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The Search for Online Gambling

By Greg Taylor and Les Romhanyi

Five years ago, we thought of the Web as a new medium, not a new economy. ~ software engineer, Clement Mok (1999)

Now nearly 10 years later, we still can’t truly grasp the full potential of the Internet on business today. But we do know that the “trend” of online advertising has changed forever the way businesses and consumers interact. And we also know that the web is here to stay.

The clutter on the Internet is growing at a phenomenal rate, with 3.9 million more websites appearing on the web in the month of June alone. Today, there are over 178 million websites and 48.7 billion individual web pages, that number having increased by 50% in the past 12 months. *

This is why search engines have become so ubiquitous, and now are synonymous with web surfing, so much so that over 80% of all customers use search engines to find new websites. *

So the big question is: With all these websites, how are you to be found?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the answer.

SEM is the form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). And the two methods of SEM are organic search or search engine optimization (SEO), the other being sponsored links, or Pay Per Click (PPC).

Organic search refers to the main body of search results that a search engine will display when queried. Usually, and in the case of Google.com, there are 10 listings of results per page and they are lined up on the left side of the results page.

When a search engine spider crawls a website, it gathers information about that site and ranks it against all other sites for that particular topic. The search engine assigns certain values to specific properties of the webpage and the resulting score or algorithm, determines the sites ranking (SERP) for that topic, and displays the link in the organic listings.

Fortunately for website owners and those who practice the art of SEO, these rankings can be manipulated by applying some search engine optimization techniques.

The basic method is to provide meta content — the text contained within a web page’s Meta tags, which form part of the document head used to describe aspects of the document, such as title, description and keywords – inbound links and matching keywords on the page to the meta content. Further optimizing can be done with each website’s architecture and structure, which can either help or hinder how easily it’s indexed by search engines, as well as the use of content management systems (CMS) and other content feeds on the website.

PPC results refer to the listings on the search engines that are usually on the top, bottom, right hand or combination of the three, of the results page. These listings are ranked by bidding on the keywords with the highest bidder taking first place and so on.

However, the online gambling industry’s access to this lead generation channel was eliminated as a result of ongoing pressure applied from the U.S. government and the Department of Justice on the Big 3 search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN.

All forms of government ultimately are not going to succeed in trying to control or censor the Internet ~ Rupert Murdoch

Since the spring of 2004, generating leads through PPC has not been an option for online gambling. The US government’s mandate of restricting this industry through various means, including access to US-based mainstream media, led to the elimination of buying paid listing for anything associated with online gambling.

Google, MSN and Yahoo were all forced to not only stop receiving any future revenues from the online gambling industry, but to also pay retroactive monies earned in the years going back to 1999. The trio agreed to pay a total of $31.5m to settle claims that they accepted online ads promoting gambling. None of the three firms ever accepted any wrongdoing as part of the civil settlement, which concluded an investigation dating back to 2000.

This is the same pressure the US government placed on on Pay Pal, Neteller and The Sporting News to name just a few.

So this push by US authorities to get a stranglehold on mainstream US advertising has now put a huge onus on search engine optimization for today’s online gambling marketers.

This focus and expectation for achieving top search results has created an ever-escalating battle among the top poker rooms, casinos and sportsbooks, each spending more every year to attain top results for a myriad of search terms, all in the name of fresh traffic and increased revenues.

Some online gambling operators have spent upwards of $1-million and more annually, employing as many as two dozen full time staff just to ensure they are “above the fold” on the first page for the top 200-300 keywords relevant to their specific vertical.

And with more websites going up each month, and the increased importance of search engines to drive new customers to various online gambling sites, the monies being spent on search engine optimization will only increase year over year.

But for the various online gambling operators who have focused resources and budget on this dynamic medium, search marketing has proved to be very profitable and will continue to be so for at least the foreseeable future.

Long live the web and SEO.

* (source Netcraft webserver survey).

Greg Taylor – President, Big Juice Media
Greg has worked in the online sports betting industry for over a decade, working in a marketing and communications capacity with some of the largest online sportsbooks such as Bodog, Bet365, Nine, betED, BetOnline and Sportingbet. In the past few years, Big Juice Media has focused on the Search Marketing channel for both online gambling and fantasy sports.

Les Romhanyi – Director of Search, Big Juice Media
Les has optimized websites for search engines before it was even called Search Engine Optimization, going back to 1995 while working on the Net Sheppard project. Since then, he has provided SEO services to the online adult, real estate and pharmaceutical verticals, as well as online gambling.

Over the past few years we have been hearing more and more regarding Semantic search. As more and more companies try to break this barrier we will undoubtedly see a lot of new beta testing site pop up. For example one of the most recent ones I have heard of, and tried out, is http://www.hakia.com/.

Hakia has released their beta version of “Meaning Based” search engine that is based upon proprietary semantic software. “Meaning based” search, an interesting concept and one that needed checking out so I went over to their site and performed some gambling industry related searches like sportsbook, sports betting and casino. What I received didn’t exactly thrill me.

The things I noticed right off of the bat were the results tended to be based upon having the search queries within the domain name and within the page titles. Also, I noticed a lot of low quality affiliate sites pop up which in my opinion is a step backwards in search.

Using single search phrases or queries was giving fairly standard results so I thought I would type my query in the form of a question so I asked, minus the quotation marks of course, “Which is the best sportsbook?” and again, the results were less than stellar. I received a whole host of sportsbook directory listings and gambling portal sportsbook pages. Seems to me that offering me a bunch of portal site’s opinions on what they think are the best sportsbooks falls a little short of offering me any kind of meaning. Granted, the same search on Google gives me similar results but at least I could find the occasional actual sportsbook within their results.

Bottom line here is that semantic search has a long way to go before it will threaten Google’s share of the search market. I am a firm believer in that the next evolution of search will be in the form of Semantic Search and that when this type of search is perfected it will be closely followed by a break through in true artificial intelligence.

by Les Romhanyi

Natural linking, what is it and how do I get it? More importantly, do I need it? If you run an Internet web presence that you want others to find in the search engines then the answer to the latter is YES!

What is natural linking? That is an easy question to answer. Natural linking occurs when someone places a link to your site from another site. The reason that someone might link to your site is not really important, the fact that they placed the link is the only thing that matters.

Some of the reasons that someone might place a link to your site or to a page within your website are:

  • Your site offers some information that supports a fact or reinforces a position contained within another site.
  • Your site offers some tools or resources that would be helpful to others.
  • Your site contradicts a common misconception that others want use to validate their own views on that topic.
  • Your site represents a controversial viewpoint that others might want to showcase for their own purposes.
  • Your site is just so very cool that others need to be made aware of it and seeing as my website links to your site, my site must be cool too!

Regardless of the reasons why someone might be linking to your site, these natural links are very important. Even if someone is linking to your site because they think it is a sad joke and they want others to see how bad your site is, it really doesn’t matter.

Knowing that these types of links are important the next question is, “How do you get people to link to your site?” There are several ways you can get people to link to your site with the easiest being, make a useful site. Easier said then done you are thinking eh?

When you think about it, creating a useful site isn’t that difficult, it just requires time. Time to find helpful tools to share with others, time to find sound advice regarding your site’s topic of interest and time to make your site ooze the “It” factor. The amount of time it will take is solely dependent upon how much effort you want to put in to it.

OK, so you finished your site, now what? How do you let people know that your site is ready to amaze others? There are several ways to let people know about your site. If you have a budget set aside you could set up a PPC campaign that may bring in some traffic. You could join groups or forums that share your interest or even better, that are totally opposite to your site’s message or theme. Perhaps one of the best ways is to write articles that others can use on their sites that are seeded with a few well placed links pointing back to your site.

One of the next big trends that is about to take off is, the “Bartered Link”. Bartered links are where you offer space on your site to host an article written by other webmasters, which contain text links to their sites in exchange for a one way link back to your site. Are bartered links considered to be natural links? If they aren’t then they sure do a fine job of mimicking them.

Regardless of the motivation behind someone linking to your site, even if it is because they think your site is bad or your opinion is wrong, just remember this… the fact that they did is all that truly matters as the link is the thing.

About the Author
Les Romhanyi, Port Coquitlam, BC. Canada
les@bigjuicemedia.com

Les Romhanyi is an SEO specialist with many years experience placing websites at the top of all major search engines. Big Juice Media is a Sports Betting Marketing company based in Canada.