If you’re willing to put in the time, resources and energy (code for blood, sweat and tears) to build one single brand rather than 200 websites, then you may just have a shot, explains world-renowned SEO, Dave Naylor, in this exclusive video interview.
Even if you don’t have the millions to spend like advertisers do, you can still create a competitive advantage to outrank your fellow affiliates. Not sure where to start? Naylor says to find something that’s very much niche-y and can be picked up by PR.
Another tip? When brands fail, if you can break the story, mainstream will pick up on that. Mainstream picks up on it, you will get brand mentions no matter what your blog is. Want to learn more? Just watch the video by clicking the play button above!
David Naylor heads up a team of in-house SEOs, web developers, web designers, and technical staff within his company, Bronco Internet. Bronco is a digital agency supporting businesses with leading edge web programming and innovative web design, which is home to the David Naylor brand. Over the past 10 years, Dave has grown a very successful Internet company with a proven track record of success.
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Warren Jolly: Hey everyone. It’s Warren Jolly with CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com and I want to welcome you to today’s interview with Dave Naylor. Dave heads up a team of in house SEOs, web developers, designers, and technical staff within his company, Bronco Internet. Bronco is a digital agency supporting businesses with leading-edge web programming, innovative web design, which is home to the David Naylor brand as well.
Over the past ten years Dave and his team have grown a very successful Internet company with a proven track record of success, and most of you who have been to the conferences have probably seen him speak on panels or solo sessions. So Dave is quite the well-known figure in the industry. We’re really happy to have him on today.
Dave, thanks again for taking the time, and if we could just start out by learning just a little bit about yourself, and Bronco Internet other than what I’ve highlighted, that would be great for the audience.
Dave Naylor: Yeah sure, not too sure why my camera keeps focusing in and out so… Basically I guess I started around 14 or 15 years ago when one of my friends got hit by a crappy link company that was supposed to be doing great SEO for them. And he came to me and he said, “Can you help me?” And it was on the lines of, “Yeah, I can”. This was the ink jet cartridge industry, and I did that on a rev share deal. And basically I ended up making something like 1,500 pounds a month for the first two or three months, and then all of a sudden I honed my skills a little bit and made 4,000 or 5,000 a month, and back then that was quite a chunk of money.
I then became a moderator at WebMasterWorld, Digital Points, Search Engine Watch, got on to the speaking scene there and flew around the world. And I was asked to speak for you many years later. I was then approached by a big gambling merchant who, I suppose, that I can’t really mention because I’m under NDAs and things like that. They were launching a new bingo platform. So they brought me on board, so we took them to the top three for “online bingo bingo” just shortly after it was launched, so that was awesome. And played in the casino Industry, played in the forex industry. So it seems good.
Warren: Nice, so is Bronco mainly an SEO agency, or what else is it that the company does today?
Dave: Yeah, it’s kind of crazy. We did basically a piece with Think Visibility, it was the story of Bronco and where we got started and how we got to where we are today. No, we’re not just an SEO agency, is the short answer. The long answer is that we have a team of programmers, designers, content writers, PPC guys. So we have a full-fledged agency within itself. It’s just that, if you ask anybody what I do it’s, I do SEO. So I always speak about SEO, and I guess realistically I see myself as being an SEO in a multi-pronged agency, and what we partnered with a PR company, I don’t know, 18 months ago now. So we are fully faceted all over the place.
Warren: Okay, and Bronco primarily services more so merchants in the iGaming sector and less affiliates, is that correct?
Dave: We do work with some affiliates, but yeah we are mainly a merchant from the iGaming side of things. We mainly work with the merchant side of things. Large casinos and large forex companies mainly.
Warren: Okay. Great. Thanks for that background it’s very helpful. So if we could just jump right into the current state of the ever-evolving SEO marketplace. There have been some major changes obviously in the last 12 to 18 months with Google, predominantly in terms of algorithm updates. What do you foresee as the evolution of SEO as we are now in 2013 versus maybe 2012 or years prior. And how can webmasters really be prepared?
Dave: That’s a tough one, I suppose from our mantra, inside the company, it’s very much on the lines of, “Build a brand. Build a bigger brand and build the best brand you possibly can on the Internet.” That’s hard from an affiliate point of view, because there’s not many out there who have got the ability to kind of go, “Where do we want to be, and where is our next step?”
I know it’s been a few happening well in the past. I guess PokerStars is most probably one that jumps to mind. Casino Choice, another one. There’s a few out that are definitely pushing, not so much the edge, but finding a niche and building on that. I think that’s what I would look at from an affiliate’s point of view is work out where it’s going. Even today I was in a client meeting, and we were looking at some of the terms that they ranked for position 2, eighteen months ago.
And they’re now at position 9, and you look at it and go “Is that because we’re doing bad SEO?” And you look at the people above them and they have major UK high-street brands. And you’re like, I’ll never be able to compete with Marks and Spencer’s. I’m not going to be able to compete with NatWest or Citibank or any of these kind of like multimillion pound companies that are just there creating natural PR, natural TV rights. So, as an affiliate it’s going to be hard to emulate that. So you’re going to have to find something, which is very much niche-y. That is going to be able to be picked up by PR.
I never thought that when I got into the pharmaceutical industry that I would ever get my clients covered in mainstream media. I have now. So it’s kind of like “Yay, I’m building a brand for Viagra.” So it’s kind of like, you look at it and go, “Well, if I can do it for Viagra I must be able to do it for Casino. I must be able to do it for horse racing, I must be able to do it for forex.”
It’s just sometimes, how do you approach it and go, “Okay, let’s look at it from what will mainstream media pick up on?” So when brands fail, if you can break the story, mainstream will pick up on that. Mainstream picks up on it, you will get brand mentions no matter what your blog is.
And steer away from things like “Online Casino Best Deals 49″ because newspapers are not going to link to that. If you’ve got something like, I don’t know, BingoWingo. I’m just making that up but if you’re on something like that, which is a brand-able domain. At least media outlets are more likely to link to that then just giving you a brand mention.
And also if your brand is something, which is keyword rich, you could get caught up with the EMDs and you don’t want that either. So you’ve got to not look like an affiliate, you’ve got to not taste like an affiliate, and you’ve not got to act like an affiliate.
So you become a merchant almost with the affiliate side of it that leads out the back.
Warren: So you mentioned Casino Choice, and Richard is actually a personal friend of mine as well as we did a recent profile on Casino Choice. What do you think that Richard did or Casino Choice did to really to really distinguish themselves from the rest of the affiliate world early on?
What are the maybe one or two things that stood out to you, just coming from the brand side and knowing what brands do to establish themselves?
Dave: Well, I think first off almost the domain that they had was keyword rich in a way that it wasn’t keyword rich if that makes sense. So it wasn’t like “online casinos that you should choose.” It was very simple lines of “Casino Choice,” which was indicative of, “Which casino do you want to work with?” So from the branding point of view. They also gave good reviews. And it wasn’t just reviews on the lines of, “This casino is awesome. Click this link, go to it.” They seemed to be honest reviews. So it’s as if they had a real user base. And they probably did have a real user base but I’m most probably doing Richard a dis-service there. But they also created good content and they looked at things that was happening in the industry then reported on it. So from that point of view they were ticking all the right boxes in Google’s eyes.
I think at the time as well they had things like they were in Google news. I don’t know if they still are or not. I know that Google really clamped down on a lot of that. So again it was another vote of confidence on their behalf that they were doing the right things. So yeah it was good content. It was unique content.
It was stuff that wasn’t just out there for the sake of just being out there. So yeah, and they built the brand. They got covered by acting professionally I guess. They weren’t out there spamming into bits. They weren’t out there spamming it to bits, they weren’t out there basically attacking blogs and doing blog links and blog spam all over the place. The back-links looked quite nice, meaning they were getting proper coverage. So they did the right things at the right time.
Warren: So one question also relates to just building a brand. Recently in the CAP forums affiliates were asking, some of the older affiliates were saying, “Should I still have 200 websites or 100 websites?” It sounds like if I’m not mistaken from what you’re saying, that model is probably going away and towards the model of having a singular powerful brand that the search engines can really respect and lend some authority to. What would you say about that?
Dave: I would love to say yes—Build one brand, make it awesome, make it last forever. The real fact is that you look at the “Casino bonuses” three or four weeks ago. One affiliate took all top ten in the UK, with domains like OnlineCasinoBonus32, OnlineCasinoBonus31, OnlineCasinoBonus12, BestCasinoRoulette12, and just random, just keyword rich, 30,000 back-links popped straight in. I mean he’s been doing this forever and I’m like, “Kudos!” It’s nice to see that there’s still people out there that have got the balls to go after Google in a way. Google has got this thing at the moment that’s showing you which websites have been penalized in Google.
And I keep seeing this all of the time coming through the slideshow. So they’re obviously hunting it down. But the problem is, is he can get them out there quicker then Google can hunt them. So if that’s the case then, “Oh my God, he’s going to win each time.” But it’s a build and burn process. And while he’s doing that, that’s all he can really do. He can just build it and burn it, build it and burn it, and hope that the revenue comes in.
Now I used to do that. I did that many, many, many years ago. Could I sleep at night? No. It’s like it’s feast and famine. One month you make a hundred grand, the next month you make nothing. Sometimes you make nothing for two months. And then all of a sudden you hit it rich again, and you’re like “Yay.” What happens if you don’t hit it rich for six months? Have you made enough for that 100,000 grand that you did it all and everything was fantastic?
So I think Google’s getting smarter. They’re looking at ways of closing down the loopholes. He’s just, I mean people just think it’s so sophisticated what he’s doing. It’s not. He’s cloaking the image-rendering block that shows up in Google search. So people think “Oh, he’s linking through Wikipedia or he’s 302ing to this”. No he’s just cloaking that bit, just chucking a load of links in. The content’s not fantastic, but it’s unique enough that Google can’t Pandarize it. And he’s getting up the goal really, really quickly. So from the black hat world of affiliate marketing, that’s still exactly the same as it was.
The hard part now is obviously making sure that from a real affiliate, I can’t say what’s a real affiliate or what’s not a real affiliate, but from an affiliate that wants longevity, that wants to be around for a long, long time, the hardest thing that I think that they come across isn’t the link side of it. It’s Panda. Maybe because they’re not creating any news so while you don’t create any news it’s hard for you to be someone who’s adding content and influence to the Internet. And that’s what Google’s looking at. It’s like if 888 go and buy Foxy Bingo, that’s going to be massive news! It’s like their stock price will go up, everyone will write about it, then everyone will be happy, happy, happy.
But an affiliate can only report on that once the story’s broken. So he’ll never get any of the link equity from the mainstream media. He could start hedging bets, and say if I was 888 these are the companies I would buy, and become like a thought-leading thing in that industry. But then again how are you going to sell off the back on that? How are you going to make it so that if anyone comes to your website is actually going to get cash. Well will give you cash by leading off to 888 or leading off to Foxy Bingo.
So the content has got to be sculpted now in a way that is a lead gen for the merchants. But it’s also going to be so much more. I think social will have a big play for affiliates. User-generated content. Contests that you can actually get people to leave information, wth notes that there’s a correlation between websites that have got a lot of comments.
Mobile phone industry is the prime example. If you take like the latest handset that is coming out. Everyone will have this similar sort of information. They’ll have information on the specifications. But they won’t have the user-generated content. “This is awesome! Oh I love the HTC, I love the IPhone.” If you’ve got a lot of traction, you get lot of comments. You get a lot of user-generated content. And what we’ve seen is that those websites seem to tend to start ranking higher because of user engagement of the websites that have got even a good editorial review, they still slip into Panda because Google sees there’s editorial all over the place for the same product.
So user-generated content is definitely good, and just make sure that you’ve got something there that’s actually going to give you a bit of longevity.
Warren: Okay. So it sounds like to summarize all of that, unless you’re a black hat affiliate, building the brand is the way to go. And you’ve shared some really great insight in terms of how to do that. So thanks for that. I think that’s where we all see the industry going.
You’ve touched on mobile a little bit. I know you’re talking about handsets, but just in terms of mobile search and where everything’s going, obviously if you go to the conferences as an affiliate, it’s clear to see that all of the operators are pushing mobile. And when we, for example, interact with some of the other affiliates in the industry, most of them are clueless about what to do in mobile.
If we can just touch on mobile SEO, and the relevance of that now. Obviously it’s playing a big role in terms of where the market place is going and the consumer behavior is moving to tablet and mobile. How can marketers or affiliates start to be prepared and get more sophisticated about how they serve content on smartphones and really optimize that content for the search engines?
Dave: I’ve got to be careful what I say because I always get in trouble. And the reason why I get into trouble is every time I say it people go “No, that’s bullshit, Naylor.” I think that building mobile sites is just stupid. You should be able to build a website, which has got responsive design on it. Perfect example is Bronco.co.uk. Or my blog davidnaylor.co.uk. You look at those and you shrink them down to what a tablet size would look like. The CSS looks at the view stake and basically re-sizes and moves the CSS around.
So there’s never a situation where I would fall over having a mobile website versus my real website. The content is exactly the same. I hate it when I’m on my Android tablet, and I go to Sky News, and it goes, “Oh you’re on a mobile network device. Here you go, here’s the mobile content.” I’m like “No, I’m not, I’m on a tablet that’s got a big enough screen to display it normally. Display it normally.” “No, we’re just going to give you a crappy menu system, with crappy content, without the video, without you just because you’re on a mobile phone.” It’s like, “No, give responsive design to actually move the screen size bigger and smaller, things happen.” With mine, you can re-size images on the fly, and the navigation changes. So it changes from the buttons at the top into little buttons with a big search bar at the top and we re-position stuff, which is dead easy to do. It’s done in CSS. That way you will never have an issue where you’ve got someone who can’t look at your website on a browser.
Google knows about responsive design. They’re one of the pioneers for this so why wouldn’t they give you a boost in mobile? I find that sights that have got good responsive design over mobile-generated websites just do better.
Warren: Makes perfect sense. So in terms of the iGaming sector and Google’s view on it, what are your thoughts? Do you think that the Google is still targeting the iGaming sector, in terms of from a search or spamming perspective? Is there anything that affiliates need to do to clean up their acts moving forward to avoid getting penalized whether it’s based on some of the recent algorithm changes or what you foresee in the future coming down the pipe. How can affiliates really think about staying away from the penalties that have really affected many of them in these last 12 to 18 months?
Dave: I don’t think we’ve seen the big updates in the iGaming sector. I’ve seen targeted penalization, basically where they’re going actually they’re going to dampen this side of it down. I still see websites, even merchants and affiliates, alike ranking high on really shady backlinks. So you look and you go, “I wouldn’t want to be the SEO for that one.” And I’ve been saying that for 18 months, and they’re still there. So I can feel that Penguin updates haven’t hit them so hard. It could be just the fact that Google can’t find what the real metric is for the gaming sector. As stupid as it sounds.
If everything is rubbish, you can’t chop everything out. You still have to have something there that is worthy. It’s like if I went and searched for “online casino” and I didn’t see big brands, then that would be an issue. Does that make sense? We’ve got so much crap within the merchants, that affiliates can still break through on those.
I think as we move down further along the lines, when we get things like big brand name searches where you get what probably looks like six results where you got the headline and then the six-pack of links underneath it, and then four links underneath that. I think that’s going to cause affiliates more. Because I think Google will block more people that way.
There’s been a lot of talk about intent as well. What the user experience is. So if an affiliate is pushing people straight through and out. That could be cause for issue somewhere down the line, with time on site and things like this. Is that site just a conduit to move people from Google to another site? Because at the end of the day Google doesn’t like that.
There has been some kind of talk that would Google ever penalize merchants for their affiliates. Again that may be something as, that comes in, that could be a big play as well. But at the moment it seems to be almost 2008 in the affiliate marketplace. Where if you push the envelope hard enough, you will reap the rewards, but obviously there needs to be a way back from that, and at the moment, when I see affiliates get hit by Google, they don’t seem to come back so easy.
Warren: Interesting, in terms of one of the biggest challenges I think affiliates have when it relates to SEO in specifically the iGaming sector is link building. Because you can’t, well I won’t say you can’t but it’s much tougher in this industry verses finance or travel to build organic links on authority sites. Because if it’s a non-gaming website, many times or more often not, again you’re the expert on this, they’re a bit less reluctant to publish content related to the sector.
So how can affiliates build high quality links that will stand the test of time when it relates to search engines, what’s your advice around that?
Dave: It is one of the hardest things that they’re ever going to come across. It’s hard from our point of view, even in that from the merchant point of view. The things that I’ve seen recently is under links so you create something where an animated Twitter icon, and you stick a link underneath that. I’ve seen a lot of that kind of thing going on. Or sponsorship of widgets and plug-ins. From my experience, you’re still having to pay to get those placed anyway. To attract real decent links, I suppose even though I totally dissed infographics at a recent conference, I guess infographics wouldn’t be a bad way.
But again it’s uncontrolled and again it’s getting them on to the Mashables of this world, and Endgadgets and Huff Post and places like that where… That’s where the equity would get them from if you could build something that they would trust and actually put on the website.
Would they no-follow them if I had anything to do with it, and that was one of my websites, damn right I’m not going to link to a casino link, never in a million years. Some people don’t understand that. The gaming side of it, you could approached the mommy’s and “work at home” people. There are a lot of those guys out there that are viewing still. So if you can get a crossover, then that’s one way. You talk about mobile side of things. Plenty of mobile bloggers out there. If you can build something that is mobile generic that is going to give you link equity via mobile people through the reviewing of your product. But again it’s an investment. It’s not, to build a mobile whatever it is.
If it’s something that every time you go to a football game and every time you upload a football of someone scoring and you get put into hat to win something. As a affiliate if you build that and you got enough market penetration, you know you’re going to get traffic via it. You know when people are going to be coming to your website to see who won, whose photographs are being uploaded, what stupid photographs have been uploaded, how you get the lead gen from there onto casino platforms, or the bingo platforms is totally different. At the moment straight out link buying is finding people that will link to the casino.
I would go down the route of looking at merchants, looking at their backlinks, and then creating a good review of the merchant. Or even a bad review of the merchants. And then pimping that up to people that you can tell that have sold links in the past and push it that way.
Guest blogging, I think it will hit the radar if it hasn’t already hit the radar. But I think if you’re a good writer you could most probably get links from that side of it if you really write a down to earth review. If you want to go really overboard. Look at exploits within some of the platforms. Out those exploits. You know what I mean. You’ll most probably get on hackernews and places like that, dead easy.
But yeah it’s outreach, and that’s hard. Even in the forex industry, I think we have an outreach of like ten thousand, and we’ll get a hundred responses back from it. It’s hard work, and nine times out of ten the 100 responses back are “Yeah, I’ll do it for 50k. I’m a trader.”
Warren: Fair enough. Yeah I figured there wouldn’t be an easy answer. But such is the SEO game. I think that the final question that we have for you Dave is, many affiliates have come to us on advice for hiring an SEO agency, how to vet one out. Perhaps you could give us some insight. If an affiliate is looking to hire an agency such as Bronco for example, how do they vet out the agency first? What should they be prepared to do in order to prepare for that? What’s a typical investment look like for an affiliate to be able to rank in this industry? I think these would be questions that would be helpful for our audience when they make that decision about are they going to try to get out on their own. Or is outsourcing the right strategy?
Dave: I think, well it’s two fold. Primarily if you’re technically able, and you’re a good writer then do it yourself. If someone came to me and said, “I want to be number one for Online Casino. Can you build me a website? Produce all of the content, and make me rank, for this much money?” I would probably say “No”. Because if I could do that for the sort of money that they’re talking about, unless it is crazy amounts of money then why wouldn’t I do it myself? As an affiliate, you know what I mean? You have got to stay ahead of the game ever so slightly. I don’t think you’re aware of that.
We built a bingo alert system years ago. Went on back in the UK and sold. To me I was like, why would anyone buy that? It’s just an affiliate website. Okay, it has a small USP but nothing that’s kind of like, “Wow this is fantastic.” So we built that. It’s like, we built it for a team of people. They brokered some feeds and all the rest of it, but at the end of the day, it was an affiliate site, it was promoted by us, built by us, ranked—I think it was third for bingo at the time, 5th for online bingo.
And that’s what it got sold off the back of. So if someone came to me and said, “Hey Dave for 5 grand a month can you make me rank number one for online casino? You build it and do all of the work for it.” I would most probably look at it and go, ‘Actually for 5 grand a month I could most probably put in all of that time and effort for myself, and most probably make more money out of it long term.”
So you’ve got to make sure that A) you’ve got something that an SEO agency just can’t do. You have to have a USP, you can’t just go to an agency and say, “I want you to produce A, B, and C, and I want to pay this much, and I want you to rank me for all of these keywords,” because why would they? Why wouldn’t they just do that and just become the affiliate themselves? So you have to have something that’s unique about you. Okay, so whether you have got a ten-year-old domain that has gone a little bit toxic over the past that you need cleaning up, then that’s fine. Agencies would be able to help you with that.
They have got big enough teams to clean up this sort of stuff. It may be the fact that you’ve got background in something totally different and you’re bringing on board something which is a total USP that has never been seen before. That always excites agencies like myself. We want to work with something that is different. I don’t want to work with something which is exactly the same as every other Casino affiliate out there.
It becomes a link building process. So there’s a lot of companies out there that will just do link building. I just find that you always end up being battered around the head. So something that’s a USP. Something that’s unique. If not, if you have just got an idea and as long as the idea isn’t, “Build me an affiliate site and make it rank,” then look at partnerships with agencies. There’s plenty of agencies out there that will sit down with you, and look at it and go, actually we can most properly help you. We can help you with this contact, we can help you with PR, we can help you with graphics, we can help you with programming, we can help you with distribution.
Those are the sort of things that you want to be looking for. Also look for agencies that have had experience with dealing with affiliates, because it’s different. No matter what anyone says affiliates are totally different to merchants. Merchant SEO, and client side SEO for large brands is so much easier than affiliate. It’s like from an affiliate point of view, do you cloak the affiliate links? Can you hide them successfully that Google will never find them? So from a technical point of view, does the agency that you’re working with have that skill set?
What backup have they got if things start to go wrong because an affiliate normally, they don’t have a five-year plan. It’s normally a 6-month plan, this is my content strategy, this is where I’m going with it. How can you help me with this?
It’s hard because most big companies have a five-year strategy plan. They know they’re going to execute this, this and this at these times. They’re going to push out this kind of product, or this kind of offering at these times. So you can scale. With affiliates you need to be very quick on your feet. You need to be monitoring feeds and news channels that if 888 offices are on fire, you want to be the first person to break that story. So getting an agency that’s got ins with PR feeds, that’s technically able to build this sort of thing for you is key.
So it’s hard, we tend to kind of turn down a lot of people who want to work with us from an affiliate point of view. Mainly because it is, “I have a single page website. I want to be number one for online casinos, and I’ve got 500 quid I’m willing to spend. But I will give you more if you make me rank.”
Warren: Sure. Well, that makes sense. Well, Dave, we’re out of time, and thank you so much for spending your valuable time with us. We really, really appreciate it, at sharing your expertise and insight into the global SEO market place.
If anyone would like to contact Dave at the end of the interview, Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be happy to put you in touch. Thanks everyone, stay tuned for future interviews with iGaming industry leaders, and thank you Dave.