate with your player. Gather all relevant data including, player account number or log-in name, the nature of dispute or complaint, the amount owed, and the steps the player has taken to resolve the issue. Make sure you understand the problem before opening a dialogue with the property in question.
Your first communication with your affiliate manger should be polite, respectful (non-confrontational) and clearly lay out the reason for your inquiry. Relay all information supplied by your player including account details and request your AM look into the matter for you. Ask for a timely response! Be patient, remember that the average AM receives dozens of emails each day. If you don’t receive a response after several days, follow up with a second email in which you will want to give him/her a deadline for responding before escalating the matter to his/her superior.
Communicate regularly with your player, even if you have nothing new to report. Keeping the player informed will help him to be patient. Tell him what your next plan of action will be and give him a time-line so he knows when to expect the next update from you. Follow through… if you say you will get back to him on Friday, do so!
Stay patient! It may take weeks, or even months, to resolve a dispute. Remain respectful to both your player and your affiliate manager/contact person at all times. It’s OK to express your concern and frustration but be professional and courteous. Always treat people the same way you expect to be treated.
You will not resolve every issue to your player’s satisfaction.
There are at least two sides to every story.
Never assume your player or the program representative is telling the truth.
Publish your results but be honest and be sure to respect everyone’s privacy.
Earning your players trust and establishing yourself as a dispute resolution specialist takes time and effort. The rewards, both spiritually and financially, are well worth the effort.
Affiliate Resources – sites and forums every affiliate should visit on a daily basis:
While Affiliate Guard Dog initially focussed on casino terms and conditions, they are now adding poker rooms to their listings. There is no other site offering the information or protection that AGD provides our industry.
The Gambling Portal Webmasters Association is home to over 7,000 members and their forums are the best single resource available for new and seasoned affiliates alike. Once your portal is three months old, apply for “private member” status so you are able to access the wealth of information provided in the private forums, it’s well worth the time and effort.
Pomps Forum Experiences
If You Build It, They Will Come……..
“If you build it, they will come” was the iconic line in the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. In the movie, Costner built it and they did come – the baseball players that is.
So, can the same be said about a forum and members?
The answer is a categorical YES and NO!
If you set up plenty of Freerolls and Free Cash you will get member after member join so the answer is YES!
Are they the type of members that will convert,earn rake and put a meal on the table? NO!
If you fill your forum with hundreds of threads and thousands of posts will your members reply or start their own?
YES if they are interested the topics and want to discuss them with other members.
NO if all they see are posts made by you as admin.
(Little tip for you. Open up 3 or 4 accounts for yourself and randomize posting)
If your forum is well organized, informative and friendly will members stay and enjoy? YES!
Allow spam, abusive posts and basic out of control members and the answer is NO!
I started my forum career so to speak as a member of a 1500+ membership forum and after a while was asked to be a moderator. Feeling privileged to be asked I gladly accepted then spent day after day hunting out freerolls and value added games then posting the details for the members with admin adding their affiliate links.
After a while I got to thinking “Hang on a minute, I could be making these posts on MY FORUM and maybe earning myself.” So that's what I decided to do.
Googling “FREEFORUMS” found me confronted with numerous free forum providers all much the same and one was picked and signed up for. I then proceeded to build the forum only to make a mistake somewhere and delete the lot. TERRIFIC!
So start over I did – with a different forum host and thus started to rebuild.
Chatting on msm and other IM's I proceeded to tell all my contacts the forum URL, I then proceeded to exchange links left right and center. Slowly the members came in and I managed to set up a couple of low value freerolls. Overnight the membership doubled but only because of the freerolls. Then disaster struck me a bad beat. My hosts had closed down, but at least they warned me in time to find another host, rebuild and invite my members to join the new site. Expecting obviously the same number of members to rejoin the new as were at the old, I was hugely disappointed when I actually got just 30.
NOTE A: Free Forums are ok but if you can – get your own.
NOTE B: Freerolls attract freeroll whores, rarely active members, and never depositing players.
Slowly the membership increased and I acquired enough forum points with my hosts to obtain my own domain name as opposed to a sub domain with them. This helped traffic greatly as not only did more members sign up but affiliate programs and poker sites were more willing to work with me.
NOTE 3: Purchase your own domain name ASAP
There I am a year on with 500 members but only 5% of them ACTIVE so I made the decision to delete the accounts of all members who had not made a single post. After doing so I'm told by a trusted affiliate manager that I should not have done that as it reduced my membership figures and didn't look good to possible future sponsors. GO FIGURE!
NOTE 4: ANY TRAFFIC IS GOOD TRAFFIC? OR IS IT?
Through word of mouth, directory submission,l ink exchange and such the membership again built up and at time of press stands at 750+ after almost 3 years. (1000+ if I had not deleted the non posters, spammers, etc)
Of that 750+ only 20 or so are active, at a guess, and few convert or rake for me.
However, that doesn't mean that I wouldn't recommend anyone opening a forum. Far from it.
I have earn t a little, but more importantly for me as a forum owner, I have made some truly great friends both on the felt and on the other side of the chip stack as an affiliate. Ive had some awesome games of poker and learn t information about the affiliate business. Run some amazing promotions and competitive leagues and to top it all – HAD FUN.
A FORUM MAY NOT MAKE YOU RICH, THEN AGAIN SOME DO… BUT IT WILL MAKE YOU CONTENT!
Part 3: Motivation
For many affiliates self motivation is a challenge, especially for those who work alone. It's easy to become distracted and lose focus when you're struggling and the creative juices refuse to flow. Lack of tangible results is another reason affiliates lose their motivation. It can be very difficult to keep going when the work seems to be in vain.
There are a number of things you can do to ensure you remain focused. Here are some tips that will help you become more productive and remain motivated day in and day out.
Set Realistic Short Term Goals
These mini goals can be financial or production oriented although I dislike setting financial goals since I have little control over how much commission l will receive this month or how many players will sign up today at sites X, Y or Z. I can control how much work I can get done today though so that is where I like to focus my energy. I set realistic daily goals I know I'm capable of acheiving. Whether it's how many articles I will write today or how much time I will spend on SEO, I do my best to meet the goal.
Plan Your Day
At the end of each day, I like to plan what I'm going to get done tomorrow. Write it down. Prioritize your list. I use Word Pad to keep my “To Do” lists organized and up to date. Other people I know use a whiteboard. Whatever method you prefer start your day by completing the first item on your list, then work through the rest from top to bottom. Don't skip the shitty jobs, get them done first!
Develop a Routine
I also suggest you get into a routine. Get up at the same time each day. Take scheduled breaks. Treat it like a job with set hours. Get into the habit of quitting work at least a couple hours before going to bed so you can wind down and let your mind relax.
Either work out regularly or get outside and walk every day. Sitting at the computer for hours on end is really hard on your body, get up and stretch. Walk around the room or grab a snack and a cold drink. Step outside for a breath of fresh air.
If you get your “to do” list completed early, give yourself the rest of the day off. Go shopping, take in a movie or visit a friend. The break will do you a world of good and you'll be much more motivated when you get back at it tomorrow. The same applies if you exceed your financial expectations. Buy yourself a new toy or take off for a weekend getaway.
Optimize Your Work Space
Remember, this is your job. Treat your work space like an office. Eat your meals away from your desk. Keep the clutter to a minimum. Make sure you have adequate lighting, having to strain your eyes all day is tiring and depressing. A comfortable office chair is the best investment you will ever make. Having a large computer screen will also make your life much easier. I use a 23 inch wide screen monitor on my work computer and love the size and functionality it offers. I can have several files open along with the browser window and see everything at the same time.
Chat and Forums
Schedule non-productive tasks into your daily routine. You know you're going to spend some time chatting to your friends, associates or affiliate managers so plan for it. By scheduling time for socializing, checking stats, checking out the competition or whatever, you avoid the risk of becoming frustrated because you failed to finish all the tasks on your list. I've seen many affiliates become depressed and lose motivation because they spent too much time in the forums or chatting on MSN or Skype.
If possible, set up your office in a separate room. Leave the television off. Don't log in to your favorite forum or messenger until you have completed your more important tasks.
Ultimately, the key to remaining positive and staying motivated comes down to persistence and patience. Don't give up just because things aren't moving as fast as you would like. This business takes time. The search engines work at their own pace no matter how hard you work or how much you want to see instant results. With patience and a positive work ethic, success will find you.