RightCasino.com: Building a Casino Comparison Site
Between Google penalties, legislative changes and negative press, it’s tough for fresh brands to make a splash in the casino affiliate space. In spite of these obstacles, Right Casino Media (RCM) has embarked on a new venture, applying a market comparison model to online gambling. Company Director David Merry explains…
It’s no secret that the odds have stacked against affiliate marketers in the past two years.
My own company was one of many to get its fingers burned for defying Google’s quality guidelines, incurring notoriously stubborn penalties on several of our affiliate websites. Determined not to repeat our mistakes, we seriously debated how to make a casino affiliate brand successful and lucrative in 2014 without resorting to black-hat SEO tactics.
With the launch of RightCasino.com – what we hope to become the ‘Compare the Market’ of online gambling – we think we’ve hit on a new brand with the user-value and scalability to compete in a competitive affiliate sector. In this post, I’ll recount the thought-process that gave rise to the concept and explain why we’re confident of success.
Facing the Hard Facts
Google’s clampdown on unnatural backlinks and manipulated rankings has spelt disaster for many affiliates. Tactics that worked back in 2009 are no longer viable for the long-term.
Yet Gambling SERPs are still made up of established operator brands buying links with impunity, and black-hat spammers going for a rinse and repeat. Some gambling SEOs still advocate ‘grey’ tactics such as buying editorial links, as long as you have plausible deniability when Google comes knocking.
I, however, anticipate a Penguin update this spring, and I’m confident that building a legitimate brand whilst staying on the right side of Google’s quality guidelines will prove beneficial in the long-run. And after experiencing penalty pain first-hand, I’m not prepared to dip my toe in murky waters again.
On-site SEO is also becoming an increasing concern. While keyword stuffing has long-since been outlawed, Google’s recent algorithmic update has started penalising webmasters for placing ads and conversion links ‘above the fold’ on their homepages. So much for the banner farms and bonus tables that drove conversions so effectively a few years ago.
Moreover, affiliates have to contend with several marketing challenges. PPC is very competitive and expensive, whilst content strategy and marketing is made difficult by the social stigma attached to the industry. Mainstream web editors are generally sceptical of even the best gambling-related content and while gambling industry news sources are useful for B2B marketing, they have limited reach with players.
Unlike in poker and sports betting, casino gamblers do not tend to form communities, making it almost impossible to circulate gambling content via social networks.
Changing the Game
With many affiliates withering on the vine, we decided to look outside of the industry for inspiration.
The massive success of comparison websites in the travel and insurance industries served as our first touchstone.
You don’t need to be web-savvy to use these websites and nor do you have to be a travel/insurance expert. Within thirty seconds of arriving on tripadvisor.co.uk for instance, users can plug in specific criteria – say a room in Istanbul with a balcony and en suite bathroom – peruse a list of matching hotels and book through a partnered travel agent. It’s a highly intuitive process.
We felt that the simplicity of the comparison model – on a clean, mobile responsive design – would provide clarity to online gamblers. For example, many players are disgruntled to find that some casinos do not accept customers from their territory or support their preferred payment method. They might sign-up only to find out that the casino software isn’t Android compatible.
It also became apparent through qualitative research that the online gambling industry suffers from a lack of trust and transparency, with ad-crowded web design, an overabundance of marketing bluster and no centralised information portal providing the unmediated facts about casino operators.
How, as a user, can I be sure that the website ranked at number one on an affiliate website has earned that placing rather than buying the top spot with a fatter commission than its competitors?
Taking note from fair play advocates such as Casinomeister and AskGamblers, our new website was designed from the ground-up to promote fairness and objectivity. As we entered the development phase, we envisioned a casino comparison site that would allow users to locate their ideal casino among a database of credible websites.
After a five month development cycle, RightCasino.com has finally been launched.
Find My Right Casino
RightCasino.com’s core product is our ‘smart casino finder’ – an intelligent filtering and sorting system that helps every player locate their ‘right casino.’
After the user fills out a set of six criteria – including their territory, language, bankroll size, game and bonus preferences and the device on which they wish to play – the website automatically sorts our casino partners according to their stated requirements, in addition to providing links to our expert reviews.
RightCasino.com’s on-site casino reviews are low on copy and present plain facts in a digestible, mostly numerical format. Our review pages are designed so that the user can obtain all the necessary information about any given casino at a glance, without absorbing a word of copy or glancing at a shred of promotional material.
Through its news section, RightCasino.com will also serve as a platform for quality content: from extended features and industry news updates to quirky, sharable material. Additionally, our ‘Need to Know’ section, contains helpful tips about secure banking, bonus terms, managing a casino account balance and so on (we have policy of avoiding ‘strategy guides.’)
In terms of content marketing initiatives RightCasino.com is launching with an infographic about the history of online gambling and a series of video interviews with Dr Mark Griffiths; gambling psychologist and co-founder of addiction charity GamCare.
In addition to high on-site value, this kind of long-form content is also viewed more favourably by Google.
In promoting our site launch, we’ve developed an innovative concept that retains the ‘right casino’ ethos. Consequently, we are inviting players to ‘ask us anything’ about gambling and will award £50 for every question we cannot answer.
By recruiting known gambling authorities – including Michael ‘The Wizard of Odds’ Shackleford and J.Todd from This Week in Gambling – we hope to buoy our marketing campaign on the back of their existing social followings. Furthermore, by making the promotion evergreen, we intend to sustain long-term engagement from users.
The Right Brand
Of course, the real value of the RightCasino.com lies in its scalability. The ‘right’ prefix can be applied to other gambling verticals (Right Poker, Right Bet, Right Bingo etc.), and the ‘right casino’ brand can be extended to cover land-based casinos and pleasure resorts. This is an exciting possibility, and could see us take a trip to Las Vegas in the name of ‘market research!’
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