SPECIAL REPORT ONLINE POKER
MARKET OVERVIEW RANDY BLUMER JON FRIEDBERG INFORMATION, INSIGHT AND ANALYSIS FOR THE BUSINESS OF INTERACTIVE GAMING
CONTENTS 04 Events Calendar 06 Webmaster News 12 What Does SEO in 2013 Hold for you? 14 Going Global in SEO 16 Rebuilding Post-Panda 18 Alternative Traffic Streams for your Organic Search Strategy 20 The Russian Search Opportunity 22 Interview: Raf Keustermans, CEO and co-Founder, Plumbee 24 Special Report: Online Poker â€“ Industry Trends As we ready ourselves for the London Affiliate Conference and deliver this edition of iGB Affiliate out to our readers, I can only wonder what the big stories of 2013 will be. There will certainly be a lot of news emanating from the US market as companies in Nevada finally go online, as Delaware releases its RFPs and as other states announce their intentions to bring their casino industry online. But I am wondering where the sleeper stories will come from: tribal gaming could be a major influence in iGaming in 2013, as could the expansion of iGaming licensing in Europe. And with each of these ideas comes a single question: where is the opportunity in this change? The affiliates that answer this question correctly will be poised to become major players following what I believe will be a pivotal year for iGaming.
27 The Black Friday Effect 28 The Man who Raised the Game: an Interview with Randy Blumer 32 Moving up the Ranks in the Poker Affiliate Industry 34 Capitalising on the Changing Face of the Poker Market 36 Enterprise in Nevada: Jon Friedberg, PokerTrip Enterprises 38 HTML5 in the iGaming Space 42 The Holidays are Coming: Preparing for 2013 45 Creating Long-term Online Customer Engagement 46 How to Start a Website Without a Budget 48 Text Marketing Insight 50 The Social Affiliate: a New Breed 52 Visions for the Future: our Expert Panel Offer their Forecasts for 2013 56 Online Poker Affiliates: Uncle Sam Needs you (but may not want you) 58 iGaming Data Centre: comScore, Greenlight and PokerScout 61 Mobile Campaign Optimisation for Affiliates 63 Breaking Down Markets Through SEO 64 Market Place 66 US Elections and their Impact on iGaming
Michael Caselli, Editor in Chief
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under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Application to reproduce extracts in other published works shall be made to the publishers. Full acknowledgement of author, publisher and source must be given. iGaming Business Affiliate Magazine is published by iGaming Business Limited of 33-41 Dallington Street, London, EC1V 0BB, UK. The views expressed by contributors and correspondents are their own. Editorial opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the Publisher. The Publisher does not accept responsibility for advertising content. Cover image: istockphoto.com
iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
affiliate events calendar Due to their popularity and wealth of information, analysis and discussion, conferences have become an integral part of the affiliate industry and a key communications bridge between affiliates and affiliate managers. Whether used for networking, education or just an excuse to meet up with friends, the affiliate conferences listed below provide all the tools you need to improve your business.
ICE Totally Gaming London ExCel February 5 – 7, 2013
London Affiliate Conference London February 7 – 10, 2013
iGB Affiliate Awards London February 8, 2013
ICE Totally Gaming is the most comprehensive B2B gaming exhibition on the industry calendar. With hundreds of exhibitors from across the betting, bingo, casino, lottery, mobile, online and high street gaming sectors, ICE provides the industry with its most farreaching vehicle to showcase its supplier sector for both online and land-based businesses.
The seventh annual London Affiliate Conference moves to February in 2013, and promises to build on the success of the hugely successful 2012 event. Details for iGB Affiliate’s flagship conference and expo are currently being finalised but affiliates can expect the same high level insight and analysis from the key people and personalities in the industry while networking with all of the major programs and operators in the expo hall..
The annual affiliate awards ceremony brings together over 500 people from the iGaming affiliate community to honour the people and programs driving innovation and growth within the sector at an extravagant black tie event on the first evening of the London Affiliate Conference (LAC).
iGaming North America Conference Las Vegas February 19 – 21, 2013 The iGaming North America Conference returns to Las Vegas in 2013. The third annual event will take place at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino and aims to build on the event’s foundation as a summit at the intersection of technology and gaming in the North American markets. www.igamingnorthamerica.com/
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Say YEAH! to bewinners now - want to know why? • Sports betting, Poker, Casino and Games • Over 100 sports, massive poker prize pools and casino jackpots • 7 labels, 25 markets, 22 languages • Local legal setups for individual countries This and much, much more is what you get from the world’s leading online gaming affiliate program! What have you got to give?
GEObet Launches First Tribal Online Casino The Northern Bear Casino made history in November when it became the first tribal nation to offer online gambling. The new site, www.northernbearcasino.com, is hosted on GEObet’s Tribal Gambling Network with the Wapi-Maskwa iGaming Act acting as the governing body. “In addition to operating one of the finest online casinos in the market, GEObet Gambling Network’s goal is to unite tribal gaming in the virtual world
by offering a turnkey live online casino to First Nations and tribes in North America,” said Gerry Gionet, Chief Executive Officer for GEObet Gambling Network. According to GEObet, The Northern Bear Casino is set to be the first of many tribal gaming interests that will be launched on the Tribal Gambling Network. “After almost 20 years of successful First Nations-owned and operated casinos in Saskatchewan, I decided to become an
owner/operator because I believe First Nations need to ‘occupy the field’ of online gambling,” said Bernard Shepherd of NorthernBearCasino.com. “I’ll be operating under the same inherent, treaty, constitutional and sovereign rights as when I opened the first Indian casino in Canada on February 26, 1993. Our forefathers traded globally 100-plus years ago and entrepreneurship has been in our DNA for 10,000-plus years. This is what November 6, 2012, is going to stand for.”
bwin.party Defends Belgian Activity bwin.party digital entertainment has defended its actions in Belgium after authorities in the country temporarily detained and questioned its co-Chief Executive Officer, Norbert Teufelberger, as he attended the Responsible Gaming Day event in Brussels in November. According to Reuters, Teufelberger, who also serves as Chairman for the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) trade group, was interviewed by Belgian law enforcement officials for two hours but was subsequently released without charge. “The request to attend the interview arose from the Belgium Gambling Commission’s view that bwin.party was in breach of the country’s gambling legislation,” read a statement from bwin.party. “bwin.party maintains the position that it is acting and has always acted in compliance with applicable laws.” bwin.party continues to accept players based in Belgium via its bwin.com brand
despite not holding an appropriate licence. Belgium regulated online gambling earlier this year but recently added bwin.com to a blacklist of prohibited sites while licensing competitors including PokerStars and PartouchePoker. The operator revealed that this ban is costing in the region of €700,000 a month in revenues but hopes to hold further discussions with representatives from the Belgium Gambling Commission. “We have been at the forefront of regulatory change in Europe for several years and we have licences in Gibraltar, Alderney, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy and Spain,” read a statement from Teufelberger and fellow co-Chief Executive Officer, Jim Ryan. “We continue to strive for a regulatory framework in European Member States that is compliant with European Union law.” The news follows bwin.party’s well publicised exclusive partnership with Zynga to offer real money online poker
and casino games to the UK market. At the time of the announcement in October, Teufelberger and co-CEO, Jim Ryan, released a joint statement explaining that the announcement was, “another example of our success in leveraging our assets through strategic blue-chip partners. Zynga is the world’s leader in social games with hundreds of millions of active players worldwide and a significant player base in the UK. We are delighted to have been selected as their chosen partner for this important step in their evolution, and hope to expand our relationship into other products and markets.” The agreement is seen throughout the industry as a significant deal in the growing convergence of the social and real money gaming sectors, and comes on the back of bwin.party’s public commitment to invest €50 million in social gaming programmes, which includes the development of its new social division, ‘Win’.
Social Gaming Association Launches The Social Gaming Association (SGA) has officially launched, aiming to provide the industry with ‘a united voice and a unified set of socially responsible standards’. The SGA also revealed that it hopes to address the concerns of industry detractors as well as taking a proactive role in educating policy makers concerned about social gaming. “The Social Gaming Association has been established to unify all of the publishers, suppliers, investors and entrepreneurs within the social gaming community as a united front to protect and further the legal, regulatory and commercial interests of this vibrant and dynamic industry,” said Stuart Tilly, Executive Director of the SGA.
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The SGA’s key aim is the development of a self-imposed, socially responsible code of conduct for its members, but it will also monitor key legal, regulatory and commercial developments within the industry; challenge discriminatory legislation against social gaming; educate regulators and other key policy decision makers; and provide a forum for members to openly share opinions and debate issues that affect the industry. The SGA will also support industry focused charitable causes and other socially responsible initiatives. Membership to the SGA is now open, with potential applicants able to join as one of five member classes. The free, basic membership package is available to anyone with an
interest in Social Gaming including start-ups, suppliers to the industry, venture capitalists and policy makers. Paid membership packages are available for game publishers, governments looking to gain access to the SGA’s real-time information library and for established suppliers to the industry. Accredited membership will give game publishers a compliance kite-mark acknowledging that they have met the standards of the SGA. “Accreditation will provide publishers, their players and their investors, confidence that the publisher is acting in a socially responsible manner, and that their games meet the standards as set forth by the industry,” read a statement from the SGA.
Betfair Ceases Trading in Germany Betfair has revealed that it has withdrawn its exchange product from the German market. The company declared that a new five percent sportsbetting stake tax in Germany is behind its decision to cease trading, citing that the current rate makes its model ‘unviable’. “Following detailed opinions provided by its legal and tax advisors, Betfair believes that, in regard to bets placed on its exchange, it is not an organiser of sportsbetting under the tax law and is not, therefore, liable for the tax,” read a statement from Betfair. “Betfair has been working with the relevant tax authorities to seek clarification on interpretation of the law and its applicability to exchanges. The company is disappointed, however, that to date, the tax authorities have not been able to agree to an interpretation of the law that would allow Betfair to continue
to offer the exchange product. Consequently, Betfair has decided to withdraw its exchange product from the German market.” Betfair stated that the decision is expected to see ongoing contributions from Germany ‘de minimus’ while it is additionally reviewing its operations in the country. For its most recent fiscal year, the operator revealed that German players accounted for approximately £6 million in revenues, which constituted four percent of its core total, before the allocation of central costs. “The company believes that it has fulfilled all of its obligations under German law including the filing of necessary tax returns,” read the statement from Betfair. “Discussions are continuing with tax authorities regarding the potential tax liability, if any, arising from bets placed on its exchange since the law came into effect.”
OPAP Tender Attracts Interest The Greek government’s Hellenic Republic Assets Development Fund (HRADF) privatisation agency has announced that eight companies have expressed an interest in bidding for the 33 percent stake in its OPAP gaming monopoly. In a brief statement, HRADF revealed that eight parties had met the November 9 deadline for submitting expressions of interest for the right to bid for the tender to operate 13 games of chance on an exclusive basis until 2030, in addition to a ten-year licence for the running of 35,000 video lottery terminals. The eight interested bidders include a consortium being led by German landbased gaming machine manufacturer and operator, Gauselmann AG, in partnership with Playtech Limited and Helvason Limited, alongside a group consisting of
Intralot Holdings Luxemburg SA and Intralot Investments Limited. Emma Delta Limited, which is a fund advised by Emma Delta Management Limited and entrepreneurs Jiri Smejc and George Melisanidis, are also in the running as is BC Partners and the Primrose Treasure Limited subsidiary of China’s Fosun International Limited. The remaining companies include Third Point LLC, TPG Capital and Triple Five World Group Properties Limited. “We are satisfied by the response of the investment community, which has demonstrated its trust in the prospects of the country despite the difficult economic situation,” said Yannis Emiris, Chief Executive Officer for HRADF. “The number and entity of the submissions received is also proof of investors’ confidence in our tendering procedures.”
Nevada Issues 16th iGaming Licence The number of companies to have received some form of interactive gambling licence from the Nevada Gaming Commission now stands at 16 after an application from bricks-and-mortar casino operator MGM Resorts International was approved alongside requests from Las Vegasbased Z4Poker LLC and Cams LLC of Los Angeles. According to a report from the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, MGM Resorts now intends to establish a play-for-fun site via
its MGM Online LLC subsidiary in addition to expanding the services offered by its myVegas social media site, which is operated in partnership with developer Playstudios. The Nevada Gaming Commission’s licensing hearing additionally granted Cams, which is the recently established subsidiary of electronic payment and risk management firm Verifi, a service provider licence while online poker technology developer Z4Poker received permission to supply its solutions to would-be operators.
Online Results Encourage Paddy Power Growth
Paddy Power has released a financial performance update showing that total net revenues have increased by 23 percent year-on-year. The Irish firm revealed that amounts staked via its sportsbook operations rose by 20 percent year-on-year assisted by a 28 percent boost in the sums wagered through its paddypower.com online operation. “Our leading positions in mobile betting are positively impacting online turnover growth and sportsbook gross win percentages,” read a statement from Paddy Power. “We also continued to progress our portfolio of newer online businesses and to invest in exploring other development opportunities to contribute to longer term growth.” Revenues from the company’s online sportsbook excluding Australia had improved by 26 percent year-onyear while total earnings went up by 21 percent when compared with the same period in 2011. “In October, mobile turnover as a percentage of total online sportsbook stakes was 27 percent in Australia and 45 percent in paddypower.com,” continued the official statement. “The most rapid mobile penetration continues to occur in gaming with mobile gross win in October accounting for 28 percent of Paddy Power Casino and 25 percent of Paddy Power Games.”
William Hill Granted Sportingbet bid Extension
British betting giant William Hill and fellow sportsbook provider GVC Holdings have been given more time to submit a final offer for the purchase of online sportsbetting and gaming operator Sportingbet. According to a report from the Reuters news service, the UK’s Takeover Panel regulatory body has given William Hill and GVC Holdings until December 4 to finalise their bid after the pair earlier revealed that they would be unable to meet the original November 13 deadline. The pair had their original offer for Sportingbet rejected in September but subsequently improved this figure by some 20 percent to £530 million. If completed, the plan is for the duo to purchase the entire issued and to-be issued share capital with William Hill taking control of the Australian and ‘certain other locally licensed businesses’ with GVC Holdings collecting the remainder.
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Michigan Lottery Next to Move Online
Officials from the Michigan Lottery have announced plans to allow players to purchase tickets over the Internet via subscription sales from next year. The Michigan Lottery recently celebrated its 40th anniversary with M Scott Bowen, Commissioner for the Michigan Bureau of State Lottery, revealing that customers should be able to buy tickets for the Classic Lotto 47, Fantasy 5, Powerball and Mega Millions games online from April although various other Internet sales components could take the entirety of the year to organise. “We are committed to ensuring that our operation is financially responsible so that players do not have to worry about personal data being illegally accessed,” said Bowen.
Voting Now Open for iGB Affiliate Awards
Voting for the 2013 iGB Affiliate Awards is now underway with 23 award categories open for public vote. Affiliates and members of the industry are now able to put forward their submissions for Best Affiliate, Best Affiliate Manager, Best Affiliate Program, Most Improved Affiliate Program, Best Newcomer, Best iGaming Affiliate Network, the Lou Fabiano Award for best iGaming Community and Best Payment System. The awards for Best Affiliate, Best Affiliate Manager and Best Affiliate Program are split into sub-categories comprising Casino, Poker, Bingo, Sportsbook, Financial Betting and Overall. The 2013 awards will once again be held at The Brewery in London on Friday February 8 and will consist of a cocktail reception, three-course festival dinner, entertainment and the awards ceremony itself which will again be hosted by a renowned comedian (to be announced soon). The theme for this year’s ceremony is ‘From Russia with Love’ and guests are advised to expect a wintry welcome that will include Cossack dancers and a vintagestyle photo booth. Voting for this year’s awards runs from November 16 to December 14 after which the shortlists for each award will be announced on December 21 from which the panel of esteemed judges will choose the winners for each category.
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RGA Considers Legal Action Against Greece Following the Greek government’s recent publication of a range of enforcement measures for online gambling, the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) trade group has announced that it is considering legal action against the government while urging the European Commission to take immediate action against the proposals. Based in London and Brussels, the RGA works with some of the world’s biggest online gaming operators including Paddy Power and William Hill and stated that it is currently deliberating whether to mount challenges on European Union and national levels as the new measures are “designed to close the Greek online gambling market to competition and protect the position of OPAP”, which is the incumbent monopoly operator. “These measures have clearly been introduced in haste and we cannot believe that they have been approved by the European Commission,” said Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive
Officer for the RGA. “They are blatantly protectionist in nature and if European Union internal market rules mean anything then the European Commission must take prompt action to make Greece reconsider. “However, for obvious reasons, we are also looking at potential action in the Greek courts. Whether it is raised in Brussels or Athens, nobody could fail to note coincidence that these measures have been rushed through with a ridiculously short deadline at a time when the Greek government is actively looking to sell its share in OPAP, which currently has a monopoly in exactly the markets where our members would inevitably compete directly with it.” The RGA revealed that it has existing formal complaints with the European Union regarding the regulation of online gambling in Greece and has been consulting with lawyers in Athens and Brussels with a view to further action on the most recent enforcement rules.
Probability Granted Italian Licence Mobile gambling software provider Probability has been awarded a ten-year remote gambling licence in Italy and intends to enter the market with a complete ‘white-label’ service. Listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange, Probability stated that the Italian licence will “greatly expand its addressable market for mobile gambling services” as it will now have “direct access to one of the largest legal gambling markets in Europe just as it is opening up the most popular forms of online and mobile gambling”. The award, which has cost €300,000 in addition to the firm posting a ‘good behaviour bond’ of €200,000 that is due
to be held over the life of the service, comes three months after Probability made its first step into the Italian market by acquiring business-to-business mobile gambling developer Playyoo SA. “The conditions are ideal for us to enter this market with a full ‘white-label’ offering alongside the business-to-business business we already operate there following the Playyoo acquisition,” said Charles Cohen, Chief Executive Officer for Probability. “Our expertise in mobile gambling is tailor-made for Italy, where some 30 percent of adults now have a Smartphone and where slots games, (which are) our best performer in the UK market, are by far the most popular way to gamble.”
Betsson Signs to MPN Betsson has become the latest online gaming provider to sign up to the Microgaming Poker Network (MPN). The Stockholm-based operator is one of the first operators to go live with the MPN’s new-look lobby and was integral in shaping its design and functions. “The MPN is one of the world’s most established online poker networks; naturally we are delighted to be joining the MPN,” said Henric Andersson,
Product Director at Betsson Group. “At Betsson.com, we strive to create the finest gaming experience for our players and we are confident that by adding the MPN to our offering, we will deliver an exceptional experience to all of our poker players.” Betsson joins the likes of Paf, iGame Malta Ltd, 24H Poker and BetVictor Poker which have all recently joined the Microgaming Poker Network.
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SEO in 2013
What Does it Hold for You? Google, and other search engines, are continuously looking for ways to improve their search engine results and this means that they have to alter the way in which their ranking algorithm operates and sees websites. With the past 12 months being filled with data updates in the form of Panda, Penguin and EMD targeted alterations, we can clearly see that 2013 is going to be yet another year of change. With so many alterations having
already been announced, and what we can safely assume to be a wide range of further updates ahead of us, search engine optimisation is once again changing and that means that if you want to be able to rank your website well within the search results, your methodology will need to follow suit otherwise you could be in for a rough time to say the least. With that revelation in mind, we can presuppose that the battle for cleaner, safer results is very much underway and former methods of ranking your site are quickly becoming redundant, such as article marketing and countless directory listings in order to boost your backlink count.
Where should you focus your SEO in 2013? Google is trying to improve its clarity within the world of website creation and development, highlighted by an increase in the information that it offers to website owners through the Webmaster Tools platform; Google’s attempt to guide us towards the creation of websites that are within the realms of what it would like to see within the search results. Using the knowledge that we are able to glean from the (still) very limited information that Google provides, we know the following facts:
sites will be penalised imbalance of keyword anchor text within your backlink profile will be met with an unnatural links message that will ultimately result in a penalty either over the whole of your website or will be keyword-specific ●●Too many advertisements above the fold of the page will also result in a penalty following the implementation of an update to improve the overall user experience on a site ●●Participation in link exchange schemes and building of low quality links will result in a penalty within the Google Penguin updates ●●Low quality or thin websites will be penalised by the Google Panda filter With that knowledge already available from the information that Google has provided, the creation and development of websites has become clearer in terms of the expectations that search engines are looking for and this should alter the way in which your site is created, developed and focused. Knowing this, there are a number of things that you should be looking to focus on when conducting your SEO into the coming year, some of which will alter the way that you create the website onpage while others will focus more on your off-page aspects.
“The year ahead will be a true test of your website in terms of the diversity and strength that it offers as a whole. The continuing developments that Google keeps making will, at some point, catch up with your site and if you aren’t prepared for that then you could be in for a shock once it rolls out yet another update.” 12
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Build a brand, not a keyword domain Google has repeatedly hinted that it would like to be able to establish what a website offers in terms of value to search engine users for particular search queries, but this means that it would have to be able to recognise what your site is about and there is no better way to accomplish this than to create a brand rather than a nichespecific website. This means that rather than targeting keywords directly within your link building activities, you would be looking towards a more branded feel, creating as much social buzz about your website as possible and, most of all, showing that your brand is quality through the creation of content that will give search engine users the information that they desire.
Aim to create ‘good content’ in order to get natural links Google is fighting to be able to eliminate search engine optimisation, and that means that it is looking to crack down on the websites that are purchasing links in order to increase their search engine visibility. With both manual and automatic penalties being given to sites more frequently, it is clearly stepping up its battle against link buyers and sellers. Although Google says that you will be able to get links as long as your content is good, actually drawing links from other sites is not easy thanks to the social networking market; readers that like the content can now share the article with their friends at the click of a button, saving time on writing a post on their site which would include a link back to your piece.
Clean up your backlink profile as soon as possible We have already seen a number of Google updates that are focused on the links that websites hold within their backlink profile and with indications that the Google Penguin update is about to offer even more focus on natural link profiles, it is advisable to act now and make sure that your site is built on a solid, natural looking link foundation. This process has been aided thanks to the release of Link Disavow, a Google Webmaster Tools addition which gives website owners the chance to ask Google to discount links that it feels are harmful to the site; however, more and more webmasters are being caught for failing to prioritise the removal of these links manually and Google is simply saying that it expects more of an effort from the website owner to remove the links completely.
Build a site presence for longevity rather than keyword rankings The year ahead will be a true test of your website in terms of the diversity and strength that it offers as a whole, so building links purely into keyword-rich pages will not be a method that I can see working over a period of time. So, although you might see a boost now, the continuing developments that Google keeps making will, at some point, catch up with your site and if you aren’t prepared for that then you could be in for a shock once it rolls out yet another update. Make sure that you are not only building a profile based on keyword links but also one based on a brand; a brand will be able to stand the test of time and the onslaught that we can expect to see from Google over the coming year – after all, you would be offering up what it wants: a brand rather than a keyword saturated website.
Ensure your site offers valuable content and boasts high quality indicators Google Panda has already rolled out over 20 times since its creation and we can firmly expect it to continue to evolve as more updates happen over the coming year. You need to be wary of what it is actually trying to target in order to keep your site out of the list of potential sites that could be set for a significant drop in rankings. The Panda update was designed to eliminate ‘low quality’ or ‘thin sites’ from the search engine results pages, so you need to make sure that the content that you have on your site adds value to a user’s experience or answers a question that they need answering. Remember that Panda doesn’t just affect the whole of a site; if Google believes that sections of your site are weak, it can also issue penalties to separate areas without hitting the main domain, so overall quality is vital if you want to be able to rank well throughout your site.
DAVID NAYLOR is Director and Head of SEO at Bronco Ltd. Dave started working in the SEO industry over 15 years ago and owns the successful search marketing and web development agency, Bronco, with his wife Becky. Bronco strives to be a leading search marketing company running large online marketing campaigns for companies in competitive sectors, with excellent and sustained results. His main motivational driving force is the belief that there is no point having a site if it doesn’t rank No 1. His dedication to giving clients great ROI has led to the constant development of new optimisation techniques and the ability to see algorithmic changes before most other SEOs. Dave Naylor has the reputation of being one of the best SEOs in the world, who has a proven track record of success in the most competitive markets. Recently, Bronco has formed a strategic partnership with the experienced PR agency 10 Yetis, which now enables both companies to work side by side on marketing campaigns giving clients a complete package leading to better results for the long term future.
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Going Global in SEO Step 1: Structural Checks As an affiliate, going global is one of the best options you have to tackle the current economic situation. Starting this issue, we will look at the best practices for localising a successful gambling portal in order to take full advantage of its existing authority in search engines. having dissected link building profiling and best practices, starting from this issue we will look at one of the most complex topics in SEO: internationalisation. What makes an internationalisation process complex in terms of SEO is the fact that it involves a wide range of technical choices and issues and often requires the contribution of people with different roles and backgrounds. In the first instalment of this three part series, we will look at the correct mindset to adopt when internationalising a site and at structural issues such as templates, CMS management and geotargeting.
Starting on the right foot The most important thing to understand before starting an internationalisation or localisation process is that localising a site does not just mean translating it. As a matter of fact, a site targeting a different country will be targeting a different market, characterised by a different audience with different spending habits, familiar with different products and games and most likely searching for them in a different way. As a consequence, you should look at each localised version of your site as a separate, independent site.
Design and template checks In order to avoid facing technical issues during the implementation phase, one of the first aspects to check before starting to localise a site is the flexibility of the template currently in use. The names (and length of names) used to identify the same game or page in different languages may be significantly different. On top of this, languages behave in different ways when it comes to compound words. For example, an English phrase that is easy to split such as ‘poker room reviews’, translated in Finnish becomes ‘pokerihuonearvostelut’, which
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can hardly be broken into different lines. This means that if the original template had the title of the page arranged in a threelines-high box-shaped button, this will have to be rearranged or remade. Moreover, where a language may lack synonyms and make the choice of the right word pretty simple, another may have several and allow people to refer to the same thing using a broad variety of terms. In this case, it will be important for our template to let us name the same page using customisable wordings in different places, or to let us insert additional pages, links and menu items where needed, in order to list more pages targeting the different synonyms used by local players. Because of these issues, it is generally preferable for international sites to use ‘liquid’ customisable templates, allowing for greater flexibility in terms of text usage and localisation. In this way, you will be sure that you are using the right SEO wording and be able to add pages where needed without having to modify your copywriting or limit your target keywords due to technical constraints. Another basic check to perform before starting the translation and localisation work concerns text in images. As most of you probably know, it is generally better to avoid placing text inside images, as this
cannot be interpreted by search engines. On top of this, using text in images also makes the translation process far more difficult, as it will add a graphic design process to the already necessary utilisation of translators and editors. Therefore, it is advisable to make sure all textual elements of the site are stored and presented to the user as text before starting the translation process.
CMS and use of dynamic data Another important thing to check before planning the structure of your localised site is whether the existing CMS supports the creation and management of localised versions of a site in a centralised way, either in its native form or through the use of dedicated plug-ins. While this kind of support can, in most cases, simplify your job, it does not necessarily mean it will make localising your site easy. As said in the introduction, you should be able to look at your localised site as an independent entity, so before you start to use them you should make sure your CMS localisation features allow you the freedom you will need. Several of the issues that may arise when using the CMS I currently use to also handle localised versions of a site arise from the way in which CMSs store
sala da poker
sale da poker
Languages such as Italian, Spanish and French divide words into ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, subsequently adjusting articles, adjectives and modifiers.
and use texts. As you probably know, Content Management Systems build pages dynamically, pulling text and data from a pre-filled database and combining them with code and layout specifications. If the use of the texts stored in the databases is not clearly documented, translating it in the right way can prove very hard, making it almost impossible to have a SEO-perfect site. For example, your top-list page SEO titles may be automatically managed by the CMS by combining the fixed element ‘Best’ and a room-type specification, such as ‘casino sites’ or ‘poker rooms’, obtaining titles such as ‘Best casino sites’ or ‘Best poker rooms’. However, languages such as Italian, Spanish and French divide words into ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, subsequently adjusting articles, adjectives and modifiers. As a consequence of this difference between languages, the ‘fixed’ English attribute ‘Best’ in Italian can become ‘I migliori’ or ‘Le migliori’ depending on the word it is referring to. A badly documented use of dynamic text insertions can make localising these kinds of texts cumbersome and prevent editors and webmasters from being able to use the best wordings in terms of SEO. Therefore, our recommendation is to adjust your CMS to limit the use of dynamic text insertions to a minimum when planning to localise your site, clearly documenting where each attribute is used, both on-page and in metadata. For more or less a year, Google has allowed webmasters to specify whether a certain page is the country or languagespecific version of a similar page on the same or a different site. This specification, which can be implemented using the rel=”alternate” hreflang link element, makes it easier for a newly localised site to gain some authority from the ‘original’ site available in different languages. Therefore,
we recommend making sure the CMS in use supports the implementation of this type of specification in the <head> section of the code at page level1. In case this was not possible, since May of this year the same results can be obtained by specifying these attributes in the sitemap2.
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2011/12/new-markup-for-multilingual-content.html http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.it/2012/05/multilingual-and-multinational-site.html http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.it/2008/06/how-google-defines-ip-delivery.html
to browse the page they landed on or move to the corresponding localised page. Finally, in case you decide not to point local users to a different URL but to show them partially different content (e.g. a location-based top-list), such content should be kept to a minimum. As a matter of fact, providing different, location-based content at the same URL may lead Google into indexing the wrong kind of content for a given URL and compromise your rankings. Design, CMS, Metadata and IP-delivery options are just the first points to address when planning the internationalisation of any site. In the next two instalments of this series we will address other-key issues such as the choice of domain and URL structure, local keyword research and translation management. So see you next month and arrivederci!
Matteo Monari is the COO of BizUp, a result-driven Internet marketing agency specialising in competitive segments and international link building (http://www.bizupmedia.com). With a background in Languages and Human Computer Interaction, Matteo has been a successful Internet marketing specialist for more than six years. During his career, he has worked for some of the biggest affiliates and operators in the iGaming world, helping them to successfully expand their businesses across Europe. After heading the SEO department of Europe’s leading content-on-demand company, Matteo is now leading BizUp’s link building team, providing links in five languages to clients in more than fifteen different countries. You can follow him on Twitter as @matteo_monari and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
REBUILDING POST-PANDA How to use SEO tool data for link building after Google Panda. GOOGLE IMPROVES ITS algorithms constantly and set even higher standards as it rolled out the ‘Penguin Update’ this year. Since Google has always been fighting the violation of its Webmaster Guidelines, it has now made an official statement against web spam techniques such as using links from link networks, link farms, paid links (e.g. site-wide links or links with no topical relationship), overoptimisation (e.g. anchor text spam), and many others besides. You can use SEO tool data for each stage of your link building process. Let’s focus on the research and assessment of potential or current partners.
Partner research When you research potential partners, you can either focus on those sites that rank on a specific keyword or look for those who compete with you on a specific keyword set. If you want to rank on the search term ‘online poker’, the best link you can get comes from a site that already ranks on this search term. Google only ranks you if you are seen to be a valuable resource regarding a search phrase. Those links are the best you can get for ‘online poker’, however, they are probably hard to get.
against you not only on a certain keyword but also on your whole keyword set. The degree and amount of overlapping keywords is shown by Searchmetrics.
Source: Searchmetrics Essentials - Organic Competitors In the example in Figure 2, pokerstars.com could target 815 competitors. However, there are only competitors that rank on a keyword Searchmetrics is monitoring. If you pick out a competing domain, you can compare domains and find overlapping keyword rankings of both domains.
may have named it slightly differently, its ingredients are the same: ● the total amount of a domain’s keyword rankings ● the search volume of a keyword ● the calculated traffic potential given by a certain ranking ● and a part we call ‘secret sauce’ Tool providers use their own keyword database for the weekly analysis. Further, they calculate search traffic potential differently for each keyword ranking based on a keyword type (i.e. informational, transactional or brand keyword). So, there are differences among Searchmetrics, Sistrix or Seolytics data, but only small ones. The search visibility should be treated as traffic potential and not as traffic equivalent. If you lose rankings on a brand keyword you will lose visibility due to its high search volume; even if you ranked beyond the traffic-relevant search engine result pages. Side effects, like your snippet or brand, also have an influence on click through rates on search engine result pages. You can use these metrics to measure the reach of your or a competitor’s website, changes regarding content strategy or link building campaigns and to detect technical or penalty-issues.
Source: Searchmetrics Essentials - Organic competitive keywords
Source: Sistrix - Top 15 Rankings on “Online Poker”
I selected thepokerpractice.com and once again pokerstars.com. Now both sites can decide whether they should link to each other and, if so, which keyword they should use.
Partner analysis It might be easier to get links from topicrelevant pages. Those pages are competing
iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
Major SEO tool providers have introduced the metric ‘visibility’, and although they
Source: Searchmetrics Essentials - SEO Visibility Figure 4 compares the SEO visibility of pokerstars.com to the visibility of partypoker. com, pokerslistings.com and wsop.com. Pokerslistings.com reaches the biggest visibility and is only fractionally ahead.
Now you can go further and analyse spikes at data points. Pokerstars.com just lost visibility at the last data point due changes in rankings:
been voted. Absolute numbers are nice, but always compare a domain against other competitors.
Figure 7 Figure 5
Source: Searchmetrics Essentials - Losers of www.pokerstars.com on 4th of November 2012 The ‘Delta Traffic Index’ column represents the calculated loss in traffic; the CPC can be seen as cost of opportunity and is given by Google AdWords. Check out a website’s history on a keyword phrase if you are suspicious or just curious how your rankings changed over time.
Source: Searchmetrics Essentials - Social Data comparison Figure 7 shows that pokerlistings.com has less than ten percent of PokerStars’ social visibility, and that Facebook is the most important social network for both of them.
Toxic links: a dangerous threat For Google, key ranking factors are still related to backlinks. As mentioned earlier, Google focuses on the quality rather than on the quantity of backlinks. Link building tools list all backlinks they found while crawling the web and add SEO metrics or custom quality metrics. Since Google is able to detect link networks, you should try to identify those toxic links too. There are different ways to detect them:
links on the document you got a link from? This might be okay. Is your backlink number 97? This might be a footer link. Since Google values the relative position and the content surrounding a backlink, yours can be seen to be artificial and worthless. You should always monitor websites and their content by yourself, however, this metric can be used as an alert or trigger for further investigation. Matt Cutts already confirmed that Google ignores boilerplate, site-wide links and link networks so be careful if your link building uses widgets, footer or sidebar links or websites within company networks.
Conclusion There are different ways for using SEO tools and their data to analyse websites and their performance. Since the past Google updates, you need to focus on quality and sustainability when carrying out link building, so be smart and take your time to assess potential partners. If you got hit by Google then you should talk to an expert who can help you to clean your website or backlink structure. Sending a reconsideration request might be a powerful tool, but it’s worthless if you did not change your attitude and abide by Google’s rules.
1. Special tools Source: Searchmetrics Essentials - Keyword Position History of www.pokerstars.com If you analyse your visibility, take a look at your winners and losers to assess search performance and to find possible errors or bugs at your website. Changes in your rankings could be based on Google updates or penalties, or on a competitor’s strategy to tackle your rankings and build better links or a better page. Since the popularity of social networks has risen in recent years, search engines incorporate social signals in their ranking algorithm. Although experts argue to what extent social signals help your rankings, there is a consensus that you profit from social signals. SEO tool providers show the absolute and relative amount of social signals, their source network and the content that has
First, there are special tools like the ‘Toxic Links’ tool from Christoph Cemper that try to identify links that might harm your rankings.
2. Domain popularity Vs link popularity Vs IP popularity You always can compare the domain popularity of a website to its link popularity to see how many links come from different domains. Too many links from one website are an indicator for site-wide or boilerplate links. If you add the IP to your analysis, you will find links coming from the same or similar IP range which might be an indicator for a link network.
3. Amount of outgoing links and backlink position Some SEO tools show you the amount of outgoing links on a website and the rank of ‘your’ link. Your partner has 100 outgoing
Seo Tools Mentioned In This Article: Www.Linkresearchtools.Com Www.Searchmetrics.Com Www.Sistrix.Co.Uk Www.Majesticseo.Com
FRANK B HOHENLEITNER is CEO of advisory activity, a German search analytics consulting company. Advisory activity specialises in international projects and big websites such as marketplaces or content publishing websites. Frank’s core competences are data driven search engine optimisation, search analytics intelligence and search strategy consulting. He is permanent guest at international search marketing conferences and lectures on search engine optimisation. Prior to running his own company, Frank worked for Searchmetrics Inc as Consulting Director and built up the SEO business at Booming GmbH.
iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
PERPLEXED BY THE GOOGLEPLEX ZOO? Outlining the rationale for why you need alternative traffic streams to complement your organic strategy. i ThiNk The Mayans were on to something. 2012 was, and is, the end of the world as we know it (for online businesses at least). No corner of the ‘inter-web’ was untouched by the Panda/Penguin paintbrush. Some site owners publicly cried foul, while others have stayed true to the old adage ‘keep calm and carry on’. Hopefully, like me, you are sitting on the ‘calm’ side of the fence, because although there have never been bigger barriers to succeed online, when looking through the lens of search engine optimisation, the opportunity to thrive and grow online, conversely, has also never been better for those willing to take the chance and experiment.
looking back to plan ahead There is no doubt that Google’s intent this year was to shake things up and, in some cases, updates were happening on a daily basis. Here are some of the highlights from this year: ●●January: ‘Search plus your world’ – Google’s push into social and more aggressive personalisation. ●●February: Venice is released with localised results aggressively pushed into the organic SERPs. ●●April: Penguin is released to penalise over optimisation. ●●May: Knowledge graph launch with Google boasting about its ability to differentiate between entities. ●●August: Seven Result SERPs. ●●September: ‘Panda 20’ and exact match domain update.
One of the things you may notice by looking at the bullet points is that there is a mix between user experience/design changes and algorithmic updates. However, the bigger and more important questions are what does this all mean, and where does it all point to?
all looked over by machines of loving grace Something that took me a long time to realise about Google, once I was able to look past the public relations is that, at the end of the day, it is a company that has a responsibility to deliver a profit to its shareholders. Some of the methods it may have used to do this is to insert itself into as many verticals as possible to gain margin 1, including affiliate and comparison2 models (it’s also worth noting that Google sees affiliates as an “unnecessary step in the sales process” 3), and in some more extreme cases, even breaking US law 4. Now, let us revisit and look at the UX and algorithmic updates of this and the previous year a bit more critically. The simple truth is that as brand signals begin to be dialled up even more in the algorithm, with there being query space consolidation via suggest and instant, as well as the physical space being allocated to organic results beginning to diminish, most small websites trying to gain exposure will (or already have) lost out, simply because they can’t compete with big organisations with deep pockets. But enough Apocalyptic-style fear mongering. Let’s move onto what you can do as a webmaster to not fall victim to the proverbial the search traffic ‘cliff’.
1 http://www.forbes.com/sites/mfonobongnsehe/2012/01/13/google-accused-of-being-evilin-kenya/ 2 http://www.hobo-web.co.uk/beatthatquote-com/ 3 http://www.www.seobook.com/brand-vs-affiliate-vs-spam 4 http://www.wired.com/business/2011/08/google-drug-fine/ 5 http://analytics.blogspot.com/2011/08/introducing-multi-channel-funnels.html - Google Analytics has a great standard report for seeing how the channels interact with each other.
iGB Affiliate december/january 2012/13
Channel interplay: getting the mix right One of the more importantly take-away points from having a blended marketing approach is that all marketing channels have strong interplay between each other; and, in many instances, actually assist each other in conversions. After all, is that not the ultimate point of traffic acquisition – leading visitors to a goal? A quick example of this could be: a user lands on a page on your site via display advertising, bounces and returns via a navigational organic search term, and then finally converts via a targeted email campaign5. In many ways, the conversion process is non-linear and that’s why the danger of running a traffic acquisition strategy based on a strict diet of purely organic search can put you at risk of having that traffic-ﬂow being taken away from you at any time. Therefore, forward thinking webmasters need to start considering how they can make use of other mediums and channels for a more integrated and intelligent traffic acquisition strategy. Here are a few examples of alternative and complementary strategies worth bearing in mind.
Display advertising Display advertising is, to an extent, still very much part of the overall marketing mix. Consider buying media space but be selective and only target relevant sites or sections of big portals that align with the core theme of your site or landing page.
social media Social media marketing can be very tricky as it is naturally more a platform for
http://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/bin/answer.py?hl=en-GB&answer=176014 http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2200730/Organic-vs.-Paid-Search-ResultsOrganic-Wins-94-of-Time 8 http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=176035 9 http://schema.org/ 6 7
communication and conversation; however, it can be an effective traffic acquisition tool if well executed.
Community building Try building a community – there is a very simple reason for why you would want to do this is. Broadly speaking, there are two ways to gain more conversions: ●●acquire more traffic, or ●●retain your existing traffic It goes without saying that creating a space online where users can exchange ideas, stories and feel a sense of commonality is still a big attraction for why people go online. What is also great about creating a community is that it dovetails beautifully back into social media and also helps to build up an email list; arguably the most important re-marketing resource everyone should be developing. Consider using paid search (even though within the gambling space there are restrictions6 as to what content can be served and where), as having a paid search campaign working in with conjunction with
your organic listings will simply give you more space on the results page.
Gain the most from your organic listings… like a boss In a world where the organic results seem to be pushed further and further below the fold (even though research suggests that it still receives the lion’s share of traffic7), due to paid search ad units gaining site links and more overall space, aggressive placement of localisation and shopping results, it is becoming more and more important to grab as much search result page real estate as possible; especially for keywords you are already ranking for regardless of the keyword space you might be operating in. One of the techniques I often use is to utilise on-page navigation specific to that page’s content that link down to sections via named anchors. This technique, although an old one, is great for users as well as for creating ‘mini site links’. Other invaluable tactics worth making use of is incorporating semantic data into your pages via the microdata8 schema9
which will create rich snippets for your listings which will, in turn, help to differentiate them for on the results page. When it comes to search marketing: the more space you can acquire the more likely you are to gain a click. In short, my experience of Google as a competitive SEO is that it does not consider most sites as a priority; that spot is reserved for its shareholders. The uncertainty caused by the subsequent Panda and Penguin updates underlines the necessity for webmasters of all levels to open up new and different types of traffic streams and not be too reliant on just one type of channel or medium, but also maximise the traffic they are already receiving by making the conversion process more efficient. Working as an SEO in the online gaming industry for many years, Michael Wissekerke moved on to become the Search & Analytics Manager at the world’s fourth largest pharmaceutical company, successfully increasing their search visibility and conversion rate in the Asia Pacific market.
iGB Affiliate december/january 2012/13
Счастливого Рождества! (Merry Christmas!) With Russia having Europe’s largest concentration of Internet users and undergoing significant growth in terms of the rates of penetration, John Murphy, Account Director at Oban Multilingual, takes a look at a market of substantial future promise for iGaming affiliates. Счастливого Рождества! (Merry Christmas). Now, that’s not actually something you’ll hear many Russians say – Christmas is not celebrated until January 7, and it’s actually more of a religious holiday – but I’m not Russian, so I can take a cultural play on my limited knowledge of the language. This is not something you would want to do if you were looking to target Russia for search and hoping to succeed; you’d need to be much more sensitive to local behaviours and culture and would say something more like, “С наступающими праздниками!” (Happy upcoming holidays).
strategy are equally as apparent. A common denominator for most of these challenges is leading search engine Yandex which has between 50 and 70 percent of the market share depending on what source you look at. What’s apparent now is that whilst Google has made headway in Russia, there is no real sign that Yandex is going to retreat or be beaten (unlike Seznam in Czech Rep) and, therefore, if you’re serious about targeting Russia you need a solid Yandex strategy to take the market. The following will detail some of the common stumbling blocks when targeting Russia, and some tips to overcome them.
take longer to be indexed. For these reasons, be patient and give your SEO teams or agencies more time to achieve results than you would in other markets.
The Russian search opportunity
As we approach the end of another year, the domestic market is that little more competitive, the pockets of opportunity are diminishing and we need to look further afield to find new ground to make a fantastic ROI out of the online gaming market through search marketing. Russia holds this potential. As of early 2012, Russia is now the largest market in Europe in terms of number of Internet users, just shy of 68 million, which is over 14 million more users than the UK. At the same time, it’s a comparatively (and significantly) younger Internet market than its closest rivals (UK, France and Germany) with a low penetration rate of 48 percent but a substantial growth rate. What does this mean? Well, a larger potential audience than at home, much less competition and a potential to reap the rewards of a growing market if you can position yourself well.
Subfolders and subdomains are very useful tools for sites that cover multiple markets and languages. There are a whole host of pros and cons to each model but all can have their merits. Yandex does not read ‘.coms’ as authority domains (only the local ccTLD) and thus the vast majority of authority passing benefits are lost. For legal reasons, it’s not always possible in gaming, at which point a subdomain is better, but any other time, go for the ‘.ru’.
The Panda and Penguin updates on Google put the pressure on all of us to be better SEOs and use a high quality content strategy targeted at the user to generate results. Whilst that’s great, firstly, be aware that Yandex has not had these updates yet and, secondly, ‘high quality content’ is not generally seen as such a valuable commodity to Russian bloggers and site owners – don’t expect this to get you as far with high quality links. Think of other incentives you can give to get your content and links published.
Cyrillic content Yandex does not read or index non-Cyrillic content well (rather like Google’s problems with Cyrillic content a few years ago). Whatever lesser content you’re settling for with other non-domestic markets you’re targeting, you should double that amount for Russia.
Crawl rate awareness Russian search challenges Whilst the enormous opportunity in Russian search is very real, the challenges in this market if you don’t adapt your
iGB Affiliate december/january 2012/13
Google crawls sites around every one to two days; Yandex crawls sites every one to two weeks, therefore, changes you make to your site and links that you build are going to
‘.ru’ links Similar to the ccTLD preference, Yandex does not generally read ‘.coms’ very well, therefore, your linking strategy needs to focus on targeting ‘.ru’ domains that are ideally hosted in Russia. It’s not good enough to pick ‘.coms’ with Russian content which might work with other markets – they won’t get picked up as well and it’s an inefficient way of trying to make headway.
Summary The Russian market is growing enormously in the number of Internet users along with the sophistication of those users in spending money online, so there are plenty of areas of untapped opportunity available and many are scared of targeting the market. If you do your research, speak to experts and adopt a localised strategy, it’s very possible that you can overcome the various obstacles and set yourself up for at least three to four years of booming business.
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Ahead of the Social Games
iGB Affiliate talks to Raf Keustermans about the formation of his social casino games start-up, Plumbee, and how gambling companies are potentially missing the point with the social gaming opportunity. Plumbee was founded back in 2011, but when did you and your co-founders originally come up with the idea and when did you decide to forge ahead with making a business of it? Gerald (Tan, co-founder) and I were both consultants at EA Playfish and since we became independent consultants, we had been talking about doing something that was more than just having a consultancy business, which is hard to scale. We didn’t want to do a full-on games studio as its an ad-driven business – you win some and you lose some – and it’s a very creative business where you have to keep coming up with new game ideas and mechanics which wasn’t really our main strength. Then we started talking to Joakim Timmermans, who was Head of Casino at Unibet, who told us that he was planning to launch a start-up with a group of ex-Net Entertainment people in Stockholm to develop a video slots studio. And that’s essentially how it all got started. We looked at the market and at bringing someone in part-time, and we quickly realised that there was a significant opportunity. We started around March/April 2011 and by May, it became clear to us that this could be something bigger than we had anticipated. We identified that we needed a strong CTO, so we spoke to Jodie (Moran, formerly of EA Playfish) who then became one of the co-founders. We made the final decision in July, raised money in August and started hiring our first people in September. How much of a challenge was it to approach investors to generate the required capital investment? I think we were one of the last companies that were (relatively easily) able to secure funding for a Facebook operation. The advantage we had was the pedigree of the three co-founders. Also, as consultants,
iGB Affiliate december/january 2012/13
Gerald and I had worked for many VC-backed companies so we had existing relationships with venture capitalists which gave us direct access and made the process much easier. It was a quick process from concept to launch – was this reflected in your business plan with regard to short-term goals? When we started talking about it and before we started to look at the market, we worked on the assumption that “there is probably a market for this, but the motivation will be quite weak.” We soon realised that this was quite the opposite and that retention was also strong. There is a proven audience for slots, poker and bingo and that’s when it became clear that this is something we could scale – we knew how to execute and we had people like Joakim who could help us get up-to-speed on the core casino side. We know a thing or two about how to build infrastructure, analytics and marketing; Gerald knows a thing or two about how to balance economy, pricing, optimisation and promotions. So, in terms of the business plan, we knew how to build and launch a game on Facebook and how to scale it and we knew that the base monetisation and base retention dynamics were healthy. We knew we could make a business out of this. The results were actually better than expected. You have to be quite conservative in your business plan when you’re trying to get investors onboard – if you go in with a crazy plan, you can raise the money but then have to start looking at a more realistic approach. We thought the rampup would be slower, that we’d need a couple of months to fine tune the product but, through a combination of skill and luck, the whole thing pretty much worked from day one. Because there wasn’t much
that was broken, we could start scaling a week after launch, which is quite rare. How has the business performed against those early objectives to-date? It’s getting close to where we expected it to be. The summer following the initial launch was a little softer than expected as we thought we’d keep growing and growing. We were growing 40 percent month-over-month but due to seasonality and perhaps because our content wasn’t optimal, we dropped in the summer, which was a setback. However, it all kicked off again after that so by the end of the year we will probably be where we wanted to be, perhaps a little above. Also, we realised a month after launch that mobile is where this is all headed and that we’d need to be in that space faster than we had initially thought when we started the company and built our business plan. We had to invest in a mobile team and resources which wasn’t part of our initial plan and, at that time, there was no revenue to balance it off against so from a cost perspective, that was something we had to manage. The advantages are that the Facebook business performs very well and is profitable, so from a cash perspective, should the mobile aspect prove to be more complicated than we had bargained for, then it’s not a big problem for us as a company. After seeing an opportunity in the freeto-play social gaming space, how do you think the bwin.party/Zynga partnership, and Facebook allowing real money gaming will affect your business model? Are there positive or negative ramifications for pure free play companies or will there always be a market no matter how deep the integration of the sectors? There will always be a market as, to a large degree, they are different audiences with different expectations. So even if the US
opens tomorrow, I don’t think that free play would be wiped out. There are overlaps between the two sectors but nobody knows how big these overlaps are; for me, the most optimistic scenario would see a figure in the region of 15 to 20 percent, but more likely to be in single figures. The other aspect is that currently, in the UK, there is zero impact – as far as I know, nobody makes a significant chunk of their revenue in the UK. Most of the free to play companies, and that includes us, make their money in Australia, US, Canada, New Zealand, Europe (as a whole market) and parts of Asia as well. The last time I checked, when there was the whole social regulation debate with the Gambling Commission, the UK market made up less than two percent of our revenue. Naturally, one day it will become global but most people agree that for casino and sportsbook and the like, we’re still a couple of years away.
“Social gaming is a real business, it’s not just marketing or a sales funnel; even without real money, we’re talking about a business that is over a quarter of a billion dollars a year of real revenue – that’s bigger than quite a few medium sized listed gaming operators.” What are you seeing in terms of the convergence of both sectors? We’re seeing a lot of movement on both sides in terms of convergence. There are a lot of games studios and entertainment companies, such as EA, Disney and Zynga, who are looking to move into gambling whereas before it had been something of a taboo subject. I joined EA from Unibet in 2008 and there was a certain amount of controversy; people were asking whether by hiring someone from a gambling company, that EA was endorsing the gambling industry. So, things have changed quite a bit since then. The entertainment industry is considering using gambling as part of its offering going forward but the same can’t be said of gambling companies moving in the other direction. More and
more gambling companies are thinking, “shouldn’t we come out of our silo and think more broadly, such as, ‘what is our role as an entertainment provider and how are people going to consume our products in three, five or ten years?’” Shouldn’t they be taking steps to go beyond their core silo of hard gambling? Then we get to looking at convergence in terms of broadening your offering and not just looking at it from a ‘funnel’ perspective where companies might look to do a deal with a game that has a million users and convert a percentage of them. I think that perspective is a bit too narrow. Part of the problem is that both online and land-based gaming companies still look at their business as the ‘standard’, “this is the normal world and everything is going to be a function of my normal world and
nothing is going to disrupt my view.” But what if “my normal world” isn’t around in five to ten years’ time, or is at least smaller or different? So, if you use social gaming to get a bigger audience for your business or your brand I think that you miss a huge chunk of the potential. For example, Zynga Poker, which is free to play across Facebook and mobile, is a much bigger influence than Unibet and is probably about the same size as 888. Social gaming is a real business, it’s not just marketing or a sales funnel; even without real money, we’re talking about a business that is over a quarter of a billion dollars a year of real revenue – that’s bigger than quite a few medium sized listed gaming operators. If one of those companies was to buy or build a social gaming company, it would double their business.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
Special Report – Online Poker
Industry Trends in Online Poker Today’s online poker sector is a challenging marketplace for traditional online operators, whose margins are being squeezed by the expanding dominance of PokerStars and the entrance of Zynga into real money gambling. In an excerpt from her recent Global Business of Poker Six Month Update, Rachel ChurchSanders analyses the current trends impacting the online poker space. Online poker gains new entrants and loses others By the end of August 2012, there were 595 poker sites in existence according to Casino City Online, compared with 621 in March 2012, representing a decrease of just over four percent in total numbers. As a share of the online gaming market by genre, poker fell from 23.59 percent in January 2012 to 21.43 percent in August 2012, a decrease of just over nine percent. Ongame skin Hollywood Poker closed in June 2012, its website stating that it had stopped offering online poker and that players would be migrated to fellow Ongame poker room RedKings. During the same month, PokerStars launched its new Spanish site PokerStars.es after a gaining a licence for the market. Purple Lounge also closed in April 2012.
Figure 1: Gaming sites by genre, August 2012 Betting Exchanges 0.29 Betting Exchanges 0.50 Skill Games 1.26 Lotteries 4.68 Bingo 13.47
reveals that some networks have fared worse than others, with the Peoples Network suffering the highest decline with numbers of average players down 61 percent since March 2012, compared with a decline of 28 percent for the Microgaming Poker Network. Meanwhile, Ongame and International.it have maintained their average player counts since March 2012. In terms of average players on standalone sites that are still in existence, according to an author analysis of epokertraffic.com data (Figure 3), Carbon Poker has experienced the greatest decline at 63 percent since March 2012, followed by PokerStars with 44 percent and Cake Poker with 43 percent. PokerStars, however, still dominates the market when it comes to sheer volume of players.
Mixed fortunes for online operators William Hill, the company that owns the majority share of William Hill Online (the minority share being owned by Playtech),
announced a drop in poker revenue of seven percent in the first half of 2012. However, the company said profitability was up: “…as highlighted at the time of our first quarter results, this reflects a reshaping of this business and we have substantially improved the profitability of the poker product.” It did not state the figure for revenue or profit. Overall, William Hill Online had a strong first half of 2012 with net revenue expanding 30 percent, and operating profit up 23 percent. Over the same period, Ladbrokes’ poker revenue fell 24.3 percent to £5.6 million, continuing to reflect a particularly tough marketplace for the company. bwin.party did not fare much better with poker revenue (£96.4 million) down by just over eight percent in the six months to June 30, 2012, compared with the same period in 2011 (£104.9 million). Commenting on the results announcement made on August 31, 2012, Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, Co-
Figure 2: Average player counts for selected networks Mahjong and Rummy 0.68
Average Player Count
Ongame.it iPoker Network International.it PacificPoker
Other 3.38 Casinos 34.10
% decline in Av Players since March 2012
bwin Interactive Entertainment
Merge Gaming Network
Microgaming Poker Network
Source: Author analysis of PokerScout.com data Sportsbooks 20.20
Source: Author analysis of Casino City Online data
Average player counts fall across leading sites and networks According to PokerScout’s ACES indicator, online poker traffic has decreased by 23 percent since August 2011. An author analysis of PokerScout data (Figure 2)
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Figure 3: Average online poker traffic for selected standalone sites, March and August 2012 Site
Average players March
Average players August
Source: Author analysis of epokertraffic.com data
Special Report – Online Poker
CEOs said: “Poker is a key area of focus and we are determined to return it to growth through execution of a detailed plan that includes pooling our poker liquidity as well as repositioning our flagship PartyPoker brand. We expect both initiatives to have a positive impact on our performance, along with our recently launched FastForward Poker product.” 32Red, the publicly-quoted online gaming operator specialising in casino, saw its first half 2012 poker revenue unchanged from the first half of 2011. The company earned £600,000 in the first six months of 2012 in poker revenue, the same as the first half of 2011 but up 20 percent from the £500,000 earned in the second half of 2011. Overall, the company saw record revenues with gross win up 50 percent to £16.5 million in the first half of 2012 from £11 million in the first half of 2011. Malta-based Unibet Group’s interim financial results for the second quarter of 2012 showed that it experienced a 32 percent year-on-year increase in gross winnings revenues to £45.3 million. There was a positive turnaround for Unibet Poker revenues in the middle of the second quarter. After player-centric changes were introduced to the offering coupled with an aggressive reactivation initiative, Unibet Poker said it saw excellent improvements in turnover and the return of a lot of high value players. A new loyalty system in Fast Poker has helped improve both activity and revenues for the operator. Meanwhile, online poker revenue saw a significant surge at 888 growing 72 percent in the first half of 2012 to $41.3 million from $24 million in the same period of 2011. Chief executive officer, Brian Mattingley, said: “The renewed focus on core competencies that we have instilled throughout the business has paid off with ongoing strength in poker and casino helping achieve our highest ever six month revenues, and also making this the most profitable period in the history of 888 since the refocus of our business outside the US market in 2006. Poker remains the star performer of the product stable… [with] active customer numbers up 63 percent in Q2 2012, this is in addition to a very strong increase of 90 percent in active customers in the prior year.”
Growth in play money poker as Zynga looks to the real money market Facebook poker provider, Zynga, topped PokerScout’s play money poker charts with
over 120,000 average concurrent ring game players by July 2012. PokerStars occupied a distant second place with 24,000 average players. PartyPoker and 888 followed with more than 1,000 players each, while the remaining networks trailed far behind. Numbers had fallen slightly by mid-August 2012 (Figure 4). Zynga had previously stated its hopes for introducing real money poker, bingo, and slot machine games in 2013 and launched its own standalone site in readiness in March 2012.
Figure 4: Growth or Decline in Gaming sites by genre, January 2012 compared to September 2009 Genre of game
% growth or decline
Mahjong and Rummy
Source: Author analysis of epokertraffic.com data
On October 24, 2012, it went a step further by announcing that it had entered into an exclusive partnership to offer real money poker and casino games to the UK market with bwin.party. “Bringing together Zynga’s expertise in social gaming with the top international real money gaming operator is the best way to create the highest quality gaming experiences for our players in the UK,” explained Barry Cottle, Executive Vice President, Corporate and Business Development at Zynga, in the official release. “Partnering with an established leader like bwin.party is a strategic and prudent way for us to enter a key RMG market while giving local players the real money games they’ve been asking us for.” Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, Co-CEOs of bwin.party, added “Today’s announcement is another example of our success in leveraging our assets through strategic blue-chip partners. Zynga is the world’s leader in social games with hundreds of millions of active players worldwide and a significant player base in the UK. We are delighted to have been selected as their chosen partner for this important step in their evolution, and
Estimated Online Poker Market (Gross Win) 2012
Projected share of Global Online Poker Market 2015 (Based on non-repeal of UIGEA) Europe
Global Business of Poker estimates
hope to expand our relationship into other products and markets.” Meanwhile, despite previously stating that it didn’t have any plans to enter real money gambling, Facebook launched its first real money app in early August 2012 for users in the UK. The Bingo Friendzy app is a joint venture with UK online gambling operator, Gamesys.
Industry outlook With the general regulatory position in the US still unclear and opportunities in the Asia-Pacific still largely stymied by draconian regimes at the time of writing, the online poker industry will have to continue to seek growth in existing markets in the short-term, primarily in those that are licensed in Europe. Operators are already having to work harder than before to engage with their customers and will have to continue innovating and offering access to their products across all possible platforms in order to gain a competitive edge. The financial results of the leading listed online poker operators show that having a renowned brand is not a prerequisite for success and that some of them are still being squeezed by dominant operator PokerStars (especially now it has finalised its acquisition of Full Tilt Poker). Meanwhile, now that Zynga has chosen to enter the real money online poker market, the margins of traditional online poker operators are likely to be squeezed further. The fourth edition of The Global Business of Poker, authored by Rachael Church-Sanders, was written in March 2012 and due to fluctuations in the market, iGaming Business commissioned a six month update to reflect the fast moving and changing landscape. This article is an excerpt from this recent update which is now available to order. To request a copy of the full report or six month update, or to receive a free executive summary, email email@example.com or call a member of the iGaming Business sales team on +44 (0) 2079543489.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
Special Report – Online Poker
Black Friday’s Effect on US Poker George Durham and poker made beautiful music together. Beginning in 2005, the civil engineering grad with a Master’s degree in music immersed himself in his two passions: playing the cello and online poker. “Poker made up the majority of my income, but I only played about 20 hours per week,” said the 32-yearold San Francisco native. “The remainder of time was focused on music.” Durham was hardly alone in his embrace of an old game on a new medium. Up until last year, an estimated six to eight million Americans had registered online poker accounts, according to John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. “For some, (poker) was recreation, for others it was a vocation, and for others it was their livelihood,” said Pappas. “I know a lot of people who kind of fit in the middle where they had full-time jobs, but would also grind 20 hours a week online in the evening to help pay for things, whether it was luxuries or their mortgage.” That all changed on April 15, 2011, a day of infamy that will be forever known as ‘Black Friday’ in the poker community. That was the day the US Department of Justice dropped a legal atomic bomb that wiped out the largest online poker rooms in America: PokerStars, Full Tilt and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet. For Durham, Black Friday was the day the music died. Like millions of players, he was suddenly frozen out of his poker accounts and was unable to access the winnings he had amassed – about $25,000 at Absolute and $13,000 at Full Tilt. He soon spiralled into a depression. “Losing the money was part of the reason,” he said. “But looking back on it, I think the main reason was that my poker ability gave me a sense of self worth, and that was taken away.” This past summer, PokerStars made a deal with the US government to take over Full Tilt. As a condition of the deal, Full Tilt players will eventually have their money returned. Durham is now optimistic he will finally get some of his money back. Once he does, he will likely use some of the
funds to continue his poker career from his new home in South Korea. Durham is one of a growing number of disillusioned American poker players who have actually left the US and relocated to countries where they can play at poker sites that are not at risk of being shut down by Uncle Sam. One company helping them make the move is Poker Refugees. Founded by American Kristin Wilson, Poker Refugees has helped 180 players move since Black Friday. “The most popular destinations for players are Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico for their proximity to the US,” said Wilson. “Overwhelmingly, playing on PokerStars again is the main reason people are moving.” Although US politicians have begun introducing poker legislation such as the highly-publicised Reid/Kyl bill, Poker Refugees is still getting about 30 to 50 enquiries per month. “I thought we would possibly start to see enquires begin decreasing at some point, but that hasn’t happened,” said Wilson, who points to the slow progress of legislation as one of the main reasons for players looking to relocate. Like many in the poker community, Wilson believes legalised online poker in the US is still far in the distance and may not even be attractive to professional players once it arrives. “Thousands of poker players already waited over a year and a half to continue their careers, so it’s important to take action, or be realistic about what is happening in the foreseeable future,” she said. Of course, American poker players weren’t the only ones rocked by Black Friday. The wiping out of a business worth billions of dollars had widespread repercussions. Careers of some of the Internet’s entrepreneurial pioneers were destroyed, and hundreds, if not thousands of people working at online poker sites lost their jobs. There were also countless others who worked indirectly in the poker business who were impacted. “There was a whole sub-industry that was built around Internet poker that I’m sure was valued somewhere in many, many billions,” said Pappas. “There are
those that did marketing, those that were doing commercial ad buys on ESPN and the other poker-related television programming, and those that were agents for the endorsed players.” One sector that was particularly hard hit was the affiliate marketing business, which can be a lucrative source of income for small Internet publishers. “For affiliates who generate most of their revenue through poker, Black Friday was devastating – in part because it coincided with a significant slowdown of online poker in Europe, and in part because it effectively reduced the US market to minor league status,” said Vin Narayanan, editor-in-chief of Casino City and the Gambling Portal Webmasters Association (GPWA). “That combination was a tough blow for the industry.” Unfortunately, Narayanan doesn’t expect future legislation to be a boon to the poker affiliate business in the US. Measures like the Reid/Kyl bill will largely benefit established bricks-and-mortar casinos, most of whom view affiliate marketers with suspicion. “Much of the initial marketing spend will probably take place on advertising channels (casinos) are more comfortable with, such as television, print, social media and direct mail,” he said. “Affiliate marketing won’t necessarily crack that list.” As for George Durham, he’s indifferent about proposed poker legislation in the US. If something does become law, it would have little effect on his current situation. “Overall, I am extremely happy living in Korea. Musically, I have found a ton of fantastic opportunities here, and I have met good friends and I really like the culture and quality of life,” he said. “If poker were legalised in the US, I would stay in Korea while playing on US sites.”
REED HOLMES has worked in the online gaming business since 2003. Prior to that, he was an online journalist at TSN, Canada’s leading sports television network.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
Special Report â€“ Online Poker
The Man Who Raised the Game Randy Blumer is the man who brought real money online poker to life. On January 1, 1998, after four months of tinkering with a play-for-fun system that could only accept deposits by cheques sent through the post, Blumer and his team launched Planet Poker, the worldâ€™s first real money online poker room. iGB Affiliate spoke to Blumer about his role in the birth of the online poker scene, the state of the current industry and what he would change if he were to start all over again.
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Special Report – Online Poker
What was your relationship with the game of poker before you founded Planet Poker? I’d certainly never call myself a professional poker player but I’ve been a student of the game for a long, long time. An enthusiast I guess. My background is in mechanical engineering and before my poker endeavours, I was employed by the Royal Canadian Navy as a marine systems engineer. There was a shipbuilding programme in Canada to produce Canadian control frigates and once it was concluded, there was an opportunity for early retirement which I grabbed with both hands. After that, I was sitting around playing some cards at a local social club in Victoria and tried to get a local licence to operate a card room. That was fraught with difficulties and bureaucracy and from that point, I made the decision to do this online. We had the free play site up for about four months from around August 1997, and then on January 1, 1998, we had to move to a realmoney offering because the software wasn’t capable of offering both at the same time. What convinced you that there was a real opportunity back then for poker on the Internet? I was naïve and computer illiterate at the time, but I understood the rake-based revenue model for poker in land-based casinos. From there, I approached a friend of mine that was working on the Canadian Patrol Frigate software, and had a much deeper understanding of the Internet and the programming components of what it would take to develop our own product. He stumbled across ASF Software which was hosting a play-for-fun site at the time. It was a long, long way from a product that could be utilised in a commercial application. However, he thought it was so far along that it would be foolish to start from scratch and that we should approach them. He bowed out at that point in time and I worked with the people at ASF Software to load some hardware and get them installed in San Jose, Costa Rica. Then we started in earnest to develop and change the existing product into something that we could use. The initial model didn’t even offer a rake option and there were significant changes that needed to be made before we could have a real money gaming model. We didn’t even have a deposit mechanism so people were mailing in cheques in anticipation of us opening for real money play. We kicked
everyone out the day before and reopened on January 1, 1998, essentially depositing money that people had mailed in cheques. Also back then, the model that we were following was the revenue model of bricksand-mortar card rooms. Therefore, we were only launching with fixed limit 3/6 game of Texas Hold’em. All the real money play at the time, even in Vegas, was focussed on Limit Hold’em, which was a friendlier model from a business perspective as the stronger players were unable to aggressively dominate the weaker players at the table and strip them of their chips. People didn’t start focussing on no limit cash games until Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker and poker gained more airtime on television. Prior to that, it was really a limit-based revenue model for participating professionals as well as the operators. Obviously, there was no blueprint for what you were doing back then. Were there times when you wondered whether what you were creating was going to work, both literally and commercially? Even in the play-for-fun mode, the stickiness of the site became evident very quickly because of the time that people would spend on it. There was a huge appetite for this type of thing on a very small scale. Poker was small back then. It was relegated to the cheap part of the casino if it was offered at all because as a revenue model for the house, it wasn’t that big. It was certainly popular in US card rooms but it was a niche market to say the least. One of the biggest challenges for us was – this is before UIGEA, so the funding solutions started to develop fairly quickly in support of sportsbook and in support of online casino – was the connectivity of people with very little or poor access to the Internet using dial-up modems. Keeping people connected out of Costa Rica was also a challenge as the whole country was being serviced by a single T1 line at the time. A lot of the frustrations and challenges were technical – compatibility and moving forward fast enough on software development. With games taking place where you’ve got ten people seated around the table from different locations, all-in protection was needed as a safeguard so people didn’t lose their investment in the pot if they were kicked off. We’d offer a few options during the day for protecting a player’s hand if they were disconnected so they’d still at least get
to showdown with the amount of money they had invested in the hand. Has the subsequent growth of the poker and gaming industry surprised you, or did you see the bigger picture back then – even when people were telling you it wouldn’t work? There were so many naysayers back then. We saw the numbers and the growth in the card room so those people were more or less just ignorant to the viability of it. A couple of years into it, I made public statements that one day there would be card rooms with 60,000 players in them – tournaments that would absolutely dwarf the Main Event of the WSOP. That’s all come to pass. The liquidity of the business model is such that there aren’t going to be many champions out there that are enormous. The guy that is the market leader will continue to push the envelope and be an enormous influence in the environment. One of the big blips on the scale was when televised poker took off. The Moneymaker component was part of it as were the hole card cams and the early World Poker Tour (WPT) coverage and it was like a perfect storm as far as growth of the business was concerned. The guys that really handled it well at the time were Paradise Poker and PartyPoker but then you have the historical road bumps along the way such as UIGEA, when being publicly traded was no-longer an advantage to someone like Party who then had to exit the US market. The guys that take over are the likes of Full Tilt and PokerStars with Full Tilt having no integrity or ability to manage and maintain separate accounts for their players. It is an easy way to kill the goose that lays the golden egg – it’s so short-sighted of them, I can’t understand it myself. There have been many undulations in the online poker market in its lifetime, what’s your perception of where it is at the moment? The US market is going to be fragmented for a long time if they roll out state-by-state. There’s a lot of interest and discussion on what’s going on in Nevada and getting that to market. However, the state is tiny so it will be on such a small scale. Even though it might have a propensity to host of large number of online poker players, it’s never going to have the critical mass of something that’s essentially servicing the rest of the world.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
Special Report – Online Poker
Do you think it’s going to take a state of significant size, New Jersey for example, to give the rest of the states a barometer of how this may work? Yes, the liquidity won’t come until they start pulling together and working under one net. Nevada won’t do it alone and you will certainly get a bump in California when they come on board, as with New York, Illinois, Florida, and whoever’s next. Someone made a presentation at a recent conference about how the barriers start to fall once you can drive across the state border and play from someone else’s territory. They’re no longer benefitting from the revenue stream. That happened with state-by-state lotteries so now most of them offer a state lottery because the revenue is just pouring across the border on pay days. Eventually, they’ll all be back in the same pool and they’ll be able to compete with the likes of PokerStars that are servicing the rest of the world. Until then, the preference is always going to be bigger because of the lure of the big prizes, tournaments and the ability to jump online and join a tournament at your price point with a big enough player base. Once it starts, the Nevada offering will be a non-event and an expensive folly for a lot of investors. I’m going to suggest that it will take ten years to get back to a reasonable level of activity and a business model that identifies a half dozen of the winners in the marketplace. Would we assume that there will be no federal regulation coming into play within that timeframe? The Democrats are as close as you’re going to get to being supportive. There are a lot of states that don’t want to touch it – if you follow the election and see all the red on the board, there are still a lot of places that won’t open their doors to it. Until they get it done collectively, it’s not going to be on a massive scale. California might surprise a lot of people. It’s like the bureaucracy of when I started – now the government is getting involved, it’s not necessarily good for business. Were those early days a time of innovators like yourself who were venturing into uncharted territory – was there an air of anticipation, excitement, change? We took a stab at something that Full Tilt ultimately did better with Rush Poker. The naysayers were convinced that it wouldn’t work but, essentially, what was being
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delivered to the player was a knock-off of what was in existence at the bricks-and-mortar level. The evolution of the process is really to take skill-based gaming to the next level and provide it with the benefits, value and opportunities that only a pooled player base and the benefits of the Internet can offer – hundreds of hands an hour; no wait time between hands; people parachuting in and out of tables. Our model in anticipation of that was to say, “Why are we fixated on a 52 card deck? Why don’t we have 500 52 card decks in play against the same opponents in a player pool of thousands?” Rush Poker took it one step, and there are many steps to take beyond that. So there are interesting things happening, but it’s hard to speculate on the future. If you had to start again what would you do differently? I wouldn’t have lost a year in India on a programming nightmare. The guys that won the race found stability out of Kahnawake and Montreal; being Canadian, I was reluctant to host servers and equipment out of there because the lawyers advised against it. But connectivity was key so we bounced from San Jose to Guatemala to Curacao Dutch Antilles over time. In hindsight, Kahnawake didn’t result in anyone going to jail or equipment seizures as far as I’m aware. The other would be the software development cycle. When we started, we were a licensor and then we recognised we had to become a software developer. So we had to pay for software development out of a revenue stream that was being generated on a licensed product as well as paying the licensed model. That was three or four years in and by the time we got our own product up and running at a reasonable level, there was no money left for marketing. From a budgetary perspective, when you put $5 million into software, it’s $5 million you can’t spend on marketing when you’re really fighting for real estate and space. It’s not easy being the leader sometimes; guys can leapfrog past you when they bring new capital to the market. If you don’t get immediate results for your programming dollar, you’re still no further ahead. It’s a timing play. You’ve got to be efficient and effective in so many areas and we didn’t start with the model of being software being developers first. We understood the business model from an operator perspective then tried to band-aid a solution
on it to get started. Then, having to become software developers in a time when the ‘dotcom’ craze was going on, it was hard to get programming talent in North America. We lost a year in India had to bring six programmers back to Canada to restart and reboot the whole process. Then the legal landscape changed with UIGEA. Connectivity also played a big role along the way. When Paradise Poker launched, we couldn’t stay connected for a three week period and because of that, our players moved next door in a hurry. Maintaining connectivity over multiple sites and solutions in an evolving Internet landscape was a tough ask back then, especially when trying to get service out of the Caribbean. What are your current business interests? We’ve gone to the sidelines after UIGEA because, with our hand on our heart, we decided we couldn’t protect player money. Every other operator said they could protect player money from the DoJ, which wasn’t the case. The likes of Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt, and everyone else along the way who ran into trouble; they were either naïve or they were lying to their players. PokerStars had enough integrity and wherewithal to protect their players’ investment. There’s certainly a fallout that they’re dealing with but they didn’t lie to their players. We were too small at that level to suggest that we could carry on servicing the US market, which was predominantly 80 percent of our payer base since inception, so we’ve gone to the sidelines. We offer a play for fun subscription site at Planet Poker, we have United Poker Forum and another skill based poker site called Skillride.com that are pooling players. In anticipation of the legal licensed model in the US, we’re developing affiliate relationships and freshening our player base so that as and when we do have a place to send them legally, we can. If someone is out there looking for experienced operators and a software platform that has been in the real money environment and is now in a play-for-fun model, we’re here and open to offers and suggestions. We’ve got access to our player base from the past. There are a couple of hundred thousand that have played at Planet and will probably want to play online in the licensed legal environment in the States once their home state offers that solution. We’re happy to work with guys that are aggressively entering that market.
SPECIAL REPORT – ONLINE POKER
MOVING UP THE RANKS IN THE POKER AFFILIATE INDUSTRY What this special report has told us is that the online poker industry has undergone sizeable change in its short lifetime; today’s landscape a far cry from the early days of unregulated operators roaming free in a lucrative US marketplace. But how has the composition of the sector affected affiliates and what does it take to become successful in the modern poker market? Jeremy Enke, Founder of Poker Affiliate Listings, offers his insight from over a decade’s worth of experience. FOR OVER A decade, the poker affiliate industry has remained one of the most lucrative global affiliate niches in the world. While the industry has experienced its share of setbacks between regulation, rogue operators and the weak overall economy, it still continues to provide a profitable business model for thousands of poker affiliates worldwide. In 1998, poker sites like Planet Poker and Paradise Poker opened their virtual doors for business. A new digital era of poker had been born, and the age-old card game was forever changed. It wasn’t until 2003, however, when Party Poker came on the scene, that poker affiliate marketing exploded. As online poker matured, both poker players and Internet marketers quickly realised the potential in poker affiliate marketing. Being in the industry myself since 2001, as well as owning the world’s largest poker affiliate forum, I have had the unique opportunity to watch many affiliates build their businesses during this time.
iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
In this article, I’d like to share some of my observations on what separates the ‘hobby affiliate’ from the ‘super affiliate’ in the online poker industry. I’ll also share some of the common attributes of the industry’s top earning poker affiliates
“Smart affiliates know that they can’t rely on one strategy or tactic. What worked yesterday may not work today in the constantly evolving market of online poker.” So let’s jump right in. There’s no magic bullet or specific road map on how certain affiliates have been able to start out with a simple idea and catapult those ideas into highly profitable poker affiliate businesses. On their journeys through the ranks to the top, however, there are many similarities these affiliates share that have unquestionably helped them achieve such high levels of success.
The following are five specific attributes that are common amongst poker super affiliates.
1. Work ethic One of the biggest challenges affiliates often face when trying to grow their business initially is work ethic. Being an affiliate in any industry while working independently can often make for an environment that is prone to procrastination. The work ethic and drive witnessed amongst the industry’s super affiliates, however, is unparalleled to that of others. It is not uncommon for many of the industry’s top producing affiliates to regularly work upwards of 60 hours per week.
2. Diversification Another common attribute amongst affiliates that have moved up the ranks is their diversification strategies. Most have diversified their keyword strategies as well as the operators they promote on various sites. Likewise, these super affiliates are constantly tweaking campaigns and
Special Report – Online Poker
With the large amount of uncertainty in the online poker industry, many super affiliates have also recently started branching out into new sectors or markets. The bottom line is that smart affiliates know that they can’t rely on one strategy or tactic. What worked yesterday may not work today in the constantly evolving market of online poker. As the industry continues to experience elevated levels of uncertainty, it will be
4. Networking I have yet to meet a successful poker affiliate who doesn’t actively network with other affiliates in the industry. The power of networking cannot be understated. A wise man once said, “Surround yourself with successful people”. As a poker affiliate, the more you can network and get to know other successful affiliates, the better it will be for your overall business.
“It is important for affiliates to continuously expand their knowledge base. Not only is the industry changing at a staggering pace, so is the way in which we work.” important for affiliates to diversify and adapt to these new environments as and when they present themselves.
3. Knowledge The old saying ‘Knowledge is Power’ definitely holds true in the online poker industry. To be candid, many poker super affiliates reached their levels of success by attaining more knowledge than their competitors. Whether it be SEO, marketing, social media or conversion strategy; super affiliates are all exceptionally knowledgeable in their specific skill sets. And given the work ethic these affiliates have, leveraging this knowledge on a daily basis is a perfect recipe for success. While moving up the ranks in the poker affiliate sector, it is important for affiliates to continuously expand their knowledge base. Not only is the industry changing at a staggering pace, so is the way in which we work. Search engine and social media marketing are just two examples of where affiliates can constantly be striving to gain more knowledge.
Having a strong network in the industry will often open up new doors for you or allow you to be ahead of the curve in many situations. For newer affiliates, a great way to network is by participating in industry forums or attending one of the numerous trade shows put on by iGaming Business.
5. Emulation Over the years, the poker affiliates that I have witnessed move up the ranks and build successful affiliate businesses have done so by emulating their successes over and over again. For example, if a poker affiliate finds an SEO strategy that works very well, they will emulate that strategy for multiple keywords and sites. While it is important to diversify and try new things, it’s also more important to build upon those strategies that are already working. Over the past few years, many poker affiliates have also been able to emulate these strategies into new niches. Bottom line: if it’s not broken, there’s no need to fix it.
Manage expectations, avoid complacency These are just five attributes that you’ll often find are common to the top producing poker affiliates in the industry. Working your way up in the poker affiliate industry and increasing your commissions month after month is no easy task, in fact, it is extremely difficult. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen over the years with new poker affiliates is that they have unrealistic expectations. Many new affiliates believe that if they simply build a pretty website and write a little bit of content that they’ll be raking in commissions in no time. Back in 2003, this was absolutely the case. However, in this new era of poker affiliate marketing, the competition is much savvier and it is exceedingly more difficult to become a super affiliate. Another key factor for success when moving up the ranks as a poker affiliate is to avoid complacency. While the poker industry may still remain one of the most lucrative affiliate markets, it is also one of the most rapidly changing ones. Things can change quickly, not only week to week, but also day to day. The affiliates who can best adapt and embrace these changes will undoubtedly be the ones who continue to see success as poker affiliates. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I have been in the poker affiliate industry for over a decade. During this time, it has been quite a journey to see the ups and downs, as well as the rise and fall of many operators and affiliates. I am optimistic for the future of poker affiliate marketing and still maintain my view that it is truly the best affiliate industry to be in. Working your way up the ranks and getting to the top requires a great deal of hard work. However, once you’re there, the rewards are well worth the effort.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
SPECIAL REPORT – ONLINE POKER
CAPITALISING ON THE CHANGING FACE OF THE POKER MARKET If you haven’t noticed how much of a kerfuffle has been drummed up by the poker market in recent months then you’ve either been living under a rock or you’re new to iGaming. The fact of the matter is that the poker market has become much more interesting and, in itself, much more complex than it was only a year ago. Composition of the market Post-Black Friday it was all quite clear cut; you couldn’t take money on social networks for poker and couldn’t (well, you weren’t supposed to) operate in the US. That didn’t mean there weren’t people taking traffic or that an affiliate couldn’t make a good living, but the amounts pale in comparison to the potential rewards to be gained from an open, regulated American market.
“Affiliates who can get the right freeroll deals and incentives for poker players to join their communities and engage them with the right opportunities could find themselves sitting on a gold mine in the US.”
iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY DECEMBER 2012 2012/JANUARY /JANUARY 2012/13 2013
The downside to looking at social and America is that these are not going to be ‘easy win’ marketplaces and, in fact, looking to other developing markets whilst a large portion of the industry focuses their attention on the trending markets is probably a smart idea for smaller affiliates who probably won’t have the money or resources to compete.
The legal bit Now, this is the bit which can make the US a little off-putting, as it would appear you need a licence to be an affiliate. We’ve seen Jon Friedberg (owner of PokerTrip Enterprises) go before the Nevada Gaming Commission and get a licence to be an affiliate. This in itself is a little worrying as many affiliates looking to operate in the US could (in theory)
SPECIAL REPORT – ONLINE POKER
end up locked out of the US market due to not being licensed. Now, whilst I’m going to suggest that it is rather unlikely that something would actually happen – as the US can’t even get rid of all of the unlicensed operators and affiliates are not going to be particularly high up their list of priorities – it is still a consideration that needs to be taken into account. Having this extra barrier to entry may give an edge to those looking to do things properly; at least it would if it were to keep out affiliates without licences, which it almost certainly will not. However, should a clampdown on affiliates operating illegally occur then there is every possibility that those applying for licences now could stand to be in a very strong position down the line.
SEO The American market is not going to be an easy one on the SEO front, simply because if you’re entering the market this late in the game then you will be up against it as an affiliate. There are already sites that established themselves years ago and are perfectly positioned for the American market. If you are looking to work your way in through SEO it is not going to be a quick win, and it’s not going to be cheap either. In fact, for most affiliates, it probably just isn’t worth trying to go through Google to gain traffic in the US. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean you may not be able to compete in search; remember that Yahoo! and Bing are there too and between them have had about a 30 percent stake in the US search market (15.3 percent for Bing and 13.8 percent for Yahoo! based on comScore’s figures earlier this year). Optimising for their algorithms may give you a competitive edge in that a lot of people are likely to ignore Bing and Yahoo! particularly if they’re used to working in markets where neither has a significant market share. In most cases, what’s good for Google is good for Bing, but there are a few subtle differences that you would be smart to capitalise on.
Social As always with social it can be something of an afterthought in the affiliate world, at least in terms of it being a traffic driver in its own right and not just something that we use to get the right metrics for SEO. But, we need to remember poker is a social product; you only have to take a quick look at the success of Zynga poker to see that.
Affiliates who can get the right freeroll deals and incentives for poker players to join their communities and engage them with the right opportunities could find themselves sitting on a gold mine in the US. Clearly, Facebook is the obvious choice for building something like this; the only concern would be its recent ‘shots’ at the iGaming sector (which, it should be noted, it has denied). The shots I am referring to allude to an incident where Facebook shut down the fan page of long time affiliate Andy Edwards then requested a £10k per month spend for him to have one. In addition, to advertise on the platform legitimately as an iGaming company it is ‘required’ that you spend £30k/month or risk being shut down. You can read more about this at http://www. casinoaffiliateprograms.com/blog/is-facebookextorting-gambling-companies/. If it wasn’t for these concerns, I would have said that social advertising was probably the smartest way to generate fast cash from the US once the market becomes fully regulated.
G+ Now I know G+ has been a bit of a joke in the social media world for a while now – it was not regarded as something that was either wanted or needed. Having said that, after some careful testing it has become apparent that Google+ is very lenient in terms of what it lets you get away with; whereas Twitter would ban you for aggressive following and unfollowing, G+ practically encourages it. The sharing of public circles makes this a very quick process as well giving you the ability to circle hundreds of people in a single click and remove them just as quickly. Depending on the quality of the circles, my tests tended to return around a seven to ten percent add back rate (with most accounts being from the US) and, much to my surprise, a very good proportion of these people engaged with my posts. Unlike within other social networks, the iGaming sector has a minimal presence on G+ giving you plenty of opportunity to exploit this network. It should also be noted that you’ll get preferential treatment in the SERPs that people you’re connected with will receive whilst logged-in to a Google product. Being an early adopter here can easily result in some great returns. Remember that social has a snowball effect and once your profile numbers look
big and impressive, people will naturally engage more with your profile and posts, naturally growing your reach.
Data capture and mass mailing Whilst I shouldn’t really be endorsing this, only a fool could not see how this could make a sizable return on investment if implemented correctly. Data capture has always been something that you can do relatively cheaply, particularly if you’re willing to be less ethical (but that’s not something I’m going to talk too much about). If you’re clever you can even boost a site’s SEO whilst doing this if you’re smart with your tie-ins. Competitions, for example, can require both social sharing and email entry and this is rarely a huge barrier; the prizes don’t even have to be that great, and well-timed promoted posts on Facebook can cheaply and effectively seed the project for you. Of course, the true value of data capture is that in a regulated market, players who may have been offline before will be looking for somewhere to play, which is why the direct marketing approach is likely to work particularly well and you have the added value of retaining data and being able to send mail shots for the large companies as and when they enter the market. And this is something that you can start building right away and has value regardless of how the marketplace pans out. Needless to say, your lists should be opt-in, but again we can all see that mailing in a newly opened market can offer much greater returns than the same sort of tactics elsewhere.
MIKE LITSON has been in Search Engine Optimisation for several years and specialises in competitive markets, predominantly iGaming. Having worked with many major players in the sector he has a solid understanding of what goes into making a successful campaign, both on and off site. Focusing mainly on SEO, Mike is also very well versed in SMO, PPC, Affiliate Management and Email Marketing believing that none of the skills are mutually exclusive and that having strong knowledge across online marketing channels can provide unique opportunities. Mike currently heads up the Blueclaw iGaming and affiliate department.
iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
Special Report – Online Poker
Enterprise in Nevada Jon Friedberg, President and CEO of PokerTrip Enterprises, is the first and currently the only affiliate to receive a licence in the emerging US state online poker markets. For this special report, Friedberg provides an insight on the market in Nevada and what affiliates can expect and need to consider if they are to follow his lead. Composition of the market Regulated online gaming is well on its way to launching in Nevada, and most experts are predicting that the first real-money hand of online poker will be dealt in February or March 2013. Several operators, software providers and payment processors have received their licences, so at this point it’s merely a waiting game for the Nevada Gaming Control Board to finalise testing of all the various components needed for a safe and secure launch, ensuring proper age and location verification. The marketing affiliate business opportunity remains to be determined based on the number of operators that will launch, their respective methods of acquiring customers, and their ability to calculate the value of each player. Some companies will be relying on free-money sites to begin building their prospective real-money player base, while others will rely on database marketing and other opportunities to market to their bricks-and-mortar traffic. Few companies appear to have aggressive plans to utilise marketing affiliates, despite the fact that affiliates have driven more online gaming player acquisitions worldwide than any other form of marketing. Within the confines of a Nevada-only network, there is a lot of scepticism about the ability for various sites to generate sufficient liquidity and profitability, however, I personally feel that if casinos properly align their online offerings to compliment their bricks-and-mortar business, and vice versa, the real opportunity is much larger than what is widely anticipated.
Working with the Nevada Gaming Control Board The licensing process for Nevada online gaming establishments and industry participants is very extensive, and for
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“Affiliates will need to have a strong brand and presence within Nevada, and will need to continuously work with their partner operators to provide ongoing service, support, and incentive for their referred players to continue playing and depositing.” good reason. The Gaming Commission needs to know that every licensee is a legitimate operation run by legitimate people, without any histories of criminal activity, unethical business practices or poor financial standings. Given Nevada’s presence within the worldwide gaming industry, it is highly likely that other US and international regulatory agencies will follow suit with the same level of evaluation and scrutiny, particularly given what happened after Black Friday.
Considerations for affiliates Until there is federal or multi-state legislation in place, there doesn’t seem to be a big opportunity for affiliates limited to the Nevada market. Between casinos having their own physical properties to market to their foot traffic and player databases, the expensive licensing and associated legal fees required, and the limited player base in such a small market, the investment doesn’t make sense for most companies. Furthermore, the postUIGEA promotion and/or operation of US-facing offshore gaming companies carried out by many of the industry’s major affiliates poses a large amount of scepticism about any affiliate’s ability to get licensed, which compounds the uncertainty surrounding the process. With this being said, the level of stringency in the Nevada licensing process seems to dictate a high level of professionalism and formalities within the industry, which is what many marketing affiliates have been accused of lacking in
their business practices. There will most certainly be a major learning curve, and one that will probably result in the evaporation and/or consolidation of some of the initial operators fairly quickly after launch, but it is tough to dispute that the industry as a whole will be better off with such regulatory measures in place.
Making a success of Nevada To be a successful affiliate in Nevada, it will take the ability to provide ongoing customer acquisition and retention services to high-quality players. Affiliates will need to have a strong brand and presence within Nevada, and will need to continuously work with their partner operators to provide ongoing service, support, and incentive for their referred players to continue playing and depositing. All Vegas Poker and Poker Atlas are fortunate in that we have been successfully driving traffic to bricks-andmortar establishments for several years. With our widely recognised brands, strong community of Nevada players, and relationships with all of the leading major casinos, we hope to set a very high bar for standards of affiliateoperator relationships. Our hope is to benefit the entire gaming industry by practicing and promoting legitimate and ethical business practices, while demonstrating the tremendous amount of value that marketing affiliates can provide to online gaming operators within Nevada and the United States.
REDRETURNS AFFILIATE PROGRAM
2012/11/15 04:21:22 PM
HTML5 in the iGaming Space There has been a great amount of hype surrounding HTML5 recently, and most of it is justified. This article will provide an overview of HTML5 and its applicability to iGaming before delving a little further into specific areas of HTML5 to provide you with a more advanced insight into the inner workings of the technology.
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simple implementation of <canvas> it is still replacing functionality that was previously done in Flash and was, therefore, never available on Apple’s mobile devices and will not be available on Android devices going forward as Adobe no longer supports Flash on Android beyond version 4.0.x. A quick Google search will turn up more great HTML5 game samples.
Basically, HTML5 is a big improvement over HTML4 and with the <video> and <canvas> elements in addition to all the other changes that have been made allow many things that used to be done in Flash to be done simply with HTML5.
The upside of HTML5 Simplified development: players want to use multiple channels to access games but as an industry, we still rely heavily on Flash which, as we have covered, is not a realistic option on Smartphones. HTML5 offers the gaming industry an opportunity to consolidate all development across the various channels onto a single technology platform. The benefit of this is huge: lower development cost, faster iteration times and, thus, a massive competitive advantage to anyone who can do it right.
Applications on the web: the cumulative effect of the changes and innovations included in HTML5 mean that websites can now behave like applications. Anyone who has used desktop applications and websites knows that the user experience is totally different, but HTML5 makes a website with the usability of a desktop application possible. The Web 2.0 dream: working with HTML5 gives the industry the opportunity to realise the mash-up aspect of Web 2.0, meaning websites can easily be made up of components and data that come from other sites. This allows iGaming products to be almost effortlessly implemented into websites and the reverse is true as well; we can easily incorporate elements from other websites, social sites for example, into our sites. If you have ever incorporated Facebook into a website you will understand how incredibly easy this concept is; a few lines of code copied and pasted and you are done. Finally and somewhat related to what we’ve just covered, using HTML5 (which is a technology developed for the web) gives us the opportunity to use fantastic libraries and APIs that have already been developed. With this, we can connect our offering easily to social services like Facebook and Twitter (literally in an afternoon). Further, our
HTML5 gaming products can be included in social games with very little effort.
The downside of HTML5 As a standard, HTML5 isn’t quite finished yet, so you could end up building a product offering on top of it only for the standard to change. That sounds hugely scary but it’s not. The HTML5 standard has been in development for a long time and there’s already broad browser support for some elements. All modern Smartphone browsers and the latest versions of Chrome, Safari and Firefox have good support for HTML5. Internet Explorer 9 is behind but still has good support for the most anticipated elements like <canvas>, <video> and <audio>. The site www.html5test.com has good information on what elements each browser supports so you can compare that with the browser statistic you have for your website to determine if the time is right for HTML5. HTML5 is not yet ready to replace cutting edge media rich native applications on mobile phones. Let’s be clear though, most of the iGaming applications fall far short of this classification and could be replicated with HTML5. Net Entertainment has been showing off some good looking HTML5 slot-type games at tradeshows, and Microgaming has had great looking browser-based mobile games in the market for a while now. To see what is happening outside our industry,
I encourage you to do a search for ‘great HTML5 sites’ and see what comes up and visualise how what you see could be used in your business. (Also see agent8ball.com and thewildernessdowntown.com.)
The HTML5 standard As mentioned, HTML5 is yet to be finished, meaning that if you build a product using the standard you are at risk of it changing and adversely affecting your product. However, it’s not quite as scary as it sounds; to identify why, we need to understand how the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) – the organisation responsible for maintaining the standards that make modern websites possible – creates its standards. W3C standards generally go through four stages from Working Draft to W3C Recommendation as they grow in maturity. Even though work on the HTML5 standard has been in process for years, it is still, at the time of writing, in the final phase of the Working Draft stage. There’s an interesting reason for this, which includes a war (or at least a ‘police action’) where HTML squares-off against XHTML, something that we’ll leave to one side for now. The point is that although elements of HTML5 have been widely adopted by the creators of web browsers, the standard itself is not finalised. Therefore, there is some risk associated with using HTML5 elements especially in complex, highly interrelated ways. The risk
is mitigated if you stick with the elements that have been adopted universally across the main browsers and develop graceful fallbacks for elements that are not supported. The latest versions of Chrome, Safari and Firefox all have good support for HTML5 (Chrome being by far the best). Internet Explorer 9 is behind but still provides adequate support for most of the key features. The site www.html5test.com has good information on what elements each browser supports so you can compare that with the browser statistic that hits your website to determine if the time is right for HTML5.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
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very nature, easy to brand and customise and partly because of the way the system was built. For inspiration and samples of what <canvas> can do please visit http://101besthtml5sites.com/.
Local storage The W3 Web Storage Specification was once part of the HTML5 specification proper but it was split into its own specification for reasons that are equal parts uninteresting and unimportant; for the purpose of this article, we’ll ignore this. Web Storage goes by many names in addition to ‘Web Storage’ including ‘HTML5 Storage’, ‘Local Storage’ and ‘DOM Storage’ to name a few, and it provides a way for web pages to store named key/value pairs locally. Personally, I find Web Storage confusing as it indicates to me the exact opposite of what it actually does; instead, I prefer to use (and will proceed with using) Local Storage. Local Storage allows data to be stored on the user’s local machine and the data stays persistent between browsing sessions. So far, that sounds a lot like a cookie so let’s look at cookies and compare. A cookie is limited to 4KB of data, it is included with every HTTP request (slowing your website down) and unless you serve your entire site over SSL, the cookie data is transmitted unencrypted over the Internet. By contrast, Local Storage allows 5MB of storage per origin, and the data is never sent to the web server (not included in HTTP requests) unless the developer goes out of his way to explicitly send it. The 5MB storage limit is implemented (surprisingly) consistently across different browsers even though it is only phrased as a suggestion in the specification. If you exceed the storage limit, the “QUOTA_EXCEEDED_ERR” is thrown and you cannot acquire additional storage space. 5MB is a lot of storage even though everything you store is converted to strings; a float or an integer will take more
space stored this way than it does in its native data format. To detect the visiting browser’s support for local storage or any HTML5 feature, I recommend you use Modernizr (Modernizr. com) or a similar library to detect the HTML5 and CSS3 features the browser supports; you can write your own detection if you want but you better have a good reason for passing up the work that has been done for you. Application: Even once you wrap your head around what Local Storage means, the applications are too numerous to name but to get your thought-train rolling, I will suggest a few: ●●saving the state of a game or a page so that a user returns to exactly the same place they were when they last closed the site ●●storing data for offline browsing (high applicability for Smartphones) ●●storing user preferences
Currently, most of us build our websites or ‘web apps’ so that they are server centric; Local Storage offers us the opportunity to turn this paradigm on its head with staggering implications for usability of websites and web apps.
Conclusion Explaining, or even providing a high level overview of all of the specifications that fall under the HTML5 umbrella justifies a book and there are indeed many books already available on the subject. If you made it this far I hope you are interested to learn more and if so I suggest you check out http://diveintohtml5.info/ (a truly amazing resource), various w3.org pages like http://dev.w3.org/html5/webstorage/ and http://www.w3.org/wiki/HTML/ Elements/canvas, http://www.html5rocks. com/, the almighty Google or perhaps buy a physical book or two.
PALL PALSSON has been involved with various IT and game development projects working as a Product Manager and Senior Producer in the UK, USA, Canada and Iceland. He joined Betware in 2010 and leverages his experience to create and oversee the execution of Betware’s Mobile and Lottery strategy. Pall holds a degree in Game Design and Development.
A NEW CLASS OF EVENT
BeTS Betting Trends & Strategies
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HOW THE iGAMING SUPER SHOW 2013 WILL EXCEED EXPECTATIONS Affiliates, vendors, media, operators and regulators will meet at one event under one roof. Over 150 stands making it the biggest exhibition in our industry. This is where the industry will come to do business.
Multiple conference streams that won’t simply cover the typical iGaming subjects – topics will range from business strategy to financial analysis to advanced online marketing. Logo with strapline (varies according to context)
Innovative components: With speed networking and learning clinics to an invite only VIP executive summit we are determined to give you genuine value from attending the event.
mGAMING SUMMIT Strategies for mastering mobile gambling
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iGB Affiliate december/january 2012/13
desktop, the 2012 consumer will ‘multiscreen’ via tablet device, Smartphone and even a laptop while watching TV. The focus on SEO is, as a result of these changes, shifting from visibility to relevance and quality of content. This means that search results vary between individuals, making ‘ranking number one’ an issue of the past. Creating a user experience that reflects user intent is vital for a successful SEO strategy. The closer you are to being in-line with someone’s intent, the more likely they are to listen to the message – persuasion can’t be demanded. It is only when you stop optimising for search results and start optimising for people that will you get better results.
Pinterested? Most affiliates are accustomed to using social media as a way of marketing. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different social media platforms out there and it’s important to be selective about which ones best link with your site and your audience. The two newcomers that have seemed to make it past the initial critiques on the social media scene are Pinterest and Instagram. For those not familiar with the sites, Pinterest is a scrapbook style website which allows you to share or ‘pin’ images that interest you with your followers. These images can be separated into different sections or ‘boards’. Instagram, on the other hand, is a photograph sharing website where you share images you have taken with your followers (and its recent acquisition by Facebook is likely to become increasingly more valuable to a larger user base). It might be tempting to rush into having accounts on both of these just for
the sake of it or, even worse, to use them solely as additional platforms to force your content down followers’ throats. From an SEO perspective, getting active on social media sites and creating shares is great, however, this will only help you if you are sharing relevant content, linking to other people’s posts and interacting with followers. As image-based social sharing sites, Pinterest and Instagram are not about self-promotion, but about sharing relevant images with other users. In fact, too much self-promotion can now get your Pinterest account closed, as a result of a recent change in the company policy regarding affiliates. If you are keen to spend a good amount of time posting good content, both Pinterest and Instagram can create interesting possibilities for gaming affiliates. Pinterest has taken particular favour amongst women, with an estimated 72 percent to a huge 97 percent of users reported as being female. This could open up interesting possibilities for bingo and slots affiliates targeting women (for example). Instagram, on the other hand, creates opportunities by allowing you to export audiences from other social networks such as Twitter, Facebook , Tumblr and Foursquare. You can also add links and hashtags onto image captions on Instagram, which makes for an improved opportunity to gain traction and engagement.
The cost of not having a mobile optimised site Thinking about website content and virality goes well beyond making sure your ‘SEO house’ is in order and that you are active on social media sites. The UK is now leading the way in Europe in mobile consumer penetration, with a recent study by IAB
“It is only when you stop optimising for search results and start optimising for people that will you get better results.” UK reporting that 59 percent of UK adults now own a Smartphone, compared with a European average of 44 percent. This huge growth characterises the UK’s appetite for new mobile technology. Google data shows that between 2011 and 2012, the rise of Smartphone adoption increased across all age groups, but most of all in the 30-49 age range, where seven in ten adults now own a Smartphone. With Smartphones (not least the iPhone5) topping many Christmas wish lists, there is likely to be a surge of new Smartphone owners flooding the market at the end of the year and beyond. This means more people accessing the web via their Smartphone, not only to shop but also to spend time reading blogs, forums and gambling. In fact, more and more people are ‘multi-screening’ via their mobiles and tablet while watching sports on TV. According to IAB research, currently 62 percent of UK Smartphone users ‘dual screen’ using a tablet or Smartphone while watching TV. In 2010, the figure was only 27 percent which makes this a huge 35 percent leap. We now want to search and communicate while we watch; mobile touch screen devices are proving better for the job than desktops. Essentially, different devices are being adopted as tools for specific online activities in specific environments.
For affiliates looking to improve their website conversion, having a website that renders well on mobile is therefore crucial. To date, the greatest obstacle to mobile conversion rates has been the limited availability of mobile optimised websites. This encompasses a range of problems for visitors including: ●●Slow
page load times and zoom in order to read text ●●Small buttons make navigation difficult ●●A positive user experience is crucial to mobile success. Google recently released some survey stats to highlight just how crucial a mobile optimised website is: ●●61 percent of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site ●●79 percent of people who don’t like what they find on one site will go back and search for another site ●●48 percent of users say they feel frustrated and annoyed when they get to a site that’s not mobile-friendly
In conclusion, there is still plenty of time to get your basics in order in time for the holiday season. Now is the time to ensure your SEO and social media strategies are in order to start 2013 with a bang. Mobile optimisation has been talked about a lot this year and if you haven’t yet found the time to make your site mobile, you should definitely be doing this for 2013.
Therefore, giving mobile visitors a suboptimal experience isn’t merely a case of living with bad conversion rates, it’s potentially a case of permanently losing those visitors to competitors, along with the resulting revenue.
Neil Fairweather is Group Account Director at Latitude Digital Marketing. With over eight years of digital marketing experience, Neil has been influential in the growth of Latitude’s gaming client portfolio. In such a tech savvy and competitive market Neil has been able to keep the likes of bet365 and Gala Coral informed on advancements within the digital space to ensure they remain as market leaders within their arena. Neil joined Latitude in 2006 and was promoted Group Account Director in 2012. His current role sees him manage client services teams delivering exceptional client impact for clients within the gaming, retail, finance and leisure sectors. Neil is an avid gaming blogger and can be found attending and speaking at various gambling industry events.
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Every year over 500 people from the iGaming affiliate community gather to honour the ongoing success within the industry at the iGB Affiliate Awards. This elegant black tie event has sold out in both 2011 and 2012 so book today to ensure your attendance at this event.
Creating Long-Term Online Customer Engagement Wayne Morris, UK General Manager at Maxymiser, explains that serving tailored content to online gamers based on their characteristics, behaviour and interaction history is key to achieving a destination website and creating an online presence that creates an engaged and long-term customer. There is a huge gulf between the expectation of the online customer and the typical website experience. While research organisations such as Forrester cite behavioural targeting and the delivery of tailored content as a fundamental component of the online model, many gaming companies are still lagging a long way behind on the online maturity curve providing generic, impersonal content that adds little to the individual gamer’s experience.
Maturity curve In a world of declining margins and increasing customer fragmentation, the pressure is on organisations to attain far more value from the online channel. Gaming companies can no longer be satisfied by three percent conversion rates from acquisition activity; nor should they settle for one-off transactions from casual gamers. The objective should be to complement acquisition and retention strategies with highly targeted online content management to develop a destination website and create a highly engaged customer base that not only transacts repeatedly but shares that experience via social networking to attract additional customers. The starting place for improving the overall relevance of online content and improving the customer experience is transactional optimisation via A/B and multivariate testing. With every content change – from background colour onwards – tested against a performance baseline, gaming companies can continually hone the customer experience, starting with the registration process and the conversion funnel. Organisations can trial multiple content options simultaneously, with tests carried out on just a fraction – perhaps one percent – of total traffic to manage the risk associated with delivering new content. Tests can be turned on and off immediately; whilst customers can be redirected in real-time towards the best performing content to gain further value. Mecca Bingo, owned by Rank Interactive, has seen a 40 percent uplift in no-deposit
registrations and a ten percent uplift in deposit registrations since using MVT on its registration pages. Rank Interactive was then able to transfer these findings to its other online brands. Indeed, for the online gaming industry it is a lot easier to quantify investment in testing and optimisation, especially online and in mobile as their customer experience is largely transactional. It becomes a lot easier to track the bottom line across multiple brands or promotions when dealing with customers that transact regularly as you can effectively monitor the impact the tests have on the commitment to buy. This ability to measure ROI will allow gaming companies to much more effectively quantify what works in terms of real bottom line figures. However, as the gaming industry adopts a strategic approach to testing, the opportunity is there to achieve a much deeper customer engagement.
Personal experience The direct impact of an improved customer experience can be astonishing – from 100 percent improvement on performance for one-off tests, to a typical annual uplift of ten percent. But this is just the starting point: to meet the demands of a sophisticated online customer base, organisations must now build upon transactional optimisation with highly focused segmentation, recommendation and behavioural targeting. To be truly customer centric, the gaming industry needs to ensure it is engaging customers in the right way, with the most compelling content to make sure they come back for more. Evolving from the tactical conversion via mass optimisation to a strategic approach to win a customer for life as opposed to a casual gamer, demands intelligent content and promotion management. Organisations need to exploit real-time insight into a customer’s online behaviour to continually evolve and refine the experience. By identifying key traits about each visitor, businesses can ensure each customer is presented with highly relevant content as well as targeted promotions, transforming
the ease and enjoyment of the experience. Adopting segmentation and personalisation, via both rules-based and self-learning algorithms, provides the chance to reflect customer behaviour with the compelling, highly tailored customer content that underpins true customer engagement; engagement that drives not one-off transactions but prompts repeat visits and maximises long-term value.
Cultural shift Gaming companies are increasingly recognising the need to be not just customer focused but, as Forrester puts it, customer obsessed. Segmentation, recommendation and behavioural targeting – or relationship optimisation – enables organisations to progress from being focused on conversion alone to nurturing the first time player and ultimately responding in real-time to the actual behaviour of each customer – closing the gap between customer expectation and actual experience. With proven and mature technology for relationship optimisation, the biggest challenge for organisations is making the shift to place the customer and real, measured customer behaviour, at the centre of the decision making process. To achieve the relevant, interactive and engaging content that will underpin the successful gaming brand, organisations need to ensure every decision regarding online content is correct, reflects customer behaviour and, critically, improves customer engagement. Today, optimisation testing strategy should be business as usual. No organisation can justify the risk of not knowing the impact that unmeasured and uncontrolled content changes might have in disenfranchising hard won customers and their potential effect on revenue. In reality, the technology and expertise is now in place to facilitate the strategic realtime relationship optimisation that will ensure customers return time and time again, share the good experience via social networking and deliver long-term financial value to the business.
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HOW TO START A
WITHOUT A BUDGET There is certainly something to be said about having a good looking website with good functionality built into it. Many aspiring webmasters want their own logo, their own custom designed website and custom programmed features that add value for their users. Although these attributes are desirable, it certainly won’t guarantee you success and many people think this is necessary when it is not the case at all. There have been many webmasters that believed they had to spend their way to success and there is nothing worse than spending money expecting a profit and seeing the opposite. If you are a new webmaster then it is recommended that you start off without spending any money on your site for the simple reason that you might not like the work; so don’t start off with a loss. I also have some recommendations in this article on a few resources that are not free but are very cheap and worth consideration.
Webmaster checklist Before you get started, run through our checklist to see if you have everything covered and are ready to make a new website: ●●Business and marketing plan ●●Domain and topic ●●Logo and design ●●Content Management System (CMS) ●●Content
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Let’s just take a quick overview of the items in the checklist, after which I’ll share the resources where you can get these things done for free, or as cheap as possible.
are starting out with no budget then it is best to stick with the logo or text that comes with your free template. If your site makes money in the future then you can consider getting a new logo or custom design.
Business and marketing plan Most new webmasters don’t have any plan at all and it is best to sit down and write out at least an outline of your business and how you plan to market it. What research have you done on the topic? How would your website stand out against the competition? How much money can you make from the site and what are all the ways in which you can generate income?
Content Management System Although there are many systems to use out there, it is best to stick to the popular ones simply because they are well documented with plenty of videos and tutorials on YouTube and other websites. The three most common are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
Content Domain and topic Your domain and topic mostly go handin-hand and should explain what your company (or website) does. Whether you are starting a gambling affiliate website or a topic outside of gambling, this needs to be thought through carefully as it will dictate your content. Of course, you’ve done your research and getting a domain isn’t exactly free unless you are using a hosted service.
Logo and design Logo and website design can be done for free but it will depend on your content management system (CMS). If we use WordPress as an example of the CMS you want to use then you’ll be looking solely for free WordPress templates. Generally, if you
Of course, you need content if you want to sell something or at least to ensure you get traffic coming to your site: no content = no traffic. The great thing about content is that you can write it and it will only cost you your time. Naturally, if you want to write on the subject of online casinos, for instance, but you don’t know the casino space well, then you will have to do more research. Whatever you do, before you start writing content be sure to include your content ideas as part of your business and marketing plan. You’ll want to have your website organised so people can navigate it.
Resources for starting a website The following are resources you can use to launch a new website.
What about a logo?
Blogspot.com (also known as Blogger.com) is a free blogging site that has everything you need to create a website. You don’t need hosting and you can pick a subdomain on blogspot like http://your-new-website. blogspot.com, for example. You can make posts, pages, change the layout and make it work almost any way you want.
Get a free domain when you buy hosting packing. You have to install WordPress software manually and if you are not good with computers at all then try GoDaddy. Estimated costs for one year: $40
There are a few free logo websites out there but the truth is that none of them are that great. Go without a logo and if you have a free template then stick to the text-based logo that comes with the package. If you absolutely must have a new logo, then one site that isn’t free but is very cheap is Fiverr.com.
Offers one click WordPress installation. Estimated costs for one year: $85
Wordpress.com (free) Wordpress.com (not to be confused with wordpress.org) is similar to Blogspot as it is free and you can get your own subdomain as well. The good thing about this software is that if you plan on buying your own domain and hosting service, using wordpress.com will give you the experience so you can use it properly on your own website.
recommendations As of late 2012, blogspot blogs automatically get search engine traffic without having to do any link building, whereas the same cannot be said about wordpress.com. Blogspot and Wordpress.com are two of many free blogging software and services.
Domains and hosting (not free) Domains and hosting typically come with a cost but if you are starting a website on a small budget then this expense is reasonable and is quite possibly the only thing you will need to pay for.
Once you get hosting, your content management software is free, always.
content Management systems (free) Once you have a domain and hosting you can download the software from wordpress.org for free. If you plan to use WordPress, it is recommended you first create an account at wordpress.com so you can familiarise yourself with the software and make your mistakes while learning. Another great thing about WordPress is that it has free design templates (your design) and free plug-ins to add better functionality to your website. Free WordPress themes: http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ Free WordPress Plug-ins: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ Other recommendations for CMS software include Joomla.org and Drupal.org.
So now you know a few resources for starting a new website without spending any money at all. Although there are hundreds of free solutions out there, as a new webmaster you’ll want to get your hands dirty and do some testing. For simplicity, I’d recommend joining blogspot.com. All you need is a Gmail account and the process of signing up and creating your new blog/website will take two minutes of your time at the most. JOhn WriGhT is an affiliate coach and the main editor at Gaffg.com, a site that promotes affiliate programs and offers webmaster tips and articles to help them accelerate their business. John graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After graduating he pursued a career in professional gambling in 2002 and also playing online casinos and poker. With nearly ten years of experience in the online gambling industry he is now focusing his time and energy into affiliate websites and consulting services.
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Sending a message via text is not a new concept; it has been around since the late eighties. So why, you might ask, have I been asked to write an article on such an old marketing concept? The main reason is that text marketing has recently been revolutionised by a new innovative marketing solution called Rich Media Text (RMT).
INNOVATIVE MOBILE MARKETING THAT WORKS
At the recent Barcelona Affiliate Conference, I spoke about the benefits of text marketing. From the audience reaction, the part of my talk that engaged them the most was the section on the future of text marketing, where I introduced Rich Media Text (RMT). Operators and affiliates were quickly able see the benefits of this new marketing channel from a recipient interaction perspective and the impact that this would have on conversion rates. RMT is enabling text marketing to thrive within the 21st Century and allows dynamic marketers to send video content, images and audio via a text message for the same low distribution costs as a normal text – usually only a few pence depending on volume. This new concept is already performing well within other competitive sectors and case studies have persuaded most major iGaming operators to get involved to help drive mobile traffic. It is set to take the iGaming industry by storm in 2013. Text marketing is definitely back in vogue and the advances in technology are playing an increasingly dominant role in successful integrated marketing campaigns, the dramatic rise in Smartphone usage across the globe added to the significant increase in mobile betting, by way of example. “Customers prefer to receive promotions by text message rather than mobile web according to research by the Direct Marketing Association.” (econsulting.com – 2012) RMT has many benefits and is significantly more powerful than Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) which has been deemed too expensive and riddled with problems since launch. Modern text platforms are able to give powerful real-time reporting stats including text engagement rates via text message click through analysis. Those of you with geeky statistical tendencies will get your kicks from analysing exactly when the message was delivered and exactly when the Rich Media Link within the text was clicked on by each recipient. Some hi-tech SMS platforms can even identify the exact type of phone handset that an engaged recipient uses right down to the operating system. This is powerful information to have from an email design perspective. Affiliate tags can also be embedded into sophisticated texting platforms without affecting word count.
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Geolocation functionality as well as the ability to personalise texts via custom fields help create conversion rates that email marketers can only dream of. I am not suggesting for one second that affiliates and operators should stop their current email activity, far from it. However, from experience, most email strategies usually need fine-tuning. Why keep sending emails every week to the same people that have not opened an email for months? This is made even worse when the affiliate or operator consistently emails the same offer that is obviously not creating the desired result.
Make sure you are constantly trying new ideas for messaging – you never know if what you are doing can be further optimised.
Ensure that the reason for the text is made clear. You want the recipient to act on your text.
Avoid repetition Work your lists Some people think a bigger list is a better list. Often, a smaller but more engaged list returns a greater ROI. Segment using groups to send the most relevant messaging to your recipients, and keep them engaged.
(Mobile Data Association – 2011) With modern SMS platforms linked via API to powerful email platforms, marketing campaigns can be easily automated to improve campaign statistics. This is not rocket science and doesn’t need big marketing budgets. It can also be turned around quickly. Each week, my company sends thousands of texts for the leading iGaming brands to help acquire and retain players. Our clients use text marketing as a low cost communication tool to increase betting activity. Affiliates of all sizes can reap the rewards of implementing successful text marketing strategies that are consistently being used by operators. When discussing the power of text marketing with fellow marketers and business owners, I always ask the same two questions: 1. How many unread emails do you have in your inbox? More often than not the answer is hundreds, sometimes thousands. 2. How many unread texts messages do you have on your phone? More often than not the answer is zero. I am so confident in the response to question two that I’m usually willing put a stake on the outcome by giving £1 for every unread text message. Thankfully I have not had to hand over that much cash over the years as texts messages are normally immediately read.
“97.5% of SMS messages are read within five seconds of being received.”
Use good data
Use the information you have and talk to your recipients as individuals. Employ personalisation fields to manage this process in bulk. For example, our platform allows brands the ability to use six personalisation fields in each text.
Your SMS campaigns will only work if the quality of your data is good. If you are utilising SMS as part of an acquisition campaign, make sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket and use data from two or more DMA approved data suppliers. Be sure to regularly check and delete the numbers that can’t be reached to save time and money.
Don’t just shout; use brand-relevant keywords to facilitate two-way communication between your brands and their customers.
Regularly include a simple opt-out option in your texts. Always ensure you make it clear to your customers that they can stop receiving messages from you at any time.
Send time optimise
Remember the time zones of your lists so you don’t message them in the middle of the night.
Utilise this information.
Personalise “Response rates for mobile are four times higher than other direct marketing mediums.”
Make sure you manage your database properly, and avoid texting the same mobile marketing messages to the same people consecutively.
Send an offer Create a positive impression by deploying an exclusive offer in the message.
Integrate SMS with Rich Media Send Video, imagery and audio content via a text message for low cost to help drive conversion rates.
Summary Drive online SMS isn’t a channel to be used in isolation. If you have mobile content, deploy links to this in your messaging and drive revenues.
If you successfully use email within your marketing mix, I am confident that you will be impressed with the results you can achieve via text marketing.
Report Make sure you measure the effectiveness of each campaign over a defined timeline so you can improve it further next time.
Integrate All good SMS software has API functionality. Send automated messaging relating to system events: an account becomes inactive? Automatically send an SMS with a time-limited offer.
(Ofcom – 2011)
Keep it short
When running a text marketing campaign there are various key factors to consider in order to achieve the best results. Here are my top tips to a successful text campaign.
A single SMS message consists of 160 characters. For the most cost-effective campaign, you need to choose your words carefully. Don’t be afraid of sending out double SMS messages if needed.
Grant Fraser is Managing Director of Digitonic, a full service digital marketing agency based in the UK that specialises in mobile marketing. Digitonic has extensive iGaming experience and currently works with over a dozen of the leading brands in the industry across sportsbook, casino, bingo and lottery. Digitonic helps organisations acquire and retain players via innovative Text Tracking SMS campaigns and targeted Rich Media mobile advertising. Digitonic’s integrated mobile marketing campaigns have been proven to substantially increase betting behaviour by increasing player stake. Grant has over 11 years of marketing experience and is at the forefront of mobile digital marketing.
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The Social Affiliate a New Breed Michael Katz explores how the new breed of affiliate marketer needs to be equipped for today’s market as well as identifying a new gap in the market for content-aware affiliates. Over the past decade, the affiliate model has evolved around two factors: 1. The demand for players 2. The ability to consistently deliver quality players by quantity When advertising online gaming ten years ago, and channels of acquisition came to a halt (such as AdWords disallowing gambling campaigns), gaming companies began outbidding each other on over exaggerated CPAs and lucrative hybrid deals. Affiliates would find ways to deliver the traffic and the gaming companies would keep on paying. The goal of the affiliate was simple: be on the first page of Google for relevant gaming keywords. To onlookers, it all seemed so easy. But, as SEO competition grew, so did the cost of reaching the first page on Google and maintaining the position. To outsiders looking at the organic traffic driven by SEO, acquisition of players was cheap. To anyone involved in the complexities of SEO, the reality was that the price of acquiring organic players from SEO was anything but cheap. Over the past year, many articles have been written about social media, social gambling and the crossover of social gambling games to involve real money. Now, however, after all the talk the reality is starting to happen. Companies such as Gamesys, Betable, 888 and bwin.party are investing time, money and effort into their strategic partnerships in order to offer real money gambling games on Facebook and mobile.
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This is exactly the situation which has culminated in a whole new market with a new way of thinking for affiliate marketers. Gone are the days of large CPA deals. Now is the time for mass social player acquisition. And the key is knowing how to run Facebook ads.
“I believe that we are currently at the same stage for social and mobile gaming as we were in 2000 for ‘online gaming’.” Facebook campaigns As of October 2012, more games were played on Facebook than any other gaming platform in the world. In order to be truly successful, every game developed for the Facebook platform must have a mobile counterpart. The mobile application market is currently the biggest market in the world. The downside is that driving traffic solely to mobile is difficult at best. In order to get a mass player base, the order of events for a game developer are first to get a Facebook game; second, build up the mass and, finally, to use the mass to populate the mobile version. Mobile games, once downloaded, have better retention rates than games played directly on Facebook. With the use of push notifications, it is easier to stay in touch with users. The key is generating users via Facebook utilising the Facebook ads interface and only then with a substantial player base on the Facebook
app, giving these players the ability to play on mobile. Here are some key tips for running Facebook advertising campaigns without the use of any third-party API software. 1. Test many images to find out which image gets the best CTR, the highest number of conversions and the most value per user. 2. Text: change the header and body text and alternate the versions using the images. Figure out the best performing using the above matrix and cut down on the non-performing ads. 3. Bid higher to get started and decrease the bid once the CTR begins to grow. 4. Target based not only on interests but also on application and fan page names. 5. Apply all of these parameters and create campaigns segmented into groups based on age, gender and nationality. Using Google chrome, install the Facebook power edit to manage bulk advertising campaigns without the cost of expensive third-party API services. Mastering Facebook advertising depends on the margin of what you’re paying per user and what you’re receiving per user from affiliate programs. Remember, if the click to install rate is one in three, the cost of a user is three times the click price, so be very careful when selecting the click price. Sign up to one or two social game affiliate programs and test it out. Here is a guide to user acquisition prices using Facebook ads to run campaigns for social games. Pay close attention as you
“The current gap in the market leaves room for a completely unbiased app review site. In an age where content is king, it seems strange that ‘ultimate’ app directory sites have not become more common.”
will probably never see information this published anywhere: Facebook User Acquisition Prices for Social Games Campaigns by Country Country
$0.60 to $1.20
$0.75 to $1.30
$0.75 to $1.35
$0.25 to $0.60
$0.15 to $0.30
$0.30 to $0.70
Use these figures only as a rough guide when looking at the payout offered by affiliate programs.
Gap in the market I am frequently asked how to drive traffic to mobile games and apps. The obvious answer is to be shown as a featured app on the first page of the app store. Alternatively, be seen high up in the list of apps in the recently launched Facebook App Center. After all, these are the new methods of search and the place where people go to find new apps and games. The current gap in the market leaves room for a completely unbiased app review site. We live in an age where content is king
and opinions can be heard from one side of the world to the other. So it seems strange that ‘ultimate’ app directory sites have not become more common. Such a site should be written for both web and mobile and search optimised based on the long-tail keywords of every application name. The only site currently doing anything remotely like this is appdata.com. As the rise of social and mobile gaming grows, the need for traffic is inevitable. Personally, I believe that we are currently at the same stage for social and mobile gaming as we were in 2000 for ‘online gaming’. The affiliates who were there first staked a claim to their territory and, although not all of the early pioneers came away winning big, there was definitely a huge majority that struck it rich from being in the right place at the right time. Affiliates have predominantly been ahead of the game when it comes to SEO,
user acquisition and the technology to grow these elements. Nothing, apart from a slight shift in business model and a small change of focus, is different now. For affiliates who have missed the boom times of gaming, now is your time to get ahead. Social interactions, social gaming, social media, social gambling and the social affiliate – a new breed of affiliate. MIChaeL KatZ is CEO and founder of Sociarati Media, a full service social media marketing agency specialising in strategy and campaign planning for the online gaming industry. Michael also specialises is social affiliate marketing. Michael has been a part of the online gaming industry since 2002 and has specialised in social media since 2010. Michael can be contacted by email at Michael@sociaratimedia.com.
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Visions for the Future With the New Year fast approaching and with this issue of iGB Affiliate straddling the transition between a largely fruitful 2012 and the promise of 2013, we assembled a panel of esteemed voices from the industry to share their visions for the 12 months ahead.
MARKET OVERVIEW Simon Burridge CEO, Virgin Games As 2012 draws to a close and, once again, the crystal ball is dusted down to see what looks likely to happen in the year ahead, it is worth reflecting that, whilst 2012 saw some real progress as the industry shook itself down and readied itself for the new territories becoming regulated, 2013 is, I believe, the year when things are really going to start happening. So what are my predictions? Firstly, there will be no change to the UK tax regime on online gambling. It is coming but there are significant obstacles in the way, not least more pressing matters for the UK government to deal with, and I think it is more than likely that it will not be until 2015 at the earliest when this change will come into effect. Secondly, in preparation for more jurisdictions to become regulated, particularly in the US, there will be a series of mergers and consolidations. These will be driven by the paramount need to combine the ability to secure the necessary licences with an experienced operator, a sizeable war chest and a powerful brand. Landbased casinos in the US will be looking, if they haven’t already done so, to party with proven online experience and expertise. For poker, the lines are already being drawn, but the possibility of casino and bingo being
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added to the mix will make this a strategic imperative. The current preoccupation with social gaming will continue as operators seek to gain a march by signing up free players in advance of regulation. Thirdly, mobile and tablets will become increasingly important to the industry as the need to deliver games to players when and how they want to receive them becomes a must-have rather than a luxury. Games are already being designed around mobile and tablets rather than merely shoehorning the PC versions onto the new channels. Finally, regulation will begin to happen in the US. It is no longer a question of ‘if’ but a question of ‘when’, and 2013 will be the year it starts to happen. The re-election of the Obama administration, with its much softer line on Internet gambling than its Republican rivals, is good news and means the progress made thus far won’t be knocked off course by the strong anti-gambling view that has typically gone hand-in-hand with US Conservative social values. Fasten your seat belts. It is going to be a bumpy ride.
an evil Penguin, and the yet-to-be-fullyrealised power of authorship are all topics that have been covered. However, there is much work to be done to fully maximise the benefits of the knowledge we now have.
Content Not much has changed in the fact that content is important, except that it is quality over quantity that is important, which many people still don’t understand. I had a conversation with an SEO where he questioned pricing on quality blog posts because he could get “articles for $10”. A $10 article is worth $10, and if that is all you think of your marketing efforts, that is all Google will think of it too. Content is also bigger than copy. Images, including photos and illustrations, as well as video have amazing viral capabilities. They are made to be embedded and shared and where copy has been highly commoditised, images and video still seem to carry weight with publishers.
Connections With the roll out of Penguin everyone is looking for better, scalable link options. Everyone is looking to guest posting, but they are missing some key points:
SEO Dave Snyder CEO, SteelCast The biggest changes in search marketing that will take shape in 2013 have already rolled out in 2012. An ever changing Panda,
1) Stop focusing on exact match anchor text. Nowhere is this more of an issue than in the gaming space, where you have had this concept branded into your brain. 2) Who wrote the post is as important as where the post is. Start building an
authorship profile for your writers, and utilise for your content and content you place elsewhere. When finding sites to place content on and connect your content with, if you focus on quality over quantity you are doing it right.
Curation Great content alone doesn’t get visibility on every site, and that is unfortunate. Don’t be afraid to give your content a push, but do it right. Social networks have given us strong ad platforms to manage such visibility, and their costs and time to learn comes at a low price. And so SEO boils down to some timeless factors, and not much will change in 2013. The question is whether you are going to act now or continue to wait to change your strategy. The game has changed, and believing the old tactics will work is going against all the information we have.
PAYMENTS R Paul Davis LLD, Managing Director Counting House Ltd The primary factors likely to influence the flow of payments onto gaming sites and out to affiliates in the next year will be the increasing trends of national regulation, consolidation, overcrowding, and maturing of the financial cyberspace. There is also a distinct possibility in many countries of abrupt intercession by government authorities. Payments is an area which is attractive for governmental agencies looking to block or disrupt gaming activity. The most prominent cases are, of course, the ‘Black Friday’ indictments in the USA, which concentrate on alleged financial misdeeds. ‘Follow the money’ is the mantra. Other countries seem poised to follow, and strong legislation in countries like France, the Netherlands, Norway and Singapore is hindering efforts of offshore operators to grow those profitable markets.
Work-arounds, like e-Wallet providers, have seen growth in these countries, but it can only be a matter of time before someone gets a serious reminder that breaching the law is not a great business idea. It could be anywhere, but Israel, India, Norway, South Africa and China (again) are good candidates. Consolidation, a hallmark of 2012, is likely to continue. It goes hand-in-hand with the overcrowding of the e-Wallet and ‘alternative payments’ markets. We have seen Optimal Payments consume Neovia/Neteller, and several start-ups in the European ‘fast bank payments’ market appear to be struggling to achieve sufficient penetration. We expect to see mergers or joint ventures between some of these, and their consumption by the large global players like Skrill. Russia has so many gaming payments e-Wallets that some concentration is inevitable, while all over the world the major blue chip payments companies are consuming gaming specialists at a rate of knots in pursuit of volume and velocity. As player sign-up saturates in mature markets like the UK and Ireland, operators are increasingly interested in the hot developing markets. Understanding of Asian betting is growing; South America (especially Brazil and Argentina, despite the questionable legality of gaming products there) is viewed as a top potential growth area. As banks are generally gamingunfriendly, we can expect to see continued birth and re-birth of alternative payment methods to assist players in the new territories. Paradoxically, though, there is also indication of some growth in traditional payment methods in the matured markets, with several banks, having got over their initial US-focused paranoia, re-enter gaming payments business as they seek to replace the profits from less favoured areas of business (lending, in particular). The most interesting development to follow in the world this year is likely to be a whole new field of payments specialisation for the new legal gaming markets in the USA: how will Visa and MasterCard cope with Nevada online?
http://60secondmarketer.com/blog/2011/10/18/more-mobile-phones-than-toothbrushes http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/40-of-tablet-and-smartphone-owners-use-them-while-watching-tv http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/opinion/columns/8188.html
What does this mean for affiliates in particular? It is likely that the range of choices for how to be paid will increase if you are in an emerging market, but decrease or stabilise if you are in a mature market. The over-reaching, global enterprises like Skrill, PayPal and Amazon are here to stay, direct payment onto Visa and MasterCard branded instruments is likely to see increased use due to increased take-up by the issuing banks, and use of older, stable products like cheques and vouchers seems likely to continue undaunted.
MOBILE Daphna Silverman Director of Business Development, Spiral Solutions ●●Fact:
There are 6.8 billion people on the planet; 4 billion of them use a mobile phone. Only 3.5 billion use a toothbrush.1 ●●Fact: 91 percent of adults have their mobile phone within arm’s reach 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, according to Morgan Stanley. ●●Fact: 42 percent of tablet users report using their device while watching TV on a daily basis.2 ●●Fact: 70 percent of searches by PC users lead to action within a month. Mobile users reach that level in a single hour.3 The fact is, mobile popularity is skyrocketing. More users are adopting Smartphones and tablets creating a completely unique market that behaves differently from PC users. “There’s an app for that” is more than just Apple’s famous advertising slogan. It relates to how the world has learnt to rely on mobile apps for everything from maps to flashlights to photo editing to games. Online casinos are no exception. In the past year, there has been a huge increase in mobile casino activity, both in terms of usage and player value. While PC players previously dominated the online casino market, the balance is shifting towards mobile, as lifetime values
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of mobile players rise sharply. Mobile casino players expect their mobile casino apps to be easy to navigate, run smoothly, and effectively utilise the features offered by the device for instinctive operation. A touch, a slide, a pinch or flip should respond as the player expects. Today’s mobile casino technology provides this user-friendly experience on the most popular Smartphones and tablets, and this trend is sure to continue in the coming year. For affiliates, the latest mobile casino platforms, especially the advanced HTML5 platform with its HD graphics, offer all the benefits of a native app without going through an app store. This enables affiliates to accurately track and monitor their mobile players as they do for their online traffic. As operators gain a greater understanding of how players use their mobile devices, unnecessary steps in the game play flow are eliminated, revealing a seamless, intuitive path to a highly entertaining experience. In addition to this optimisation, more banking methods are developing mobile-friendly versions, giving players more choices and simplifying transactions. These changes are bringing higher conversion and retention rates, which are certain to continue to rise. Another noteworthy trend is the increase in mobile search and the demand for mobile casinos. Today, one out of every seven searches originates from a mobile device and over 20 percent of website traffic is from mobile. Therefore, it is crucial that affiliates offer a mobile version of their sites and optimised mobile gaming platforms to their players, in order to take advantage of this valuable and growing traffic source.
devices, such as All Slots Mobile Casino and BrightShare that offer strategies and targeted marketing tools for mobile traffic. The mobile market is attractive and growing at an astronomical rate – it is not one to be ignored in 2013.
Understanding social gaming
An online casino affiliate who is looking to expand into the mobile market would do well to look for an operator with an affiliate program that supports a robust mobile offering, with great games and optimised tools for all kinds of mobile
Firstly, 2013 must bring a better understanding of the inherent differences between social gaming and real money gambling in a social setting. There is a seismic difference between the two, yet they are widely and mistakenly used as
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SOCIAL Aideen Shortt iGaming Consultant and Author of the iGaming Business Social Gaming Report 2012 saw social gaming fully emerge into the conscience of the gambling industry’s operators, starting in January with IGT’s $500 million purchase of Double Down, joining other operators (such as 888 with its Mytopia games suite) who have social divisions, albeit functioning to various degrees of success. Later in the year, bwin.party joined the social gaming mix with the establishment of a new social games studio called ‘Win’ and a $50 million commitment to the space. In fact, over $1 billion has already been spent by gambling companies in the social gaming space and revenue generated is already in the hundreds of millions, with the largest market being the USA where traditional online gambling is illegal. With Zynga moving into real money poker in a partnership with bwin.party, Facebook launching the network’s first real money gambling product, Bingo Friendzy from Gamesys, and others such as Slingo announcing a partnership with Betable to allow real money gaming, 2013 is likely to see continued and widespread M&A activity. However, there are some genuine misconceptions and issues that are also likely to come to the fore in the next 12 to 18 months that need to be acknowledged and addressed.
interchangeable terms. The concept of true ‘social games’ is unlocking more and more content, consumables are the prize and game models range from casino-style games (e.g. Plumbee’s Mirrorball slots) to turn-based (e.g. Words with Friends) or resource management games such as FarmVille or CityVille which arguably kicked the whole sector off. Gambling operators will need to be clear about their motivations in the social gaming space – is the activity for CRM purposes, generating brand awareness in a new market such as the US, or a new, standalone revenue stream? The demographics of social gamers are significantly different, as are the business models and product structures, yet far too many gambling operators look at their current world as the ‘normal’ model and see everything else, including social gaming, as a support function of that. Using social games simply as part of the acquisition funnel is doomed to fail. Although the user revenue from casino-style social games is significantly more than leisure-type games – reportedly anywhere between double and five or six times greater – the average revenue is quite low. Plumbee has reported a lifetime value of about $1 to $5 per user. This is vastly different from active casino players yet social gaming has a higher base cost in hardware and architecture with operators having to support a massive audience for the monetisation of just a few – typically between two and five percent. Unless gambling operators fully grasp the need for social gaming to be profitable from day one, 2013 will bring a lot of failed attempts to the space.
Legislation Currently, social gaming is effectively regulated by the social networks themselves, who typically have rigid and heavily enforced guidelines covering what can and cannot be done. However, there is already a question mark over the legislation of both social games in general and casino-style social games in particular. Ralph Topping, CEO of William Hill,
has taken a very public stance that the sector needs to be officially regulated by the UK Gambling Commission and has stated that the company is forgoing the “potentially lucrative business opportunity until appropriate regulation is in place”. This flies in the face of opinion by social games operators who believe that the costs associated with changing the business model and accommodating reporting, taxation and registration processes would be prohibitive given the low user value versus high user base. The SGA and RGA have addressed the topic in several conferences and have highlighted that one of the key issues is the concept of users receiving ‘money or money’s worth’. As social gaming in its truest sense does not currently fall into this category, it is likely that the debate will rumble on into the next year and while there is some expectation that regulation will be put into place, there is simultaneously a fear that it will be done by gambling legislators, which would not be desirable, and possibly not fully address the fact that the commercial, player and product models are all dramatically different to traditional gambling.
INVESTMENT IN SOCIAL GAMING Melissa Blau Business and Finance Editor, iGaming Business Ever since William Hill CEO, Ralph Topping published his controversial blog in July last summer (www.ralphtopping.com/ social-gaming/), the subject of social casino gaming and regulation has been at the forefront of every gaming conference. Mr Topping vehemently states William Hill’s lack of presence in the social gambling sector is a direct result of the controversial nature of social casino gaming and the lack of regulation. There could be some truth to this, and yes, it has sparked the debate. However, there could also be another reason for William Hill’s lack of presence in social casino-style gaming. William Hill is certainly not the only gaming operator without a social casino presence. In fact, the
vast majority of direct-to-consumer gaming operators do not have any presence in social casino gaming, and those operators that are offering it are often doing so feebly. Why? Because it’s expensive to do it right. Offering a social casino gaming app (Facebook, mobile or otherwise) requires a tremendous amount of resources both financially and in hiring industry-specific personnel. It is not something one just dabbles in. The online gaming industry has grown up inherently as a business-to-business sector. With the exception of sportsbetting risk management, the vast majority of operators do not build and manage their own games or even their own backend platform for that matter. The social casino gaming market, however, is quite the opposite. It is inherently a business-toconsumer industry with very few companies offering a B2B service or willing to partner with a brand and cut them in on a revenue share. Welcome to the world of 1.0 – a world where fast moving start-ups don’t want to be slowed down by slow moving brands – a world where everyone is determined to be the next DoubleDown Casino. So what does an operator have to do to get some attention? Buy into it. Companies such as bwin.party recently did, realising that in order to have a differentiated product they need to commit financial resources. Caesars was the first operator to take the plunge with the acquisition of Playtika for an estimated total price (with the earn-out) of $125 million to $150 million. Kudos to the company’s insight and for jumping in first. IGT followed suit shortly after with its acquisition of Double Down Interactive for a whopping $500 million (with the earnout). The Double Down price tag certainly sparked the greedy side of people. Every social casino gaming developer quickly sought to become the next Double Down, and why not? Double Down didn’t have first mover advantage, Playtika did. Double Down came so far and so quickly. This is a nascent industry and anyone can be a winner, especially when the stakes are this high. Many developers believe that partnering with an operator or big brand could possibly pull them off course or slow
them down, and they aren’t wrong. Any venture capitalist would tell you that focus is critical to being a winner. The burst in the casino gaming sector certainly made it tough for existing operators to figure out what their seat is at the table. Operators have been quickly realising they need to be ‘in it to win it’. They need to commit financial resources if they want something different. Betfair and Paddy Power put their hat in the ring and acquired their social gaming presence; bwin.party upped the ante with an investment of $50 million and then furthered its strategic relationship with Zynga. Ladbrokes has now been circling the waters looking at investing into the sector as well. As for William Hill, no rumours have been circling as it continues to stand its ground, for better or worse. The explosion of the social casino gaming market has certainly kicked M&A and strategic investing up a notch as operators continue to figure out their social casino gaming strategies. Sitting back is no longer an option for tier 1 operators. And what about the B2B side of the business? It is certainly an option but remains in its infancy. Those who are offering it are making great traction, such as NYX Interactive and Enteraction. Operators and big brands are still hoping this side of the business continues to grow as alternatives are nice to have. Hopefully 2.0 is just around the corner, and with it comes the further development of the B2B side of the social casino gaming business. In some of my latest discussions with social gaming developers, I am starting to sense a number of the well established entrepreneurial game developers are beginning to warm to the idea of working with an operator or branded partner. Last year, Sean Ryan, Facebook’s head of Game Partnerships, said it best with his insight into the market: those who want to win in 2.0 will need to partner with a large brand. His foresight is finally resonating with successful gaming developers. For now though, social casino gaming has certainly changed the landscape of the M&A environment. If you want in, you must buy in.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
Online Poker Affiliates Uncle Sam Needs You (but may not want you, perhaps) If you have actual US online poker marketing experience in the last six years, you face a problem if Reid/Kyl’s proposal passes into federal law. Since I gave a presentation at the Barcelona Affiliate Conference on October 12, 2012, we have seen the outcome of the US elections; bottom line results of little difference to online gaming prospects. However, as details of the Reid/Kyl Proposal have emerged, so have mixed messages for gaming affiliates from possible federal outcomes. Curiously eager to start at the bottom of the poker marketing learning curve, the Reid/Kyl Section 114 language imposes a death penalty on licensee/operators who contract for any use of any “covered asset”, a term which describes many affiliate attributes: (1) Covered asset — the term “covered asset” means any asset specifically designed for use and used in connection with the operation of an Internet gambling facility that offered, accepted, or made available bets or wagers involving persons located in the United States after December 31, 2006, including the following: (A) Any trademark, trade name, service mark, or similar intellectual property that was used to identify any aspect of an Internet gambling facility to the customers of such facility. (B) Any database of customer information or customer list of individuals residing in the United States who made bets or wagers with an Internet gambling facility. (C) Any derivative of a database or customer list described in subparagraph (B). (D) Software and hardware relating to the management, administration, development, testing, or control of an Internet gambling facility. Similarly, see also the Reid/Kyl definition of a “significant vendor”.
Affiliate-friendly states Since Reid/Kyl is unlikely to pass, which states are likely to have affiliate-friendly emerging gambling markets?
iGB Affiliate december/january 2012/13
Speculation at this point (November 7, 2012) about which states are going to be affiliatefriendly unfortunately is too vague to be useful or actionable intelligence for you. We will know more perhaps by February, 2013. Accordingly, I would prefer to highlight in this article the one state which has already acted in the affiliate licensing space, Nevada.
Does Nevada present the best hope for poker affiliates in US markets? Compared to the proposed federal language, Nevada’s attitude looks like the land of milk and honey. The outgoing Chairman of the Gaming Control Board remarked at its September 6 meeting, that Nevada ‘gets’ the role of online affiliates in the poker eco-system. Nevada is driven to ‘get it right’, to protect its existing economy, retain its operators’ focus on their US business, and leverage its Las Vegas brand and those of its operators. In September, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved an affiliate marketing license for PokerTrip Enterprises, Inc. Nevada policy makers reject the ‘if you build it, they will come’ approach and recognise that attracting online customers requires more than launching sites and using re-hashed bricks-andmortar marketing techniques. The as-yet unresolved matters, however, are the means for and the degree to which former USfacing affiliates can ‘come in from the cold’. An interesting colloquy preceded the actual September 20 vote by the Gaming Commission approving PokerTrip Enterprises as the first licensed online poker affiliate marketer. The Commission made clear it viewed affiliate marketing as a needed resource for the industry and an educational resource for themselves as regulators. There seemed a clear consensus
among members as to the importance of affiliate marketing in learning about player preferences among prospective operators. The PokerTrip CEO (Jon Friedberg, see his column on page 30) was asked to come back to the Commission in six months or a year to share his experiences with the emerging Nevada-based online poker industry, as he would have a finger on the pulse of developments. This seemed an extraordinary outreach for a cooperative relationship, one which should be welcomed by affiliates. 1. Nevada regulators consider theirs to be a ‘work-in-progress’ of necessity, most recently revising the licensing structured ‘classes’ along risk-driven investigatory levels, rather than by classing suppliers by strict definition. Nevada is a small market and allows for both regulatory and operator adjustments as both move forward. 2. Adoption of a Master-Sub affiliate model was addressed informally by CAP representatives in meetings with Board members, but expressly written into the licensing conditions issued to the first approved affiliate marketing license. (A copy of the approving conditions for a Master-Sub model will be a handout for the LAC session.) Online affiliates will be able to choose to either get licensed themselves or negotiate for a spot as a sub-affiliate under a licensed Master Affiliate model. 3. While Nevada does have rigorous investigatory requirements for operators, affiliate licence applicants receive a less-than-full-blown review process, with a statutory $500 application fee and a $2,500 investigation deposit. This lowers the overall relative cost of entry to around $25,000 out of pocket. (The licensing cost for non-US entities may run much higher due to investigative burdens and a procedural need to present their application
merits locally in Nevada, twice. This is still an old-school, ‘get to know you’ process, which requires regulators to get comfortable with approved providers in a new arena, online gaming.) 4. How can current affiliate relationships with international poker networks be leveraged for the US market? Nevada has never ruled out cooperative ventures by its poker operators with non-US operators and regulators. Because Nevada is a very small intra-state market, the state conversely also seems likely to push as far as possible to open up access for its operators to both international player pools and its own licensees’ ROW launches. Liquidity, liquidity, liquidity is an acknowledged necessity. Several sources confirm that Nevada has held discussions with 12 other states and with non-US regulators to learn about their respective licensing, their operators and to explore player pooling regulatory mechanisms. It seems most unlikely to me that Nevada licensees who also may hold non-US licenses would be prohibited from pooling players. 5. Because Nevada’s regulatory model is market-focused, it does not overtly pick winners or create monopolies among approved market entrants. Nevada requires emerging online operators to bear the risk/ rewards of their launches. As one approved Nevada online operator remarked, “We want to make dumb mistakes cheaply”. As affiliate marketing need not involve investment of significant upfront costs, there should be an appetite for out-sourcing such services from any operator not owning a WSOP-size database and experienced online marketing expertise. 6. Nevada approval and development of online poker will influence other states also to move forward in 2013 without waiting for Capitol Hill. Because Nevada licensees, both as operators and suppliers, have extensive industry reach in other US states, Nevada presents the best hope for entry if we see the emergence of a de facto US national market, state-by-state. Indeed, Jim Mullen, MGM CEO, recently remarked to Reuters that state-by-state regulatory discussion have been ongoing to reach a multi-state compact and operating standards, while recognising each participating state’s ownership of gaming revenue and historic regulation. Nevada certainly seems expressly interested in hearing from experienced affiliates who already have in-roads among poker players in virtually every US market. Getting a relationship as a marketing
affiliate now, with established Nevada brands, should conversely carry over as those brands expand online into their other state markets. As mentioned, the as-yet unresolved matters are the means for and the degree to which ‘former US-facing affiliates’ can come in from the cold. I expect those issues to be resolved administratively and favourably, unless Reid/Kyl passes in January as presented. For experienced, practical state-level regulators, any issues which arise for applicants who never handled money or ran games seem less troublesome than approving former USfacing operators or payment processors. By the date of the London Affiliate Conference, we will all have a better sense of the future for such US-knowledgeable resources.
But, why should I consider a Nevada licence? It’s only one State I do not expect federal legislation to pass into US law in any relevant way. There is about a 20 percent chance in my book this session. One certainty is that no federal legislation will pass which is unfavourable to Nevada operators. (Savvy Nevada operators like Caesars are hedging their bets this year by reversing course and supporting the New Jersey efforts they undercut last year.)
With or without Reid/Kyl passage, Nevada will be at the forefront of US regulation. As most likely US online poker operators hold Nevada operating licences, they are prohibited from contracting with any online marketing affiliate who does not itself hold a Nevada licence or work as a sub-affiliate under a licensed Nevada affiliate. (It may develop that a New Jersey licensed operator, who also holds a Nevada licence, could work around this prohibition, but don’t expect anyone on the operator side to try and solve what might threaten their own licence.) As Nevada will seek to farm out its licensing expertise/ process either through federal law or as a reciprocal arrangement among states, a Nevada-approved affiliate licensee may get a ‘pass’ under complimentary regulatory schemes.
Be prepared My advice in Barcelona was to not rush out and apply for a licence yet. Just be prepared, or contract as a sub-affiliate with someone who already holds a licence.
How to prepare Present a clean operational record when the time arrives to either talk affiliate application or sub-affiliate status. This means that you cannot then currently provide the same services to US-facing operators. If you offered services to US-facing operators after passage of the UIGEA, I do not think that should disqualify you from consideration as a bright-line test – the settlement between the Department of Justice and PokerStars did not federally bar Stars from market re-entry if it could get licensed under applicable state laws. (Reid/Kyl, in seeking to undo that settlement would raise a serious five year bar to any operator using your data assets or players whose presentation was derived from your US data.) Consider presenting a simple structure for any licensing application or sub-affiliate relationship discussion. The more complex the ownership/history, the more expensive it becomes to undergo investigation. Keep in mind, Nevada contracts out much of the investigatory legwork, for which an hourly fee is charged.
David Gzesh (Gzesh Law Ltd) provides online gaming industry clients an understanding of their business issues and goals, whether they are affiliates, operators or prospective US licensees. David served for over eight years as CEO for a US-facing online poker network operator and software provider. David also brings legal expertise from over 20 years’ experience advising both online and B&M gaming operators in a number of jurisdictions, both in the US and overseas. As a General Member of the International Masters of Gaming Law, and the State Bar of Nevada Gaming Law Section, David provides an informed perspective on the reemerging US online gaming market(s) and regulatory development. He started up US Poker Marketing Affiliate, LLC this year dedicated to the “recycling” of assets suited for the emerging regulated US market. This includes getting regulatory acceptance of affiliate tools, acquiring recycling seized domain names, and assisting people or entities who can offer online poker expertise, as licensees or as subaffiliates to licensees. David@Gzeshlaw. com or +1-888-44-Gzesh.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
IgAmINg DATA CENTRE iGB Affiliate monitors the latest trends in data from information specialists comScore, Greenlight and PokerScout. The latest research from comScore provides us with the top five search engines in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America ranked by number of unique searchers and search visits for all search queries and highlights Googleâ€™s continuing dominance in global markets. Figures from Greenlight detail the composition of the UK search landscape for poker related queries in 2012 to date. The report also compiles the ten most searched short-tail terms for poker using Google AdWords analytics and the top ten poker sites ranked in order of their SEO visibility. Once again, PokerScout has very kindly granted iGB Affiliate access to some of its historical data which has allowed us to gain insight on just how the marketplace has changed since Black Friday, which struck on April 15, 2011. To highlight the changes, we have taken monthly average player counts from a selection of leading poker sites and networks for the month of March 2011 and then for October 2012, and devised the percentage difference over the period. The resulting data gives us an idea of just how the surviving poker companies have been affected over the period, with most experiencing significant decreases in player numbers.
TOP 5 SEARCH ENgINES BY REgION ASIA PACIFIC 30.5%
LATAm 45.1% EuROPE 55%
NORTH AmERICA 38.2%
11.3% Source - comScore
iGB Affiliate December/january Decemeber/january2012/13 2012/13
Monthly Average Player Counts Since Black Friday
0% Action / Chico Poker Network
Extraction/ Cake/ IGT Revolution Network Network
International iPoker Poker Network Network
Merge Gaming Network
Microgaming Netwok -3%
Ongame PacificPoker PartyPoker Network /888
PokerStars Sky Poker
Source - PokerScout
TOTAL INTERNET SEARCHES FOR POKER RELATED KEYWORDS
The top 10 poker-related search terms (Jan 2012 - Oct 2012)
Texas Holdem 3% Poker News Poker Rules 3% 4% Poker Games 6%
How To Play Poker
Free Online Poker
How To Play Poker 9%
Free Poker 16%
The top 10 websites overall (Jan-Oct) for poker-related search terms
No. of Searches
Free Online Poker 6%
Poker Hands 11%
Source: Google AdWords
Online Poker 10%
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
5th - 7th February 2013
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Mobile Campaign Optimisation for Affiliates 30 billion: this is the number of predicted online searches made for the year 2012 – on mobile devices alone, says Income Access’ Louis Deering. Given this forecast, the opportunity for affiliates to capitalise on the mobile trend remains lucrative. The future of marketing will not just utilise mobile, it is likely to monopolise it. Far more than a trend, mobile marketing is set to change the way advertising as a whole works; and in order to be a successful affiliate moving forward, capitalising on this new avenue is compulsory. By 2014/2015, mobile Internet usage is expected to surpass that of desktop use. The numbers speak for themselves, so for any affiliate looking to expand and grow their business in the coming years, mobile should become an important focus.
Significance and impact Consider the following: currently, there are more than six billion mobile subscribers in the world – that equates to 87 percent of its total population. According to Digital Buzz, there exist more than 1.2 billion unique mobile Internet users and in the past year, mobile searches have quadrupled to the point where one in seven searches is performed on a mobile device. Moreover, 71 percent of Smartphone users, having seen a captivating TV, press or mobile ad, will immediately conduct a mobile search. With rampant growth, the final impact that mobile will have on marketing is immeasurable. For affiliates, the reach that this channel presents is ripe with potential. There are numerous avenues to be pursued, among them mobile websites, mobile ads, mobile searches, mobile apps, mobile social networking, mobile email, and mobile text message marketing. Mobile websites offer users a customised experience tailored to their Smartphones. In Europe, 57 percent of the population aged 13 and over, makes use of mobile Internet (browser, app, or download), according to comScore MobiLens. Thus, mobile ads – which are created specifically for portable devices and target mobile users and trends (by incorporating PPC) – are gaining massive exposure. The same can be said for mobile searches, used by 29 percent of Europe’s population, according to mobiThinking; they work like their
desktop counterparts, and incorporate location into their results. Mobile apps, meanwhile, are installed directly onto Smartphones and can be used to locate users, while offering promotional and contact information. 28 percent of Europe currently uses apps on their Smartphones. Similarly, 18 percent of Europe favours mobile social networking. Mobile social network sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ can be accessed directly from Smartphones and all of these sites can be used for marketing purposes. Not surprisingly, the viability of email marketing as a tool for online marketers has undergone something of a resurgence as mobile email enables users to access their digital messages from any location. Currently, 22 percent of consumers in Europe check their email on their mobile devices. Furthermore, SMS text message marketing, (notwithstanding that mobile numbers must be obtained legally, and unsolicited SMS messages are considered spam), also presents marketing opportunities because it is accessible to all mobile phones (not just Smartphones). The majority of Europe with mobile access (83 percent) engages in text message activity.
Incorporating mobile into campaigns With mobile devices becoming a staple in modern day consumer behaviour and interaction, affiliates can take advantage of this trend by gradually incorporating mobile campaigns into their marketing mix. One of the ways this can be implemented is through targeting. By targeting a particular mobile device such as a tablet or specific phone model, affiliates will be in a better position to identify a specific audience and product suite optimised for their devices, thereby creating targeted campaigns for better conversion rates. There is little that can be gained from promoting a popular game to an audience using an iPad, for instance; if the game is not optimised for such a device it diminishes the customer’s user interaction and experience. Additionally,
by targeting specific mobile devices, affiliates can also keep their budget under control. Another important aspect is recognising mobile-specific promotions that allow customers to take action from their mobile device. Often, campaign expectations may not be met because the promotion is not suited to a mobile device and requires further action online or is less competitive than a similar campaign being advertised via a web campaign. Above all else, the best way to know whether a mobile promotion can be (effectively) incorporated into a campaign is through repeat testing.
Effective mobile employment When marketing on mobile, it is important to consider user motivation. Mobile consumption is all about impulse and speed; online marketers must acknowledge quicker and simpler messages, actions, and products. As such, it is imperative that mobile sites, and especially landing pages, are created to avoid negative mobile experiences and, ultimately, lost conversions. Furthermore, pages can (and should) be created for specific devices (Apple, Android, etc). Similarly, Google AdWords offers affiliates mobile-specific options that allow them to optimise their AdWords campaigns for the mobile market. The ads themselves should differ to those created for desktops, and should to be geo-targeted. Test for mobile-friendly keywords, optimise web pages for mobile devices and test the campaign on a regular basis. These final three points cannot be stressed enough. The world of marketing is rapidly evolving, and it’s largely due to the improvement and wide distribution of mobile devices. Its impact is enormous, reaching vast audiences that are destined to surpass an online audience, and will only grow larger in the years to come. By the year 2015, it has been estimated that global mobile advertising will reach $10 billion. Affiliates have plenty to look forward to and gain from the emergence of a mobile world.
iGB Affiliate December/january 2012/13
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Breaking down gambling markets into segments, niches and cells can be a big boost to conversion efforts. Here are the basics every gaming affiliate should know, by Michaela McNamara, Editor, CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. ARE YOU FOCUSING your SEO efforts on specific sectors of various gambling markets? If you’re not, you’re missing a big opportunity to better reach, and convert, players across the gaming demographic. A recent article on SEObook.com, ‘Three Ways to Break Down a Market’, provided some great tips for breaking down markets for effectively utilising your SEO efforts. We’ve taken their concept and adapted it specifically for gaming markets. Here’s what you need to know.
Market segments SEOBook describes market segments as groups of people that include: ● Benefit Segmentation: a group that’s looking for common benefits is a good one to target. In gaming, bonus hunters are a perfect example of this phenomenon. ● Demographic Segmentation: focusing on groups with similar demographic traits can help focus your gaming SEO efforts. In the next few months, we’ll see this in earnest when poker affiliates begin to chase Nevada poker players. ● Occasion Segmentation: put a bull’s-eye on those once-a-year bettors who pour
cash in gaming markets at World Cup or Super Bowl time. If ever there was a group to promote prop bets to, this would be the one. ● Usage Segmentation: these are folks who game in very specific intervals or gamble very specific amounts. For gaming affiliates, this may mean tailoring their marketing messages to coincide with tax refunds or end of the month pay days. ● Lifestyle Segmentation: lifestyle markets are people with activities or common interests. A good example of this could be WSOP players, online sports communities or even social gamers. Remember that none of these segments lives in a vacuum. You might find yourself targeting certain demographic sectors of the occasion segment if you’re feeling tightly focused. Without breaking down a market this way, testing your results can be very difficult.
Niches Segmentation is the first slice of your markets and niches break those segments down into even tighter groups. SEOBook defines them as being based on unique
needs. In the gaming world, sites like PokerStrategy.com do a nice job of serving groups like this. The nice thing about niches is that they allow you to draw out small groups from larger, more competitive pools.
Cells Cells are the smallest market segments you can think of and are uniquely suited to Internet marketing. These should be looked at as extremely specific opportunities. For example, if you’ve got football bettors who also consistently play in poker rooms, that’s a cell. Tailoring bonuses and other promotions to these micro-segments can really boost conversions.
And finally… None of the market breakdowns described here are really possible unless you have a good handle on who your customers are, and that’s not always easy to find out. Getting customers to fill out surveys and provide other information is a lot easier when it’s incentivised. Throw a free e-book or other promo into the mix and the job becomes a lot easier.
iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
7314 bet365 affiliates (148x52+3mm). 24/11/2011 15:38 Page 1
Welcome to the Market Place listings section of iGB Affiliate magazine. All listings are taken from the 2013 version of our iGB Affiliate Directory; a 150 page guide to the affiliate programs and service providers who are currently active within the iGaming sector.
Officially sponsored by
To request a free copy of this publication or to have your company listed please contact Ed Grundy on
Grande Vegas Casino
E: Ed@iGamingBusiness.com or T: +44 (0) 207 954 3527
advertising, Marketing & PR
Isle of Man Post Office
Lyceum www.lyceummedia.com Mojo/Olympian www.olympiangaming.com
Casino Affiliate Programs 888 www.888.com 24Play.com
Bingo Affiliate Programs
All You Bet www.allyoubet.org
Jackpot Party (Williams Interactive) www.jackpotparty.com Ladbrokes www.ladbrokes.com Liberty Slots www.libertyslots.eu Llama Gaming www.llamagaming.com Mansion (i-Affiliates) www.iaffiliates.com Mojo/Olympian www.olympiangaming.com Mr Green www.mrgreen.com Mybet www.mybet.com Nordic Gaming www.nordicbet.com Paddy Power
Rich Club Affiliates
RGS Malta Ltd
Affiliates United www.affutd.com Bet365 www.bet365.com BingoCams www.bingocams.co.uk
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bet365affiliates.com iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
All You Bet
www.stargames.com Trade Tracker www.tradetracker.com Victor Chandler www.betvictor.com
Financial Solutions 24 Option www.24option.com Aff Europe www.affeurope.com Neto Partners www.netopartners.com Premium Elite
Nordic Gaming www.nordicbet.com Paddy Power www.paddypower.com PAF www.paf.com PKR www.pkr.com Stan James
Lottery affiliate programs
Payment Solutions Intercash intercash.com Neteller www.neteller.com Best Pay Partners www.bestpaypartners.com
poker affiliate programs 888 www.888.com Affiliates United www.affutd.com Asian Logic
Bet365 www.bet365.com Coral www.coral.co.uk Intertops www.intertops.eu Ladbrokes www.ladbrokes.com Llama Gaming www.llamagaming.com Luxbet www.luxbet.com Merdian Bet
sKIll gaming affiliate Programs
www.mybet.com Nordic Gaming
www.bet365.com PAF www.paf.com Star Games www.stargames.com Trade Tracker www.tradetracker.com
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7314 bet365 affiliates (148x52+3mm). 24/11/2011 15:38 Page 1
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iGB Affiliate DECEMBER/JANUARY 2012/13
How the 2012 US Election Will Impact iGaming The hard fought 2012 election is in the history books in the United States, but what does it all mean for iGaming? Michaela McNamara, Editor at CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com offers a breakdown of what the online gambling industry can expect in the next four years. After one of the longest, most expensive and bitterly fought national elections in US history, the dust is settling on a political landscape that could be quite friendly to the iGaming industry. If you’re still celebrating Barack Obama’s win or nursing a broken heart that Mitt Romney isn’t the US President, here’s what you need to know about the outcome of the 2012 US elections as it relates to your career as an iGaming affiliate.
Obama re-elected Barack Obama’s historic re-election, on its own, doesn’t really change the picture for the gaming industry that much. After all, he already handed the iGaming industry a pretty sweet gift in December 2011 when the Department of Justice (DoJ) re-interpreted the federal Wire Act of 1961, effectively legalising online poker. It seems that Obama is content to let the states sort out online poker issues for themselves. The bigger story to watch is how the DoJ will handle New Jersey’s historic bid to overturn the US sportsbetting ban (PASPA). President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie bridged party lines during the super storm Sandy clean up and that could carry over into a softer line from the DoJ on sportsbetting.
iGB Affiliate december/january 2012/13
“With Congress getting ready for a lame duck session next month, this could be a good time to push through this gamechanging (federal) legislation.” Congress and the Senate Neither Nevada Senator Harry Reid, nor Arizona Senator Jon Kyl was up for re-election, so expect them to continue pushing a federal online poker bill. With Congress getting ready for a lame duck session next month, this could be a good time for them to push through this gamechanging legislation. One factor that could seriously slow down federal progress is a groundswell of opposition from state-level lottery commissioners. Commissioners from Kentucky and Massachusetts are saying that a federal bill ‘tromps’ on state sovereignty. Keep an eye this developing story.
Legalised vice Speaking of states’ rights, marijuana legalisation initiatives in several states could actually be good news for the online gambling industry. Voters in both Colorado and Washington voted ‘yes’ on measures legalising the possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use. This is a serious challenge to federal law that deeply
challenges lawmakers’ ability to implement the voters’ will. Anytime we see a thawing of attitudes towards vices of any kind, that’s good news for gaming. Whether they’re tired of fighting the drug war or just interested in raising tax revenues, an electorate that’s willing to legalise recreational drugs should be pretty friendly towards online poker.
Michaela McNamara is Editor at Casino Affiliate Programs. CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com (CAP) is the world’s largest online gaming affiliate marketing community, and is the Internet’s primary location for online gaming brands and affiliate marketers to come together and do business. CAP is owned by Affiliate Media, Inc., an independent online publishing company focused solely on affiliate marketing. Our experts gather, create, and publish information about affiliate marketing and share it with the larger worldwide community to help affiliates better promote leading Internet brands worldwide (and profit by doing so).
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