CLASH OF THE TITANS FACEBOOK VS GOOGLE SEO IS DEAD, LONG LIVE SEO AFFILIATE INSIGHT FROM GOOGLE GAMESYS ACQUIRES VIRGIN GAMES US AND EUROPEAN MARKET INSIGHTS INFORMATION, INSIGHT AND ANALYSIS FOR THE BUSINESS OF INTERACTIVE GAMING
CONTENTS 04 Events Calendar 06 Webmaster News 14 Power to the People: the Who of Content 16 The Importance of Branding in SEO 18 Going Global: the Domain, Folder or Sub-domain Dilemma 22 Rich Snippets Explained 24 What not to do in SEO in 2013 28 Interview: John Bridge, Managing Director, Affilicity 30 Clash of the Titans: Facebook takes on Google at its own Game As America prepares for the digital age of gaming, there are questions as to what role affiliates may play in that market. It appears, at present, that the importance of affiliates has yet to be realised by many of the major US casino groups. My prediction, however, is more hopeful than you may think. Unless bound by prohibitive legislation, there will be casino groups, albeit perhaps the smaller properties, that will turn to affiliates to help them compete with the giants. Once that happens, and American gaming entities see how much faster they can scale with their help, good affiliates will become an integral part of American iGaming.
34 SEO is Dead, Long Live SEO: Our Experts Quash the Rhetoric 39 Gamesys Acquires Virgin Games: Virgin Affiliates Migrated to Market-ace 44 The Google Game, with Eli Uzan, iGaming Industry Manager at Google Israel 47 How Important are Affiliates to US Land-based Operators? 48 Events, Entities and Edges: Google’s Knowledge Graph 50 How one of the Internet’s Ugliest Sites Creates Orders out of Chaos 53 Lessons in Mobile Engagement 56 2013 Predictions for Social and Mobile 58 Preparing for the Re-emergence of US Online Poker 60 State of the Union: US State iGaming Updates 62 PokerStars Acquires Atlantic City Footprint 64 Coming up on the Rails: the Liquidity Problem for US States 66 Never say Nevada: with Virgin Games Founder, Simon Burridge 68 State of the Union: EU Member State Updates 70 EU Reforms Data Protection Rules
Michael Caselli, Editor in Chief
72 UK Reforms: a Point of Consumption 75 The ASA on Advertising Online and in Social Media 78 The Gaming Affiliate Sector in France 80 SEO for the French Market 87 Leveraging Social Media 90 Niches and Markets to Watch in 2013 92 Online Casinos and the Future 95 Staying Ahead of the Bingo Game 96 Market Place 98 Marketing to Sports Bettors Editor in Chief: Michael Caselli firstname.lastname@example.org Editor: James McKeown email@example.com
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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
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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.
Amsterdam Affiliate Conference
London, UK April 24, 2013
Amsterdam, Netherlands June 11 – 14 , 2013
Barcelona Affiliate Conference and iGB Espana
iGaming Super Show
Barcelona, Spain October 3 – 6, 2013 www.igbaffiliate.com
AmstErdam, Netherlands June 11 – 14, 2013 iGaming Super Show – incorporating iGaming Business 4 Business; BeTS; mGaming and Social Gambling Summit: iGaming Executive Summit; PRiME; Amsterdam Affiliate Conference and Gaming in Holland. www.igamingsupershow.com
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
Some you win , some you win.
Visit us at LAC stand 17
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CHALLENGES NEW JERSEY SPORTSBETTING LAW THE UNITED STATES Department of Justice has joined with some of the nation’s professional and collegiate sports leagues in challenging the state of New Jersey’s attempt to legalise sportsbetting at its twelve casinos and four horseracing tracks. Federal authorities filed papers against plans by the eastern state to begin issuing sportsbetting licenses and stated that the intervention was ‘for the purpose of defending the constitutional challenges to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)’. “We are pleased that the Department of Justice has intervened in this lawsuit to ensure states are complying with federal law,” said Donald Remy, Executive Vice-President and General Counsel for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which initially filed a suit against New Jersey’s plans last summer in partnership with the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL). The NCAA and the four professional leagues claim that legalised sportsbetting
in New Jersey would ‘irreparably harm’ sports while NBA Commissioner David Stern went one step further and stated that New Jersey had “no idea what it’s doing and doesn’t care because all it is interested in is making a buck or two.” Owing to a brief experiment with legalised parlay sportsbetting in 1976, the states of Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon were grandfathered from 1992’s PASPA prohibition. New Jersey claims that this is unconstitutional because it favours some states over others while additionally asserting that the law presents a challenge to state rights by ‘commandeering’ the legislative process. At the time of printing, New Jersey had until February 1 to respond to two briefs challenging the constitutionality of its sportsbetting law, which was approved via a referendum in 2011 before being signed by Republican Governor Chris Christie a year ago. The state will then be required to present its case alongside the sports leagues and the Department of Justice on February 14 before United States District Court Judge Michael Shipp.
“I didn’t expect the Department of Justice to come in and intervene in the case but it’s no great moment,” said New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, a proponent of legalised sportsbetting in the state and a key sponsor of the legislation. Joe Brennan Jr, Chairman of iMEGA, added: “While the decision by the US Department of Justice is disappointing, it has little bearing on the heart of the matter – that this law preventing New Jersey from regulating sportsbetting is unconstitutional. DoJ’s presence will make it more interesting, but won’t make a difference. New Jersey only wants to do what Nevada and Delaware are free to do – regulate and tax sportsbetting – to save Atlantic City’s casinos and the state’s race tracks. It is confusing why the Obama administration would oppose a law approved in New Jersey by a two-to-one margin in a reliable ‘blue state’. And though it’s not likely that US Attorney-General Eric Holder made this decision based on his recent work as counsel and crisis manager for the NFL, it is legitimate to ask why the DoJ would side with billionaire team owners over the voters of New Jersey.”
UK ‘HAS NO DESIRE’ TO REGULATE SOCIAL GAMES THE CHAIRMAN OF the UK’s Gambling Commission has revealed that it has no intention of widening its regulatory scope to include social games but wants the industry to do a better job at self-regulation. In a speech to more than 100 industry experts at London’s City Hall in January, Phillip Graf outlined how he hoped the Gambling Commission’s future approach to social gaming would be shaped by effective industry self-regulation while highlighting the continuing work in assessing the potential risks. “We have no absolute desire to widen our regulatory scope but we will continue to assess the nature and size of these risks,” said Graf. “A lot depends on whether those who provide gambling-like social games consider the potential risks to players and implement the necessary responsible gambling consumer protection measures. I would suggest it is in their interests to self-regulate if they want their business model to be sustainable.
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“At the same time we already expect licensed operators to build in social responsibility to all that they do including as they innovate and take advantage of social media, promotion and delivery of responsible yet attractive products to their customers.” Graf stated that the Gambling Commission is concerned about the growth in social gambling-type games due to the potential risks to young players and the possible lack of consumer protections. In addition, he declared that he also had worries over the implications of these kinds of titles being used to offer or promote commercial gambling. “It is important to say at the outset that we certainly do not wish to regulate where we don’t have to,” said Graf. “If there are minimal risks to the public or those risks are being properly managed and mitigated either by responsible providers and users or by existing mechanisms, for example the OFT or Ofcom, then there will be no need for us to act.
“Conversely, if social gambling and use of social media appears to increase the risks of problem gambling or consumer exploitation, then we need to work with fellow regulators and government to mitigate them. And we have the tools to do that. We have commissioned a review of what is known from gambling research and from analogous fields about the potential risks. This will be published shortly as a discussion draft. Also, we have asked the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board (RGSB) for its advice on the potential risks and we are talking to other regulators as work is already underway in other jurisdictions such as Australia. “When would we want to advise government to bring social gambling unambiguously within the scope of gambling regulation, which can be done by secondary legislation? Only if we believe there are risks that could not be addressed by some combination of responsible self-regulation by operators and targeted use of existing consumer protection powers, for example those of the OFT, Ofcom and the ASA.”
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Scientific Games wins Iowa Lottery Contract American lottery technology provider Scientific Games Corporation has signed a two-year contract to supply the Iowa Lottery Authority with a range of instant ticket games and related services. New York-based Scientific Games revealed that it was selected following a competitive procurement process with the deal including four one-year extensions and revenues based on a price-per-thousand tickets basis. “The Iowa Lottery is well recognised as one of the most innovative and forward-looking lotteries in the United States,” said Jim Kennedy, Printed Products President and Chief Marketing Officer for Scientific Games. “We are proud to be chosen by the Iowa Lottery Authority once again and are confident the instant games we produce together will be fun and exciting while maintaining the highest standards of security and integrity.” The Iowa Lottery began operations in 1985 and last year generated sales of $310.9 million with $188.8 million of this total coming from instant ticket games. Players have won more than $2.9 billion in prizes over the past 28 years while over $1.4 billion has been generated for state programmes designed to benefit all Iowans. “We have cultivated a great relationship with Scientific Games over the years in both our lottery systems and instant ticket businesses,” said Terry Rich, Chief Executive Officer for the Iowa Lottery Authority. “Scientific Games has helped us to achieve back-to-back record years of instant ticket sales and we are pleased we can continue this relationship in the hope of raising more revenues for the citizens of Iowa.” ComTrade to Launch a Dedicated Gaming Company ComTrade has announced the launch of a dedicated gaming company. As an independent company, ComTrade Gaming will be fully committed to the development of gaming products and tailored solutions, with further emphasis on its own IP development and product portfolio.
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Frank Fahrenkopf to leave the AGA The American Gaming Association (AGA) trade group has announced that Frank Fahrenkopf has decided to step down as its President and Chief Executive Officer from the end of June. Fahrenkopf has been the organisation’s only Chief Executive Officer following its inception in July 1995 and revealed that he has been in discussions with members of its board of directors regarding succession planning for the past two years before reaching a consensus last month. “I have enjoyed my time at the helm of this incredible organisation and am proud to have represented an industry that provides tens of millions of men and women with the best entertainment value in the world,” said Fahrenkopf. “It has been a true honour to work with so many passionate and innovative leaders as we have moved the industry forward during the past 17 and a half years.” The AGA stated that an executive search firm has been retained to identify Fahrenkopf’s successor while he is to be
retained in a consultancy role after June 30 and assist with the transition through to the end of 2013 at the least. “Too many people have played a major part in our success for me to name each of them but I would like to acknowledge the AGA board members who have provided the support we needed to succeed and, of course, the staff, both current and former, who made coming into the office each day a pleasure,” said Fahrenkopf. “I look forward to continuing to work with this talented group in the coming months as we transition to this new era for the AGA. Their experience leaves the organisation in very good hands.” Fahrenkopf worked as Chairman for the Republication National Committee for six of Ronald Reagan’s eight years in the White House and led the party through successful Presidential elections in 1984 and 1988. He continues to serve as Co-Chairman for the Commission on Presidential Debates, which conducts the general election Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates.
William Hill sees Online Results Boost Growth William Hill has issued a trading update regarding its full-year financial performance revealing that it expects total net revenues for the 53-week period to be twelve percent higher year-on-year. The company is due to release its official fourth-quarter and full-year results on March 1 and anticipates that overall operating profit for the twelve months to the end of December had risen 20 percent when compared with the same period in 2011. William Hill stated that its 2012 performance had been ‘strong’ with operating profit expected to be approximately £330 million, helped in part by a 27 percent year-on-year boost in online net revenues alongside a six percent rise in retail earnings. The operator disclosed
that online sportsbook net revenues for 2012 are expected to be up by 50 percent year-on-year due to a 36 percent boost in amounts wagered and a gross win margin that improved almost one percent over 2011 to 7.9 percent. In addition, it anticipates reporting a 14 percent improvement in gaming net revenues due to ‘good performance’ from its Playtech Casino and Vegas Casino brands. William Hill launched an iPad sportsbook app in December and said that initiatives such as these will see it report that mobile sportsbook turnover for the whole of 2012 had grown 260 percent yearon-year and should account for ‘around one-third of all sportsbook turnover’ for the final month of the year.
High 5 Games Hits a Million Facebook MAUs Land-based, online and mobile games developer High 5 Games has announced that its High 5 Casino social Facebook product recently surpassed one million monthly active users less than six months after launching. High 5 Casino had its soft
launch in September and currently features more than 30 casino games, many of which are previews of real-money titles that will go on to premier with iGaming operators and in land-based venues, being enjoyed by in excess of 350,000 daily active users.
LOTTOMATICA TO REBRAND LOTTERY AND GAMING giant Gruppo Lottomatica SpA has announced that it intends to submit a plan to shareholders that will see it further integrate its various business interests by changing its name to GTECH SpA. Rome-based Lottomatica purchased American gaming and lottery technology and services firm GTECH Corporation in August of 2006 while December saw it rebrand its consolidated Spielo International and GTECH G2 subsidiary as Spielo G2.
“What we have achieved since the acquisition of GTECH is the creation of a global vehicle to address opportunities across the entire gaming continuum,” said Lorenzo Pellicioli, Chairman for Lottomatica. “With the steps we are announcing today, the group evolves into a fully-unified business entity to accomplish these goals above and beyond the top-line synergies we have already achieved.”
MANITOBA LAUNCHES IGAMING SITE AFTER ANNOUNCING PLANS in April to launch a state-owned online gambling site, the western Canadian province of Manitoba has premiered its PlayNow.com domain offering a selection of bingo, casino and poker games in addition to sportsbetting. According to a report from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), the games on PlayNow.com are only available to residents of the Keystone Province although the Manitoba Lotteries Corporation has plans that could see players able to compete at online poker against other Canadians. PlayNow.com has been developed in partnership with the British Columbia Lottery Corporation with the Manitoba
Lotteries Corporation hoping to bring in up to CAD$17 million a year by 2018. Under plans first made public last year by Steve Ashton, Infrastructure and Transportation Minister for Manitoba, five percent of the new site’s net income will go towards funding responsible gaming initiatives while a further 15 percent is to be earmarked for expanding provincial aboriginal sport and recreation programmes. Manitoba is struggling with a budget deficit estimated at CAD$1.1 billion and Ashton stated that the province lost around CAD$37 million last year as its citizens gambled on one or more of the over 2,000 offshore online gambling sites.
GREECE’S OPAP MONOPOLY IN BREACH OF EU LAW THE EUROPEAN COURT of Justice has ruled in favour of Stanleybet, William Hill and Sportingbet in a case brought by the leading online gambling operators challenging Greece’s state-run OPAP monopoly. Echoing the opinion of the European Court of Justice Advocate-General issued in late-September, the highest court in the European Union ruled that certain exclusive gambling rights granted to OPAP, and those allowed for the operator to expand its offerings, went beyond what was necessary to attain stated objectives and, as such, were not compliant with current European Union laws. The body reminded Greece of its obligation to remain consistent in the objectives pursued by its own legislation and additionally ruled that OPAP is not subject to strict control by public authorities and, therefore, does not satisfy case law requirements.
“Although it is referring to the old legislation, we welcome the judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union as it clearly shows that the expansion of OPAP’s activities is not European Union-compliant,” said Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA) trade group, which has long advocated for a more level playing field for its private operators. “It, therefore, substantiates further our claim that the new extension of OPAP’s exclusive rights to certain types of online games breaches European Union law. We hope that this ruling will spur Greek authorities into action and to bring their legislation into line with European Union regulations. “The Court of Justice today has come out strongly against Greece and we hope that this will in turn be a signal to other Member States that compliance with European Union law is expected of them.”
AUSTRALIAN POLITICIAN THREATENS BAN ON SOCIAL GAMES The future of some online social games in Australia could be in jeopardy after a member of the South Australian Legislative Council announced that he intends to introduce legislation that would prohibit the entertainment titles entirely. According to a report from The Australian newspaper, South Australia Senator Nick Xenophon intends to propose an amendment in February that would see social network games where actual money can be lost such as Slotomania from Caesars Entertainment Corporation redefined as ‘gambling services’ and banned. The move from the member of the independent No Pokies political party could also affect the DoubleDown Casino app from International Game Technology (IGT), which is exempt from regulation under the current Interactive Gambling Act because credits can’t be cashed out. “The government has known for a long time that there is a serious issue here that needs action but instead it is still sitting on the fence,” said Xenophon. “That’s why this legislation is urgently needed.” The prohibition has been backed by Charles Livingstone from Melbourne’s Monash University, an expert on gambling research in Australia, after a government review conducted in November of 2011 failed to satisfy social gaming critics. “These games are a disgrace,” said Livingstone. “They’re identical to poker machines and they are easily accessible by young people habituating them to electronic gambling, particularly poker machines.” CASHPOINT PARTNERS LAUNCHES AT LAC CASHPOINT, one of Europe’s largest bookmakers, will officially launch its new CASHPOINT Partners online affiliate program at the London Affiliate Conference (LAC). Affiliates who sign up at LAC and can win one of two iPad minis. More information can be found at www.cashpointpartners.com.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
TRADE ASSOCIATIONS CALL FOR EU CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL SITES
The European Casino Association, the European Lotteries Association and the European Pari Mutuel Association trade groups have authored a joint letter to Michel Barnier, Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, asking him to reconsider the European Commission’s policy on online gambling. The European Commission recently adopted its Action Plan on Online Gambling calling for the adoption of a common set of principles aimed at protecting consumers, but the trio want Barnier’s office to look again at several points so that the process doesn’t ‘start on the wrong foot’. “First, this exercise will be meaningless; that is, it will not result in the desired consequences, if it does not prioritise the two main levers of consumer protection; the fight against illegal gambling offers whose cross-border provision within the European Union and from third countries is facilitated by technological advancement, strict rules or the prohibition, after an evaluation conducted at the level of each of the Member States, for the forms of gambling that are the most dangerous in terms of specific risks in terms of fraud, money laundering and addiction whose consequences, both social as well as the financial, can be disastrous for players,” read the letter from the three groups. “The associations that we chair and their members look forward to the European Commission’s support for the adoption of measures ensuring a high level of consumer protection by Member States. However, such measures can only apply to legal operators. They will thus obviously have no effect on unlicensed operators who free themselves from complying with the laws of the Member States where they offer their services by operating out of tax havens just as they also exempt themselves from paying the taxes they should be subject to. These measures will likewise have no effect on the gambling services they offer, which do not offer any guarantee to the European consumers in terms of protection of assets, the payment of winnings, the integrity of games or guarding against excessive gaming.”
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LADBROKES ACQUIRES BETDAQ LADBROKES HAS ENTERED into an agreement that will see it purchase the parent firm of global betting exchange operator BetDaq for an initial consideration of €30 million. Harrow-based Ladbrokes revealed early in January that it had entered into negotiations to buy Global Betting Exchange Alderney Limited and it has now announced that the deal is expected to be complete by the end of February and earnings accretive later in the year. Ladbrokes stated that it is purchasing BetDaq’s parent on a cash-free and debt-free basis from TBH Limited and has also agreed to acquire a ten percent stake in its technology providing TBH Guernsey Limited subsidiary for €4 million. This second transaction contains a call option for the remaining shares after four years and is subject to certain
conditions including regulatory approvals and confirmations. “The BetDaq exchange is a well-regarded and well invested business and a close strategic fit for Ladbrokes,” said Richard Glynn, Chief Executive Officer for Ladbrokes. “While the main focus of our digital growth strategy continues to progress well, this bolt-on acquisition provides us with an exciting opportunity to grow our share of wallet through the creation of a differentiated and comprehensive sportsbetting proposition for customers and also supports our drive for improved liability management.” Ladbrokes declared that the initial consideration includes €15 million in shares while it has agreed to pay an earn-out based on any growth in Global Betting Exchange’s adjusted gross profits between the end of 2012 and December 31, 2016.
POKERSTARS SPONSORS OLYMPIQUE LYONNAIS IT HAS BEEN a busy period for PokerStars. Having followed up its acquisition of Full Tilt Poker by agreeing to buy the Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City to effectively become a land-based casino operator (ahead of anticipated iGaming legislation), the world’s leading poker brand has now announced that it has signed an official sponsorship deal with French football club, Olympique Lyonnais. The agreement began at January’s match against Evian Thonon Gaillard and will see video branding appear on screens inside the club’s 40,000-seat Stade De Gerland. In addition, the PokerStars.fr website is to run a series of special tournaments giving fans of ‘Les Gones’
the chance to win prizes including shirts, scarves and tickets along with trips to meet the players while Olympique Lyonnais is to display offers for the online poker brand via its own domain. “Digital is a major focus of development for the club,” said Vincent-Baptiste Closon, Marketing Director for the seven-time French league champions. “PokerStars is a major player in the digital arena so it is natural for us to associate with this site.” PokerStars was also one of a number of foreign companies to be awarded a licence in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein after the licensing system expanded its reach from sportsbetting to include casino games, including poker.
MICHIGAN ISSUES RFP TWO MONTHS AFTER announcing plans to make its games available to players over the Internet and using mobile devices, the Michigan Lottery has issued a request for proposals with interested parties given until February 19 to respond. The Michigan Lottery recently celebrated its 40th birthday with M Scott Bowen, Commissioner for the Michigan Bureau of State Lottery, revealing that he wants customers to be able to purchase tickets for the Classic Lotto 47, Fantasy 5, Powerball and Mega Millions games online from April although various other Internet sales
components are expected to take until the end of the year to organise. “Digital distribution of lottery games, also known as iLottery, will deliver increased revenue to the School Aid Fund by engaging new players in a secure and highly responsible manner,” read a statement from the Michigan Bureau of State Lottery. The Michigan Lottery began in 1972 offering 50-cent tickets and has since contributed $17 billion including $770 million last year towards public education programmes in the northern state.
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POWER BACK TO THE PEOPLE: THE WHO OF CONTENT Until 2011, no vertical exposed the weaknesses in Google’s algorithms more than gaming. Cheap, scalable solutions led to massive ROI for many casinos and sportsbooks. Then, in 2011, Google unleashed the Panda, only to be followed in 2012 by his adorable friend, the Penguin. It took a while, but the gaming market has finally been affected from all of the change, and it is leaving even savvy marketers wondering, ‘what now?’ THE ‘WHAT NOW?’ for marketers in the gaming space is to start thinking more like marketers and less like automatons. Button pushing isn’t going to work outside of PPC and media buying, and with the saturation in the space, the winners will excel in creativity. And the tide is turning.
Change is in the air I have been writing and speaking in the gaming space for a few years now. Since I began, I have been preaching the power of high quality social qualified linking, the results of this traffic and all that comes with it. It fell on deaf ears for the multitude of marketers that had unlimited link budgets and could buy all of the exact match anchor text links their hearts could desire for less effort than it takes most of us to order a book on Amazon. During this time, I preached that affiliates and smaller casinos needed to build online PR and social campaigns to match the impressive signals sent off naturally by the larger, publicly traded players. Again, the ease of rankings, ‘links + money = rankings’, left the message dead on arrival. Today, I am talking to marketers in the gaming space on a daily basis who are now having to play catch-up in unfamiliar waters. The larger outfits, with major TV advertising budgets, have the advantage in terms of drawing lots of natural citations from social media and other outlets. And out of all of this, the biggest thing that gaming marketers have forgotten is why links exist in the first place; to allow Internet users to get from one document to another. Links drive traffic. Your affiliate managers will tell you just how much that traffic is worth. However, SEOs have for years carved
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the ‘link’ into two different things; traffic and SEO. This isn’t the case anymore. Nonetheless, there is some hope for the marketer that finds himself short on resources and heavy on the need for traffic, and this saviour comes in the form of the content producer. Put in simple terms, this shift means that rather than focusing on the ‘where’ of content, the ‘who’ may actually become important. Furthermore, the ‘where’ may in fact transition to your website.
“The real power of authorship lies outside of search. A great content producer, given attribution for their work, will drive traffic and all of the benefits of traffic to your site.” This concept is being talked about in SEO circles as ‘authorship’, and though it is important, it is hardly new. The ‘who’ of content is the basis for almost every major social media outlet. On Twitter, you follow a person based on the quality of their broadcasted material; on YouTube, you subscribe to channels to see new content from your favourite creators; and Facebook’s EdgeRank has the ‘who’ baked in through the use of affinity scoring. Google+ has brought the ‘who’ of content to search through the incorporation of the ‘AuthorRank’ concept and the implementation of the rel=”Author” tag. Yet, the real power of authorship today lies outside of search. The bottom line is that a great content producer, given attribution for their work, will drive traffic and all of the benefits of traffic to your site.
And content producers can be anyone. ●●A webcast featuring a professional poker player ●●An interview with a great footballer ●●Photos from the latest Formula One event Content isn’t just copy, and we must look at what drives traffic to see where we should be getting content to manage our new ‘who focus’. Facebook and YouTube live at the top of the big three sites in the world according to traffic. YouTube is video-based, but if you look at Facebook, its EdgeRank formula weights video and photos higher than other content. Video and image-based content produce more interaction, longer visits and are shared more. But this also presents an issue for ‘authorship’ because most of these media lend themselves to collaboration. However, you can find great content providers if you know where to go.
Video producers YouTube, as mentioned, has channels. The content creators here make a portion of the advertising from their content, but also take outside sponsors. This market still isn’t being tapped aggressively, and is a great place for any savvy marketer to jump in. The key here would be sponsoring an entire video and getting the team to drive traffic to your site from the advertisement. You can also interlink YouTube videos, so having a sister video created on your own channel would make a lot of sense as well.
Photo junkies Everyone is taking pictures and sharing them online; not everyone is making money from it. You can easily use services
like Instagram and Flickr to find awesome photographers experienced in specific niches or with very tailored passions, that cannot only give you amazing content that will play nice on Facebook, but people with social followings that can be driven to your website.
“The biggest thing that gaming marketers have forgotten is why links exist in the first place; to allow Internet users to get from one document to another. Links drive traffic.” Illustrators For all of the focus infographics get, the one thing that really dials back their efficiency, in my opinion, is how they are shared. They are pieces of content ill equipped to be placed on any normal page, and are rarely attached to a ‘who’. Illustrations, on the other hand, are easy to share, and the ‘who’ is often the core of their popularity. The Oatmeal, a comic written and illustrated by Matt Inman, is a great example of this. In 2012, Inman used his brand to raise money for various things, but most notable was the
Tesla Museum. He helped raise $1 million dollars via a crowdfunding portal to build a museum on the east coast of the US.
The issues of ‘who’ The likely argument with the ‘who’ route of content is that traffic will be created that won’t convert. This is only a valid argument if placed against marketing actions such as PPC and SEO that are hyper-focused in terms of their targeting. Historically, most marketing has been about broadcasting a message of benefit and enticing a purchase. Traditional media sources fall on deaf ears, but show ROI. The key is building a stable way to accurately figure out how much you are spending, making, and the eventual CPA on lifetime revenue. On the topic of spend comes the second major issue with approaching ‘who’-based online marketing; trying to convince your boss that it is worth paying far higher prices for similar content that can be achieved elsewhere due to the benefit of the ‘who’ behind it. This is why a strong analytics programme is essential. You must be able to validate the traffic behind such a concept. However, there is no doubt that this is the future of online marketing. The only
question is whether, as a marketer, you feel that it is time to invest in this area or play catch-up later. It isn’t going to be as straightforward as finding a YouTube channel about online casino and paying for a link from its video description. This will take more creativity and finesse; but it will also be more sustainable, yielding better results over the long-term. DAVE SNYDER is CEO of SteelCast and is a renowned Internet marketing consultant. He has spoken around the world on the topics of search marketing and social media, and has consulted for some of the world’s largest companies on the topics. Dave parlayed his gifts as a former teacher and writer into his role as a thought leader in the arena of search and social media marketing. Recently, Dave’s focus has been on the creation of joint ventures and start-ups in the online space that are looking to leverage the traffic generation power of BlueGlass, where he is a founding partner. Dave’s strengths lie in start-up creation and incubation, as well as both organic and paid search marketing. He excels in utilising social media for brand building and online reputation management. Dave is considered one of the foremost authorities on link marketing.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
THE IMPORTANCE OF BRANDING IN SEO
Becoming a brand within the eyes of the search engines has quickly become a necessity following an announcement made by Google surrounding the way that it is now looking at a website in order to determine where it should rank for particular search terms, a move which has seen a large reduction of power previously associated with exact match domains. TAKING A SMALL step back in time, you would have seen that the search engine results were quickly being dominated by domain names which featured the keyword term within it. For example, ‘BlueBoxes.com’ would be found in or around the top position of the search engine results for ‘blue boxes’, and many believed that this was a direct result of the power in which search engines were giving to domains that were an exact match of the term. However, back in 2011, the Head of Google’s Web Spam team, Matt Cutts, revealed that Google was working on a way to eliminate the requirement to have keywords stuffed within a domain, a promise which was answered in September 2012, as Google announced the birth of the Exact Match Domain (EMD) Update. This alteration of the Google algorithm promised to reduce the number of low quality sites that were found to be ranking for terms based on the domain alone and with the announcement of this update being rolled into circulation came a stream of unhappy website owners that openly revealed that their EMD domain site had been negatively affected. As the dust settled, more website owners began to read between the lines of what Google was looking for when it came to trying to get the upper hand on its competitors, but speculation wasn’t floating for long before Cutts once again revealed the mentality behind what Google was thinking; it wanted to see ‘quality’. Admittedly, the breaking news from Cutts isn’t directly offering us the golden ticket to the number one position of your choice, but it does remain consistent with the aim and focus of the search engine giant to provide a better search engine experience for its users. Simple. Now that Google has revealed countless new additions to its algorithm – Panda, Penguin and EMD updates – the battle
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to secure the number one spot for your keyword terms has become even more frantic as thousands of website owners look to find the formula to be able to compete. However, there seems to be one thing that has quickly become clear: build a brand rather than a site.
What does ‘build a brand’ mean? Becoming a brand is about more than simply trying to build links into your site that relate to the name of your site rather than the keywords; Google wants to see you actually forging a viable online alternative to being a brand, putting yourself into a situation where users will actually search for the name of your site rather than finding you based solely on keyword-related queries. This means that the way in which you look to depict your presence both online and offline needs to change along with the way you are building links and creating content, which is where the use of legitimate PR comes into play; a way of increasing the visibility of your newly created brand. It is important that you understand what is meant by looking to make use of PRrelated exposure as it seems that over the years, many website owners have fallen into what some would consider to be lazy habits, simply looking to pay for a new article to be pushed out through news wires that might, or might not, be seen by the consumers or visitors that you are looking to reach out to. You only have to take a look at a previous post by Matt Cutts on his blog back in 2005 in which he revealed that Google was not willing to simply accept a paid push through PR syndication services, such as PR Newswire, as being evidence of sufficient exposure to have your name exposed to the Internet. Instead, he pointed out that you should be looking for much more than what a single push would be able to offer, indicating that it is the journalists
that might see and re-create the piece that you should be reaching for as it is them that have the ability to offer you the exposure that a real brand would want. Finding that an article has been picked up and published in a national newspaper (or similar) offers you some of the best levels of exposure. Even if the re-write that the journalist creates doesn’t link into your site, you have to realise that the use of your name may well increase your branding to the readers of the piece, which ultimately has been seen to result in further brandrelated search volume.
Developing your brand effectively We have to face the facts and realise that Google is still very much a link-based search engine, and that isn’t about to change any time soon. However, Google has taken large steps towards targeting sites that are looking to manipulate their results through methods such as link buying or even automatic link building through programmes such as Scrapebox and XRumer. So, the link building process has quickly become a lethal minefield in that one slip up could mean that your site is removed from the search results completely. This means that you really need to consider your options when it comes to generating links, looking at the sorts of links that you believe you would be able to obtain and how you would action trying to secure those placements. Remember that Google isn’t against building links; it just doesn’t want you to buy them. Although it is links from other websites that are going to help to increase your visibility online, as a brand, you need to raise your awareness offline too in order to really become recognisable. We have recently seen promotional tactics being created offline – a great move which made me curious as to who was behind it – and that is what becoming a brand is all about: getting known.
Brand development in SEO Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what â€˜becoming a brandâ€™ means in terms of what Google is looking for, but we wanted to be able to give you a few ideas on how to do that, allowing you to put your best foot forward and give you a starting point on which to build from.
Use real PR to increase your brand awareness As we have already pointed out, the term PR has been misunderstood by a large number of website owners due to their belief that simply pushing out a news release via subscription services like PRWeb is enough to tick all the right PR boxes. But the truth is that a mere minority of releases that are pushed by these services are then reused by the mainstream media. Create content that will be appealing to journalists and other writers, prompting them to re-write your research, graphic or review and give them reason to provide a link within that piece. The main reason we made the decision last year to form a strategic partnership with 10Yetis was that the company has built up relationships with journalists, which is one of the hardest things to do in order to get your content published.
Take your promotion offline So many website owners are only interested in one thing: obtaining links, as these are clearly the main metric being used to help Google determine what sites it should
rank for particular search terms. However, building a brand is more about the public being able to remember your name and search for you directly. Not all promotion of your website needs to be done online. There are offline marketing techniques and sponsorship that will help you increase your brand awareness, therefore, increasing your direct traffic from users that know what you offer.
Keep your link profile diverse Following the mission to eliminate low quality and spam sites from its search engine, Google has released two algorithm changes into its results which are designed to critique your website and the links that are pointing into it. This means that if you have a high percentage of backlinks pointing to your website that are purely anchor text-related, Google is able to establish that your backlink profile is not natural and we have seen sites being heavily penalised for having a profile of links that make Google suspicious that the site is looking to manipulate the search engine rankings. Aim to keep the highest percentage of your backlink profile branded in order to show Google that you are not purely focusing on the money keywords that you are chasing; this is thought to provide a better outlook when Google analyses your backlink profile. Now that you have more branded links within your profile, you should be able to start targeting keyword terms again.
However, we strongly advise that you take a widespread approach to search terms if you want to avoid penalisation as much as possible, therefore, variants of specific keyword terms are potentially more rewarding for you in the long run.
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 doesnâ€™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.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
GOING GLOBAL IN SEO THE ‘DOMAIN, FOLDER OR SUB-DOMAIN?’ DILEMMA Whenever a site is being localised, one of the first doubts to surface concerns the choice of domain and URL structure. The decision on whether to place the new, local site on a new country-specific Top Level Domain, a dedicated folder or a sub-domain should be based on a careful assessment of each option’s pros and cons. This article will look at what you should consider to ensure you make the right decision. ONE OF THE first things a savvy affiliate should think about when extending their affiliate business to a new country concerns the URL his new, local site should have. Unfortunately, this decision is often based, for technical reasons, on opting for the easiest solution to implement. On the contrary, considering the important role a site’s URL plays from a marketing and SEO perspective, the choice should be based on an analysis of the pros and cons of each option, evaluated considering business-specific needs and objectives. In the following sections, we will analyse, one by one, the pros and cons of opting for country-specific Top Level Domain (TLD), a folder or a sub-domain.
Finally, using a separate domain for your local site means that it won’t necessarily be tied to the original site in the eyes of Google. This will be very useful in the case you are entering a highly competitive market in which you are willing to risk more in terms of SEO, or in which different SEO rules apply. An example would be the Russian market, in which the search engine to please is not Google, but Yandex, and in which the competition is fierce in terms of link building. As your local site will be clearly separated from the ‘mother site’, you will be able to increase the aggressiveness of your link building activities without jeopardising your properties in other countries.
Cons Country-specific Top Level Domains (‘.it’, ‘.fr’, ‘.co.uk’, etc) The pros and cons of using a dedicated TLD derive from its independence from the ‘original’ site, which allows for greater flexibility but limits the possibility of inheriting trust.
Pros The main advantage of choosing a countryspecific TLD for the local version of a site is that it will be more easily perceived by users as a ‘real’ local site. This may subsequently lead to an increase in users’ trust in the site, and hence to higher click through rates from search engine result pages (SERPs), which will also help to improve the site’s ranking. Similarly, Google and other search engines will also perceive the site to be more ‘local’, and may look favourably on it in terms of rankings. Benefits such as this will increase if you host the site locally on a server which has an IP that belongs to the target country of the website. A different domain also means having the ability to add local ‘whois’ data, an additional positive factor Google considers when compiling its rankings.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
Opting for a local TLD, however, also has several downsides. First of all, as the local site will be separated from its originator – presumably older and stronger – it will have to build its own authority and trust in the search engines. This means that it may take some time for the site to start ranking, depending on the promotional activities in place. Another issue of concern for affiliates may be that using a local TLD could make it harder to hide whois information. Countries such as Italy and France do not allow companies to hide their whois data behind proxy solutions, which will make it easier for users and search engines to know what sites are administered by whom. Hiding personal data is still possible, but in this case it would involve using high-end legal proxies (e.g. local limited companies) – a choice not all affiliates wanting to hide their info can afford. Using a local TLD may also make its administrator legally liable for additional sets of local laws and rules. Because of this, the choice of local TLD in this field should always be double-checked with a legal expert.
Language-specific folders (‘/it/’, ‘/fr/’, ‘/en/’, etc) Just as the main advantages and disadvantages of using a dedicated TLD come from its lack of ties with the ‘mother’ site, the pros and cons of using a folder derives directly from the ties that do exist.
Pros As the local site will essentially become a section of the original, the latter will pass part of its authority and trust to the new pages. In the past, this benefit was counterbalanced by the lack of certainty about Google’s perception of the folder as a local entity. Nowadays, however, Google Webmaster Tools allows webmasters to declare a folder as a separate, country-specific site. Finally, as using a dedicated folder simply means adding a section to your original site, you will not have additional concerns in terms of whois data protection or possible legal issues.
Cons Not being able to dispose of a local TLD will make it harder to compete with real local sites in the SERPs. On top of this, the local folder will not be receiving the ‘local’ benefits arising from local hosting (technically not possible) and local whois data. Moreover, as the local folder will be tied to your original site, this will make it easier for eventual penalties or negative scoring (e.g. Penguin or Panda) to spread to the original site or influence its rankings. Finally, using language folders will potentially leave local TLDs open to ‘TLD thieves’, who may want to steal some type-in traffic in case your local site were to be a success. Because of this, I recommend registering local TLDs, eventually redirecting them to the corresponding local folders.
Country-specific sub-domains (‘it.’, ‘fr.’, ‘en.’, etc) As an in-between solution, country-specific sub-domains share some of the pros and cons seen in the previous cases.
Pros Like country-specific TLDs, sub-domains also allow local hosting; hence more ‘local benefits’ from search engines in terms of rankings. In the case of sub-domains, it is also possible to declare a specific target country via Google Webmaster Tools. As it is not completely separated from its ‘mother’ site, however, a sub-domain will still inherit some of the original site’s authority and trust in the eyes of the search engines, especially if the two sites are properly interlinked. Finally, using a dedicated sub-domain will involve no additional concerns in terms of whois data protection or legal issues.
Cons Just as with a local folder, not having a dedicated TLD will make it harder to maintain an edge on real local competitors in the long run. Despite inheriting a smaller amount of authority and trust than folders, sub-domains will maintain their ties to the mother site in the eyes of Google, which can become risky in case of penalisations. In this case, we also recommend securing TLDs to avoid leaving them vulnerable to potential domain thieves.
My rule of thumb Considering what we have discussed, my rule of thumb is as follows: ●●If a business is truly planning to extend its activities in a local manner – e.g. by conducting local marketing and link building initiatives – the best choice is generally to opt for a local TLD, as in the long run, this will give the local site an edge on non-local competitors and increase users’ trust in the site. ●●On the other hand, if a business is simply planning to ‘give it a try’, seeing if it can make some more money by piggybacking on the current success of the mother site, a local folder is probably the best option, as it will allow the new site to achieve rankings quicker. ●●Finally, I’m less inclined to recommend the use of sub-domains, as it tends to be an in-between solution that doesn’t really provide the benefits of either of the first two options. The only case in which I would definitely recommend the use of a sub-domain is in cases where the will to piggyback on the mother site’s success is combined with the need to provide content in two or more languages for users in the same country. In these cases, I recommend combining a country-targeted sub-domain with several language-specific folders. As we have seen, the choice between local TLDs and language-specific folders or subdomains is not easy. However, considering
the aforementioned elements in relation to your specific needs and business objectives should help you to make the right decision. Having looked at technical issues and domain-related choices, in the final instalment of this series on localisation, we will look at its most delicate part: local keyword research and translation management. So make sure you do not miss the next issue of iGB Affiliate. 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 email@example.com.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
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RICH SNIPPETS EXPLAINED…
Rich Snippets (Microdata, RDFs, etc) are hot topics at the moment, as they are used to enhance your listings in search engines. To explain it in simpler terms: when you search for something in Google and you see listings showing images, ratings or an author name and picture – these are Rich Snippets. This article is a guide to help get you up to speed, explain some of the terms used surrounding Rich Snippets and give you an idea of how they work and where you can integrate them into your websites. DESPITE THE FACT Rich Snippets have been around for well over a year, many webmasters remain slow to integrate them, including myself. The main reason for this is that some people are lazy, some don’t know the true value of what they can do for your site and, lastly, sometimes it can be difficult getting them to work on your site (that is, there doesn’t appear to be one single source from where you can get all of your answers and, if anything, plenty of terrible plug-ins). If your markup code isn’t working, Google isn’t going to be there to help you fix it, so you are left with asking questions in forums or trying to hire an expert.
Why does it matter? It matters for many reasons, but the two most relevant to any webmaster are the potential to increase your rankings in a search engine, and increase the conversion/ click-through rate.
Can Rich Snippets increase my search engine rankings? Now, when I say they have the potential to increase your rankings in the search engines, this is strictly my opinion on the matter as Google has supposedly stated that implementing Rich Snippets won’t affect your search engine rankings. Right now, it seems to be true but this could change in the future if Google decides
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
to reward sites that include them; that is, they go above and beyond other sites to help their users. In time, Google will have more feedback about the results of sending traffic to sites with and without Rich Snippets. If it finds that bounce rates are lower with the inclusion of Rich Snippets, then why wouldn’t it reward sites that include them? Also, when it comes to authorship, there is also the possibility of Google rewarding sites that list an author. My opinion on this has to do with authors putting their name on the line for what they write. There are many content spinners out there, or people that simply rewrite content, and for those that blatantly copy it, they are unlikely to attribute an author and even if they did, they would probably want the identity to be fictitious. Now, one thing that does appear to be a fact is that bounce rate will have an effect on your search rankings. If you look at many of the articles on SEO topics in Google and see an author name and picture, these articles are probably of a higher quality. In fact, you can pick any topic, do a search and give your own assessment of the quality of the articles that appear whether they contain an author, an image or not. Now, if the articles are of higher quality then they will have a lower bounce rate, which in turn affects their rankings in a positive way. In theory, adding Rich Snippets shouldn’t affect the quality of your article but there are many webmasters testing and claiming that their addition does decrease your bounce rate and if this is true, then that will lead to increased click through rates.
are clickable and take you to the article, so users have more than just a single link to click on. Having your article stand out from the rest should give you more chance of increasing your click through rate, and this will come at the expense of sites that don’t integrate Rich Snippets.
Who is using Rich Snippets? Some of the top webmasters are already using Rich Snippets in their sites. The most common in use is the rating system – such as five stars, for example. If you search for ‘Euro Partners Review’, for instance, you will see a few sites have included a star rating. Some affiliates even have their author data included, listing their name, Google+ profile account and picture. Even VegasPartnerLounge is quick to get its foot in the door. Do a search for online casino and you’ll see it has Google+ profiles showing its human brand ambassadors. This adds a human element to casinos. At maplecasino.ca, for example; look at the footer and you’ll see a Google+ profile icon for brand ambassador, Charlotte Jackson. Now Charlotte could be a fictitious person and profile, but she seems real and from Toronto.
Rich Snippets examples and schema There are many ways of incorporate Rich Snippets into your site and you’ll have to decide which page deserves a certain type of mark-up. For a full list of the available examples, you can see more at Schema.org here: http://schema.org/docs/full.html
Increased click through rates There is overwhelming evidence that Rich Snippets will increase your click through rates and common sense tells us that this has to be true. Take a look at this example for ‘Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe’. The results that include the two pictures will probably get more clicks, aside from the fact that they are numbers one and two in the rankings, ahead of the third listing, which has no image. When you implement Rich Snippets, your listing takes up more vertical space. On top of that, the images
The most common examples ●●●Star
Rating Data ●●●Video ●●●Author Name and Picture ●●●Product Picture ●●●Recipe
More reading materials on Rich Snippets ●●http://schema.org/ – Informative, but can be confusing at times for rookies and those new to the game
bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=99170 – ‘Some’ info from Google ●●http://www.google.com/webmasters/ tools/richsnippets – Test your pages
Tools to inspect Rich Snippets on websites The amount of coding work needed on your pages to add in Rich Snippets is fairly minimal but not all sites appear to be doing it the same way. Therefore, if you are still learning about it or want to spy on how your competition does it, you can get some Google Chrome extensions that will make the job easier if you are not comfortable using the ‘view source’ and finding the code. To be honest, these plug-ins make it a lot easier to find what you are looking for. There are many Chrome extensions you can get but they more or less do the same thing; if you need just one, I recommend Microdata.reveal. Alternatively, you can just go to the extensions page and search for ‘microdata’ or ‘Rich Snippets’ and you will get similar tools https://chrome.google.com/ webstore/detail/microdatareveal.
Have a question about Rich Snippets? You can email John Wright for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
SEO: WHAT NOT TO DO IN 2013 As we move into 2013, it seems more than likely that the search landscape will be shaken up yet again. The Google zoo is only going to get bigger and it’s becoming more and more important to err on the side of caution. After all, when you’re reliant on one entity for the source of the majority of your income, things can go very wrong, very quickly. The following tips on what not to do this year should keep you pretty safe from any more tweaks that Google makes in the future. Social spam Now, it should be noted that it could be quite difficult to apply a penguin-style ‘slap’ for this sort of behaviour, but it has to come about sooner or later, particularly with G+ having an impact on rankings and currently being open to huge abuse. There are still those that contest the value of social metrics in search engine rankings, however, there has been a lot of statistical data to suggest the opposite (the Search Metrics study of UK ranking factors being just one to check out). And one could argue the correlation vs causation argument, but that seems slightly short-sighted. Google can read profiles and it’s going to get pretty good at spotting the robots; these sorts of tactics are likely to get clamped down on in the future so it’s probably best to cut it out now. There are plenty of legitimate quick wins in social media, like competitions, so it really isn’t necessary to use Twitter networks and Facebook spam accounts to build social shares.
Just targeting Google This is something that should have become apparent to many affiliates during the swathe of brand favouring and affiliate harming updates that have been popping up in recent months. The fact is that the traditional affiliate model for SEO is going to become more and more squeezed, and only those who truly add value will be left standing. Many affiliates simply don’t fall into this category and are unlikely to have the budgets to change things any time soon. This doesn’t mean that you should rush to Bing and Yahoo! for your traffic because that probably won’t get you much, and optimisation doesn’t tend to vary that much either. What it does mean is that you should
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
start diversifying your sources as well as looking to markets where Google isn’t the dominant search engine.
Giving up on link building Time and time again, we hear that link building (this really means purchasing) is going to get you penalised and you shouldn’t do it; everything has to be natural. This simply isn’t the case as long as you build smart. The fact is, in the iGaming sector, most webmasters are savvy enough not to just link to you for free. But, what you can do is make it look natural, create something newsworthy that is worth linking to, and then get people to link to that. This would preferably be from sites where there is a logical tie-in, that way if it comes up for a manual review, Google can’t hurt you.
non-linked citations match up with what would be a natural split against linked-to citations. After all, doesn’t it look suspect if every time your brand is mentioned, somebody links to it? Natural profiles don’t look like that. You also have to remember that it is much easier to get people to give you a free brand mention than a link. Most people have no problem adding a quote to an article from someone in my industry willing to give them one. But, a free link to a competitor is not quite so likely.
Ignore your bad backlink profile because you’ve not been hit yet Just because you haven’t been hit, it doesn’t mean you’re not close to the edge or won’t be hit. With negative SEO on the rise, ‘clean up’ needs to be an ongoing process to keep risks
“Link removal is by far the most arduous and labour intensive task in SEO – using a link removal management tool is well worth it for the time you will save.” A decent example of this process with off-niche linking would be a review of gambling tax revenues in Europe linked to from economics sites; this sort of thing often looks more natural than dozens of links from sites that, if they were of a decent quality, should be your competitors.
Ignore brand mentions Brand mentions (and I mean those without a link) are likely to become increasingly important. We already know that Google has been looking at them for a while (mostly with regards to local search), but when we consider how the Penguin update hit those with a brand vs non-brand anchor text split that looked unnatural, it becomes likely that we should look at whether our site’s
to a minimum. There are, unfortunately, many unscrupulous webmasters in our industry who will take advantage of a site which is a little close to the thresholds. It’s worth investing in a tool like RMOOV if you have the money, and carrying out a check through your WMT link profile once a month. The time you will save from using a link removal management tool is well worth it as without these sorts of tools, link removal is by far the most arduous and labour intensive task in SEO. This way, you can keep your profile clean for the long-term and not have to worry about a nasty penalty coming your way.
Think about meta/titles in terms of SEO Whilst this is something of a mixed statement, it is meant in the traditional
sense – the old concept being that you need to add keywords into your Meta Description and Titles to help you rank. This mentality is likely to lead to ‘overdoing it’ – what you should be thinking about is how you can write a Meta that increases CTR. Think of it like a PPC ad, and not as something to squeeze SEO value from. A good CTR is more likely to positively impact your site than having a few keywords dumped into your titles.
Ignore Google Plus It is only going to become more important, and is actually starting to get some real engagement and usage. Also, it still hasn’t been completely saturated by the iGaming industry, meaning it can still be useful. The fact is that the number of people signed into one of Google’s products while
searching is growing; we can see this from our ‘not provided’ data in Google Analytics. This means that more people will be connected to Google+ whilst searching, whether it is through Gmail or another service. Their search results are then impacted by anyone in their circles who has ‘+1d’ something relevant to what they are searching for. There is also the added benefit that a Google Plus profile properly linked up to your website can result in greater CTR, maximising your rankings due to the addition of author images into the search results.
Ignore semantic mark-up This doesn’t mean rushing out and marking up everything you can on your site, but adding star ratings and the like, which help your snippet take up more real
estate in the search engines and increase your click through rates, are essential and won’t take up too much of your time to implement. 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.
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EQUIPPING THE AFFILIATE SECTOR Over the last 12 months, Affilicity has been working with some of the biggest names in the gaming affiliate industry to produce a comprehensive array of products and services for both affiliates and affiliate program managers. Ahead of the London Affiliate Conference, iGB Affiliate sat down with Managing Director, John Bridge. The gaming affiliate sector is renowned for its community spirit, be that in online forums and portals, or at the affiliate conferences that populate the calendar. Is the community emphasis still as important to the growth of the sector? Community is definitely important to the growth of a ‘healthy’ sector. Building a community is important because it provides affiliates the support they need to assist their own success. It encourages transparency and the provision of information to ensure that business transactions are as fair and honourable as possible within a market that is often eyed with great suspicion. We are working within an emerging market and to continue growth, we need to continue recruiting affiliates into this space; therefore, providing a community will enable new affiliates coming to market to draw on the experience of existing affiliates. How well catered for do you believe affiliates are in the sector, in terms of the tools and resources available to them? This is a very good question. There are countless tools and resources available to affiliates, however, access is fragmented, and in order to take full advantage of the resources available, not only do affiliates need to identify where they are but also then learn to utilise them. Bearing in mind that most affiliates work independently, this can be quite an isolating and time consuming user experience. This is actually how the idea for Affilicity was born. The concept is to provide affiliates with a one-stopshop from where they can access all the available tools in one place. It is also a place where program managers can use tools to engage affiliates to nurture relationships whilst ultimately increasing revenues. It’s crucial that we continue to keep up with consumer changes and market/technology demands and introduce new marketing tools as and when they are needed.
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What is the idea behind your weekly TV show – what sort of content will it offer to affiliates and programs that they are not already getting? Whilst we are taking a corporate approach, we also want to make it fun. Much of our emphasis will largely be based on providing content that is entertaining and presented in a light hearted manner but that will also keep the industry informed.
What sort of education is needed for affiliates entering the financial space – what are the potential pitfalls? The biggest pitfall will be the lack of education and understanding of how and where money can be made, and choosing the right partners to work alongside. Over the last couple of years, there has been a huge increase in financial trading platforms exhibiting at
“Affiliates are the lifeblood of the industry and must be given an opportunity to cross promote and use their expertise to create new revenue streams.” We want to ensure that Affilicity becomes a destination site and the TV Show will be a great platform to create promotional opportunities for all. Part of your service is specific to financial affiliate programs – what sort of crossover potential do you see for pure gaming affiliates looking at the financial trading sector as a new revenue driver? Many gaming operators have introduced finance trading to their platform, giving them another revenue stream within a market that runs in parallel to that of online gaming. Although not as mature as the gaming market, this is a sector that is gaining in popularity and will continue to do so over the next few years. Therefore, there is already a correlation between the two markets and it would only be natural for affiliates within the finance space to emulate the overwhelming success of the gaming affiliate model. There will also be learning curves with regards to revenue capabilities as affiliates are given an opportunity to make money whether a player wins or loses. Affiliates are the lifeblood of the industry and must be given an opportunity to cross promote and use their expertise to create new revenue streams. The finance sector is a very exciting prospect to any gaming affiliate and Affilicity will hopefully provide a platform for their success.
affiliate conferences and I believe that one day, they might even have their own dedicated affiliate conference as it is such a growth area. We will be working hard to eliminate any potential pitfalls on behalf of affiliates and work alongside them to understand the various revenue opportunities and how to make the most of their marketing initiatives. Like any new business opportunity, identifying the right market will be crucial. Does financial trading form part of the gaming affiliate market’s future? Absolutely. As software providers and operators look to expand their portfolios to ensure new revenue streams, so affiliates will look to do the same and the finance trading sector has the most obvious potential. Successful gaming affiliates are experts in online marketing and it would make perfect sense for them to take all their expertise and knowhow to create a successful business model within a sector that follows the same principles, but requires different content. Also, as operators continue to evolve their offering, it would be opportunistic for affiliates that have established great working relationships over a number of years to grow with their partners and continue to be a very influential revenue generator.
The territorial battle between the two heavyweights of the Internet has been simmering, with each trespassing onto the other’s turf in an effort to gain traction in areas of commercial opportunity. In releasing its Graph Search in January, Facebook has dared to challenge Google at its own game: search. By sourcing a user’s friends and acquaintances as the search engine rather than the entire web, Facebook is hoping to bring a personalised search experience to its users that can provide more relevant results than Google’s all encompassing approach. But is the Graph Search a real threat to Google’s dominance? Aideen Shortt examines the latest iteration of Facebook vs Google: Man vs Machine. Google is search: a fact confirmed by the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), which is regarded as the definitive record of the English language. The OED defines Google as both a proper noun and a verb. “I Googled it” or “I will Google that” are a standard part of vernacular these days, all over the world. Facebook, on the other hand, is the proprietary name of the world’s largest social networking website. These two Internet giants have been edging into each other’s territory for some time. Google is getting into ‘social search’, a phrase that Mark Zuckerberg has been talking about to reporters and analysts for months, and Facebook is getting its network into general search. Google+ has been forcefully integrated into the site’s SERPs, and Search Plus Your World was the first step in social search. Now, Facebook’s Graph Search, a product whose development was incidentally led by two ex-Google employees, has launched to polarising opinion among commentators. Using a very Apple-esque strategy involving subtle advance hype and mysterious emails to journalists during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, on January 15, Zuckerberg unveiled Graph
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Search announcing it as the third ‘pillar’ to sit alongside the Newsfeed and Timeline. Launching a new feature as a pillar is a bold statement, perhaps something that Zuckerberg learnt from Steve Jobs, who said to Businessweek in May 1998 that “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” That may be true for innovative, ground breaking products or services, but Graph Search is unlikely to fall into that category. Arguably, Graph Search is a solution without a problem and the tipping point for success is entirely reliant on consumers changing their behaviour. To usurp Google, Facebook’s search feature will have to offer added value and benefit to consumers in the area of search (by its truest definition) and at first glance, quite simply, it doesn’t. Facebook has trained its users to live and breathe on the Newsfeed, and the network spawned the entire concept of Discovery (rather than Search). Facebook users are passive and let content come to them, and for Graph Search to work, there needs to be a seismic shift in how people use the network, when there might not be a need or requirement for that at all.
However, both companies are data monsters. Google has a very large window into its users’ world through the broad spectrum of products incorporating Maps, YouTube, Calendar, Gmail as well as the core search product. Google knows where we go, what we do, what we watch and who we’re talking to, but Facebook knows who you are, who your friends are, what you like, where you work and what you think is worth sharing. Facebook has access to a wealth of data that Google does not, yet the success of Facebook’s venture, as well as changing behaviours, all boils down to relevance.
What is Graph Search? Graph Search, which will appear as a bigger search bar at the top of each page, is not a standalone search engine like Google or Microsoft Bing. Friends and acquaintances become the search engine, and the feature allows users to search Facebook for queries based on four focus areas: People, Places, Photos and Interests.
Graph Search allows users to extract meaning and clarity from their personal network. For example, rather than sift through photos, a user can use the search for speed. Typing in “Christmas photos” will save effort, time and clicks and for this reason the functionality will definitely be used. Whether or not it grow beyond a social awareness tool is, as yet, unknown.
Revenue potential of Graph Search
The results page is a two-column layout with Bing-powered web results appearing on the left-hand side, overlaid with social information from Facebook, including how many people like a given result. On the right hand side will be Facebook Pages and apps that are related to your search. The publicity of Graph Search is that the difference between it and Google is ‘man versus machine’. Yet, since Google+ and Search Plus Your World were launched, Google has offered a social layer that validates what the algorithm and the machine have already decided. Facebook puts ‘man’ first, Google, ‘machine’ – essentially, both offer the same type of service. The key difference is the underlying data being searched. Facebook is a massive, structured database of user generated content and ‘Likes’, but Google accesses the entire web. Graph Search, therefore, as its search is limited (for now) to the four focus areas could be described as little more than a filing system that enables users to navigate their social graph, rather than the limitless search functionality offered by Google.
Facebook has not yet announced any revenue generation plan as part of Graph Search, but this is surely only a matter of time. It’s highly unlikely that Zuckerberg is willing to sit back and let the dollars roll by, especially as investors are breathing down his neck since the IPO. Facebook is expected to report $5.02 billion in sales for 2012, according to Bloomberg analysts, and LA-based Wedbush Securities predicts Graph Search will grow to about a quarter of Facebook’s revenue, or $3 billion to $4 billion in 2015. On the other hand, Google reported $14.4
Once you get past Britney and Justin Bieber-type queries, only a small portion of Google search queries are commercial ones – people looking for specific products to buy. This is the real value and is the reason Google is the behemoth it is. Whether Facebook fans will use Graph Search with purchases in mind remains to be seen and if they do, there is a legitimate question over the value of the search results. Seeking “Digital cameras my friends in London like” is dependent on having friends who like digital cameras enough to have taken an action by ‘Liking’ a camera-related product page/image on Facebook. The same search on Google will yield unending results, and, if people in a Google network have taken a social action, they will be flagged anyway as a ‘+1’. This is the real commercial weakness of Graph Search as it stands today. One advantage of giving users a better Facebook search service on the social network is that it could keep people on the site longer which, of course, leads to additional advertising revenue but not necessarily the lucrative targeted search
“In most major technology shifts, the leaders of one era don’t lead the next. Let’s not forget that MySpace was the Facebook of its day and Apple was the also-ran in Microsoft’s PC era. It’s very clear that this is what Zuckerberg is hoping for.” billion (£9 billion) in revenues for the fourth quarter of 2012 as the company announced its first ever $50 billion year. Close to 80 percent of Google’s billions is derived from search-related advertising, and the valuable portion of its user activity is based around the ‘database of intent’.
revenue that has eluded Facebook to date. That said, if Graph Search does take off as hyped, and valuable purchase-based search can be introduced beyond it being a functional – if extremely expensive – filing product, then it could seriously damage Google’s dominant position; as while
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Facebook can copy Google techniques, Google has no way of tapping into Facebook’s data gold mine. In the shortterm, however, Larry Page is probably not losing any sleep.
Other fears and limitations of the Graph In the January presentation, much was made of Facebook’s size, and the power that will give to Graph Search. Facebook has one billion members, 240 billion photos and one trillion interpersonal connections. However, search is expressly limited to content that is already available to a user amongst their friends, and friends of friends. US research company, Statista, found that the average user had 429 friends in 2012. This considerably narrows a single user’s field of search, and the one billion figure is a misnomer. Privacy is also a major concern even though it has been addressed up front by Zuckerberg and his team. The cause for concern is Facebook’s track record of introducing advertising features that impact user privacy, raising the prospect that this could happen with Graph Search in the future, even if it is not an issue right now. Additionally, users cannot opt out of Graph Search as the site removed the capability to opt out of searches a month before it announced the new feature. While users are likely to search for user generated content, it is limited by what their network produces and, therefore, might not yield anything of real value. Despite the hyperbole, an individual’s database indexes far too little to be valuable as a commercial proposition. However, there is a risk that the entire network becomes a marketing database. Admittedly, this is based on publicly available information, however, it is much easier for brands to query using Graph Search than it is to wait for inbound Likes on ‘Pages’ or scroll laboriously through Groups and competitors and such. Therefore, there is a widespread fear and risk of over-advertising and increased ‘intrusion’ by Sponsored Stories and other company features which generate revenue for Facebook, but are not always welcomed by the users. Much is being made of the ‘natural speech’ element of Graph Search, as users have the ability to ask questions in plain English, such as “which of my friends live in New York?”, and in addition, the search is now intelligent enough to rank your friends based on how much interaction you’ve had – so that closer
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friends will appear higher up the results list. Yet, despite hiring a team of linguists to perfect this element of the product, some testers have reported that Facebook hasn’t actually taught Graph Search how to properly calculate this, which is potentially a major problem. In addition, while the platform tries to understand full sentences and uses ‘type-on’ where Google uses ‘Autocomplete’, search is not typically based on natural speech. Web users are accustomed to searching using keywords such as “London sushi restaurant Michelin star” rather than “which of my friends has commented on a Michelin starred sushi restaurant in London”. This might be a hard habit to break out of and may affect results, given that Graph Search is cited as producing better results on more complicated queries. This goes back to changing user behaviour and may be a big risk for Facebook.
there is also the question of whether the correlated Bing results will be sufficient to encourage people to stay within the Facebook ‘walled garden’. Whichever way you put it, Bing is not Google, and there is the potential for consumers, especially those with purchase intent, to use Facebook as a kick-off point for a Google search.
The real losers If Graph Search takes off, and Bing side results do actually meet user demand for additional information, the case may arise that it’s Microsoft, not Facebook, from whom Google should be running scared. On the flip-side, sites such as LinkedIn, Match.com and a whole raft of job recruitment sites should be watching Graph Search very carefully. The ‘killer apps’ of the service might well be based on personal relationships and
“To usurp Google, Facebook’s search feature will have to offer added value and benefit to consumers in the area of search. At first glance, quite simply, it doesn’t.” With regard to restaurant searches, the vast majority of reports, analysis and pitches of Graph Search appear to treat this as one of the major use cases of value. Whether this is sufficient to monetise the product is one thing, but it is also an extremely myopic view of what search actually is. Firstly, if a user is, say, going to Budapest and wants to know about restaurants, why not ask those who have been to the city for info, rather than rely on them having Liked something (which doesn’t actually provide more personal information, so the direct question would probably take place anyway). As outlined earlier, the EdgeRank algorithm comes into play so that priority is given to close friends (based on interactions) and the value of a Like from a distant acquaintance or friend of a friend, may not offer more comfort to the user than a stranger’s report on TripAdvisor. Results based on Likes are also somewhat questionable, given the cavalier approach by which this functionality is generally used. A Like is not always a recommendation of value; it can be, and is known to be, a casual click of a button, without a major commitment from the user. Will this produce believable results given that these are the key to the search engine? At least with Google, the machine generates a viable SERP, and the +1s are overlaid on top. To this end,
development. A search for “people who have worked for Paddy Power” followed by a direct message looking for info or contacts is much easier than a cold LinkedIn search for a new job or business relationship. Likewise, a company hiring “developers who live in London and have worked for Betfair” knows that a five minute search doesn’t come with a 20 percent finder’s fee. In addition, Graph Search has effectively turned Facebook into a dating site. “Single males living in London who like Radiohead” is a far easier, and free way to seek out mates, and without the need for Likes – the fact that the results can be friends, or friends of friends, is far more compelling to somebody seeking out a mate than an anonymous profile on a dating website. Conversely, there is already a moderate fear of stalkers/creeps using content and data that people once thought was shared only with their select Facebook audience (friends, friends of friends, or the public with a specific reason to look up) is now readily available. The much reported restaurant and city activity search examples could adversely impact the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even Time Out and other city/event guides. The fact that Graph Search will add value in this way to Facebook users is the potential transformative power,
yet if that is all it does, Facebook has spent a tremendous amount of time and resources on a ‘discover feature’, not a search ‘pillar’.
Conclusion Graph Search is in Beta stage, and is slowly rolling out. In fact, it is the first Facebook product to launch on an ‘invite only’ basis – a tactic Google uses frequently. To be successful, it needs to make an immediate impact because unless it compels users straight away, it will remain a novelty feature that may or may not generate revenue; that some users like playing with, sometimes. In most major technology shifts, the leaders of one era don’t lead the next. Let’s not forget that MySpace was the Facebook of its day and Apple was the also-ran in Microsoft’s PC era. It’s very clear that this is what Zuckerberg is hoping for, but the reality is that it’s unlikely that Larry Page will be collecting his gold watch any time soon. Google is constantly evolving and improving its products, adding new
and well-received lines while ruthlessly killing off any non-performers. Google search is the category killer, but more than that, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine currently, and the most popular homepage for users in the UK. The company also demonstrated its ability in mobile with the Android operating system. The company does not rest, and must have been expecting this move from Facebook. When social networks emerged, and web users discovered information on their feeds through friends and contacts, search didn’t get less popular. Even Apple’s Siri, which launched to worldwide acclaim and loud chants of being the ‘Google-killer’, didn’t make a dent. So rumours and expectations that Graph Search will bring the house down are probably over-reaching. Graph Search has potential and will find its own home in users’ minds, but somehow, I don’t think Facebook is eating Google’s lunch. Not yet anyway.
Aideen Shortt is a veteran of the gambling industry having been involved in a range of senior roles since the outset of online betting and gaming. Her experience straddles both operator and supplier sectors, she is an active participant and speaker at industry events and has an extensive network of contacts. She was originally employed as part of the marketing team that launched flutter.com (now Betfair) and from there moved to Coral Eurobet (part of the Gala Group) as a senior member of the marketing team, progressing during her time there to the position of Marketing Director for the online business. In addition, Aideen has held director level roles at Skybet (part of BSkyB) and Chartwell Technology, and has now set up as a private consultant working for a range of different sectors within the industry including Paddy Power, fantasy gaming company Clever TV, Jersey’s leading IT and data centre, Foreshore Limited, and also media companies Bluff Europe and Sport Business. Aideen is a graduate of University College Cork (Ireland), and has a Master’s Degree from Kingston University in the UK.
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SEO IS DEAD... LONG LIVE SEO! SEO isn’t dead, it’s just changing, write our panel of esteemed SEOs as they offer their individual perspectives on the evolution of search engine optimisation. Pete Young, Head of SEO, Mediacom SEO isn’t dead, it’s merely evolving Over the last couple of years, it’s become almost common place to read about SEO’s impending decline, particularly in the aftermath of an increasingly frequent raft of updates and upgrades by Google. There is no doubt that over the last 12 months or so, we have seen significant changes both in terms of the rankings themselves, and more tellingly, in how people (agencies and affiliates) approach their SEO. Affiliates, in particular, have had it harder than most. Updates such as Panda and Penguin have made it increasingly difficult to scale link building quickly, and many old-school tactics that used to provide many of us affiliates with a good source of revenue have increasingly been the focal point of Google, as it looks to new signals to understand intent and relevance. Back in the day, things used to be so easy. 2000
Certainly, when I started, many of my SEO ‘ills’ could be solved through well structured content, and lots of it. In many cases, well optimised on-site content was enough to compete reasonably effectively, though I would suggest that was probably more down to the lack of competition than anything else. As sites became better optimised and more and more sites looked to SEO as a source of traffic, other factors became increasingly important in terms of ensuring your site appeared above anyone else; namely links. Not that links weren’t important before, but when everyone is more equal from a technical perspective, other factors have to come into play. As SEOs, we are almost programmed to look for the next opportunity, and when we find it, we exploit it. For many years, links have remained at the forefront of many SEO campaigns for both agencies and affiliates alike. In that time, link acquisition has
Growth of distribution
The Social Era
The Contextual Era
The Link Era
The On-Page Era Smarter search engines
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become almost ingrained as the focal point of our campaigns, but Panda and Penguin have changed things – and changed things significantly. In the last 12 months, we have seen a significant shift towards inbound/content marketing – new industries born out of the changing SEO landscape. Affiliates have seen their footprint across the gaming landscape change, and their stranglehold in many high impact search phrases diminish. This would appear to be where Panda has been particularly potent, however, one may argue this is symbolic of the sector itself. Thus, it’s interesting to see the sector and affiliates continue to evolve with affiliates still dominant in the affiliate space when it comes to social proofing – indicative, perhaps, that there is still a place for affiliates within the organic landscape. But I digress. What we are increasingly seeing within SEO is the increasing footprint of social. Google’s use of the ‘Wisdom of the Crowds’ concept is nothing new, as links are arguably an early example of Google looking to ascertain wider influence by looking at what people are sharing. Take that forward 15 years, and Google needs to evolve. Links are arguably no longer a reliable metric to ascertain relevance and Google is increasingly looking to other avenues of calculation. Now more than ever, it is not on a one-size-fits-all approach, but on a case by case basis. Links no longer are a reliable source of reference, as this fits very much behind the old-school logic. One cannot personalise based on links alone, so they have had to
look to social to determine relationships between people and sites, and more importantly, people and people. As SEOs, therefore, we cannot simply rest on what has worked in the past. This isn’t something Google is doing on a whim. One only has to look at Google’s increasing footprint, where it is now part and parcel of our everyday lives from Google Android phones, to Chrome Browsers, to Chrome OS and now Tablets and Google Play. That, on top of very personal tools such as Gmail and Google+, gives Google a fantastic insight into our likes, dislikes, relationships and actions, and a fantastic basis for tailoring our search results around this. Our processes and ways of working therefore have to change. In order to fit into the new SEO environment, we need to look to multiple touch-points to support our activity. The premise of producing great content still stands; the requirement to ensure Google can index our content still stands; the need to provide links and references to our content still stands; but now we need to support that with social proofing, as standing still simply isn’t an option.
Paul Reilly, Founder, Media Skunk Works The paradigm shift is occurring now According to futurologist and inventor (and Director of Engineering at Google), Dr Ray Kurzweil, “Technological progress in any field consists of a series of ‘paradigms’ – particular methods used to solve certain problems. A given example of a paradigm would be the shrinking of computer transistors to make the computers more powerful. While there are innumerable technological paradigms, all
share the same basic life cycles.” The same is true for any higher level technology which is enabled by its supporting lower level tech. Search fits the same model perfectly. The initial phase of search was enabled by a network of interconnected web pages. Then, once the web of pages evolved into a web of data, the evolution of search entered its second phase. The final phase in the S-shaped curve can be seen as a plateau, with little evolution, only refinement. As with all technological eras throughout the information age, and as sure as night follows day, this phase is followed by a paradigm shift. It is my personal belief,
(Zuckerberg) controls the algorithms which determine how and what information flows through the collective hive. I talk mostly about Facebook because of the obvious scale. But as with other super organisms, such as a coral reef, for example, new layers of life form on top of the old layer to form a new base of calcium. Game layers will settle upon social layers, commercial layers will settle upon the game layers, and so on. Temporal, behavioural and seasonal/cyclical filters and the aggregation of complimentary data from all other social networks, adds more layers to the ‘calcification’ process.
“SEO is changing all the time, but it is far from dead – it is now more important than ever.” and one which I have held for well over half a decade, that the imminent paradigm, enabled by the convergent technology of social networks, location, identity, social proximity as well as your historic behavioural patterns, will be discovery. To put it simply: products or services will find you before, or at the time, you need them. This is already happening in many places. Facebook Graph Search (or a future iteration) will evolve at a velocity that the previous era could never sustain. I believe the rapid pace of this evolution will be due to the network effect of connecting a large portion of the human race in an ‘always on’, location-aware capacity in the context of a clear map of your life’s history since joining Facebook. We are at an incredibly exciting point of our evolution. The human race is becoming a super organism. What is worrying about this stage of our evolution is this: one guy
2013 will be the year where the paradigm shift occurs, and given the nature of such an event, I would not like to predict how this will impact ‘search’. The impact will be so powerful that it would be impossible to anticipate or plan for. Hold on to your seats... it’s going to get interesting – enjoy the ride.
Judith Lewis, Head of Search, Beyond So we’ve made it to 2013 from 1995 – or whenever serious efforts to be found were started – and things have changed a lot, but one thing that hasn’t is the desire to discover new places as well as known ones. Google is as much used for research and serendipity as it is for purchasing. People are often motivated to seek out a better deal, a more interesting offer, a different supplier and search engines are an easy way to find those unknown possible alternatives. Yes, search happens elsewhere, but that is no shocker.
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We’ve known that YouTube is the second biggest search engine for some years and still, SEO is not dead. In the past few years, there have been a lot of changes in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) world. These changes have been largely due to Google’s continued anti-spam efforts but also because of its attempts to better understand what it is we’re looking for before we know ourselves. Google+ attempts to promote content by known contacts and help the searcher decide whether to click that truffle-making recipe by displaying the sharing and popularity stats of the author in the SERPs; Panda attempts to remove duplicate and ‘spammy’ websites from the SERPs; Penguin attempts to remove from search results those gaming the search engines a little too blatantly with link building, and dozens of other updates try and help improve our search experience. These algorithm updates are not to try and destroy SEO, as some may contend, but rather, they are an attempt to help the searcher. Trying to predict what is going to happen is actually quite tough without doing some research. Search engine patents information from SEO by the Sea1 are often a good place to look, especially with patents like ‘Ranking Documents’2 patenting techniques that assess the possibility that SERP manipulation is happening and adjust the SERPs to try and fake the spammer out. So don’t be stupid – have a plan, stick to it, don’t get panicked or lazy when rankings change. SEO is not dead, but ‘smash and grab’ SEO might be. I believe that in 2013, chasing the long-tail may become less profitable as well. In the past, SEO and PPC efforts were poured into chasing lesser searched-for long-tail terms. With the new patent granted to Google around ignoring terms of little significance, this could change. This patent for determining query terms of little significance3 explains why the search results may not be what you expect. In fact, at the time of writing, a search on ‘single origin dark chocolate bars’ brings up plenty of results where ‘dark’ seems to be the term of less significance. SEO just needs to evolve and change, it won’t die because Google changes. If we start digging in to what could be happening in the algorithm, specifically around non-linking authority assessments, the patent on ‘Document ranking using word relationships’4 which is commonly referred to as co-citation actually aligns with stuff I’ve already seen happening with link building. For example, in the sentence
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‘Wonderful trinitario chocolate bars from Madagascar are increasingly being included in hot cocoa recipes’, where ‘chocolate bars’ is the linked anchor text but the increase in rankings is for ‘hot cocoa recipes’. While it is unlikely to result from a single occurrence, who the heck syndicates one article once? Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, Google has been filing a number of patents around social media and assessing the relevance and validity of various social media users on various topics. We have known in the SEO community for some time that Google was already including social media signals within the ranking algorithm. Thus, the patents ‘Credibility of an author of online content’5 which I discovered on a search of all of Google’s patents I could find, and the non-US ‘Ranking User Generated Web Content’6 which I uncovered on Bill Slawski’s Search Engines Patent site, clearly indicate the directionin which Google is headed. Three other patents for its own social media platform which relate to assessing users could also be extended to valuing all social media users. Social media is going to play an increasingly important part in the ranking of documents on the web, but that doesn’t mean SEO is dead. Google will continue updating the algorithm 400 to 650 times a year, but that doesn’t mean SEO is dead. SEO is changing all the time, but it is far from dead – it is now more important than ever.
algorithm, with each new alteration they make, there is a new element within the structure of a website that will need optimising in order to make the site more search engine friendly. I think that the argument that seems to come from those who claim that SEO is dead, is based on their conception of what SEO really is – many keeping a closed mind around their belief of topics, such as the need to build anchor text links in order to better your search engine position. We already know that Google began its search engine with the mentality that more links into a site meant that it deserved to be given a higher position within its search results, but development of its conception of what a valuable website would contain meant that Google had to progress its ranking algorithm in order to better its search engine experience. The reality is that there are still strong indications that links remain the largest indicator within the Google algorithm. However, I believe that Google is becoming smarter when it comes to identifying whether links are artificial or naturally placed, which will ultimately result in keyword anchor text becoming obsolete. Google has hinted over the past 12 months that it is looking for website owners to create a brand for themselves and with further indications that Google wants to become a knowledge engine, I believe that Google is now trying to determine rankings
“The premise of producing great content still stands; ensuring Google can index our content still stands; the need to provide links and references to our content still stands; but now, we need to support that with social proofing, as standing still simply isn’t an option.” Dave Naylor, Director and Head of SEO, Bronco SEO isn’t dead, it’s just changed (again) The argument around whether SEO is dead or not seems to be a common topic, but when you think about what search engine optimisation is, it is hard to believe that the need to help search engines determine what your website is about is suddenly a dying art. Although search engines like Google are constantly trying to better their search engine results with alterations to their
on their own merit, which means that branded links will soon replace anchor text. The release of Google Penguin and Google Panda has now placed a bigger emphasis on the way that a website is built, both on and off-page, meaning that backlinks and on-page optimisation need to be streamlined, as failure to comply with the guidelines that Google has released now results in automated penalties which are known to affect rankings in a more severe way than ever before. Search engine optimisation has seen a flurry of changes http://www.seobythesea.com/
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=1&f=G& l=50&d=PALL&S1=08244722&OS=PN/08244722&RS=PN/08244722 3 http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=1&f=G&l =50&d=PALL&S1=08346757&OS=PN/08346757&RS=PN/08346757 4 http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum. htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8,321,409.PN.&OS=PN/8,321,409&RS=PN/8,321,409 5 http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.htm&r=1106&f=G&l= 50&d=PTXT&s1=Google.ASNM.&p=23&OS=AN/Google&RS=AN/Google 6 http://patentscope.wipo.int/search/en/detail.jsf;jsessionid=F0B8CFF0B4AF732048CD1421938CF3E0.wapp2?docId=WO2011050495&re cNum=1&maxRec=&office=&prevFilter=&sortOption=&queryString=&tab=PCTDescription 2
over the past few years and although many believe that these changes are killing SEO off, in reality, they simply mean that website owners need to continue to develop their websites to ensure that they meet the aims that Google believes improve user experience. We know that Google is changing the way that website owners need to structure their websites and now it is looking for the focus of a site to be placed on user experience, something which is still an unclear metric as each user that accesses a site would like to see something different.
Frank Watson, CEO, Kangamurra Media The death of SEO has been prematurely announced a number of times over the past six or seven years, usually by people looking for attention – who are ultimately showing how little they truly know the space. Optimising your presence in the search engines changes as the engines change their algorithms and their layouts. In the beginning, words on the page and in the meta data was the major way to boost your positions. Then, inbound links with specific anchor text held sway and now, quality and freshness of content has surfaced as the leading factor. Add the placement of map listings and product feeds, and a new set of factors need to be added to the tool set to optimise a website’s position. Successful SEO requires keeping current with what the engines are doing and adapting to the changes.
Ralph Tegtmeier aka fantomaster The well known observation that ‘change is the only universal constant’ seems to have escaped the SEO industry right from the start. Generally speaking, you won’t find too many other fields of commerce dominated by scary headlines of the “Is this the death of TV?”, “Why banking is dead” or “The death knell of medicine” ilk. By contrast, search marketers and optimisers seem to positively wallow in such masochist doom-and-gloom material, predicting the next ‘SEOcalypse’ every other week whenever Google’s Matt Cutts deigns to cough or push yet another video where he seems to frown on this or that hitherto perfectly legitimate technique of optimisation. You might shrug this off as the teething pains of an as yet very young and quite immature industry.
There are also fairly transparent marketing ploys such as linkbait and social attention whore-ism to consider as plausible explanations. Of course, none of this lends any more credibility to the purported ‘death’ of SEO. So to massacre the inimitable Frank Zappa’s statement on jazz, it is with great satisfaction that I proclaim: “SEO isn’t dead, it ain’t even smelling funny!” Right from its inception in the mid 90s, SEO has been all about being able to assert a stand on an ever shifting ground. Search engine optimisation being by definition dependent on whatever the search engines do (or fail to do) in terms of tweaking their ranking algorithms, it would be perfectly silly to expect a static, once-and-and-for-all approach to persist for any significant lapse of time. Come the next ‘algo’ change by the search engine you’re focussing on, and more often than not it’s back to the drawing board for you and your customers. But whether we like it or not, it’s always been this way and there’s no reason to assume that this will change anytime soon. Obviously, there’s another sentiment informing those obnoxious ‘SEO is dead’ alerts as well: the hype spawned by the search engine reps themselves. Their perpetual claims of how great, how smart, how aggressively user-centred and ‘finally spam resistant’ their respective engine has now become should be regarded for what they really are: mere promo and self-backslapping. Taking them at face value is like proclaiming the ‘Death of Dirt’, simply because there’s yet another detergent hitting the market with all its overblown pretences to ultra efficient effectiveness. Any professional laundry operator will know better, and by inference that’s what we as SEOs should do as well, come another grand self-serving proclamation by either the search engines or some marketing crackpots trying to push their wares. So instead, it’s all about keeping up with things; as always in technology, come to think of it. Do your homework, analyse, analyse, analyse and, even more importantly, test, test, test. In this regard, SEO isn’t different from the automobile or the chemical industry. Flexibility and an open mind are paramount to survive this game. Or, as our black hat brethren and sisters prefer to put it: “Keep calm and continue spamming.”
PETE YOUNG is Regional Head of SEO at Mediacom and has quietly been around the search and affiliate industry for around ten years. Prior to Mediacom, Pete headed up similar positions at Mediavest, Brilliant Media and Amaze. Peter founded Holistic Search and also writes for European search marketing blog, State of Search, and Search News Central.
PAUL REILLY is the founder of MediaSkunkWorks, a new and pioneering service provider. Paul has over 13 years’ experience in search engine optimisation and has a wealth of experience in highly competitive sectors. If you have any specific questions you can email Paul directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on http://twitter.com/paulreilly, or ‘stalk’ him on http://foursquare. com/user/paulreilly
JUDITH LEWIS is Head of Search at digital agency, Beyond. She has contributed to two books on optimisation including ‘Pimp My Site’ and speaks at various conferences around the world in addition to continuing hands-on SEO work and volunteering for London Girl Geek Dinners.
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. Dave 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.
Frank Watson is CEO of Kangamurra Media and has been involved with the web since it started. For five years, he headed SEM for FXCM, which was once one of the top 25 spenders with AdWords. He’s worked with most of the major analytics companies and pioneered the ability to tie online marketing with offline conversion. RALPH TEGTMEIER aka fantomaster has been active in website development and web marketing since 1994. He was the cofounder and principal of fantomaster. com GmbH (Belgium), a company specializing in webmaster software development, industrial-strength cloaking and a variety of up-market search engine optimisation tools.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
Market-Ace is delighted to welcome Virgin games to our family
Promote Virgin Games exclusively at Market-Ace affiliate network
Promote all these brands with the market-ace affiliate network
www.market-ace.com | email@example.com
GAMESYS CLAIMS VIRGIN TERRITORY It has been a rollercoaster ride for the Gamesys brand over the last six months. After making headline news in becoming the first real money gambling operator to launch on Facebook, the UK-based company has started 2013 by announcing the acquisition of Virgin Games. It is a takeover that will see many changes to the Virgin Games stable, including the migration of its affiliates to Gamesys’ Market-ace affiliate program. “WE ARE ALWAYS looking for ways to become a better business,” explained Chief Operating Officer, Lee Fenton, when asked if Gamesys’ acquisition of Virgin Games could be the first of many deals it intends to execute on in the coming year. Indeed, the scale of its operations would appear to have intensified since it was chosen by Facebook to launch the first real money gambling app on the social platform back in August 2012. This latest deal is no less significant for Gamesys, as it acquires the gaming subsidiary of one of the business world’s best known brands. “It is a significant acquisition for the Gamesys Group,” Fenton continued. “Not just because of the strength of the brand and the long-term nature of the partnership, but also that the Virgin Group looked at how we do business and decided we were the right partner for them.” Perhaps Facebook’s ringing endorsement of Gamesys had a small part to play in that decision, effectively advocating, through its partnership criteria, that Gamesys was a well established, highly regarded operator whose reputation it trusted. In fact, as Virgin Games evaluated the potential of being acquired, and by whom, this track record was pivotal. “As a Virgin Group company, one of our biggest assets is our brand and this was a key factor when looking for a potential
acquirer,” said Virgin Games CEO, Simon Burridge. “Gamesys has an excellent track record for operating in a responsible manner in the markets in which it is active. This was absolutely crucial for a global brand like Virgin who relies on the trust of consumers across a number of industries and markets. It also shares a strong entrepreneurial culture with Virgin Games and it is still very much run by its founders.”
Marriage of cultures The entrepreneurial culture Burridge speaks of is one area that stands out within this deal; Virgin, a company founded on the principles of aspiration being acquired by a company raised on the principles of innovation. Could the marriage of these two cultures form the perfect combination to execute growth in the iGaming sector? “Absolutely,” asserted Burridge. “Gamesys has proved itself to be a fantastically innovative company and who better to realise the potential that our business has to offer? In our brief courtship, both companies liked what they saw, so I have every confidence for the future of this marriage.” Fenton agreed, “Virgin has always been a consumer champion brand; a brand that looks to transform the norm that the customer is used to and change it for the better. With our ability to innovate,
provide very stable solutions at scale and our commitment to customer service, we believe it is an excellent fit.” Indeed, the concept of corporate and cultural ‘fit’ has become an increasingly applied term within the industry between entities that have merged, to one degree or another. From what we can glean from both parties, the cultures of Virgin and Gamesys seem closely aligned, but how important is the cultural fit in any acquisition or merger? “I’ve harped on about this before, but I can’t emphasise the point enough – a Virgin company is all about the brand – and what makes the brand? It’s the culture,” continued Burridge. “And what makes the culture? The people. So when looking to sell Virgin Games, a cultural fit was of upmost importance and when we met with Gamesys we felt that they could offer that.”
Competing in the market Pivotally, it would appear that the deal is mutually beneficial. Far from being pursued by larger entities acting on specific acquisition strategies, Virgin Games was a brand actively on the lookout for a buyer. “Over the past year we’ve made no secret about the fact that we were actively speaking to a number of players in the market for a potential partnership,” said Burridge. “As more governments move to regulate their jurisdictions, there are many more
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opportunities opening up in the market, but the cost of entry into new regulated markets is high. I’m on the record as saying the future for the industry is consolidation in order to get the bigger marketing budgets “The (Virgin Games) affiliate program will be consumed into the Market-ace business, with current Virgin affiliates able to continue to market the brand within an environment that is promising to welcome them with open and rewarding arms.”to realise the potential in ever expanding markets. Smaller operators just don’t have the marketing budgets to compete against the large players – and I’d put Virgin Games in that bracket. We have an excellent team, a fantastic product, a superb brand and valued customers, but to tap the potential in markets outside the UK takes deep pockets and strong partnerships.” Burridge will hope and trust that the partnership with Gamesys will prove to be strong enough to take the Virgin brand to the next level. Indeed, Fenton moves to confirm that the Virgin brand will not be disappearing through this acquisition, but that significant changes will be made, particularly with regard to the poker site. “The Virgin Games brand will continue to operate as Virgin Games on the same domain,” he said. “We will be re-launching the existing UK site in the first quarter of 2013 and we will be exiting Virgin Poker from the UK market. The offer will be further iterated post launch as we receive feedback from customers and we dovetail
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into the wider Gamesys Group roadmap.” In terms of short and longer-term strategies for the brand, Fenton confirmed that “No future plans have been announced”.
“The (Virgin Games) affiliate program will be consumed into the Market-ace business, with current Virgin affiliates able to continue to market the brand within an environment that is promising to welcome them with open and rewarding arms.”
company believe the acquisition to say about their brands? Fenton adopted a pragmatic approach. “We believe it is recognition that gaming is a very competitive market and if you want to succeed, you need to bring something different. We have a unique platform, unique content and a constant appetite to innovate.” Burridge reflected, “Less than five years ago, we made the leap from being a white labelled games marketing business to becoming a fully fledged gaming operator. I think this sale shows that Virgin Games has been built into a fantastic business in a relatively short time, which is testament to the skilful and hard working team at Virgin Games, as well as the power of the Virgin brand in the sector.”
The impact on affiliates In terms of how this deal is perceived by the industry, and by the wider community, it could be argued that the expectation (outside of the industry, at least) would be for Virgin to be the acquiring entity, rather than the party being bought out, given the company’s heritage across business sectors. Yet, as Burridge states, “Virgin Games is a small cog in a big wheel. Virgin Group has a much wider focus than the gaming industry and it felt to fully capitalise on the international opportunities, it needed to partner with the business that it sees as the industry’s star performer: Gamesys.” So what does each
An area that is seldom reported on in aftermath of any merger or acquisition in the gaming industry is how the marriage of two (or more) entities will impact their respective affiliate partners. Typically, this is dependant on the nature of the convergence, and whether it is an acquisition of a company’s full assets, or an agreement to purchase certain arm(s) of the company. The goalposts would shift again where the deal is a merger of, or joint venture between, two entities, rather than a monetary takeover. In this case, Gamesys is acquiring the Virgin Games brand, and we can expect
many changes to take place, including personnel, and including the man who has pioneered Virgin Games form the start, Simon Burridge. The affiliate program will also be consumed into the Market-ace business, with current Virgin affiliates able to continue to market the brand within an environment that is promising to welcome them with open and rewarding arms. David Volovici, Market-ace’s Head of Affiliates, confirmed that affiliates currently promoting Virgin Games will be moving into a professional and transparent business that is “leading the field” in affiliate marketing. “We are mapping across all affiliated players to Market-ace, which means that affiliates will continue to earn commission,” Volovici assured. “We will honour their current revenue share percentage in February and March 2013, and moving forwards, we will introduce a scalable commission structure giving affiliates the chance to earn up to 45 percent.” It is imperative with such a fusion of company cultures, as both Gamesys and Virgin have implied, that any transition be as smooth as possible for those assets that will remain under the new stewardship; something that Volovici is keen to clarify. “For affiliates who already hold an account with Market-ace, we will merge their Virgin affiliate account onto their Market-ace account,” he said. “For those affiliates that
do not have an account with Market-ace, we’ll set-up an account on their behalf – they do not need to do a thing.” Reassurance, should it be needed, that affiliates will not be a forgotten component in this acquisition. On the contrary, Volovici’s remarks highlight the value that Market-ace apportions to its growing army of affiliate partners.
Dawn of a new era For Virgin Games, the acquisition signals, to a degree, the end of an era – an era in which, as Burridge alludes to, the company has grown from white label business to operator. But it does not signal the end. In contrast, for the man who has been at the helm of the business for the last nine years, the deal is a progressive one that will benefit Virgin’s long-term ambitions in the sector. “This is a really positive step forward for the business,” Burridge affirmed. “This deal with Gamesys brings the scale that Virgin Games needs to succeed internationally in the sector and gives Virgin Group the opportunity to fulfil its considerable ambitions in the online gaming space. It will provide greater resources to tap into, help with the growth in new markets whilst giving us the ability to expand on our existing offering, to include social gaming.” Viewing the deal from the perspective of the entity being acquired is an interesting concept, particularly when you consider the role the Chief Executive will play in any decision making process. Aside from the
headaches and challenges and all of the pragmatism of preparing one’s company for acquisition, for many, Burridge included, there will be a certain degree of personal attachment that will make letting go a more difficult process. “Obviously, I’m personally very sad that this chapter has ended,” concluded Burridge. “We’ve built a fantastic business which has had a superb team behind it. To pass the keys on to someone else does tug at the heart strings, but it is the way of business. For Virgin Games to grow as a company and make a real go of breaking other markets, it needs the resources that we just couldn’t offer alone.” IMPACT ON VIRGIN AFFILIATES • Market-ace will transfer all afﬁliated players to Market-ace – afﬁliates will continue to earn commission • Current revenue share percentages will be honoured in February and March 2013 • Moving forward, a scalable commission structure where afﬁliates can earn up to 45% will be introduced • Afﬁliates who already hold an account with Market-ace will see their Virgin afﬁliate account merged onto a their Market-ace account • Afﬁliates who don’t have an account with Market-ace will have an account set-up on their behalf
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
PLAYING THE GOOGLE GAME Whether it is poker, casino, or bingo, you rarely hear of affiliates using AdWords as a major acquisition channel. A strict policy following regulation guidelines in each of the markets, and a relatively small pot of keywords to choose from, results in a fiercely competitive landscape, writes Google’s iGaming Industry Manager, Eli Uzan. IT MIGHT SOMETIMES seem that
Choose your niche
with such an expensive cost per click for gambling-related keywords, AdWords is open only to the big players. When it comes to the iGaming industry, this means operators. This isn’t entirely true. Here are three reasons that make AdWords and search engine marketing in general, an interesting opportunity.
This is an important step before launching your campaigns. Choosing the right niche is key to success in any business, though when it comes to such a competitive arena, this becomes crucial. The following three ingredients are the ones you want to have in your ‘perfect niche recipe’: 1. Volume: first, as we’re dealing with search, you want to choose a niche with enough demand and query volume to play with. You can use the AdWords Keyword Tool to compare different niches. 2. Medium level of competitiveness: the number of competitors is always a good indicator for potential. You don’t want to choose a niche where every query returns 11 ads, but having two to seven ads is usually a good sign that this traffic can eventually convert. 3. Low conversion rate: what? Yes. It’s not a mistake. When you pick a niche that has a lower conversion rate, it usually comes with a low cost per click. These areas give you much more room to play with in an attempt to increase conversion rate and eventually be able to pay more than others. When conversion rates are high, it usually means that improving performance will be much harder, and these are the areas most advertisers focus on in any case.
1. Inventory: as more and more markets regulate, AdWords policy changes to align with local laws, consequently increasing the available inventory. This trend has continued throughout 2012, Spain being a major example. 2. Complexity: although not intuitive at first, higher marketing complexity means a bigger opportunity for affiliates. Naturally, operators focus on the larger chunks of traffic. Whether it’s the change in the users’ behavioural patterns in tablets and mobile, or the inclusion of advanced testing and targeting features in platforms like AdWords, or even the availability of third-party data, these are the areas that through some extra effort and creativity, an affiliate can get the necessary competitive advantage. 3. Quality: it’s a known fact among operators that the most effective acquisition channel in terms of lifetime value is SEM. Having search as part of an affiliate’s marketing mix can help in improving the deal he is getting for his entire traffic and might prove profitable even with a breakeven ROI judging the SEM channel alone.
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volume and low conversion rates, as people don’t grasp the game just yet. This can be the place for creativity and patience, where an affiliate can create the perfect answer to what users are looking for. As an affiliate, you should focus on increasing conversion rates by creating a site that gives the value (teaching poker) and has the necessary stickiness levels that will allow you to enjoy the conversion at a later stage. Your goal is to eventually be able to pay a higher CPC than your competitors by focusing on the delicate details that determine the quality of the answer. In AdWords, a better answer is immediately rewarded with a lower CPC as well.
Testing, testing, testing Well, if the three most important success factors in bricks-and-mortar businesses are ‘location, location, location’, the equivalent for online marketing would have to be ‘testing, testing, testing’; and AdWords is no different. AdWords actually has many built-in tools that allow you to test ads, landing pages, bids and more, while avoiding all the math calculations in the way. As CPC is usually high when it comes to generic gambling terms, small things can make a big difference.
Let’s take a niche like ‘Learning Poker’. In most markets, it will have the three ingredients we just discussed. With no more than seven advertisers appearing for these keywords, it certainly has high
Within the niche you choose, you’ll still have different keyword buckets. Each keyword represents a different question, a different need and a different likelihood to convert.
Tip: when it comes to iGaming, we find that plural vs singular behaves differently especially when it comes to affiliates. Plural might be the place to be, as users are looking for more of a comparison-like answer.
The bids Bidding is the bread and butter of AdWords, but it’s not only how much you bid, it is when you bid that exact amount. Tip: test different bidding strategies taking into account the unique behaviour of users in your niche. Check changes in the CPA (cost per acquisition) throughout the day and try to find their correlation to the bids and position. In addition, try taking into account external factors that might affect user behaviour; weather and holidays can be two interesting examples.
The ads CTR (Click Through Rate) is an important factor in determining what you’ll eventually pay for each click, and obviously, depends on the text you put in the ad. Tip: users looking to play real money gambling are bonus oriented. One of the most important things to test is the location of the bonus in the ad (title or one of the
two description lines), the currency, and the number of times the bonus is mentioned in the ad itself.
funnel which usually results in a lower conversion rate, it’s not always the case. It also might just be worth it in certain cases due to what you’ll gain on the quality score front.
The landing page Today, more so than ever, the landing page itself is a more important factor in the quality score formula. Thinking of the query as the question and the combination of the ad and landing page as the answer may help in designing the most appropriate landing page. Tip: when it comes to landing pages, the number of tests is practically endless. The mistake most people make when it comes to landing page testing is focusing on one landing page while testing small layout changes like the colour of the button or the size of the font. This might indeed turn out to be effective, but in order to get the competitive advantage against operators, you’ll need something bigger. Strive for a totally different approach. If you chose the ‘Learning Poker’ niche, try a more creative funnel. For example, in the landing page, which is just the first step, explain the basic rules of poker and list the poker hands rankings, and in the second page discuss poker strategy and have a call-to-action at the bottom. Although this is a more complicated
How to start? The best place to start is by understanding the policy when it comes to real money gambling and AdWords. Just search for “AdWords Gambling Policy” to get all the information you’ll need. Eventually, your site will be reviewed and if approved, you can start advertising. Don’t forget, it’s all about finding the niche, providing value and testing. Good luck.
ELI UZAN is the Industry Manager of iGaming, eCommerce, Health and Binary Options at Google Israel. Throughout his time at Google, he has been providing consultancy services to large iGaming brands in different areas of online marketing, business development and product. Before joining Google, Eli was the co-founder and COO of an Internet company. Eli holds an MBA and a BSc in Computer Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
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HOW IMPORTANT ARE WE? How relevant will affiliates be for land-based gaming operators coming online in the US? I REMAIN SURPRISED when I come across an online gaming site that doesn’t have an affiliate program, as I have always been very aware of the value that we, as affiliates, can add to an operator. I have personally had the experience of operating more than one affiliate program where the vast majority of the traffic to the gaming sites supported was directly or indirectly due to the efforts of the affiliates we worked with. Most online gaming operators are aware of this value, and have incorporated affiliate programs into their overall player acquisition strategy; many providing great value and benefits to their affiliates (and maybe a few less so). They get it. Where things are becoming interesting is in markets where traditional land-based operations, like those found in Nevada and other US states working towards regulated online poker opportunities, are looking to move their poker rooms online, and are defining their acquisition channels. Will they embrace the power of affiliates, or ignore what we can bring to the table?
Market insights I had the opportunity to speak at the Barcelona Affiliate Conference on the opportunities for affiliates in the US and had the pleasure of being introduced by an icon in the gaming industry, Mickey Charles. Mickey has been involved in the gaming industry since the black and white TV days (sorry Mickey), and has seen it all. He knows how the landbased operators think, and where their concerns are, and he had some insights that I felt were very interesting.
The first was that he agreed with the sentiment that most land-based operators don’t really understand the value of online affiliates to their business. They have traffic into their casinos that comes as a result of their locations, their reputations, and their other marketing efforts, and when any significant players come in from afar, they are often from the efforts of a junket organiser – more or less the offline equivalent of an affiliate. Junkets make up a very significant part of the bottom line in places like Vegas, Macau, and Atlantic City, as well as being absolutely essential in remote locations like Foxwoods. This lack of knowledge has been supported when we have spent time consulting with Indian casinos; they know their business extremely well, but not ours. The second of Mickey’s insights that I thought had a lot of merit was that the larger casino operators generally work with player acquisition channels, like junkets, on an exclusive basis, and that they are not going to be nearly as comfortable with the types of affiliate relationships that we are used to now; where we promote multiple operators based on the content and focus of our websites. It is going to be interesting to see how demanding they will be in this regard; as I am sure most of today’s affiliates would be hesitant to promote a single brand. Perhaps if we were retained on some form of fixed or monthly fee this could be a consideration, of course, but it would certainly turn the current model on its head.
Proving the model I’ve said many times that online affiliates are compensated at higher than sustainable
rates for many operators, especially those that are licensees, and/or that may operate in jurisdictions with high taxation. However, most operators still embrace affiliates because they are driving traffic that helps with liquidity, and that traffic in-turn brings in additional players through word of mouth. It is unlikely that landbased operators, especially in the US, are going to be interested in paying anything close to the compensation levels that are enjoyed in the industry today. Land-based gaming operations look at their acquisition costs, and associated values, based on the theoretical win of the players that come in as a result of that advertising, and this helps them determine which channels provide an acceptable ROI. Until the online business in the US starts, and then matures, it is going to be impossible to put a value on this theoretical win, and difficult to persuade operators that players we bring are worth a high percentage, or any CPA value even close to what is being offered online today. We need to prove the model, working with open-minded gaming operators that are willing to explore new player acquisition channels and create longterm, sustainable relationships that will ultimately prove profitable for everyone. GIAN PERRONI is the owner of AffPoint.com, an affiliate industry informational and resource portal, and the creator of the AffPoint Affiliate Boot Camps. Gian also works as a consultant with American iGaming Solutions in the United States.
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EVENTS, ENTITIES, AND EDGES: GOOGLE’S KNOWLEDGE GRAPH Google’s mission statement is to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. That was tough in 1998, but now it’s harder than ever. GOOGLE’S CHALLENGE IN 1998 was to make information accessible. Now, its challenge is to make it useful. As the web has become an ever more important part of life for more than a billion people around the world, the needs of those people have become more demanding. Ultimately, a search is a question, and people want answers. Fast. Google has made strides in understanding the context around a search. Sundar Pichai, one of the leading engineers behind a number of Google products, has talked endlessly about the need to understand the motivation behind a search if Google is going to return the best possible results for its users. But, in order for Google to be able to understand the relationship between what someone wants when they search and the reason behind that search, it is necessary to understand the relationships between things in the wider world. The chances are that during 2012 you saw quite a bit of Google’s playful side. Cool little ‘Easter Eggs’ in its search engine like the ability to ‘do a barrel roll’ or ‘tilt’ the results page were nifty little parlour tricks that attracted a lot of viral attention, and got passed around offices throughout the world for weeks on end. One particularly attention grabbing Easter Egg was the ‘Bacon Number’ search. A Bacon Number is the number of steps between Kevin Bacon and any other actor. The idea is inspired by the theory of six degrees of separation raised by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929, and more recently by Stanley Milgram. It states that through the shared connections of the social network, you can get from one person to any other person in the world in just six steps. At first glance, the Bacon number search might look like a neat little trick; something the Google engineers came up
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with to show everyone how clever they are. In fact, it’s a really clever piece of technology that showcases the power of Google Knowledge. The Bacon Number is a specific example of Google Knowledge and demonstrates the ability of Google to understand the ‘what’ of a number of things: ●●That words relate to a person ●●That other sets of words relate to films ●●That a list of names against the name of a film are the cast ●●That the various casts overlap to create a network
include ‘Wisdom’) describes the functional relationship between pieces of information and defines a structure for them:
In addition to these things, Google needs to be able to scan through its knowledge base fast enough to provide you with an answer to the question you’ve asked quickly enough for it to matter to you. Arthur C Clarke said that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. In many ways, it’s a shame that we’re so spoiled by our access to technology that the Bacon Number search seems almost banal.
The traditional definitions of these different steps are as follows: ●●Data: the basic facts ●●Information: data that has meaning ●●Knowledge: evaluated information
What is Google Knowledge? Philosophers and scientists talk about a hierarchy of information called the DIK (Data, Information, Knowledge) Pyramid. DIK (Sometimes, DIKW to
Most people have the ability to subconsciously visualise the relationships between things. Those that cannot – people who suffer from disorders on the Autistic spectrum, for example – find it very difficult to exist in the real world. If you lack the ability to put things within context, even with all the facts, you cannot make decisions because you do not have the means to understand the relationship between them.
For all the illusion of understanding that Google and other search engines have displayed in the past, they are more akin to savants. They know a lot of stuff, but they don’t know what it means. Like Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man, Google can instantly count the number of leaves, but cannot see the tree. Google Knowledge is a means of adding context to a world to benefit users with more appropriate information. It relies on three main concepts: ●●Entities ●●Events ●●Edges Entities are facts; people, places, products. They are tangible items with a meaning and definition. Thanks to the massive volume of data at its disposal, Google can aggregate millions of pages of information that discuss the phrase ‘deck of cards’, and associate those words with a variety of other entities – the game of poker, a card trick, or a memory game. The second part of this triptych is the ‘event’. This is the point in time at which two things connect. This might be poker, specific players and a hand of cards being associated in a game of poker on a particular day. These events are created all of the time – whenever something happens, it is an event. Whenever two specific entities form a relationship or are co-cited in a story, it is an event. It’s a potentially infinite set that grows over time. These relationships, the connections between entities, are known as ‘edges’. They are the imaginary lines between items that join them together and create a web of things. Look around the room you’re in, and try to visualise the edges that connect things together. It is the edges between events and entities that make the world make sense. The more common edges that can be found between different entities in the world and the events where they coincide,
the more these relationships are reinforced, and the greater the understanding of the underlying world becomes. Edges are not the same as links as we see them from an SEO perspective. Edges are often inferred relationships between entities based on the proximity they have
“Edges are not the same as links as we see them from an SEO perspective. If a hyperlink is a wedding ring, an edge is a paparazzi photo.” in a piece of content and the language on a page that links them together, whereas links are explicit declarations of a relationship. If a hyperlink is a wedding ring, an edge is a paparazzi photo.
Can you optimise Knowledge? The knowledge graph extends across the whole web. It makes relationships between concepts explicit where once they were implied, and as it evolves, should create much more relevant results for users. SEO is a discipline which changes all of the time. The difference that Google Knowledge brings to the industry is profound; for the first time, we move from optimising the structure of data into creating a framework for evaluating that information. This can be achieved in part by structuring information in standardised ways. The use of schema.org microformats allows Google to recognise that a product is good based on the review score, or that a string of digits is a phone number. This is only a fragment of what is possible, however, and the real power of Google Knowledge from a marketing perspective is the ability to create and demonstrate real authority across multiple sites. Google Knowledge is concerned with relationships, and one of the key sources
of information for this is Google Plus. We have all been encouraged to use G+ as the hub of our online identity, and this is at the heart of any strategy for Google Knowledge. As with traditional links, not all edges are equal, and the relationships created by authorities in a particular area demonstrate more value than those which are caused by thin, insubstantial connections. G+ provides numerous metrics for evaluating the authority of an individual. Connecting our G+ profiles to the different places we write to underline the scope of our influence, participating in relevant discussions and expressing our opinions, and having those opinions shared and acted upon by a wider community, all demonstrate our authority, and underline why the edges we create are more important than those of others. In optimising for Google Knowledge, we will be optimising ourselves.
JAMES LOWERY is Head of SEO at Latitude Digital Marketing. James has been working in search engine optimisation since 2003 and developed a reputation as one of the thought leaders in the industry. As Head of SEO at Latitude Digital Marketing, James is responsible for the overall successful delivery of search engine optimisation services and social media marketing across a range of industries including gaming, finance, travel and retail for clients such as Holiday Autos, Haven Holidays and Fitness First. James’ philosophy on SEO is to deliver a user centric campaign that puts conversion at the top of the agenda. Over the past two years, James has managed a transition in Latitude’s SEO offering from a traditional search product to one that is more influenced by developments within the social media world and which provides clients with greater opportunities to develop their overall online visibility alongside traditional metrics of success, such as improved rankings.
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ERS D R O T
OR OU DE T RS
S C OU R E H D R AOS O T OU
CHAOS ORDERS OF
ORDERS OUT OF CHAOS
Pierrick Leveque, Head of Acquisition at Virgin Games, says that affiliates can learn a lot from the seeming disorder of a car leasing website, the success and prominence of which has many scratching their heads (and eyes). I’M A TERRIBLE driver. Always have been. My own mother refuses to get in the car if I’m driving. To add to this, I have very little interest in cars. However, and despite this, I recently found myself spending half a day browsing through a car leasing website, for work. Before you ask, no, Virgin Games is not looking at renewing its fleet of company Maseratis; we’re quite happy with them. I came across the site while researching customer engagement for our latest baby, Virgin iPad Casino. What drove me there is an E-consultancy paper1 explaining how one of the ugliest and most confusing websites you’ll ever see manages to generate orders out of chaos. To cut to the chase, the site is www.lingscars.com. It’s a car leasing company UK readers might know of after its owner, Ling Valentine – a Chinese born dynamo of a business woman – appeared on the TV show Dragon’s Den a few years back. If you’re familiar with the site, I know I have your attention. If you’re not, go check it out now and come back here once your eyes stop bleeding. Research aside, the reason I spent time on this site is that it just begs for it. It’s incredibly deep, and a very large proportion of pages have absolutely nothing to do with car leasing. Randomly selected and in no particular order, you get quizzes, noodle recipes, a selection of surreal Karaoke songs – including the hit ‘Eat a Flamingo’ – Burma aid, Top Gear spoof videos, and a notice telling you that the colour of your underwear and your
favourite type of biscuit have been stored in a cookie. The whole experience feels like it’s been put together by a bunch of colourblind school kids with a good sense of humour and too much time on their hands. But does a free game of Hangman really help leasing cars? Well apparently it does. With the assistance of its unconventional and challenging shop window, Lingscars is a thriving business. It has leased more than £50 million worth of cars, won a number of industry and digital marketing awards over
“The secrets of Ling’s success are deceptively simple and are also a perfect fit for the affiliate model: be bold, be engaging and be honest.” the years and has been praised in national press and TV on numerous occasions, while customers are raving about its services. How does she do it? How does selfinflicted chaos reconcile with the site’s primary objectives as a commercial venture? Beyond the quality of the service itself, the secrets of Ling’s success are deceptively simple, and incidentally they are also a perfect fit for the affiliate model: be bold, be engaging and be honest.
Be bold Ling’s site has ‘me, me, me’ written all over it. She is the face and the voice of the business. Visitors to the site not only interact
with a digital shop window, they primarily interact with a unique, bold personality. We all know emotions play a big part in decision making. A website with a recognisable voice, a unique visual identity and strong opinions strongly held will contribute to lighting up its visitors’ own emotional triggers. It shows passion, and through passion, genuine interest. Your visitors come from all walks of life, and will not respond in the same way. Taking the risk to alienate some of your traffic through strong personal choices might seem counter intuitive at first. However, if you’re not a market leader, you should not be afraid of polarising your visitors: five loyal soldiers will always be worth more than ten potential deserters. Fighting apathy through design and content will help make your site more memorable. If you can’t be the biggest fish in the pond, be the brightest.
Be engaging With the right eye and good prose, your personality and opinions will logically contribute to raising your visitor’s engagement levels. Your website content will work as a testimony that you’re not merely passing on a piece of information – ‘Check out the newly launched Casino X, Check out the new £10 bonus at Bingo Y’ – but processing it, adding personal value to it, making it not only unique, but also memorable. As Ling’s site testifies, deep content, when unique and memorable, works wonders towards engagement.
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Rehashed articles, paraphrased press releases, SEO mumble-jumble, won’t cut it with Matt Cutts for much longer. Month after month, Google is showing us where search is heading. If people are not interested in your content, if most of your pages are only aimed at spiders, sooner or later Google’s Tarantulas of Doom will turn up at your door, bite you in the a**, and never come back. Making your content unique and memorable means users will stick for longer, browse more pages on your site, bounce rates will be reduced and your content will be shared. All KPIs that, incidentally, Google is recording on your site while you’re reading this. Once your audience is emotionally engaged, it makes it easier to capture and nurture it through newsletter subscriptions.
As an affiliate, inspiring trust is fairly simple: just tell it like it is. Do not try to make things look better than they are. If a sign-up bonus has restrictive terms and conditions, then say it. If a casino has been known to pay slowly, mention it in the review – your visitors will thank you for it. Misleading, outdated, incomplete, lazy information is detrimental to the operator and the affiliate alike. In a saturated market, each player’s wagering lifetime is finite with any single operator even before you start sending them across. Once they’re done with casino X, they might want to try casino Y. If their experience of casino X is not in-line with the expectations raised from visiting your site, you’ve lost trustworthiness. If they floated through your site and you missed your opportunity to be remembered, you’ve lost stickiness. Either way, you’ve lost a return customer, and someone else will claim a share of casino Y revenue.
Be honest Ling does this through customer testimonials, listing her sales figures, and clearly flagging all costs associated with any particular deal (a bit like the exact opposite of Ryanair).
To wrap up You’ve heard it a million times already, ‘do this, do that, change this on your site and you’ll make more cash’. Once in a while, the cacophonous quacking of marketing
experts is silenced by a concept so alien it turns common sense on its head. Ling’s car website is just that. It’s confusing, flashy, loud, and opinionated, the exact opposite of what we are taught a business site should be. Yet it thrives. While Ling’s site pushes contradiction to its limits, the underlying marketing principles it obeys are simple and can be applied to any challenger’s site right now. Be daring, be engaging, be honest. And for this, you don’t need an interactive sitemap showing your visitors move around real-time in a Chinese prison compound.2 But, as far as I’m concerned, it helps. PIERRICK LEVEQUE is Head of Acquisition at Virgin Games, managing the home grown affiliate program as part of the overall customer acquisition strategy. ‘Affiliate Program of the Year’ EGR Awards 2010 and 2009 ‘Best Casino/Gaming Affiliate Program’ A4U Awards 2008 ‘Best Bingo Affiliate Manager’ iGB Awards 2009 W: www.virgingames.com/affiliate E: firstname.lastname@example.org B: www.pierrickprk.wordpress.com T: (+44) 207 985 9431
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LESSONS IN MOBILE ENGAGEMENT
HOW GAMING AFFILIATES CAN CAPITALISE Siamac Rezaiezadeh of mobile messaging and payment solutions provider, OpenMarket, highlights the lessons from other industries on how to capitalise on mobile for effective customer engagement. Big business Make no mistake, mobile gaming is big business. Last year, online sportsbetting provider, Betfair, announced some 275,000 active mobile customers in the UK had placed 44 million mobile bets during 2012 – more than double the year before. This boost in mobile usage generated £22.7 million – 15 percent of its total revenue for the year. As the stakes get higher, more gaming companies need to look at mobile as a golden opportunity for new services and new ways to engage with their customers. And there are lots of good examples of how to increase acquisition and retention through the smart use of mobile: valuable mobile-centric lessons can be learnt from sectors as diverse as charity fundraising, airlines, and social gaming. Operator billing, SMS shortcodes, push notification messages, in-app payments – each has a part to play in creating a compelling and effective mobile gaming proposition. And if done correctly, mobile can become the foundation for lucrative new products and services for consumers to enjoy wherever they are.
Lessons from charity Unlikely as it may initially sound, gaming companies share several common features with charities. Each wants to engage with wide numbers of consumers, each is competing in a crowded market, and each needs to have in place systems to process high volumes of payments. Importantly, each relies on an easy, low-friction user experience to turn the end-user’s impulse – whether it’s to make a donation or place a bet – into action. The charity sector is just one of several industries that already successfully use SMS as a transaction mechanism to process large volumes of payments.
Donations via mobile, through systems such as Vodafone JustTextGiving, have exploded over the last few years. An online survey of 1,000 people in September 2012 by research consultancy, nfpSynergy, into consumer donation methods showed 200 percent growth in mobile donations in just three months in comparison to other donation methods. Key to this adoption of mobile by the charity sector is the combination of convenience, simplicity, and the ability to react instantly to a call-to-action. Taken together, the effect is to create a way to donate that is virtually instantaneous, as practically all of the friction of the process has been removed through the use of simple to use SMS shortcodes. In a test against other forms of e-donation, the advantages in speed and spontaneity of SMS are clear. In a trial of the top 20 UK charities’ donation pages, digital charity agency, Open Fundraising, found it took an average of four minutes-plus to complete the credit card details for each page. In contrast, making a mobile donation using SMS took just five seconds, on average. SMS donations are direct, but also harness the very personal relationship that the consumer has with their phone.
A thorough analysis Another advantage of shortcodes is that they allow companies to track which marketing tactics deliver the greatest engagement virtually, in real-time, by using different keywords for different campaigns; for example, across print, TV, web and mobile. By comparing the keyword results, they can see which engagement routes are the least and most effective, and adjust its media strategy accordingly. For example, in June 2011 the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) launched a fundraising
appeal for famine relief in East Africa using SMS shortcodes as the donation method. The campaign raised over £1.5 million with the shortcode element alone generating double the response rate of other donation methods. The DEC was also able to analyse the keyword results and discovered that TV adverts for the appeal prompted a surge in mobile donations.
Easy does it Because SMS is such a simple and well understood mechanism, it’s an ideal way to boost acquisition and retention. Consumers don’t have to download an app or share any personal information or bank details. It’s even possible to use SMS as the basis for subscription services, such as a monthly membership or e-wallet topup. Done well, SMS is a great way to give consumers control without the need to log-in or browse a website.
Timing is everything Another valuable advantage of mobile messaging is how it can deliver personalised and time-sensitive information to large numbers of users for a very low cost. For gaming companies, this means they can use SMS for real-time ‘in-game’ betting, or offer time-limited bonuses based on the unique profile of an individual user.
Prepare for take-off The airline industry is a good example of a sector that uses SMS in this way. The majority of airlines now use SMS for personalised customer service updates based on a customer’s travel itinerary. If a flight time changes unexpectedly the day before it’s due to depart, the airline can use SMS to immediately let passengers know about the change. Once at the airport, passengers can receive gate number reminders via
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SMS. Smart airlines are even using SMS within the departure lounge in the form of money-off coupons for stores or coffee shops that can only be redeemed a certain time before their flight is due to depart. This use of SMS has been shown to boost customer satisfaction among passengers and also eases the workload on the airline’s customer service call centre. The airline saves money since travellers don’t have to call to check their flight details. Although vastly different examples, in both instances, SMS demonstrates its significance as a targeted and timesensitive messaging system which is able to add value and also trigger an immediate response from the recipient.
Push for more than SMS SMS isn’t the only method for engaging customers on their mobile phone. Nobody can dispute the impact and popularity of mobile apps (45 billion app downloads [and counting] worldwide from Apple’s App Store). Mobile gaming is no exception: in 2012, the William Hill betting app for iPhone was the UK’s most downloaded betting app, clocking up over 500,000 downloads since its February 2012 launch. However, the sheer number of apps available to download – over a million on iOS and Android combined – means it’s all too easy for a consumer to forget or ignore your app once they’ve downloaded it. This can be solved by using on-screen updates called push notifications – user-relevant content that prompts the recipient to use the app. And, as with SMS, the customer must first give their permission, so this is effectively an opt-in marketing mechanism. Push notifications can be as simple as reminding the user that they’ve downloaded the app but haven’t used it for a while. Or it can be more specific – such as updated odds on an event, or a marketing promotion tailored to the customer’s own interests and behaviour. Clicking an on-screen prompt takes the customer directly into the app, where they can properly engage and interact with the content. If you’ve invested time and money in an app, push notifications play a valuable role in driving usage and extending its shelf
life. Research shows that an app using push notifications retains over 80 percent of its users one month after launch. The study also found that over half of all mobile app usage is driven by push notifications, a figure that increases to 67 percent one month after launch, all the way up to 81 percent in the third month after launch,1 indicating that any company that plans to use Smartphone apps as part of its strategy needs to seriously consider using push messages as part of its engagement and marketing plan.
Being social Gaming companies can also learn an important lesson from the social games industry in how to use mobile payments to generate ongoing incremental revenue. Facebook-based games like as FarmVille and Mafia Wars have attracted millions of casual players worldwide, spending real money to make in-game purchases. Now the social games phenomenon is spreading to Smartphones. Most mobile games are known as ‘freemium’, meaning that whilst the games are free to download and play, players are encouraged to buy virtual goods or extra levels or abilities. These players only pay small amounts for these purchases, but it’s the frequency and volume of these low-value transactions that generates lifetime revenue for the developer.
Little and often The ‘little and often’ business model is hugely relevant to today’s gaming companies. Whether buying a new cow or a barn for your farm in FarmVille or placing a bet in a mobile casino game, for in-game purchasing on a mobile device to succeed, it needs to be a quick and frictionless experience for the player that doesn’t interrupt their game play. And to achieve that, the ability to pay must also be as frictionless as possible. Direct operator billing is key to enabling this ease-of-use for the customer to place bets on the move or recharge their casino account on their phone or tablet.
Unlike credit cards, mobile billing doesn’t need the user to complete a lengthy signin process, or type in a card number or password. They simply enter their mobile number and the cost is automatically charged back to their phone bill. And to make it even easier, new direct billing services automatically recognise the user’s mobile phone, meaning they can literally pay with a single click.
Lessons learnt Mobile is now an established and essential medium to reach and engage with consumers today. The experience of other industries demonstrates the value of mobile to the gaming sector for intelligent customer engagement and retention: delivering an inclusive end-user experience and even placing bets and collecting winnings. However, the intimacy and immediacy that mobile delivers can’t be taken lightly. Any form of engagement – whether it’s a text message, shortcode request or push notification – needs to have a reason behind it and a call-to-action, otherwise consumers will quickly start reaching for the delete button. At the same time, the mobile experience should be frictionless, easy to use and not intrusive for the recipient – so make it something they find useful. Rather than treating mobile as merely another product platform or a marketing channel, a gaming company, operator or affiliate, should instead regard it as the glue that holds all of its products and services together. As we’ve seen from other industries, mobile engagement delivers benefits across an entire organisation. It enables more accurate and effective crossplatform marketing, improves customer service and satisfaction, and best of all, gives revenues a real boost. SIAMAC REZAIEZADEH is Strategic Business Development Manager at OpenMarket. OpenMarket provides mobile payment and CRM systems to some of the biggest names in mobile gaming, including the world’s biggest mobile casino. For more information, please visit www.openmarket.com or text LUCKY to 88600. May 2012, Urban Airship “Push Messaging Index” Report
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2013 PREDICTIONS FOR SOCIAL AND MOBILE Traffic, conversions, installations, depositors, social apps, mobile apps, web-based games, real money games… these are pretty much the terms that have evolved over the past few years relating to online gaming offerings. And these are the terms which mean the most to both operators and affiliates alike. EACH OF THESE terms has a different connotation and with each connotation, there is a different form of acquisition marketing to accompany the process. Online gaming has evolved and now mobile gaming is no longer a side dish served with the iGaming main course. Social apps are being deployed as a play money tool to capture a new audience. Web-based, real money gaming is a totally legitimate enterprise with fewer ‘grey’ areas for regulated operators. There will always be the ‘black hat’ operators accepting real money bets from the US, but the consequences are making it a harder decision for the few remaining operators who take that chance. With every change there is opportunity. Whether it’s a small window or a large gap crying out to be filled, there will always be a solution. For affiliates, the products and marketing methods may be changing, but the opportunities are growing. The trends in online gaming have been driven, like everything else on the web, towards social. Operators still not understanding the social sphere are missing the new opportunities as each day passes. These opportunities include working closer with affiliate marketers who have taken the time to learn and understand how the process of social acquisition works and then implement the same methodology to retain players. Based on market insight, here are some personal predictions for 2013: 1. Mobile: 2013 will see mobile gaming equal and even surpass the revenues of desktop gaming. 2. Social gaming apps: 2013 will see more real money apps emerging in Facebook where legal jurisdictions permit.
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3. Binary options: the hybrid of Forex trading and online gambling, Binary Options will come of age in 2013 and offer both platform operators and affiliate marketers the kind of opportunities not seen since 2005.
“Binary options is a great example of how implementing social campaigns for branding, exposure and education mixed with a hard core acquisition strategy can achieve great results.” Mobile There really aren’t too many people left who don’t seem to be using Smartphones. When Spin3 started developing its mobile casino, it was a risky and uncertain time. Smartphones hadn’t even entered the market and the product itself was very limited based on the number of relevant handsets being used by potential players. Ten years later, Spin3 has emerged as one of the biggest players in the mobile gaming space. But the affiliate deals out there still don’t maximise the true potential of mobile gaming. Mobile apps for iPhones can be installed from the iTunes store. Many operators have gone to great lengths to get their mobile apps listed in the store. However, for affiliates wishing to utilise this, it is nigh on impossible. I have yet to see any casino affiliate programs that are able to track player stats back to affiliates who have sent traffic based on installs from the iTunes App Store.
This is a big disappointment as it is so easy to send traffic for mobile installations. In a recent test campaign run by Sociarati Media, a targeted group of females aged between 25 and 45 were served ads directing them to a real money mobile casino app, listed in the App store. This ad directed users straight from their Smartphone to the iTunes App store. Additionally, this target group was pinpointed by their existing interest in online gaming and Internet casinos. The click to conversion to installs was 65 percent due to the narrowed down targeting. Once these users went further than the install stage, not one affiliate program was able to show affiliate stats for actions after installation. When the tracking technology cannot match the game technology, drastic action should be taken by the operator to ensure that affiliates are not left out of the loop.
Social gaming apps There is probably no bigger benchmark for the online social gaming market than Zynga. Still an unproven entity in the conversion to real money gaming, I believe that 2013 will see Zynga finally take its rightful share of the social gaming market with real money deposits where winnings can be withdrawn. In 2012, Zynga was the subject of much bad publicity; losing top executives on what seemed like a daily basis, leaked reports of lay-offs which turned out to be true and the dropping of many of its well-known titles due to low revenues and high running costs. What Zynga is now left with is a streamlined, cost effective gaming company in an excellent position to enter the world of
real money gaming. From all of the game titles dropped by Zynga in 2012, there was not one game that was casino-based. This shows two things: that virtual money for social casino games is still thriving, and the opportunity for expansion into real money is ever present.
Binary options Three years ago, no one had ever heard of binary options. Then, a handful of platform developers began to emerge. One specific binary options platform provider has risen, in the past two years, growing from five licensees to more than 150 by the end of 2012. The successful platforms are gaining traction by offering aggressive affiliate deals based on user acquisition. The top five binary options platforms are run and managed by veterans formerly from the gaming industry and people who were on the scene back in 2005. These same people understand affiliate marketing and how it has changed the face of the binary options industry. As recently as two years ago, the first binary option platform operators didn’t
understand the acquisition cycle for the product and, in some cases, couldn’t even define the product for their target market. Binary options is a great example of how implementing social campaigns for branding, exposure and education mixed with a hard core acquisition strategy can achieve great results. Now, binary platform providers are looking to create a completely free social app which will replicate all of the functionality of their live trading platform, utilise the quotes engines for currencies, stocks and commodities and can be played virally on Facebook. This will be a game changer in 2013 for the binary options industry, but only if the social product is promoted as aggressively as the real money product and the true potential is realised to the full.
Conclusion In 2013, the need for tracking technology for mobile apps has to be high on the agenda of gaming operators. The way users are acquired for mobile will become even more creative than what is presently
being undertaken. We will see the rise of the mobile lightbox which will not even require completion by the mobile user, just a simple permission tick in order to capture a marketable mailing list. All marketing efforts aimed at these mobile acquired users will be carried out directly through their handsets and completely skip the need for the user to be within the vicinity of a computer. Combining all of the points mentioned in this article, the predicted ‘big winner’ of 2013 will be binary options.
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 and driving players using social media. Michael also specialises in social affiliate marketing. Michael has been a part of the online gaming industry since 2002 and has specialised in social media since 2010. He can be contacted by email at Michael@sociaratimedia.com.
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Preparing for the Re-emergence of Online Poker in the US Poker Affiliate Listings Founder, Jeremy Enke, argues that those affiliates who are proactively preparing for the re-opening of the US online poker market are likely to be the ones who reap the rewards. Working in the poker affiliate industry and targeting US traffic throughout the last decade can only be compared to riding one of the fastest and scariest roller coasters in the world. As soon as you reach the top of one hill, you go roaring right back down to the bottom at blistering speeds. Next thing you know, you’re upside down and disoriented. One minute you’re consumed with anticipation and nervousness, while the next you’re breathing a sigh of relief. Whether it is the UIGEA of 2006, or more recently, Black Friday in 2011, the veterans in the poker affiliate industry have been for one heck of a ride. Since Black Friday and the mass exodus of poker rooms from the US market, affiliates have been waiting patiently to see what, if any, regulation will finally reopen the once booming US online poker market. During this period of – for lack of better words – US prohibition, many affiliates abandoned promoting online poker altogether. Several found greater success in diversifying into similar, less regulated niches such as online casino, sportsbetting, bingo, and even binary options. Many poker affiliates left the industry completely. So as we enter another New Year, the question is once again raised: is 2013 the year that online poker makes its re-emergence into the US market? Many industry observers and experts believe
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that this indeed could be the year. Anyone even moderately familiar with the online poker industry and US markets can clearly see that the major gaming companies are strategically positioning themselves for this to take place sooner rather later. Lately, the news from the US market has been developing at a fast and furious pace. More and more of the major players are striking deals with Las Vegas casinos.
to fruition. The question for affiliates, however, is: are you prepared for the reemergence of online poker in the US? As the famous Formula One racer, Bobby Unser, once said, “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” It’s hard to predict exactly what a regulated US market will look like, or when affiliates will have the opportunity to start seeing US poker traffic like we witnessed prior
“(The US) is unlikely to be the same type of landscape we have been used to working in over the years. Commission rates will be lower, and sadly, affiliates are likely to be much less important to the overall business of the operator.” While companies like Boyd Interactive Gaming are receiving Nevada licences, you’re also seeing existing online giants such as PokerStars buying a bricks-andmortar casino in Atlantic City. There is no doubt; the landscape in the US online poker market is about to get extremely interesting.
Where preparation and opportunity meet With the main political and election season over, as well as a country and several US states on the brink of insolvency, there has never been a better opportunity for the industry to finally see some form of US regulation come
to Black Friday. One thing is certain though: the affiliates that are proactive and preparing right now will reap the rewards of this new era of online poker. So how do you prepare yourself for an upcoming market without knowing what the landscape will actually look like? Let’s look at what we do know. Whether you’re promoting online poker, e-cigs, weight loss products, you name it, the fundamentals of online marketing remain the same throughout various niches: you build a great website with dynamite content, acquire traffic through SEO and other sources, provide value to that traffic, and then convert it with effective calls-to-action through your affiliate links.
However, there’s one tremendous difference for traditional poker affiliates, and it’s one that should not be overlooked if and when the US market re-opens. Poker affiliates marketing within the US throughout the last decade have primarily relied on search engine optimisation or building brand loyalty through various rakeback schemes in order to convert new players. In a newly regulated US market where the Las Vegas casinos will more than likely be involved, the odds of affiliates being able to offer rakeback are highly implausible. The only incentives you’ll be able to promote to your traffic are those that are being offered directly by the operators. One of the reasons preparation is so critical that in this new market, commissions may be smaller, and you can bet that competition is going to be fiercer than it has ever been. For years, many professional retail affiliates in the US have been afraid to venture into online gambling because it was a ‘grey area’. However, once US casinos and poker sites become regulated and start leveraging networks such as Commission Junction or Google Affiliate Network, the game is going to change drastically.
PPC and re-targeting For existing poker affiliates preparing for a new US market, there are two areas I
highly recommend that you learn now, and that you learn well if you want to become a top affiliate in the powerhouse networks, or the poker sites themselves, for that matter. These areas are PPC and re-targeting.
“The good news is that our industry will see far less rogue programs, more ontime payments, and we’ll be able to operate in a much more legitimate atmosphere within the US market.” While SEO will always play a critical role in being a successful poker affiliate, should the US market open up as expected, these are two areas that have been untouchable in the past for converting US traffic. The traditional non-gaming affiliates, who will be flooding into our space, are experts at capturing traffic using these methods. PPC (pay per click) is obviously self-explanatory, and depending on commission rates, may not even make sense for affiliates. But if you’re not familiar with re-targeting then do yourself a favour and learn about it. If allowed for regulated US gambling sites, it should be a gold mine opportunity for both affiliates and operators to not only build their brand recognition, but also convert a huge amount of new players.
Equally important will be to understand the new regulated marketplace, and to embrace and adapt to it. It is unlikely to be the same type of landscape we have all been used to working in over the years. Commission rates will probably be lower, and sadly, affiliates are likely to be much less important to the overall business of the operator. The good news, however, is that our industry will see far less rogue programs, more on-time payments, and we’ll be able to operate in a much more legitimate atmosphere within the US market. Likewise, we’ll have an entirely new breed of players to market to, who have previously been afraid to play online due to the conceived ‘grey area’ of online gambling in the US.
Riding the roller coaster Overall, the future for online poker in the US looks much brighter in 2013 than it ever has. Is it going to be another scary roller coaster ride? Yes, probably. But at least this time around, while we’re getting in the cart, we can have much more confidence that the ride is not going to run off the tracks or get stuck halfway through. Whether an industry expert, a CEO, or even a newbie affiliate; nobody knows exactly what the future holds for online poker and the poker affiliate industry in the US. One thing is certain, though: it’s going to be one heck of a ride once the train leaves the station. So, at this point moving into 2013, there’s only one thing left to be said: ‘enjoy the ride’.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
FEATURE - US MARKET INSIGHT
STATE OF THE UNION
This issue, we look at the recent state level movements of jurisdictions and countries on both sides of the Atlantic as they look to introduce, develop or enhance their domestic iGaming policies. We start in the US, where since the US Department of Justice publicly reversed its position on the scope of the 1961 Wire Act in December 2011, conceding that it only reserved jurisdiction over sportsbetting, there has been a hive of state activity with regards to the broadening of intra-state lottery and iGaming models. Here, we provide a snapshot of current activity within a selection of states that have been visible in their attempts to expand, or restrict, their relationship with iGaming, before we delve into some of the recent issues and events concerning state and federal online gaming. Nevada Green Regulated Gaming Type: Poker-only Operator Type: Applicants with existing land-based licence (open to foreign operators) Estimated Go Live Date: Q1 2013: the truth is that we are still awaiting the first sites to come online in Nevada, after initial estimates from the Gaming Control Board put the ‘go live’ date within Q3, possibly Q4 2012. Obviously, that hasn’t come to pass but with new Chairman, AG Burnett, replacing the now departed Mark Lipparelli, we would hope to see some momentum building in the coming weeks (or at least to understand the source of the delay). Illinois Green Regulated Gaming Type: Online lottery Operator Type: Illinois Lottery controlled Estimated Go Live Date: Online Delaware Green Regulated Gaming Type: Full-service online gaming Operator Type: Centralised iGaming system via Delaware Lottery and operated by the three state casinos Estimated Go Live Date: End of Q1 2013 Georgia Green Regulated Gaming Type: Online lottery Operator Type: Georgia Lottery controlled Estimated Go Live Date: Imminent Maryland Green Regulated Gaming Type: Online lottery Operator Type: Maryland Lottery controlled Estimated Go Live Date: Q1 2013 Michigan Green Regulated Gaming Type: Online lottery Operator Type: Michigan Lottery controlled Estimated Go Live Date: April 2013
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New Jersey Amber Present Status: There’s a distinct feeling of déjà-vu in New Jersey, with current legislation once again sitting on the desk of Governor Chris Christie awaiting his signature that would confirm its passage into law. Christie had been expected to look more favourably on this year’s iteration of the bill he vetoed in 2011, however, his comments on a New Jersey radio show would appear to suggest otherwise. He acknowledged that the bill was on his desk to a caller on 101.5fm’s ‘Ask the Governor’ show on January 22, but that he not yet made a final decision on its passage. He cited two areas of concern: one, that he wasn’t sure of iGaming’s real benefit to Atlantic City and its ability to drive traffic back to the casinos; and two, that he didn’t want to create a generation of problem gamblers who would have constant access to Internet sites. By the time you read this, we will know whether New Jersey has become the first state of significant size to embrace online gaming due to the Governor’s 45-day window to sign or veto the bill. California Amber Present Status: There is no certainty as to what may happen in California in 2013. What we do know is that a bill, written by Senator Rod Wright, has been introduced to the Senate which would offer licences to current land-based licensees operating in the state. To date, none of the various attempts to regulate online poker have got beyond committee, which, according to experts in the Golden State, has much to do with the ‘dynamics of California politics’, in that the opposition by groups such as the gaming tribes and card rooms has been key factor to the lack of progress thus far. More recently, there has been a softening of stance from both groups who are at least acknowledging of online gaming’s
Online Legislation Enabled
Work in Progress/Under Consideration
Undecided/Back to the Drawing Board
benefit, however, there remains opposition that could well continue hold up progress in the near-term. The lack of movement has already accounted for the closure of the California Online Poker Association (COPA), which cited the “insufficient progress within the legislature toward the passage of an online poker bill” in a statement in October. COPA was against the latest version of the online poker bill. Iowa Amber Present Status: After a relatively quiet period in Iowa, the turn of the year has brought with it some fresh hope for iGaming progress. Just prior to printing this issue, we learnt that the state’s Racing and Gaming Commission Chair had confirmed that the Iowa Legislature will once again consider iGaming legislation during the 2013 legislative session (which began on January 14). In 2012, the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate passed a significant iGaming bill with bipartisan support. The final vote was 29-20. The Republican-controlled Iowa House did not take up the Senate bill and nor did it move a separate House iGaming bill that was introduced by a Republican committee chair. Governor Branstad (R) remained neutral on both bills. The key question in 2013 is whether the Senate will, again, pass an iGaming bill if there aren’t assurances from the House that it will take up the bill. Like last year, there are enough votes in the Senate to pass the bill in 2013.
FEATURE - US MARKET INSIGHT
Oregon New Vermont Hampshire
Rhode Island Connecticut
Maryland West Virginia
Oklahoma New Mexico
Additional reporting and insight: Martin Owens
(Attorney, California); Matt Eide (Lobbyist, Iowa).
Will the Senate take the time to move legislation through the process only to have the House fail to act? Governor Branstad has consistently said he would review iGaming legislation once it passed both chambers and has a long history of supporting a variety of gaming bills. Iowa’s state lottery is also known to be keen to move to Internet-based sales, and possibly to iGaming.
Pennsylvania Amber Present Status: A new addition to our update. Momentum is growing in the Keystone State with Senator Tim Solobay, a long-time supporter of gaming initiatives in the state, imparting his belief that the legislature “owes it to the citizens of Pennsylvania to weigh-in on issues such as lottery privatization and online offerings, and I suspect that you will see Harrisburg take a proactive stance in the near future.”
District of Columbia Amber Present Status: The District of Columbia remains amber despite going quiet in recent months. After being the first to announce what would have been pioneering iGaming legislation to enable its DC Lottery to offer online gaming, the District is now in a form of stasis with the Council overturning the law and with no real inclination of the DC Lottery’s online plans post-DoJ opinion. Any
near-term progress is unlikely at this stage, however, authorities aren’t thought to be opposed to new legislation going forward. Massachusetts Amber Present Status: The DoJ’s opinion has certainly galvanised efforts in Massachusetts to legalise intra-state online poker. Rep Dan Winslow’s (R. Norfolk) amendment to the Budget Bill (H04100) that seeks to “raise revenue from Internet poker licenses” and lead to the creation of additional jobs, is not forecast to see any advance in its progress for the foreseeable future. Last we heard, legislators were awaiting a report on Internet gambling from the Online Gaming Task Force, which was due at the end of 2012. Winslow plans to introduce a standalone Internet Poker bill at some point this year.
once again awaits the verdict of the latter Committee, and we should not be overly surprised if we are downgrading the state back to red in the near future. New York Red Present Status: Was responsible, with Illinois, for requesting clarification from the DoJ on the scope of the Wire Act that lead to the December 2011 opinion. There has been little movement since attempts to expand the lottery online were thwarted in 2012.
North Carolina Connecticut Red Present Status: Undecided Utah Black Present Status: Prohibited
Mississippi Amber Present Status: We have cautiously upgraded Mississippi from red to amber this issue, after the Democratic Member of the state’s House of Representatives, Bobby Moak, introduced the all new Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2013. However, our caution stems from the bill’s similarity to last year’s House Bill 1373, which died in session after only two weeks of consideration from the state’s Ways and Means Committee. The 2013 iteration
Florida Red Present Status: Back to the drawing board
Texas Black Present Status: Texas has belatedly appeared on our regulatory radar, however, it seems the state is more likely to follow Utah’s prohibitive stance on Internet gaming. Proposed legislation from Democratic Senator, Eddie Rodriguez, would free up certain land-based facilities to apply for poker licences but would also outlaw online poker, video poker and other electronic forms of the game.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
FEATURE - US MARKET INSIGHT
POKERSTARS TO ACQUIRE ATLANTIC CITY FOOTPRINT As reported by iGamingBusiness.com in December, the parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, The Rational Group, is set to acquire the Atlantic Club Casino in New Jersey – a pre-emptive strike ahead of impending iGaming legislation that currently awaits the signature of New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie. POKERSTARS’ RUMOURED interest in acquiring a terrestrial base in New Jersey had been gathering momentum for some weeks by the time we learnt, in early December, that the world’s largest online poker brand had filed for a landbased casino licence in the state of New Jersey having agreed terms to acquire the struggling Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City. More recently, it emerged that The Rational Group had filed an interim casino authorisation application with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement for approval to acquire the Atlantic Club, with the division confirming to the Press of Atlantic City that, “an application requesting interim casino authorisation and other relief was received from Rational Group.” Any sale would also require final approval from the New Jersey Casino Control Commission. Sources close to the negotiations reported that PokerStars and Colony Capital, the investment company that owns the Atlantic Club, were discussing a potential sale believed to be worth no more than $50 million. The deal will see the online poker giant assume control over Atlantic Club’s retail assets in a move that is likely to be a pre-emptive acquisition ahead of the state’s anticipated regulation of intra-state online gaming, with applicants for online casino licences likely to require a land-based presence.
that it did not comprehensively prohibit iGaming from being offered in bars and Internet cafes. The new proposed legislation would authorise casinos in Atlantic City to offer New Jersey residents a full portfolio of online gambling. People from out-of-state would also be allowed to wager as long as it was consistent with federal law. Speaking of the benefits to the bill’s passage, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, who chairs the appropriations panel, said, “We must position New Jersey’s gaming industry to thrive in the 21st Century, and that involves authorising a legally sound Internet gaming law. “This is another key piece of our effort to boost New Jersey’s gaming industry by expanding and modernizing our wagering options. This will rejuvenate our tourist industry while increasing employment, capital investment and much needed urban redevelopment.” Assemblyman, Vincent Prieto, also weighed into the debate. “Most everything else has migrated to the Internet and taken advantage of the consumer and revenue options it offers, and New Jersey’s gaming industry should be no different. This is a carefully crafted bill designed to ensure Internet gaming on casino games is offered the right way. It’s a much-needed competitive step forward for our casinos that could also raise more revenue to benefit senior and disabled citizens.”
Keeping Atlantic City alive Legislative progress The latest bill (Bill A2578) , again coauthored by Senator Raymond Lesniak, currently awaits the signature of Governor Christie having been approved by both the General Assembly and the Senate, and is heavily backed to be signed into law at the second time of asking. The measure is similar to last year’s S490 proposition that was vetoed by Christie over concerns
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
As both Assemblymen allude to, PokerStars is making its move into terrestrial gaming at a critical juncture for Atlantic City casinos who have been hit hard by falling revenues driven by the economy and by competition from casinos in neighbouring states that have impacted footfall at the resort. Senator Raymond Lesniak has long advocated that the introduction of online gaming will effectively save Atlantic City’s
casino industry, a fresh lifeline that will enable businesses to remain profitable. Speaking to iGaming Business North America magazine last year, he declared, “I firmly believe that without Internet gaming, we will see one, two or even more of our casinos close. They’ve been hurting so badly for so long through declining revenues that this is a real lifeline for them. “The jobs necessary just to get these sites operational will exceed a thousand, and then there will be the jobs that we’ll save by keeping the casinos open. We’re keeping Atlantic City alive; this will be a big boost to the industry and will help our tourism industry as well.” Before being usurped by Pennsylvania last year, New Jersey was the second largest gaming market in the US behind Nevada, bringing in an estimated $3.3 billion in revenue in 2011. However, 2012 saw Atlantic City gambling revenues fall to their lowest levels since the early 1990s, with total revenue down eight percent to $3 billion, according to figures released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. The figures continue a sixyear decline in total revenues since hitting an all-time-high of $5.2 billion in 2006, and were heavily impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which battered America’s eastern seaboard just prior to the Presidential elections. According to Bloomberg, Keith Foley, co-author of Moody’s ‘Hurricane Sandy’s Credit Impact’ said that he expected Atlantic City casino earnings to “drop by at least 25 percent, and they could decline as much as 50 percent in the next two quarters.” Official figures from the Gaming Division saw November’s revenues fall 28 percent after Governor Chris Christie closed all 12 Atlantic City casinos on October 28 for a period of five days. The casino industry’s concern over its long-term future was highlighted when Senator Lesniak submitted the second
FEATURE - US MARKET INSIGHT
iteration of his bill to regulate intra-state gaming. “The distinction between now and when the Governor vetoed the previous bill is that this time, the casino industry is strongly behind it,” he told iGaming Business. “They realised that federal legislation just isn’t going to happen and that getting started in New Jersey will be beneficial to their land-based operations.” The casinos that once lobbied against intra-state legislation in the hope that federal legislation would be enacted are now backing the cause, arguably appreciative that their survival now depends on it.
High profile acquisition News that it would be joining the iconic Atlantic City casino strip was the culmination of a busy period of consolidatory progress for PokerStars, having earlier in the year completed the high-profile acquisition of its former arch-rival Full Tilt Poker, after reaching a settlement agreement with the US Department of Justice (Southern District of New York). As part of the terms of the agreement, PokerStars acquired the assets of Full Tilt Poker and committed to reimburse the stricken company’s non-US players
($184 million) in a deal worth $547 million that will be paid over a three-year period. And importantly, although the settlement did not contain any admission of wrongdoing from PokerStars, it does contain explicit permission for the company to apply to the relevant US authorities (for both PokerStars and the re-launched Full Tilt Poker brands) to offer real money online gambling as and when specific state and/or federal regulatory frameworks are in place. This clarification has clearly proved the springboard for The Rational Group’s entry into New Jersey, and allays fears for both PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker over their future ability to operate in the aftermath of Black Friday. If its presence in the state does indeed prove a catalyst in “keeping Atlantic City alive”, then any fears as to the damage Black Friday had on its reputation will also be eased. PokerStars’ entrance and investment in Atlantic City should help to galvanise a casino and a market in retreat and in doing so, lay the tentative foundations that will help it lead the way in the first state of significant size to embrace intra-state online gaming regulation.
It is not just in the US that PokerStars has been expanding its reach. The company announced just before Christmas that it has become one of the first regulated online poker operators in Germany, having been granted a licence by the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. The licence will allow PokerStars to offer real money cash games and tournaments in the northern German state which has pressed ahead with its own domestic gaming regulations despite the machinations of the remaining 15 Germans states to conjure their own national iGaming system, which has faced criticism and continues to be scrutinised by the European Commission. “By opening up the market, Schleswig-Holstein has demonstrated its understanding of German players’ needs and the prevailing market reality,” said Guy Templar, Head of Business Development at PokerStars. “Thanks to Schleswig-Holstein gambling law (GlüG S-H), consumer protection, jobs and regulation can be reliably implemented.”
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
FEATURE - US MARKET INSIGHT
COMING UP ON THE RAILS Will US state-sponsored gaming be left at the post? ANYONE WHO REGULARLY goes to the races can tell you of surprise endings: where two evenly matched horses are fighting neck and neck as they go for the finish line, only to have another horse come out of nowhere and beat everybody. The classic example, at least for ancients like me, was the 1975 Kentucky Derby, when Avatar and Diablo were pounding down the stretch nose to nose, and then Foolish Pleasure blew right by them both. (The symbolism, at the height of the New Age, was also unforgettable). Something similar might be developing as US state governments begin to move toward legalisation and licensing of Internet and interactive gambling, particularly poker. Several states are vying to be first to open for Internet business. But in the meantime, a new and powerful rival to these programmes has developed essentially overnight, and may yet overtake them all.
State programs and the liquidity problem Nevada, predictably, is head and shoulders above the rest, quietly approving licensing applications already, and even exploring the possibility of Internet poker compacts with other states. This is an important consideration for other states in the process of legalisation, such as New Jersey, and for those considering online poker or Internet gambling generally. The problem is known as liquidity. The liquidity problem boils down to one question: if I, resident of state X, should sign on to my state-sponsored Internet poker network, will there be enough other players to get up a game? Because if there aren’t, I won’t be back. In a multinational, worldwide system such as PokerStars or PartyGaming, this is no particular problem – a night owl in Perth, Australia, could connect with a lunchtime player in Denver, and so on. But most US state governments rely on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) for the authority to licence Internet gambling. (The actual source of their right to do so is Article X of the US Constitution’s Bill
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
of Rights, but most are afraid of any move that might mean a confrontation with the federal government, especially on a controversial subject such as gambling.) Now, the UIGEA exempts state-licensed gambling from the definition of “unlawful Internet gambling” but on the condition that the gambling be controlled within state borders, and offered only to people physically present there. If that part is taken literally, then smaller states have two problems: sheer numbers and availability. If the national iGaming market is broken into 50 or so smaller ‘walled gardens’, then playing poker or anything else online is limited by the number of players in that particular state, and it is further limited by time considerations. Gambling is a leisure activity for most people, mainly after dinner, maybe a quick game at lunchtime. Only the hard-core will play before breakfast or after midnight. That means an in-state-only programme is going to have long periods of what radio stations call ‘dead air’ – when there just aren’t enough folks around to make a buck. Overall profitability is thereby brought into question. An in-state-only regime poses another problem to the vested interests that already have bricks-and-mortar operations in place. Namely, what advantage do they reap from letting the customer play on the Internet when he’s already their guest? Perhaps that’s the reason that, for all the ferment and comment, we have yet to see a US licensed Internet gambling operation actually open for business, even in Nevada, where the enabling legislation has been on the books for ten years now. Today, there are few if any technical problems with transmitting gambling information between point A and point B. Since December 2011, when the DoJ finally admitted the Wire Act doesn’t ban all iGaming, there are few legal problems, so long as it isn’t sportsbetting. But one problem remains: unless both the parties at point A and point B will make more money by linking than by sticking with the status quo, why bother?
Coming up fast on the outside Only three jurisdictions in the USA (Nevada, New Jersey, and the US Virgin Islands) even have the enabling legislation in place, to enable legalisation and licensing at all. The rest, even states such as California, whose large population would largely overcome liquidity problems, are still wrestling with the first steps. Competing vested interests need to be reconciled. Guardians of the public morals need to be reassured. The state governments need to see worthwhile recompense. Anyone aspiring to be a state-licensed operator, including potential partners from overseas concerns, has to negotiate this minefield. To borrow an old horseracing term, they are ‘stuck in traffic’. The problem with being stuck in traffic is that your horse wears himself out, while making no real progress. Not much chance of a winning purse as long as you’re boxed in on the rail. But that same box is an opportunity for the jockeys who know how to go around and make a bold move. A little timing and a little luck, and your beast can take the lead while the others are wearing each other out. And in this case, the horse that is steering around the traffic and coming up fast on the outside is quasi-gambling, also known as ‘freemium’, ‘play for free’ and so forth. By modifying the business model so that the three traditional elements of gambling (consideration, chance and prize) are not found operating in concert, it is possible to avoid the American gambling regulation regime altogether. And by basing the platform in social media rather than straight Internet websites, it opens the door to a new and powerful demographic. Can it work? The answer is that it’s already proven to work. The premier exemplar was Zynga’s release of Texas Hold’em via Facebook. Based in a free to play model, it offers additional ‘game booster’ points, achievable by steady attendance, participation in polls, watching advertorials, and, oh yes, purchase, too. But no money is required to play or to win. There goes consideration. In addition, the prizes are often nominal, or even entirely
FEATURE - US MARKET INSIGHT
virtual, icons representing such things as a ‘bouquet of flowers’ or ‘ice cream soda’. While a prize may technically be anything of value, it would be very hard to presume a generally recognised value for such things, legally speaking. And so the element of prize is also neutralised. Strange as it may seem to folks raised in the old-school gambling environment, Zynga’s new social network poker model worked – immediately and profitably. Within 18 months, Zynga’s poker business was worth $7 billion all by itself. By comparison, the entire online poker-formoney market is currently estimated at about $16 billion, with the United States making up roughly half. While it is true that Zynga has since suffered some significant setbacks, it cannot be denied that a brilliant example has been set, and one that is easy to follow.
Gaming to replace gambling? Interactive video gaming, as opposed to gambling, has become a major industry in its own right. The value of the market is projected to pass $80 billion by 2015. And not only can gambling-style games offered as gaming dispense with the onerous, expensive, and time-consuming requirements of licensing and registration which are required of gambling businesses, they have overcome another hurdle to profitability. Old-school gambling is based on old-school customers, now approaching their twilight years. Moving in to replace them are not merely fresh faces, but completely new attitudes and experiences. For someone in their mid-20s today, there has always been an Internet, and a mobile phone for everybody. For the generations that came through Prohibition, the Great Depression, World War II, Korea and
Vietnam, gambling was a sin mostly, sometimes a naughty treat. Only to be found in special preserves like Vegas, presided over by the likes of Frank Sinatra. The prevailing ethos was hard knocks, cash on the barrel head. The millennial generations? Not so much. For them, 48 of the 50 states have always had some sort of gambling, so it’s no big deal. Neither are they wedded to the notion that gambling (or gaming) must take place only in specified, licensed premises. After all, they use mobile channels for work and play, dining and diversion, banking and romancing. What’s so special about gambling? To put it another way, for them, Frank Sinatra has always been dead. Just as important, for them, money has always been relatively plentiful. Not everything needs to ‘pencil out’ in dollars and cents. Social media is increasingly the keel plate of their social life, and so, such things as social standing count more than a few dollars here and there. Which is why the notion of spending actual money for such ephemeral things as first place on a social gaming leader board, or awarding virtual icons of ‘bouquets of flowers’ is worthwhile and normal in their frame of reference, however preposterous it may seem to the generations preceding. Moreover, they’re willing to spend their money that way to the tune of billions and billions. At this point, I should hasten to reassure that I am not predicting the end of online or bricks-and-mortar gambling, subsumed in a tidal wave of interactive freemium gaming. Ecstatic predictions notwithstanding, the Internet did not kill television, TV did not kill radio, radio did not kill the newspapers, and the written word did not mean the death of poetry. They all found a way to get along. In just the same way, quasi-gambling does not
mean the extinction of Vegas, Atlantic City, Macau, or the office pool on the football games. Or PokerStars. These will all be with us for a long time to come. But the new format does offer quick, effective, and profitable access to the emerging demographics that all advertisers and service vendors are desperate to connect with. That alone will assure a substantial measure of success in times to come. Is the new format of threat to the proposed and prospective Internet and interactive gaming regimes of the US state governments? Not necessarily. The same techniques and games are every bit as available to, say, state lotteries as they would be too independent operators or publishers. All the same, if US state powers-that-be were to ask me, I’d tell them to legalise and licence iGaming as quickly as possible, so as to take maximum advantage of the leverage that official approval offers them. And also to negotiate inter-state compacts in the same way that online bets on horseracing are already covered. US state gambling law is the primary reference point for federal gambling law. Where the states say there is no problem, there is no problem. To put it plainly: it’s time to get out of the traffic, make that bold move before somebody else does, and quit horsing around. MARTIN OWENS is a California attorney specialising in the law of Internet and interactive gaming since 1998. Co-author of INTERNET GAMING LAW with Professor Nelson Rose, (Mary Ann Liebert Publishers 2005). email@example.com.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
FEATURE - US MARKET INSIGHT
NEVER SAY NEVADA Simon Burridge, Founder and, until its recent sale, CEO of Virgin Games, is an established expert in iGaming. Here, he offers iGB Affiliate his views on Nevada. DESPITE THE AMERICAN Gaming Association Chief, Frank Fahrenkopf Jr, saying last year “no matter what Congress does, based on growth trends… and the actions of various states, it’s no longer a matter of if online gambling will be legalised in the US but when, where and how”, nothing much has happened and, more worryingly, not a great deal seems to be happening either. The answers to when, where and how appear to be as elusive as ever. Take Nevada, the Silver State, for example. The general expectation was that online poker would become legal in the third quarter of 2012. That deadline, however, has not been met and there is still no certainty as to when it will happen. So what does this tell us about the prospects for the US igaming market as a whole? The truth is that many states (and the large ones – at least in terms of population – in particular) are, in reality, waiting for the federal government to enact comprehensive Internet gambling regulation. However, this doesn’t mean they are doing nothing, but the moves they are making only really make sense against a backcloth of preparation for when regulation actually arrives, rather than a series of moves to make it do so. Panellists in the closing session of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, which took place at the beginning of this year, had this advice for the law makers: “glean as much regulatory expertise as you can find, stay ahead of the technology curve and be prepared for a lot of disagreement.” Hardly earth shattering, as advice goes. The truth, whether one likes it or not, is that federal legislation is necessary so that companies that operate in multiple states can have a consistent Internet gaming policy nationwide. Yet, the bill that Senators Harry Reid and John Kyle were proposing to put before Congress would
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
allow states to opt out of participation in gaming. The reason that this is so important is twofold; firstly, the states are all very defensive over their own rights to determine what happens within their own jurisdiction; and secondly, by no means do all states have the population to offer up meaningful liquidity on an inter-state basis as far as online poker is concerned. Which brings us back to Nevada, and its population of 2.7 million people. The Nevada Gaming Control Board has submitted a draft bill to its state legislature proposing the legalisation of bets taken from other states that have regulated gaming. Indeed, its Chairman, A G Burnett, has claimed that it is ‘paramount’ that the State Governor is able to choose, if he so wishes, whether or not Nevada should be allowed to take wagers from other states, something that is not currently permitted under Nevada’s own current online gambling regulations. As he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “The need to make clear the Governor’s ability should he choose to negotiate such agreements, was paramount. We wanted to make sure the authority was there, however, to add more options in order to help this state”. But it was only a preparatory measure, because, on an inter-state basis, Nevada as a poker jurisdiction is going nowhere, which is why it has been focussing on an intra-state arrangement and, indeed, has been issuing licences to companies to operate intra-state Internet poker throughout 2012. Moreover, the list of those companies who have applied for such licences reads like a who’s who of gambling; GTECH, Golden Gaming, Paddy Power, William Hill, Caesars, Zynga and others. Is this, though, a precursor to active trading or is it just part of some learning curve? Tony Cabot of the Lewis & Roca law firm, for instance, claims that Nevada has learnt a huge amount since it began
issuing licences to companies to operate intra-state Internet poker in 2012. As he said, “even the most experienced people are not completely ready to regulate online play. You will need at least a year before a regulatory body can competently regulate it.” He also went on to say that if New Jersey, which became the second state to approve legislation to conduct Internet gambling, “thinks they can do it in three months, they’re kidding themselves.” Indeed, he claims it took the Nevada regulators six months just to determine what companies and individuals needed to be investigated before they could hold licences. Issues such as eligibility verification by age and geography, the prevention of collusion and money laundering, and a whole host of security concerns all needed to be reviewed as well. Add to that the rapidly changing technology and the need to keep on top of it, and it is not hard to see what problems they are facing. The states themselves are, at least by comparison to the government, relatively fleet footed where new technology is concerned. The Wire Act, which the Bush administration used to prohibit Internet gambling, has finally been clarified by the Wire Act memorandum opinion. That is not to say, however, that “federal language can be dropped from the state statute”, as one lobbyist has claimed. Rather, it means that we are inching ever closer to a point where federal regulation will bow to the pressure of state regulation. The states, as we can see, are preparing for that day. They are embracing land-based gaming into the online space. They are offering opportunities to technology providers and gaming companies that are ready to launch poker sites: but that day has not yet come and, irrespective of whether Nevada thought it would go live in the third quarter of last year or not, no one yet knows when that day will be.
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FEATURE - EU MARKET INSIGHT
STATE OF THE UNION From matters of state in America, to matters of Member State in the European Union, the similarities in how both sides of the Atlantic are developing fragmented intra-territorial iGaming markets is apparent, as is the markedly different way in which they are implementing their regimes. Naturally, the European market is a more developed landscape with many countries having firmly established iGaming systems, with more set to follow. iGB Affiliate, in cooperation with Stephen Ketteley of DLA Piper’s London office, provides an update on the ever-changing regulatory environment in Europe, before we hear select commentary on aspects affecting affiliates on an EU level, as well country specific insight into the markets in the UK and France. EU On October 23, 2012, the European Commission finally published its ‘Action Plan’, which sets out the initiatives it proposes to implement over the next two years to invoke a greater degree of clarity and co-operation between Member States in the field of regulating online gambling. The premise for the Action Plan stems from the increasingly polarised online gambling market. The cross-border provision of online gambling services and the array of distribution channels can lead to risks for consumers, especially if the activity is devoid of regulation. The Action Plan deals with five issues that aim to more effectively protect consumers and deter them from transacting with unregulated operators: ●●Compliance of national regulatory frameworks with EU law ●●Enhancing administrative co-operation and efficient enforcement ●●Protecting consumers and citizens, minors and vulnerable groups ●●Preventing fraud and money laundering ●●Safeguarding the integrity of sports The Action Plan marks a further step in the Commission’s stated aim of promoting a more coherent and efficient regulatory framework for operators targeting citizens in the EU. Member States are urged to co-operate in order to achieve greater harmonisation in the European Union, but the Action Plan does not impose the obligation to comply and transpose the initiatives directly into national legislation. The initiatives contained within the Action Plan will first be tested over a two-year period at which time the Commission will report on its progress. To the extent
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
that Action Plan fails to achieve its aim, binding legislation will be considered but this is unlikely to occur in the short to medium-term. The next steps for the Commission will be to compose a group of experts, which will include representatives from each Member State, to advise and prepare recommendations on the common protection of consumers and responsible gambling advertising. The first meeting is scheduled for December this year with a stakeholder conference to follow in 2013.
UK The British government has made its latest move in the process to regulate Internet gambling on a ‘point of consumption’ basis rather than a ‘point of supply’ basis, meaning any provider of remotely supplied gambling services to UK players will need to obtain a licence from the UK Gambling Commission and pay taxes on the transactions they enter into with UK players. Currently, the vast majority of such transactions are regulated and taxed outside the UK. The Government’s publicly stated reasoning for the reforms stems from apparent consumer protection concerns. This is unsurprising as fiscal intentions may fall foul of EU freedom-of-movement principles. However, many operators are crying foul particularly as the government acknowledged “the majority of operators currently targeting British customers are subject to established and effective regulatory regimes”. It will be interesting to see if this sentence becomes the focal point of the legal challenges yet to come. A stage of pre-legislative scrutiny will now commence and the industry will be
consulted. The government has previously stated the new regime will be in place by the end of 2014.
Italy Although having regulated various forms of remote gambling for some time now, the Italian market only permitted online slots to be provided as of December 3. Slots are a key part of many operators’ revenue streams and so this latest evolution of the regulated market is a welcome addition for the industry. It is envisaged that Spain, regulating since mid-2012, will also permit slots in its market during 2013. Back in Italy, it is believed that 2013 may also see the launch of betting exchanges and betting on virtual events.
Belgium As social gaming and real money gambling continue their convergence, it comes as little surprise that a European regulator has publicly acknowledged an intention to bring casino-style social games into the regulator’s remit. The Belgian Gaming Commission (BGC) confirmed that certain gambling-style social games available through Facebook could be the next in line to be scrutinised due to the similarities with regulated games of chance in Belgium. Many commentators have consistently stated that social games cannot be construed as gambling as the player can only win virtual currency. If the Belgians bring social games under the regulator’s remit, its interpretation of the law suggests it is ascribing a value to virtual currency. In the event that illegal social games operators continue to target Belgian
FEATURE - EU MARKET INSIGHT
customers, the BGC has confirmed that they will be put on the blacklist along with other ‘illegal’ gambling operators. In support of these developments, draft secondary legislation has been submitted which envisages spending limits and the provision of social games only through licensed operators.
Operators were invited by the Netherlands Gaming Authority to a meeting in The Hague, at the end of January, for a consultation on iGaming regulations in the country. The new coalition government had confirmed in October of last year that iGaming licences would be issued before the end of its term.
On January 24, the European Court of Justice ruled that Greece’s OPAP monopoly was in breach of EU law, ruling in favour of the gaming operators that had challenged the state-run system: Stanleybet, William Hill and Sportingbet. The ruling declared that certain exclusive gambling rights granted to OPAP, including for its ability to expand its offerings, went beyond what was necessary to attain stated objectives and, as such, were not compliant with current European Union laws. The body reminded Greece of its obligation to remain consistent in the objectives pursued by its own legislation and additionally ruled that OPAP is not subject to strict control by public authorities and, therefore, does not satisfy case law requirements. Clive Hawkswood, CEO of the RGA, commented: “The Court of Justice today has come out strongly against Greece and we hope that this will, in turn, be a signal to other Member States that compliance with European Union law is expected of them.”
Spain The Spanish Gaming Authority (DGOJ) has recently published its first quarterly report on the Spanish online gambling market since it began regulating online gambling in June 2012. The report produced some interesting statistics. Spain has around 700,000 registered online gamblers, spending around €1.25 billion in the quarter. Over this period, these figures have recorded an impressive growth of 62 percent, and the trend is expected to continue over the coming years. The Spanish online gaming market is mainly dominated by sportsbetting (42 percent), which is followed by poker (36 percent), casino (18 percent) and others games such as pari-mutuel betting (four percent).
Germany The northern state of Schleswig-Holstein continues to plough a lone furrow in Germany, having now issued licences to international companies such as Ladbrokes, 888, Betfair, PokerStars and bwin.party, to operate iGaming within the state. The licences cover sportsbetting, casino games and poker and aren’t restricted in number, unlike the State Treaty on Online Gaming, adopted by the other 15 states, which limits the number of foreign licences and only permits sportsbetting. The SchleswigHolstein government had previously expressed a wish to repeal its own law to join the national Treaty, which remains under the scrutiny of the European Commission.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
FEATURE – EU MARKET INSIGHT
WHAT DOES THE LEGAL FUTURE HOLD? AN ANALYSIS OF THE LEGAL CHANGES COMING YOUR WAY At the iGaming Business London Affiliate Conference, I will be discussing what I think the legal future holds in a range of areas affecting affiliates. This article focuses on just one of the key changes coming our way in the next couple of years: the EU’s reforms of the data protection rules. The Data Protection reforms The revision of the European data protection rules will be one of the biggest legal changes to the digital world in the next few years. Some people say this is long overdue. In the EU, most rules relating to the processing of personal data are derived from the Data Protection Directive, which was agreed in 1995. Since then, the number of websites has exploded from around 25,000 to over 600 million, and we have seen the introduction of cookies, cloud computing and social media. The Directive is essentially ‘pre-Internet’ and the way we use data has now changed beyond recognition. In January 2012, a draft EU regulation was proposed by the European Commission.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
The draft regulation is now in the process of being negotiated by the European institutions and the governments of Member States. It is expected that the draft regulation will be finalised in 2014 and put into force a year later.
The key changes 1. One set of rules for all EU Member States and the removal of requirements to register as a data controller. 2. The widening of the definition of personal data to include IP addresses and cookies. 3. Consent to data processing must be explicit rather than implicit. 4. The introduction of the right to object to profiling. 5. Individuals to be given access to their own
data and a right to transfer their data from one service provider to another. 6. Individuals will have the right to delete all of the data about them held by a service provider (the ‘right to be forgotten’). 7. The introduction of an obligation to notify the regulator within 24 hours of a data security breach. 8. An increase in the level of fines for non-compliance. In January 2013, the European Parliament recommended a number of amendments, most of which made the rules more burdensome. However, the European Parliament did recommend that the timeframe for notifying data security breaches be extended from 24 hoursto 72 hours.
FEATURE – EU MARKET INSIGHT
Reception It is argued by the EU Commission that proposals will enable EU businesses to save £2.3 billion each year. Others point out that the rules introduce onerous burdens which will be expensive and difficult, maybe even impossible, to comply with. Currently, national governments and industry bodies are furiously lobbying to push their own agenda and try to mould the regulations into a shape which better serves their interests. In the UK, the Incorporated Association of British Advertisers has recently spoken strongly against the expansion of the scope of what is treated as personal data and the requirement to obtain explicit consent. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) has focused on these two changes, but also argues that the right to object to profiling should not apply when the personal data has been ‘pseudonimised’. The UK government has questioned a number of the proposals. In particular, the government stated that it would prefer Member States to enact their own rules based on parameters set by the EU. This means there would not be a single set of rules for all Member States, but would allow national business practices and cultures to be taken into consideration. The government has also stated that there is confusion over what constitutes ‘personal data’ and has questioned the accuracy of the predicted £2.3 billion annual saving.
Analysis A single set of rules for all Member States would no doubt make it easier for businesses to transact across Europe. A number of stakeholders have argued that if an individual cannot be identified from data (for example, IP addresses and cookies), that data should not be considered personal data and not subject to the rules. However, the proposals made by the European Parliament in January 2013 provide that if that data enables an individual to be singled out, not just identified, the rules will apply. When it comes to obtaining consent, most Member States (including the UK) have an established concept of implied consent, and stakeholders argue that obtaining explicit consent would have a disproportionate and unnecessary negative
impact on user experience. It has also been argued that users are more likely to consent when asked by larger brands, so smaller businesses are put at a commercial disadvantage. There are questions about whether it is possible to enable true data portability or a right to be genuinely forgotten. While there is no widespread objection to these proposals in theory, it is argued that some exceptions should be made to take into account the technical restrictions. Under the proposals, the fines would be based on levels of turnover with the highest fines being two percent of annual turnover. This means that fines for breaches by larger companies could be significant, but for businesses achieving annual turnover of less than £25 million, the maximum fine will actually be reduced from the current amount of £500,000.
cookie notices. If not, a new method of obtaining consent may be required and pop-up consent requests cannot be ruled out. The ‘right of data portability’ and the ‘right to be forgotten’ will probably be retained, despite the technical questions posed, with more consideration of the technicalities shown when it comes to enforcement. The result would be a lack of clarity on exactly how much time and investment should be made to genuinely purge all data from all backups. The definition of personal data will probably be amended to cover IP addresses and cookies, as this is currently quite common in a number of Member States. The restrictions on profiling are also likely to be retained in some form. In response to this, it is possible that more allowances will be made for the use of pseudonimised or aggregated data.
Final thoughts Under the new reforms, the way we use data is going to become more restricted one way or another. As a consequence, some affiliates may be better off using apps or websites requiring log-ins. This is because the public expect to agree to terms and conditions when using an app or logging in, and this agreement can help affiliates comply with most of the proposed obligations. On the other hand, users will frequently reach for the ‘Back’ or ‘No’ button when served with a pop-up. The result is less freely accessing websites and, paradoxically, more processing of personal data – if affiliates are getting consent to some processing under the terms and conditions, they might as well get consent to all processing.
EITAN JANKELEWITZ is an intellectual property lawyer specialising in digital media, with a particular focus on Internet marketing. Eitan advises networks, publishers and advertisers on all software and technology matters affecting their businesses. He also has experience of advising the gaming sector. Eitan also has a comprehensive knowledge of the regulatory frameworks relating to website operation, including data privacy and protection, cookies, distance selling and direct marketing.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
FEATURE - EU MARKET INSIGHT
UK REFORMS IGAMING SYSTEM The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is currently conducting a review of the Gambling Act 2005 (the Act). The Draft Gambling (Advertising and Licensing) Bill (the Bill) was published in December and proposes radical reforms to the current remote gambling regulations in the Act that will affect operators, suppliers and affiliates. The shift from ‘point of supply’ to ‘point of consumption’ The main change proposed by the Bill is a shift from point of supply (i.e. where the remote gambling operator is located) to point of consumption (i.e. where the consumer is located) regulation. This means all overseas operators will need a UK operating licence in order to transact with, and advertise to, British consumers. This also has a knock-on effect on software providers that service remote gambling operators. If their software is being used by an entity servicing the UK market, they will require a UK software operating licence.
Abolition of the ‘white list’ The other important change proposed by the Bill is to phase out the white list and European Economic Area (EEA) exemptions. The Act currently prohibits advertising services to the UK unless the operator is based in the EEA (including Gibraltar) or in the following White Listed jurisdictions: Alderney, Antigua and Barbuda, the Isle of Man and Tasmania. The proposed changes in the Bill would require all EEA or white list operators servicing the UK market to obtain a UK operating licence. However, the UK government is looking to provide some provisional operating licences to enable EEA and white listed operators to transition smoothly into the new regime. In principle, EU law permits an authorised operator in one Member State to provide remote gambling services to consumers based in another Member State. Member States are still fully entitled to
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‘opt out’ on the grounds of public policy and require operators from other Member States to obtain a local licence. Ostensibly, the Bill appears to fall in-line with EU law, as the foundation for imposing such a restriction is based on consumer protection and public order. The Bill is consistent with the approach other EU jurisdictions such as Belgium, France and Italy have taken, which all require local licences to service their market.
Taxation Separately to the Bill, the UK government has introduced a ‘point of consumption’ tax for offshore gambling operators. This will mean, by December 2014, any remote operator servicing the UK market will be required to pay gambling duty. Under these changes, HMRC will have new powers to impose criminal sanctions and/or revoke an operating licence for non-payment. As a result of the duty change, HMRC anticipates a revenue boost of £70 million in the first year, rising up to £270 million in the following years.
When will this happen? The question is when the Bill will hit the statute books. It cannot be feasible for HMRC to revoke offshore remote licences; therefore, we can only assume that these new powers are meant to work in parallel to the Bill. It follows that the Bill should become law before the December 2014 cutoff, if not earlier. Remarkably, a separate Private Member’s Bill introduced in June last year (Offshore Gambling [Amendment] Bill), which seeks to achieve similar
objectives to the Draft Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill, aims for a much more ambitious deadline: April 2013.
Summary The major impact of the Bill and tax reforms will be to repatriate tax revenues and remote operators, who may have previously fled to the white list jurisdictions for tax reasons, back to the UK and to widen the net to crack down on offshore gambling operations. And while operators and software providers currently servicing the UK market should consider the implications of these changes and whether or not to obtain a UK operating or software licence in advance, affiliates too need to consider their own responsibilities in ensuring that the partners they promote are fully compliant with the new regulations, once in place. Affiliates and advertising agents of white list and offshore operators need to add in a layer of due diligence to check that their operators have the requisite licence in the UK. THOMAS LOGAN is the Group General Counsel and Legal Director at Total Compliance. Thomas advises clients in the online gambling industry in relation to licensing, business structuring, corporate transactions, compliance and intellectual property matters. ADAM VAZIRI is an experienced Account Manager in the gambling industry, providing Intellectual Property protection services, commercial services, regulatory compliance, gambling licensing and trainingservices to online operators. www.totalcompliance.com.
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Feature - EU Market Insight
Socially Responsible Advertising In March 2011, the online remit of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was extended to cover marketing on companies’ websites and non-paid-for space under their control, such as Facebook and Twitter. Two years on, James Craig, Copy Advice Executive at the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing the UK Advertising Codes, looks at how the rules apply to gambling ads online and in social media and what lessons betting and gaming operators, marketers and affiliates can learn from ASA rulings. A key part of the ASA and CAP’s work in ensuring UK ads across media remain ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’ is keeping pace with changes in technology. As media platforms converge and innovative new advertising techniques emerge, our priority is to extend those principles to new areas, so consumers are protected and fair competition amongst businesses is maintained. There is a challenge, too, for advertisers. The betting and gaming sector has been quick to embrace the latest opportunities to target and interact with consumers. But in the age of social media, how do operators and affiliates ensure innovation in advertising isn’t to the detriment of the public and, ultimately, the reputation of the sector? The key lesson is this: the same rules apply in these spaces as they do in traditional media. Another way of looking at it is: if you wouldn’t do something in a print ad, you shouldn’t do it on your website or Twitter account.
Advertising challenges in social media Of course, it’s not always straightforward, and using social media to advertise has thrown up some interesting examples of how the rules are interpreted and applied by the ASA. So what are the stumbling
blocks that advertisers in this sector need to be aware of? A question that has increasingly come to the fore is ‘when is an ad an ad?’ The rules state that all ads must be obviously identifiable as such. In essence, if you’re advertising, make sure your audience is in no doubt that is what you are doing. Sounds simple doesn’t it? However, this is not always the case. In a high profile ruling, the ASA upheld a complaint against Nike who used the footballers Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshire to tweet on its behalf. As there was nothing to obviously signify to the public that the tweets were marketing, such as the use of #ad, the ASA concluded the ads were misleading. Why did the tweets come under the ASA’s remit in the first place? There are two tests that the ASA conducts to establish if a tweet by a third-party is an ad. Is there a reciprocal arrangement between the advertiser (Nike) and the publisher (Rooney/Wilshire), financial or otherwise, and did the marketer have editorial control over the tweets? If the answer to both is yes, then it is subject to the rules. Although, as yet, no betting or gaming operator has fallen foul of the rules in this way, ASA rulings involving Twitter demonstrate the care businesses need to take when advertising through
this channel, particularly when using celebrities to endorse their products or services.
Customer interaction Social media provides businesses with the opportunity to interact with consumers, from people ‘liking’ something on a Facebook wall to retweeting latest deals, or having a conversation through message boards. It is this active role that consumers play in this space that can lead to pitfalls for the uninformed advertiser. Encouraging user generated content (UGC) is a common practice amongst businesses, particularly on Facebook, where the public are prompted to upload pictures or other content that demonstrate their affinity to a brand or product. That isn’t, in itself, advertising and the ASA has no interest or remit to regulate editorial freedom or opinion. Things get interesting, however, when companies start using UGC for their own ends. The moment a business incorporates UGC into its own marketing, it becomes an ad for the purposes of the Code. Imagine a scenario where a bookmaker encouraged its followers to upload photos of themselves taking part in silly stunts. For example, a punter uploads a picture in which he is walking on an icy lake in a Teletubby outfit. The bookmaker
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
Feature - EU Market Insight
then uses that photo to market its own products: “We bet [Simon] is odds on to take an early bath – see our latest offers here”. By incorporating the image into its own marketing, it immediately becomes subject to the Code and throws up all sorts of potential problems. For instance, linking gambling with juvenile and possibly dangerous behaviour, as well as imagery (Teletubbies) popular with children, is likely to breach the rules on appeal to young people and social responsibility. Furthermore, if the person appearing in the photo is under-25 then it would also be in breach of the rules that prohibit anyone who is or appears to be under that age from appearing in a gambling ad (although CAP is currently consulting on exempting from this rule images of sportspeople on websites where bets can be placed).
Know your audience That last point illustrates how strict the rules around targeting age-restricted products are. On TV, gambling ads are subject to scheduling restrictions that keep them away from programmes that a proportionately high number of children are likely to watch, while content rules prohibit them from being likely to appeal to them in either broadcast or non-broadcast media. But if a company is targeting only over-18s through its website and social media pages, then surely it has more creative licence to take an irreverent approach? The answer to that is that ‘it depends’, and it is still incumbent upon the advertiser to tread carefully. The ASA will take into account the measures an advertiser has taken to ensure under-18s do not interact with an ad. A key ruling in this area saw the issue of age-restriction coming under
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scrutiny in establishing whether an ad was likely to breach the rules on appeal to children. Last year, the ASA received complaints for Profitable Play Ltd’s online bingo game, Bingo Friendzy, which appeared on their Facebook page. A number of posts further down the page featured claims such as ‘Invite Friends & WIN MORE!’, ‘BIG PRIZE GAMES 6pm-10pm every night on Bingo #Friendzy’. The heading of the page and subsequent posts included images of furry cartoon characters. Complainants objected the ad was irresponsible because it was likely to appeal to children. However, in this instance, the complaints were not upheld. Whilst the ASA acknowledged that the imagery used was likely to appeal to children if they were exposed to it, the ad could only be accessed via the advertiser’s Facebook page, and access to that page was age-restricted to website users who were 18 or over. It should be noted, however, that there are on-going debates about the use of age-gating on websites and social media and how effective the mechanisms are in protecting young people from inappropriate ads. The Profitable Play example is a useful test case, but the ASA Council is likely to consider this issue and test the rules in this area again as the market continues to develop.
Social conscience When promoting your products and services online, ask yourself the following questions: ●●Is it an advertisement? If so, is it obviously identifiable as such? ●●Would it adhere to the rules in the traditional media space? If not, are you sure it is suitable online?
you targeted your ad appropriately? Where will the ad appear? Will it be seen by a predominantly child audience? ●●Is the creative approach you’ve taken likely to appeal to children? If so, avoid it. ●●Are the age-restriction measures you have in place effective? ●●Does it contain any themes that might endorse or encourage irresponsible gambling? ●●Are you confident that the user generated content you adopt into your own marketing will adhere to the strict gambling rules? Online betting and gaming ads and those in social media may be a brave new world for advertisers, but the rules that apply and principles behind them – protecting the young and vulnerable – have stood the test of time. A few simple precautions can help ensure social media isn’t synonymous with socially irresponsible ads. Prevention rather than cure The ASA’s preferred approach is not to ban ads. It places an emphasis on prevention rather than cure. That is where the Copy Advice team comes in. We offer a range of services to help advertisers, agencies and media owners comply with the rules. Our website (www.cap.org.uk) contains a fully searchable online database of advice on a wide range of topics and for more specific advice, the team can provide pre-publication advice on whether your non-broadcast ad is likely to breach the Advertising Code. The team has an in-depth and expert knowledge and understanding of the rules and relevant ASA rulings, including precedent cases.
FEATURE - EU MARKET INSIGHT
THE GAMING AFFILIATE SECTOR IN FRANCE The French iGaming market has been tough for affiliates since it regulated in 2010. The negative signs are everywhere, should one go out of their way to find them, but a structured market is taking shape and affiliates are having to adapt, just like the operators have done, as Jake Pollard, Editor of iGamingFrance, reports. THE FRENCH ONLINE gaming sector opened up to regulation in 2010 and like any recently-regulated industry, the number of licensed operators has shrunk dramatically as the sector has consolidated heavily in the past two and a half years. Such trends are always expected in any nascent market as the smaller outfits struggle to deal with advertising, regulatory or personnel costs; especially in a country such as France, which has some of the highest business costs in Europe. What many hadn’t anticipated is the speed at which this consolidation took place. The French regulator ARJEL described it recently as a process of “stabilisation”; more cynical observers believe ‘evisceration’ is a more accurate reflection of what has been going on in French iGaming since 2010. But for all the complaining and gnashing of teeth, these processes have in fact led to a situation where most industry observers expect the current batch of operators left standing to last the distance, now that they have survived the first few years of such a tough regulated environment. If such a situation bodes well, relatively speaking, for the betting and poker sites still operating, what of French affiliates? Can they hope to carve out their own place in the sun after the ‘purge’ that has followed the market opening? They haven’t been as vocal as the operators since 2010, mainly because many of the smaller ones have shut down or diversified, but also because after three years of such a tough working environment, they are reluctant to keep on moaning about the situation. Indeed, for all the regulatory difficulties the sector has been (and is still) going through in France, one has to be careful when complaining, as it presents a negative image of the business, and people simply switch off after a while. For John Samson, Chief Executive of French sportsbetting and poker affiliate content specialist, Gamrep, the market “is more difficult than pre-regulation in terms of compensation and competition,
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but in terms of volumes, it is better. The opening in 2010 led to a kind of euphoria and we thought activity levels would drop in 2011, but they were stable. They dropped a bit in 2012, but the Euro 2012 (football) championships gave everyone a lift.” When it comes to French poker, tournaments have been doing well, with stakes and gross gaming revenues rising 21 percent to €1.4 billion in 2012. The cash game variant, however, has experienced problems; stakes dropped five percent, as did gross gaming revenues for the whole vertical in 2012. Eloi Relange, Head of Business for the affiliate, Poker Académie, says one of the issues with regard to cash games is that, “poker is a costly entertainment that is not renewable and recreational players, the key clientele for the business, have gradually abandoned (cash game) poker as they lose their money too quickly. This has been evidenced by the decrease in the number of Google searches on the keyword ‘poker’. From 2008 to today, we went from an index of 100 to an index of 40 in terms of search requests. This means that there isn’t enough money going around to keep up with the costs of doing business.” When it comes to consolidation, the closures of smaller operators have had a marginal effect, explains Samson, “because they were not that competitive in terms of budgets, their liquidity was low and they didn’t really differentiate themselves through their product offerings and marketing”. The flipside of these smaller companies closing down for affiliates is that the domination of the market by the big operators such as PokerStars and Winamax, added to the fact that Everest/Betclic Poker has joined iPoker France and that bwin has done the same with PartyPoker, means less sites to do business with for affiliates and the major sites dictating terms, to a large extent. Affiliates have responded by diversifying their activities. Gamned, publisher of
‘Rue des joueurs’, who was very active in iGaming post-regulation, has gone into the advertising exchange business, while some have launched affiliate sites for low cost mobile offers and others, such as Gamrep, have targeted mobile-only affiliate content for Smartphones. But for all the doom and gloom surrounding the French market, and it’s sometimes difficult not to be pessimistic, by and large a selection has been made, as happened in the telecoms and energy markets and other sectors that regulated recently. Furthermore, bwin.party and Betclic Everest have said they will be EBITDA positive in 2012, while PokerStars and Winamax are also generating promising margins after the initial investments that followed regulation. PMU, meanwhile, has taken significant market share in sportsbetting in particular and is in second place just behind Betclic, while its poker activity has been doing well and its horseracing pari-mutuel has secured 85 percent of the online market. This may not be of much consolation for many of the affiliates in the iGaming space, but what it does show is that the French market is finding its feet and affiliates, just like the operators, are having to cut their cloth accordingly. But one should never forget the French government’s aim behind regulating: consolidate the positions of PMU and national lottery, Française des Jeux, while ensuring the establishment of a structured market with seven or eight major operators across the regulated verticals. This has been achieved in this first post-regulation phase in France. In the long-term, one must hope online casinos are regulated, the taxation system (currently based on operators’ stakes rather than on their gross gaming revenues) will be changed, which would re-energise much of the market and should attract international operators.
Casino | Sports | Bingo | Poker | Mobile
FEATURE - EU MARKET INSIGHT
BIENVENUE EN FRANCE SEO! France is the fourth biggest online market in Europe in terms of number of Internet users (estimated 52.7 million as of December 2012), and is now just a smidgen behind the UK. All signs tell us they’ll overtake the UK this year. The impressive Internet penetration rate of the country, at 79 percent, also further proves that this is a sophisticated online market with advanced users that is still growing. OBAN Multilingual Account Director, Jon Murphy, gives us the lowdown. IN TERMS OF search opportunity, there are still many interesting avenues to explore, however, whilst comparatively competitive on a world stage, weighed up against some of its neighbouring countries such as the UK and Germany, competition is generally lower. For example, whilst searches for ‘poker’ in France reach well over two million (broad match), SEOMoz gives us a keyword difficulty score of 71 percent. In comparison to the UK and Germany – which both have around one million fewer monthly searches around this term and have competition scores of 84 percent and 79 percent respectively – it’s clear to see that there’s a better opportunity to exploit the French market. The search interest around ‘loto’ (that’s ‘bingo’ for us English speakers) is even more exciting, with around three times the equivalent search in the UK, and a modest keyword difficulty score of 48 percent – which in online gaming is hard to find (68 percent in the UK). Of course, some of the lower competition around online gaming will be because it’s a younger market for this area but generally within most search categories, France has the best balance out of the UK and FIGS (France, Italy, Germany and Spain) of good search opportunity and realistic competition scores. It’s therefore a great market to look at for wins over the next couple of years.
What do we need to be aware of in targeting SEO for France? Firstly, similar to most central European markets, Google is the dominant search engine in France with roughly 93 percent of the market share. Home-grown search engine, Voila, has all but disappeared in the last few years, with Yahoo! and Bing taking
up the majority of the remaining seven percent. As divulged in November’s article on Spain, Google’s main optimisation rules also apply to France. In other words, natural on-site and off-site optimisation is key and, forgive me for using the expression, ‘content is king’. The Penguin and Panda updates are well established in this market, so lay off heavy amounts of anchor text links and paid opportunities and make better use of your time in finding good local copywriters with something interesting to say about your subject matter rather than another ten articles on ‘poker tips’. Bearing in mind the SEO rules are generally the same as you might expect in other markets, the key with getting an edge in France is being aware of the local online behaviour, which like lots of markets, is unique to the country itself and is, 90 percent of the time, overlooked by those approaching the market.
A local ccTLD In November, I talked about the pros and the cons of the global SEO favourite – the sub-domain, subfolder or ccTLD debate. Adding to this for France (and outside of the technicalities of how a search engine will view things), you also need to consider that sub-domains and subfolders take a big hit in CTR from users. French Internet users are more likely than those in almost any other market to ignore a ‘.com/fr’ or ‘fr.mysite.com’ domain, and only click on ccTLDs. A general rule of thumb is to take whatever SERP CTR rate you’re using to position and chop a good 33 percent off whatever you’re expecting to see for France, unless you have a ccTLD For these reasons, in whatever projections you’re drumming up about which domain
extension to use, make sure to factor this in to weigh up the cost-to-benefit ratio of your chosen implementation model. Also, remember that there’s an opportunity to get more clicks than you normally would on a French SERP if a lot of ‘.com’s’ are taking up the space on the page you want to get to. It’s an opportunity as well as an additional hazard.
Why users are there Specific mostly to the ecommerce market but also transferable to other areas, is the reason French users are online in the first place. A study carried out by DIBS in 2011 found that in contrast to Germany and the UK, where a significant number of Internet users said they shopped online because it’s ‘always open’ and that they can compare products, under half of French users said they would shop online for the same reasons. Indeed, when using advertising copy in France, OBAN has often found that trumpeting the ‘best deal’ has a weakened impact in comparison to other regions and, particularly for non-local sites, installing trust into the conversion process and emphasising quality is important. Once again, these factors can have an impact on CTR and in a competitive environment, you should be fighting for every inch. Think about your meta-data specifically for France, and speak to local people – the OBAN golden rule of ‘never translate’ is particularly appropriate when looking at France. So, bear in mind your Google best practice, engage local exprtise to help you with your project and look for the little victories that can give you big wins – and you’ll be on your way to success in the French market. Bonne Chance!
Consumer drivers to e-commerce per country
66% 65% 50% 67% 67% 55% 65% 66%
76% 75% 72% 73% 70% 57% 76% 74%
60% 63% 54% 60% 59% 38% 70% 45%
59% 57% 52% 53% 54% 42% 64% 44%
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W HER E
Amsterdam Affiliate Conference
BUS IN E S S
F entREE all ry fo
iG r dele aming gate s
11th - 14th JUNE 2013 RAI EXHIBITION AND CONVENTION CENTRE After a 4 year break iGB Affiliate returns to Amsterdam, the original home of gaming affiliate conferences. Expect four days of conferences, exhibitions and networking events with the elite in iGaming. This genuinely is an event that mixes business with pleasure and one you cannot afford to miss.
THIS EVENT WILL BRING YOU:
Strategic Conference Programme: The sessions will focus on SEO, marketing, acquisition, social and mobile gaming, sports betting, regulation, finance and much more.
Networking: Come prepared to meet hundreds of old and new contacts throughout the multitude of networking events ranging from cocktail parties to speed networking.
Seven Shows in One: AAC is part of the iGaming Super show which means you will also benefit from access to 6 other events co-located within the show.
Start Doing Business Now: Why not start networking now using the AAC free networking tool available on both the app store and the net.
PART OF THE
Free admission for EVERYONE!
9 OUT OF 10
of our delegates would come again
number of VIP Affiliates attending in 2012
Delegates from 65 countries
M E E TS
PLE A SU RE
Conference Schedule The Amsterdam Affiliate Conference guarantees to keep you busy from the moment you land in Amsterdam. Please find a detailed day by day breakdown below.
DAY 1 - Wednesday, 12th June 2013 TIME
DAY 2 - Thursday, 13th June 2013 TIME
Welcome Tea & Coffee
Welcome Tea & Coffee
Welcome from Conference Chair
Welcome from Conference Chair
Link Building Post Penguin Despite the recent updates links are still an important part of ranking your website. This session will help you navigate the maze of a successful link building strategy providing simple steps to make the most out of your links and the tools that can help you achieve this.
Affiliate Marketing isn’t Evil Despite being a major acquisition channel for iGaming operators affiliate marketing is still seen as a necessary evil by many major operators. This session will however look at how affiliate marketing is in fact an effective marketing tool for operators.
Building Landing Pages for Conversion Getting your landing page right is often the most difficult part of a search campaign and the difference between right and wrong can dramatically hurt your lead generation and conversions. This session will analyse some of the best performing landing pages in the market.
Morning Coffee Break
Creating Successful Mobile Advertising Campaigns Mobile users are fundamentally different which means your approach has to be completely remodelled for mobile. Do you create unique landing pages for instant conversion without complication or do click-to-call ads for immediate gratification?
Content Driven Marketing Following Panda quality content should now be an essential part of your SEO strategy but it doesn’t have to cost the world. This session will teach you how produce high quality, search positive content without breaking your wallet.
Ignore Google+ At Your Peril Google+ is now used by hundreds of millions of users and on top of this Google have stated that it will soon permeate all aspects of its DNA so this is a social network that cannot be ignored. This session will analyse the inner workings of Google+ and explain how affiliates can best use it.
Driving traffic from Facebook & Twitter Twitter and Facebook are incredible platforms to engage users and generate traffic but it isn’t simply about creating a page or pushing our tweets. Attend this session to hear from affiliates that are actively using these social networks to extend their reach and generate huge amounts of traffic.
Advanced Web Analytics Your analytics information is a gold mine of knowledge that when read and used correctly can be a highly effective tool for improving your site. In this session you will learn how to use this free and important analytics tool by setting specific action points and goals.
Excellent Emails: 30 in 40 Email is still one of the most effective channels for driving engagement and ultimately conversions but is also very easy to get wrong. In this session hear 30 tips in 40 minutes to ensure delivery, conversion and engagement across multiple channels.
The Best Affiliates: Deconstructed In this session hear from our expert panel in search and marketing as they focus on the biggest affiliate sites in the market and analyse what makes them literally “tick.” This is an unique opportunity to see what the best are doing right and wrong.
Mobile Search: The Final Frontier This session will look at approaches you should be using when building your mobile site and how that will positively affect your ranking in mobile search results. It will focus on the guidelines provided by Google that outline three different site configurations.
*All information is correct at the time of printing. Please note that iGB Affiliate reserves the right to alter or amend the conference schedule at any time.
More details including sponsorship packages, conference schedule, official hotels, all the parties and much more can be found on www.AmsterdamAffiliateConference.com
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LEVERAGING SOCIAL MEDIA TO BUILD BRAND RECOGNITION AND DRIVE TRAFFIC With Facebook accounting for more than 20 percent of all page views and with a million Twitter accounts being created every single day, it’s safe to say that social media is here to stay. Now more than ever, iGaming operators and affiliates need to employ an integrated marketing plan with a consistent, proactive online presence. Social media is at the heart of this. THE AUDIENCE OF today (and tomorrow) is an increasingly social media savvy population, and they expect the same from their favourite websites – especially if those sites work off an element of trust (looking at you, affiliate marketers). Because of this, social media platforms are now on the frontlines of brand development and online reputation management. If you’re not maximising their effectiveness, you’re letting numerous online marketing opportunities slip by. Here are some tips on leveraging social media to build brand and drive traffic.
Define clear goals and objectives Before setting out to create a social media strategy, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve. What is the ultimate goal for your brand? What do you want the public face of the company to be? Answering these questions will go a long way towards the development of a clear branding strategy. Once you have that overarching umbrella, you can then determine specific strategies for each social media platform, including what content and approach will work best for each network (e.g., contests and polls may work better on Facebook than they do on Twitter.) To help, set concrete objectives for each platform, including a certain number of followers or ‘Likes’, and visits to your web properties. These metrics can help quantify your efforts and reach in a meaningful way.
Do your research Who are you trying to reach? What distinguishes this target audience? The more you know about whom you are
trying to reach, the easier it will be to develop effective brand, content, and social media strategies. Of equal importance is to determine the competitive landscape. How are other affiliates in your niche using social media? What content are they sharing? Use their successes and learn from their mistakes to make sure you stand out.
Become an authority with quality content Content may be ‘king’, but engagement is ‘queen’. These days, only quality content is fit to wear the crown. The focus of your web pages has to be on creating engaging, original content with strong value. The idea is to create content that is informative and authoritative – something that your audience will want to talk about and share.
expertise can be the driving force behind your content creation. Make an effort, however, to share this content when it is ready. Post it on all the networks you think are relevant, and make use of social media best practices (e.g., linking relevant people and groups, using appropriate hashtags, etc) to ensure the largest audience possible and to drive traffic to your site. Similarly, mix up photos and text when posting, and keep the posts short and visual (maximum 250 words). It’s also important to look out for relevant hashtags and topics, identifying and interacting with influencers in your niche.
If you build it, they will come You’re creating quality content, but is your site structure standing in the way? Make it easy for your visitors to share and discuss content with a clear, user-friendly web design.
“Determine the competitive landscape. How are other affiliates in your niche using social media? What content are they sharing? Use their successes and learn from their mistakes to make sure you stand out.” The benefit of quality content is twofold. On one hand, it increases the odds that visitors will want to share it. An increase in social media exposure, meanwhile, will make you more visible to search engines, thus boosting your rank on search engine results pages (SERPs), which can increase organic traffic. Before you start panicking, remember that ‘quality’ content does not require a reinvention of the wheel. You are already a passionate expert in your niche, product, or service, and simply sharing that passion and
Follow the latest on-site SEO best practices and make sure to add social share buttons, including social networks, social news, and social bookmarking sites. Don’t, however, go overboard with these buttons, as an abundance of options can create a bewildering, frustrating user experience.
Depend on analytics Social media gives you access to a range of metrics, which can help remove the guesswork from future marketing and content decisions, including knowing what
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
works (and what doesn’t), tailoring content to your audience, and optimising the ROI of your marketing channels. The assumption is sometimes made that social media is difficult to track, but by tracking links to your content and observing referrals, its reach is actually quite quantifiable. Let the data drive your decision making.
Have fun with it The most effective way to drive traffic through social media is to get creative and have some fun. Campaigns encouraging user-generated content, including pictures, tweets and videos, can provide an instant traffic boost, especially when paired with contests and prizes. Best of all, you don’t have to rack your brain for ideas: major events and new product launches provide a number of opportunities for special social media campaigns. And at worst, if there’s nothing on the horizon, there have also been successful campaigns celebrating social media milestones (e.g. Cadbury had a social campaign after reaching one million Facebook friends). Specific social campaigns should, however, be matched with new and relevant marketing material, including specialised banners, landing pages, hashtags and content. Not only will this make the campaign more visible and effective, it will also help increase your
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
readership going forward. Just make sure that other elements of your website are optimised to represent you and your brand, and are ready to make a good first impression.
trying to cover too many. Identify what social media resources you have at your disposal, and plan accordingly.
Don’t forget mobile
Successfully leveraging social media requires a long-term approach. Be patient, and do what you can to avoid common rookie mistakes, including:
With the explosion of Smartphone usage, social and mobile strategies have to move in tandem. Now more than ever, affiliates have to consider the implementation of mobile friendly websites, applications, and mobile tracking. Don’t be left behind.
Crossing over into spam
And in the end…
If your social media use is ‘spammy’, the perception of your brand and product offerings will suffer. Share things frequently, but don’t go overboard, especially when it comes to material that is purely promotional. Constant promotion can get tiring.
Now more than ever, successful affiliates have to leverage social media opportunities, and develop comprehensive strategies. While this can require a lot of legwork, the benefits can be real, offering long-lasting brand development and traffic boosting opportunities. Start socialising.
Avoid common mistakes
Misunderstanding (or ignoring) your audience’s tastes With the business intelligence available through social media, you should know your audience well enough to tailor content to their needs and tastes. Avoid anything that can be offensive or inappropriate, as this can be very detrimental to your brand and traffic goals.
Spreading yourself too thin The expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ comes to mind here, as you are better off perfecting one platform than
JAMIE FORTUNASO has been with Income Access since 2005. During this time, he has been involved in email marketing, affiliate management, account management, search engine marketing and search engine optimization. Jamie is the Manager of the Affiliate Marketing department and is responsible for the management of the Affiliate Marketing team.
NICHES AND MARKETS WITH THE MOST POTENTIAL IN 2013 With 2013 in full swing, there’s no shortage of opportunity with new gaming niches and markets to take advantage of in the New Year, writes Michaela McNamara, Editor at CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. NOW THAT 2013 is off and running, iGaming affiliates may find themselves wondering which niches and markets have the most potential to thrive in the coming year. Here are the gaming niches and countries poised to possess the best new opportunities.
Affiliate programs like RushBucks are bringing together the best of both worlds by enabling affiliates to promote both forex as well as binary options through one platform. Since these two niches share a close relation, it could be smart for affiliates looking to enter this space to aim for conversions from both niches in 2013.
Binary options It could be time to cash in on binary options, the ‘all or nothing’ financial trading game that is a favoured new trend in gaming affiliate program options. Binary options allow investors to place call options on asset closing prices. As opposed to regular options trading in which one’s potential gain or loss is indeterminable at the time the investment is placed, binary options offer a fixed loss amount at the time of the trade – players either lose the full value of their asset exposure or increase that investment by roughly 85 percent. Affiliates have cast an eye towards this blossoming market due to its limited competition and high payouts for player acquisitions. 2013 could be the year binary options finally reach boiling point and explode in popularity.
Forex A cousin iGaming niche to binary options is forex trading. Forex affiliates enjoy exposure to players from Asia where trading currency values is all the rage. Since other forms of online gaming aren’t generally as popular in Asia, forex offers affiliates great exposure to a region that is hard to tap. In 2013, forex appears primed to continue its elevation in status as a big money maker for affiliates. It’s a conversion opportunity that attracts an entirely different demographic than more traditional online gaming paths promoted by affiliates.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
Poker (should it be legalised) Could online poker be primed for another boom in the US? Maybe. Some are saying that online poker revenue for the US government could save the country. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but there’s no ignoring the impending advancement of legal online poker in the US. The state of Nevada has legalised online poker and is in the process of laying the framework for operators to begin servicing their residents. Online poker games should be live in that state in the first half of 2013. Elsewhere, states like New Jersey and California appear eager to follow Nevada’s lead as regulators of legal online poker operators. But affiliates eyeing the up-andcoming legal online poker market in the US would be wise not to hold their breath for legislation on the federal level. While Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller are pushing a bi-partisan effort to legalise online poker, the game’s chances of nationwide legal status are murky at best. Instead, expect more states to continue to legalise the game in the coming years which may eventually result in federal intervention in the market.
Sweden Sweden has recently announced it will be moving towards developing legislation for online gaming and could even have something in place by spring, as stated by its government. This means that all the major operators will soon be waiting to see
what’s required to apply for licences in a market with around 9.5 million people.
Belgium Belgium has been in the news recently, as it has been busy issuing gaming licenses to companies such as Jackpot Party, PokerStars, Unibet, casino777, and Win2Day. Belgium has a population of approximately 11 million people and is a prime market as it is considered the centre of the EU and has a good mix of cultures. It’s not easy to get a licence in Belgium so the companies already there would be the best to reach out to and see what their affiliate programs have prepared for this new and upcoming gaming market.
Germany Germany is one of the biggest and most prosperous EU markets, and with a huge population of nearly 82 million people, it is an emerging market that cannot be ignored. The German state of Schleswig-Holstein issued its first licenses for sportsbetting, casino and poker last year, with approved licensees including Victor Chandler, Ladbrokes, 888, Betfair, PokerStars and bwin.party. However, the licences only allow companies to offer their products to those resident in Germany’s northernmost state. The State Treaty on Online Gaming, adopted by Germany’s remaining 15 states, would open the market to nationwide competition, but for sportsbetting alone and with a limited number of licences. The Treaty has come in for criticism from the European Commission and the European Betting and Gaming Association for contravening EU law. However, this remains an emerging market of significance, and certainly one to watch in the year ahead.
REDRETURNS AFFILIATE PROGRAM
2013/01/07 05:46:35 PM
ONLINE CASINOS: SLOTS TO LOOK FORWARD TO Are we are on the cusp of the next explosion in the slots market? Leading casino affiliate, David Newstead, examines how ‘simulated action’ and new concepts in game development could open the door to another boom period for the industry. PEOPLE HAVE ALWAYS gambled. Since the dawn of time we’ve loved to roll the bones, and there are even recorded instances of people wagering money on games from Ancient Egypt. Some of these games have fallen by the wayside, such as Faro and Trente-et-Une, and some have evolved into modern day classics such as craps, which has its roots in the old English game of ‘hazard’. One thing that’s definitely held true throughout history is that the most popular gambling games have always been those that offer a quick return and are based entirely on chance.
The Bernays approach We’re going to go down a quick side-street here and visit the famous nephew of Freud, the PR man, Edward Bernays. Now, this American advertising legend was the first ever creative to realise that we don’t buy products based on their practical application and efficiency, but rather we purchase goods on the fact that they give us something emotionally. For instance, owning a fast expensive car is not about getting from A to B quickly; it’s a statement of wealth, ability and dare we say it, even sexual potency. Let’s take the Bernays approach and apply it to gambling. If gamblers were driven by the practical, then they wouldn’t play mercantile games, which are those that are played against the house (as opposed to social gambling games like poker, rummy and whist) as they will always lose over time due to the house’s edge. If they only looked at gambling from a logical perspective, then they would only bet on sports events, such as horseracing, where they’d been able to research enough information to give themselves the edge on the bookmakers. However, this is not the case, as the majority of money spent on gambling is actually spent on slot machines, which have some of the worst returns in the industry. So why do players keep on coming back to these flashy games?
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
What every gambler is actually after is what’s known as ‘action’. What do we mean by this? Well, for hardened players, the experience of gambling is not all about the money that can be won in a wager or in a mercantile gambling game, it’s actually about the emotions and feelings that they get when they win. In the trade, this is often known as the ‘rush’. There are actually reports of players who have sat down for long slot-machine playing sessions, only to be disappointed at winning the jackpot on their first few spins, because they didn’t get the necessary level of action they desired. It’s this emotional response to winning that players are after, not the financial returns.
Simulated action Let’s take a look at the current top online slot machine, IGT’s Rainbow Riches – Pots of Gold. This game made the transition from the UK club and cabinet stage onto the Internet, so to an extent, it’s a brand that was already familiar to many gamblers. It uses an Irish theme, based around a leprechaun and his pot of gold, which presumably you can raid in order to fill your pockets with winnings. When compared to many of the similar casino slots offered by online operators (and believe us when we say there are literally thousands out there), it doesn’t offer anything that really makes it stand out; so why is it top of the ratings? One of the reasons why Rainbow Riches is such a successful game is because it uses what we like to call ‘simulated action’. This is where a slot machine uses special psychological techniques to give the player the impression that they’re winning at the reels, even when, in fact, they’re not. One mechanism of particular note on this machine is the reel spinning noise. When you start to spin the reels, you hear an almost magical, fairy-wand-like sound, that’s perhaps been embedded in our cultural consciousness through Disney
movies, which you could almost argue brings up images of something good happening. Thus, the player isn’t experiencing real action, which is the actual thrill of winning, but rather ‘simulated action’ where another feature that’s employed by the game gives the player that winning feeling. As these features often form part of the game’s theme, players usually don’t pay much attention to them, which according to the experts on subliminal manipulation is what allows them to directly influence the said players’ emotional response to the game.
Tricks of engagement The slot machine industry uses many clever tricks to keep players at the reels of their games. In recent times, we’ve seen the simple trick of slots that come with special cabinets, where players have to sit in a seat that’s engineered as part of the façade (think of the Sega Out-Run game from the late 1980s) to spin their reels, keeping them pinned in place. We’re sure we’re going to see immersive 3D slot machines, where players have to wear glasses and sit in booths, which will give developers complete access to their sensory input, allowing them to use all manner of sounds and flashing lights to create the feeling of simulated action. As with everything on the casino circuit, if it appears in the gaming halls of Nevada, then it’s roughly a couple of years away from appearing on the Internet. We can’t expect complete immersive gaming in the home, but with 3D computer screens only a couple of years away, we’ve got to expect the online slots industry to jump on this new technology as soon as it’s available to consumers. In 2012, Microgaming launched a landmark slot machine. It’s called Max Damage and the Alien Attack, and to be completely analytical about this game, the response from the industry and players
hasn’t been overwhelming. At first glance, it doesn’t even look like a standard slot, and appears to be an old school shoot ‘em up game, of the type that you could find all over the coin-op palaces of the 1980s. Each shot you fire on the game represents a spin, and each successful hit you get on an alien craft equals a winning combination. You get lives and total control of the spaceship sprite using the left, right and space-bar buttons on the keyboard. This is a completely new type of slot machine that uses the mathematics behind the reel combinations of standard games in a completely new fashion. However, another landmark in casino gaming wasn’t incredibly well received by the industry. When Si Redd, father of the famous IGT brand, cashed-in on the Space Invaders and Pac-Man cabinet boom of the early 1980s with his video poker machines, many in the industry said these games would never catch on, claiming people simply wouldn’t trust computer screens to play fair. Within months of their arrival, 70 percent of the gaming on the Sunset Strip was going through these newfangled machines, which of course paved the way for the computer screen slot machines that we play online now. Max Damage and the Alien Attack represents a new movement in gaming because it offers players the
chance to play slots that don’t look like gambling games and have the appearance of skill-based machines. Thus, they can give players a level of simulated action that’s never been possible before. For instance, in Max Damage, a player can actually be losing money, but as they’re still shooting down ships and progressing through a level, they feel like they’re winning and accomplishing something, which gives them the emotional ‘rush payoff’ associated with simulated action.
The next slots explosion Of course, it’s going to take time for players to warm to these kinds of games and to start associating their mechanisms with the warm and fuzzy emotions of winning money, but once their brains learn to associate the play on screen with the emotional rush of gambling, then these new types of slots are really going to take off. With such a large palette of choice, it’s probable that there will be another explosion in slot machine gambling, the like of which has never been seen before, as these games will no longer be confined to the reel-based format. Instead, we’re going to see slot machines that appear to be games of football, where you can play as your favourite player on your supported
team, whilst your team mates feed you passes and you try to score goals for cash. If you’re not a football fan, then you’ll probably be able to enjoy a slot where you develop a character to take part in a virtual reality TV talent show contest, earning money for passing stages as you try for the big money in the jackpot final. With such a massive array of possibility on our hands, we’re just on the cusp of finding out exactly how far computers can take slot machines, and no one can really see exactly how this is going to pan out in the future. We can be sure of one thing however, and that’s the ability of the developers to employ tactics in these new games to give players the feeling of simulated action, which will keep them playing for longer, and returning to your sites more often.
DAVID NEWSTEAD is recognised as one of the UK’s top gambling affiliates, and frequently submits a number of slot machine articles to news sites. He owns a large portfolio of sites that cover all aspects of the casino industry, but have a strong focus on slot machines. His flagship site is www.slotsonline.co.uk.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
STAYING AHEAD OF THE (BINGO) GAME The online bingo industry has rapidly transformed from a niche gambling sector to a billion-pound business. And business is booming, with bingo sites currently outnumbering sportsbetting operators ten to one, and more than 100 million people already playing some form of bingo. Even the ‘mighty’ Facebook entered the gambling market through an online bingo real money app. THE NUMBERS ARE off the charts, but the current online bingo market is stagnating, simply because competition is fiercer than ever. This became painfully clear when several public companies released their recent financials, with many reporting a drop in year-overyear (YOY) revenues of as much as six percent. It’s a tough market even for large operators and affiliates, let alone small-fry niche companies.
A domino effect Hungry Hippos (Panda and Penguin) One of the biggest changes to the online bingo industry was the now-infamous release of Google’s Penguin algorithm. If the initial Panda algorithm updates didn’t drastically affect bingo SEO rankings, Penguin certainly had an impact. Here was an animal that really worked hard to prove the old adage, ‘content is king’, and was doing so with a vengeance. Many in the industry saw their keyword relevance plummet.
Media Monopoly Seeing their SEO rankings drop led numerous affiliates and operators to seek other media avenues in addition to Internet advertising. Media spend for online bingo has increased by 22 percent YOY, with 85 percent of all bingo-related ads concentrated in TV campaigns. From Q3 2011 to Q4 2012, there has been a staggering 48 percent increase in bingo-related TV campaigns. With over 40 gambling brands appearing at the same time on UK TV channels, these ads need to be nothing short of amazing. And amazing TV adverts are expensive: the top ten bingo advertisers have doled out a whopping £26 million for ad spend since January 2012. With ad spend rising back to 2009 levels as businesses compete for market share, this is a trend that shows no signs
of slowing down. So how do small-to midsize online bingo operators and affiliates compete in the current market?
Game change Creative analysis TV CPAs can range anywhere from £70 to as high as £350. The cost depends on how creative you get with TV media strategies. Being innovative can save you big bucks. The trick is to monitor every aspect of the TV campaign during all stages of development. This includes channel types, viewer segments, player location, and player LTVs per city. Being as creative as you possibly can in your analysis and decision making will help give you an edge over the competition.
Search and destroy Penguin hurt a lot of companies with weak content, or alternately, those who relied heavily on ‘spamdexing’ or black hat SEO tactics. But online bingo companies with strong content benefited from the change, as quality content was now ranking higher in search engines. The bottom line is that content is important, specifically fresh content, and not just on-site. Think externally – press releases, blogs, and social networks in addition to Facebook and Twitter, like Reddit, StumbleUpon, Flickr and Pinterest.
headlines – the numbers speak for themselves. ‘Virtual products’ through Facebook are increasing at a rapid rate of 40 percent annually. According to Morgan Stanley, social gambling could reach $7 billion by 2015. The social aspect of the bingo game, combined with the widespread use of Smartphones is part of the reason we’ve seen a rise in social gambling amongst the younger generation (18 to 24 yearolds). Operators looking for new players should consider targeting the younger demographic, as both social and real money gambling on smart devices is skyrocketing.
Spin to win, adapt and innovate I believe we’ll see several businesses either merge or disappear during 2013. Since the average UK online bingo player has an average of six bingo accounts, their wallets are already stretched pretty thin. With new heavyweight competitors coming in, smaller operations are likely to close shop. Once taxes are introduced in the UK, it won’t be long before only mid to large-scale businesses dominate the landscape. In order to profit from this change and consolidation, you must choose your affiliate programs wisely. Look for those that can adapt and survive or are big enough to emerge as the heavyweight winner.
Get smart (and social) It goes without saying that if you haven’t expanded your games to smart devices, it’s high time you joined the ranks of the mobile revolution. The UK has been established as the largest market for mobile gaming, with 14.2 million Smartphone users playing games on their mobile devices. UK Smartphone users have also topped the charts regarding daily and weekly game usage. Social gaming has exploded, as seen with Zynga, Bingo Friendzy and Bingo Appy still making
ADI FRUM is the CEO of United Bingo, the company behind cutting-edge bingo brands such as Moon Bingo, Robin Hood Bingo, Gossip Bingo and others. Adi has eight years experience working in the online gaming industry, with a proven track record in cultivating a successful network of standalone bingo brands. His leadership and innovative approach to the business has given United Bingo a foothold in the online bingo industry.
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
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Welcome to the MarketPlace 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. To request a free copy of this publication or to have your company listed please contact Ed Grundy on Ed@iGamingBusiness.com or call +44 (0) 207 954 352.
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MARKETING TO MOBILE SPORTS BETTORS Mobile sportsbetting is one of the fastest growing segments of the iGaming world thanks to cheap Smartphones and live betting promotion. Michaela McNamara, Editor at CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com, offers a few tips for getting your mobile marketing campaign started. MOBILE SPORTS BETTORS are a dream come true for the iGaming industry. These cutting edge players have shown a willingness to bet on their favourite teams, no matter where they are. Mobile players spent around $20 billion in 2011, and that number is expected to grow fivefold by 2017. You don’t have to wait until then to see results. Big online sportsbooks like Paddy Power are already seeing as many as a third of their players downloading mobile apps. That means that now is the time to start going after the mobile sportsbetting market. Finding and converting these mobile players will likely involve a bit of tweaking to your current marketing plans, but the rewards are worth the effort. Here are a few tips for getting a piece of this lucrative market.
Get in the mobile mindset Mobile players are impulse players who are, in all likelihood, engaged in other activities like drinking and shopping while placing wagers. They’re not interested in jumping through a lot of hoops to get in on the action; they want to bet now. They’re usually more tech-savvy than traditional players, as mobile bettors skew a bit younger. Don’t be afraid to try out some edgier market campaigns to grab their attention.
Find mobile-friendly operators Some seemingly mobile-friendly operators make it pretty tough for mobile players to make deposits on the fly. Finding out this information in advance is good for you and your players. There’s no reason to lose mobile players because they have to wait to get to a desktop to make their deposits.
Utilise Twitter If there’s one social network that’s built for converting mobile players, it’s Twitter. Not only is Twitter teeming with sports
iGB Affiliate FEBRUARY/MARCH 2013
talk, handicappers and hardcore fans, but it has a huge mobile user base. According to a report, as many as 60 percent of Twitter’s 140 million users are accessing it from mobile devices. Whether you’re targeting cricket bettors in India or college football fans in America’s Deep South, you’ll find them on Twitter. These folks are the perfect targets for live betting promotions during big games and matches. Just remember that establishing a presence on Twitter takes time. Unlike email marketing, converting players from Twitter requires a steady drumbeat of promotions and interactions.
Text messaging or SMS Sending text messages to your players is an excellent way to inform them of upcoming promotions/events so they can get the info fast and respond. Always make sure you have an excellent offer so they know that you will only contact them if it’s really worth it and they won’t want to miss out. Make sure your messages are short and to the point with a call-to-action or limited time offer. Have the sports bettors visit a landing page that is prepared just for that message so there is a ‘flow of the offer’ where the viewer can get more information and easily make a bet.
Mobile is international, but buy regionally One of the best ways to make your mobile advertising work well for your sportsbetting audience is to buy regionally. Get in contact with regional data and mobile providers and find out what their campaign costs are to run, and then negotiate. They will usually have a block of time or number of messages that you can send out and are billed accordingly. Different ad networks specialise in different traffic types as well, so analyse each market and see what campaign suits
your players and fits into your mobile advertising budget. If you go down the regional route, make sure you look into having your messages translated into the appropriate languages (where needed) for each market. You’ll also want to diversify your messages to wrap around a sporting event taking place in that market. Your audience will see you as supporting their regional events and you’ll get a better response. Even look at investing in a small sponsorship at an event so you can tie it in with your mobile branding efforts.
Testing and segmenting Find out what mobile buying strategy works best for your sportsbetting brand. An effective way is to always carry out a test campaign so you can see the results and whether it fits with your target market.
And finally… Mobile sportsbetting is here to stay and offers gaming affiliates a crack at a huge new group of players. It’s a market that’s growing rapidly, but isn’t yet fully established, so now is the time to test out your mobile sportsbetting marketing plans with diversified buying.
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 world-wide (and profit by doing so).
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