Let’s be honest…between all the self-proclaimed SEOs, numerous SEO discussion groups, articles out there, it’s easy to get lost and really decipher what’s true about Search Engine Optimization.
That’s why we love Dave Snyder. His no-nonsense, real and proven approaches to get SEO and link building results– the white hat way. From his opinions on dying technical SEO to the importance of linking and content (yes, he admits to sounding like Matt Cutts), Dave gives affiliates some concrete, usable strategies they can use to boost their bingo SEO, poker SEO, casino SEO and beyond.
Dave Snyder is a world-renowned authority on link marketing, with strengths in both organic and paid search marketing. As a speaker on the topics of search marketing and social media, he has advised some of the world’s largest companies. Dave is also a publisher of SearchEngineJournal and DailySEOTip, where he shares his unique perspective on concepts related to search marketing.
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Hey, everyone. I’m Warren Jolly with CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com, and I want to welcome you to today’s interview with Dave Snyder. Dave is a world renowned authority on link marketing with strengths in both organic and paid search marketing. As a speaker on the topics of search marketing and social media, he’s advised some of the world’s largest companies. Dave began his career online as a well respected Internet marketing consultant. He’s spoken around the world on topics of search marketing and social media and has consulted for some of the world’s largest companies on these topics. He’s also been an educator and writer in past careers.
Dave’s passion shifted from purely a marketing focus as he worked with more and more entrepreneurs to building profitable companies for the creation, construction, and management of startups. This passion was the inspiration behind Dave’s current company, SteelCast. In today’s interview, Dave will share his thoughts about SEO and offer some SEO tips for affiliates in the iGaming industry. Dave, it’s great to have you. Can you take a minute or two and let our audience know you got started in SEO, particularly within the iGaming industry?
The story beginning SEO is actually better than iGaming. I got into iGaming because that’s where all the money is. Most money’s in gaming, so you go to gaming, but I got into SEO, I used to be a teacher, and I got tired of being broke. And so, I started messing around on the Internet, and I started my own blog which is a sports blog, and I just really quickly figured out how to game a system with Google. I was actually looking for a copyrighting gig, and I lied my way into my first job for a marketing gig. Within a year, I owned my own company, and I was working for different people, but we made a lot of our money from our first consultancy jobs in payday loans and in gambling. Again, that’s where people made the most money from organic search. That’s why they were willing to pay the most. So, that’s what we did. A lot of the people that we worked with in iGaming were some of the people that took US players. So, my work hasn’t been as much in iGaming probably over the past year as it was before, but that’s how I got started.
Great. What are some of the other verticals that you’re currently involved in besides iGaming, just to give our audience the perspective?
We’ve always done a lot of finance work, payday loans. Obviously, we’re still working in payday loans. Along with that, we do some travel work and technology. There’s really not a space I haven’t worked in extensively over my career because if it’s work that I’ve done for clients or large agencies or large companies, it’s kind of taken me in every vertical. So, I have an interesting perspective on everything because I know a lot of the guys in the gaming vertical, for example, they just stick within the gaming vertical. That’s not really the case for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to see everything, and it helps me out, I think, kind of pinpoint what’s going on in different places.
Got it. Tell us a little bit about SteelCast. What does the company do? What do you specialize in? I know, obviously, SEO is a big component, but is there anything else that you offer in terms of services to clients?
Yes. SteelCast is actually an incubator, and so we incubate marketing companies. So, right now we have a company called CopyPress and are an incubator that is a content cycle company. We do everything from the content copy, infographics, videos. It’s a content placement, so traditional link building of sorts where we take really good content, get it put on sites, social seating for that content and then also conversion optimization. And then, we have a company called PerformNow which is more of your traditional SEO work, but it’s more audit-driven because, to be honest, I guess we’ll get into this more as the interview goes on, the old way of doing SEO, just linking and building lots of links, just doesn’t work anymore. It’s become more of a content and a technical kind of game.
Sure. So, let’s get into that, just talking about the ever-evolving landscape of SEO. There’s been some major changes in Google’s algorithm within the last few weeks as everybody knows. This is the most important topic we know for our community in terms of SEO itself. So, hearing from you as an expert, can you help us to differentiate between Google Penguin and Google Panda 3.6, and then I think there was another Panda update beyond 3.6 that recently was announced. Why do these updates come so close to one another and what do they really mean for affiliates and for webmasters?
For webmasters, as a whole, what needs to be understood is that Google has taken a really aggressive stance. This is more so of my personal opinion against organic search. It’s a business call because there’s a lot of money being made and spent on SEO and organic search. It’s obvious there’s been a gauntlet thrown down against SEOs and people doing SEO practices. You can see this, even in really competitive verticals. I used to be left alone, even in gaming right now. Gaming used to be a place where you could go and buy your links. They really wouldn’t mess with you; they’d burn somebody every once in awhile, but even that space now, people are getting taken down.
What people are going to have to do is learn, and it’s weird, I’ve been saying this at CAP conferences for a while. It’s like, learn how to play more by the rules, and there’s a way to do it. There’s a way to kind of play by the rules and win, and I always throw out the example like Bodogs, for example. Bodog, they did a lot of their SEO not around… They obviously were doing link buying and stuff. Everybody does, right? But they were doing a lot of the prop bet kind of viral stuff, and they always had a really great brand. Take that strategy with things.
The difference between, and this is something good to know is, you should always have Webmaster tools hooked up for your site, and you can go to SEOmoz and see all the different Google update changes happened. If you’re wondering which one of them affected your site, you should run Webmaster tools and see when your analytics and when your traffic dropped and how it correlates to one of those updates. That would give you a good indicator of which one of those it might have been, and then slowly over the next couple of months they usually tell you what that is. It’s not always as clear as, “This is the update; these are the changes that were made; this is what the effect on my site is.”
It could take a process, an amount of time to get things done. That’s why I think, too, getting educated at places like affiliate programs or going to different forums and checking what you’re doing before you start going crazy on your site. The other thing we’re seeing a lot of, and SEOs are commenting on it, is Google saying, “Well, just start over with a new site.” How could somebody do that? There’s so much time and money invested in these portals. It’s like saying, a guy who owns a dry cleaners whose business is down, just burn down the building and go build a new dry cleaner. It’s not really an option.
The biggest thing I’ll tell you is we’re seeing lots of people recuperating from both Panda and Penguin. Panda, remember, is an algorithm so that is one that’s geared towards better content and Penguin is filters, algorithmic filters for spam. So, if you’ve been Penguin’d, there’s a way to get out of it, and if you’ve been Panda’d, there’s a way to get out of it, but the two things aren’t the same. That’s why, again, it’s important to differentiate and see which update affected you. Do some small testing before you start making major changes to your sites as well.
Great. Some of these affiliates that have been hit by either algorithmic change, some guys we’ve heard from, they were doing, for example, 200 depositors a month, and it’s dropped to 30. A lot of these guys are really scared that their rankings will never come back. Do you believe that to be true? Are there any instances where these updates are basically going to put these guys out of business, or do you think no matter what, if you do the right things, you can come back to where you were, potentially even better?
Yeah. I think no matter what, you could come back. What it’s going to take is a calculation for you. How spammy did you go? If you build 200,000 links and you bought from all different sources, it’s going to take you forever to clean that thing up, and it might not be worth spending the time. It might take the same amount of time to build a new portal. Now, if you actually had a good brand, you built a great brand, good content and you happen to get in the mix of a sitewide link, it’s obviously worth going and taking that down and bouncing back.
I have heard some stories of people that have had mixed results coming back but, again, Penguin just hit in April. So, we’re really not that far into this whole thing. It feels like it, obviously, for some people, but until we’re 12 months in and people haven’t recuperated, nobody can say whether no one can come back yet.
Now I have heard of people that have had, before Penguin, a hard time getting back from Panda. I really think it comes down to how much money and time are you willing to spend versus starting a new portal. That’s the really crappy thing that Google’s put in front of us and that’s why to me… because a lot of people that I talked to are like small affiliates and business owners that are getting hurt by this. It’s never the big companies. The big companies seem to bounce right back.
I think it’s just one of those things on an individual basis. You have to decide are you able to take 12 months of being down before you make significant moves and to test things and make good calls. If you can’t, then I think it’s time to rebuild and go from there.
Just to clarify, if you say when you’re weighing the cost benefit of building a new portal versus cleaning up your links, after you build that new portal do you agree with the strategy a lot of affiliates are looking at in terms of 301-ing the prior site? Doing 301 re-direct or are you talking about doing something from scratch and just building?
Scratch, yeah. Don’t 301. I’ve done some testing with the 301s, absolutely it’s going to follow you and poison you again. So definitely just let it die. If you have a site that’s that poisoned, like you just bought tons of links from networks and they’re not taking them down, you just want to get rid of it.
Now one strategy you could do to test this new strategy of 404 . . . let’s say you already have players that are coming back to you because you have 401 on your site and you want to keep it, 404’ing pages when you actually place links so that way when it hits the server, it will say it’s not there. Google’s saying that that’s a way to do this.
Also keep in mind that there’s supposed to be coming up with a disavow tool in Webmaster Tools pretty soon and I would tell anybody to wait to see if that happens in August before making any moves because that could be a really useful tool as well to get a lot of this cleaned up. Those are the steps that I would take for sure.
Okay. How about link buying? The thought is the Penguin update takes link buying pretty seriously, so what other strategies can be used to acquire links for affiliates?
I’ll sound like Matt Cutts, but really good strategies revolve around creating good content and going out and getting it placed places. Now that’s hard for the gaming vertical. Within the gaming vertical for poker and in bingo for example it’s really easy. Bingo and poker kind of social games and you can create content on them and get it put on mommy blogs or whatever. But when you talk about like hardcore casino, casino is hard as hell to get links to. At the end of the day in gaming, you’re probably still going to have to buy links. It’s about being smarter when you buy the links, making sure they’re in content that you scope out the site to make sure there’s no spam on the site.
Again, even that’s hard because a lot of people won’t sell links to casino sites. But I think what you’re going to look at as an affiliate is a mixed strategy. You want to build a brand. You want to have really good content on your site, and then you want to also create content to place off of other sites and you may have to pay for that placement in the gaming space. That’s just the way it’s going to go. I would stay away from these side bar and footer links and all of these kind of text link deals that traditionally have been done by affiliate that are not going to work anymore and they’re going to hurt you.
That’s the strategy people should go. It should be a mixed strategy. Again, the best thing I always tell people is there’s a path out there that’s already labeled. A lot of the big casinos for example you know that haven’t fallen anywhere, right? So go take a look at what they’ve done. They have really smart SEOs working for them. Okay, they’re doing a mix deal of link building and buying and brand links coming in so it’s so hard for them to actually get torched. And that’s the strategy that should be replicated over and over again.
Interesting. Okay. Now all these things we’ve been hearing about like author rank, duplicate content, Google getting a little bit stricter on that, all these other various content-related SEO limits. Are these major things to pay attention to from an affiliate standpoint? Is Google paying less attention to the technical side of SEO? What does all these buzz words really mean for affiliates?
I mean duplicate content definitely is serious. If you have content on your site that you were getting traffic from in February, you might not be getting traffic from it now because it came from somewhere else. Or even it might be your content and somebody else is outranking you for it.
In terms of authorship, that’s a great one. So I’ll give you a good example of how that can benefit a gaming affiliate is say you have a poker blog, you write a lot of stuff on poker, you also guess blog on a bunch of your friends’ sites. Well, if you tied all of those sites together via authorship, which is where you have an author page on your blog and then that ties your Google+ page. What Google is doing is connecting that all of those posts are written by the same author and essentially passes value from each of those sites back to each of those sites. So you’re able to siphon off.
It’s the same thing as linking. It will be able to siphon off some of the value to bring to your site. It’s a great tactic even outside of link building to get some authority over to your page. Because what’s Google doing there is a couple of things. One, they’re saying how important is this author so we can actually get their content to say this author is really important in this vertical, poker.
The second thing is verifying that it’s a real person writing this and that it’s trusted so when people link to it they’re like, “Oh, it’s a real person. It’s a trusted person on poker so people if people link back to it we can trust this.” I think authorship is something that people should definitely. It also means you get that little blog picture in the SERPs, which in increases your click-through rate.
I think there’s a lot of value in the authorship approach and affiliates that are running blogs on their sites, that’s a place where I think a mixture of that and guest posting and content placement is a really viable strategy right now to increase value from link building because the game isn’t anymore about volume of links, it’s about quality. So it’s not about getting a thousand links with a certain anchor text, it’s about getting 50 links with mixed anchor text from better sites and content with authorship.
So you start to see technical SEO in some senses has become less important. It’s more about linking and content. It’s the art form part of it. Technical SEO still is, though, very important. If you have a very live site. Let’s say you have a forum with 100,000 pages and you make a significant change to that forum and structure, and you aren’t using best practices from and SEO standpoint, technical best practices, you’re going to get hurt from that. In terms of ongoing SEO efforts I think definitely a more creative strategy.
It’s funny because again it’s something I’ve been saying for a long time in the casino space and it’s hard for people to wrap their minds around because it’s so easy to go buy links. It just is. You go pay for a link, you get a link, you make money. But now is the time it’s just not going to work long term.
Okay. So besides authorship, is there anything else new that Google is doing? In relationship to that obviously, there’s rich snippets, there’s a lot of talk about social signals. Is there anything else that you would say in the last six month per se has been more important or that Google is paying more attention to along those lines?
No, a lot of those things have been around for a while and so I think they’re things that all affiliates should be . . . when you’re an affiliate, regardless of what vertical you’re in, if you’re in gaming, if you’re selling refrigerators, you’re always going to be an underdog to the guys that you’re getting the affiliate money from who are also spending marketing dollars on their own portals.
So the reality is that you need to find every way that you can be smarter, faster than they are. A lot of that goes to paying attention to things that are coming out on Google’s blog, making sure that you’re keeping up with industry things so you can be the first guy to get rich snippets with stars or whatever you’re going to do.
In terms of things that Google’s really putting out there to help SEOs or that are going to help in any way, I don’t think there’s anything like that out there. I think authorship’s the biggest thing but we’re not also seeing like where that’s blowing up people’s strategy right now. I think that’s a long-term play. I think the biggest thing though is see what these new things are, be willing to test them out before they start to get utilized by the guys who have the real budgets to start pushing things around.
Got it. I know that I think our audience probably can tell what the answer will be to this question, but in terms of link networks and the value around them is even a viable strategy. What are your thoughts?
I guess it would actually be different than what you thought. Of course a link network can have a value to it. It depends what the link network is, right? So, if I went out and took 50 sites right now and built up the 50 sites and waited a year, and I only sold links to you for your site, that’s an awesome link network. That’s probably never going to get burned down if I do it the right way.
The issue is that these link networks aren’t set up that way. They’re set up in a way that they’re abused, so the first post will be about cat crates. The next one will be about gambling. The next will be about pills. The next one will be about fake weed or whatever. So, it has no categorical combination. All of the sites have links from the same people on them. So, those traditional link networks that are low cost and spun out articles and whatnot, yes, those are bad, don’t do those.
If, for some reason, you find somebody selling links from a site and you’re a gambling guy and the network’s clean, nobody’s ever done anything with it, he’s giving you exclusivity. Don’t say no just because it’s a network of sites, you know what I mean? That’s the difference. It’s knowing what got hit. What got hit wasn’t the fact that it was just a big network. What got hit was because it was a poorly constructed network of sites. It’s easy to figure out the footprint. What I would say is if you’re not technically savvy about stuff to understand the difference, don’t buy the links on the network, right?
If it’s a massive sale, there’s a buy page where there’s a PayPal button, don’t buy links from that network. That’s a good strategy, but if it’s like, your buddy has 50 gaming new sites and he’s going to give you some blog posts on those sites for $5000, that might be a good deal.
Gotcha. How about the recent page rank updates? Do they matter? Do they mean anything?
Page ranks. So, I don’t believe any signals that Google gives us anyway.
If anything, the biggest thing to look at with page rankings if all of a sudden you lost all of your page rank, like, you went from a four to a zero. What kind of effect is that having, but overall they haven’t meant anything for a while and who knows what, if the information they’ve been giving us from that is correct anyway.
So, if someone is selling a PR6 link, a couple of years ago that link would have been more expensive than a PR4 link, obviously. Are you saying in this day and age, don’t pay attention to that?
No, I mean, what we use it for, so when we do content placement deals, we use PR as a leveling off point. So, we say nothing under a PR2, right? Because ones and zeros are either going to show that it’s really new or devalued, but beyond that the metrics we use are things like Citation Flow from Majestic. We use MozRank, which is more of a true actual rank that’s taken. MozTrust is another one that we… So, we use third-party tools to give us our insight because we know that they’re giving us the real insight into what’s going on.
Yeah, I’ve bought sites that are PR6s that have three backlinks that are all crap. There’s no justification for why a site has that, and I’ve seen PR3s that are just like tons of amazing links in there. In terms of that, don’t go out and start spending tons of money on a PR8 site until you’ve gone through Majestic and SEOmoz and verify that they are really that good.
Okay. In terms of tools, you mentioned Majestic SEO and SEOmoz. Are there any other tools that you like or that you use?
No. We use internal stuff that we build out. We’re probably going to be licensing out one of our pieces of software called Connection Seeker in the next six months, which is a link building type of software, but again it’s not like an X rumor or something where you just go create tons of links. It’s hard work behind it, too. Yeah, I think SEOmoz, and oh, Kemper’s tools, Link Research Tools is really good as well. I think those three, right? If you use Link Research Tools, I think they pull in Majestic anyway, so you can just get it from Link Research Tools.
And I like using Open Site Explorer just because it’s so fast. Link Research Tools is a little bit slower sometimes. I think between those, they’re good. I like using Raven Tools if you have a bunch of sites. Just be able to rank check and manage stuff, it’s really good. Those are probably the four that I would say to use.
Got it. Okay. So, I guess this is kind of an open-ended question. Are there any gray hat techniques that you would be willing to share with the audience, just things that you found recently that are interesting or you’ve seen some traction on?
Yeah. One that I shared actually when I was in England the last time that I still see people doing is a pretty big opening in the local space, right? So there’s a couple of ways you could go about that. One thing you can do, it’s actually funny. Affiliates are picking up on this when I was in England last time I saw a couple of affiliates doing this. But you can actually go and find casinos, if you type the word “casinos” even in the US right now. A lot of local casinos will come up, right?
So I typed in “casino,” like the Seminole Casino here will show up but a bunch of other listings will come up and those aren’t always verified locations. So what you can do is actually verify the location. Say that you’re the person who claimed the actual address and then put it in a new URL for your location, which is your website. So you can instantly grab a top ten listing in Google for “casino.” It’s only on one location within Tampa or LA or whatever, one portion of LA. But that’s one method.
The other method is kind of a more long-term one. You can go out and buy a $300 kiosk. You put it in an actual 7-11 or something that has the ability for somebody to sign up. So this would work better definitely in the UK or places that are open to gaming but it can still work in the States as well. You go and put in a kiosk and let people play free poker or whatever.
But now you have a kiosk because there if you look, if you actually do a Google search for Bank of America, sometimes you’ll see ATM listings. So they’re giving ATMs and Redboxes the actual physical address that they’re at so you can actually go and get a bunch of listings and start ranking for “casino” or “poker,” things like that, on a Geo-local level which is kind of a cool way to start getting started driving some traffic if you’re brand new. Or even if you’re not new, if you want to just get competitive for poker really quickly.
The local space is something that most affiliates in general just have never looked at using. So that’s actually more a black-hat method than a gray hat I’d say because if you get caught doing that later they’ll completely kick you out of the index.
A good gray hat technique is if you’re going to buy links. Point them all to a satellite and then link from the satellite site to your site. That way, if you get torched, you can actually turn off the satellite from the linking and that way you can actually do that via 301 as well. Then you can turn it off and your site’s healthy again.
So you’re kind of running everything through a valve that you can shut off and you can get more aggressive with your link buying that way. And just always remember to be really strategic about how you’re sending the links. Don’t mix them up. This term goes with this site. This term goes with that site and that way you can see the filter probably you know exactly where it’s coming from.
So basically it’ll be able to manage your inventory a lot easier than having to go out to a thousand sites and get them removed if something goes wrong.
Yes. And then once they become poisoned you can shoot them at your competitor.
Got it. I think our audience would like that. Thanks for that. Those are things I never thought about. Awesome.
So in terms of, I know you work with iGaming affiliates in the space and some other big names that will go unnamed for this interview. But what are some of the guys in iGaming doing wrong? What are the common mistakes that you see that you can just see occurring again and again that guys should start thinking about?
I think the big, well not the big, operators but the smart operators I’ve talked to that get it right and so everybody should look at what they’re doing. These guys are doing is they’re looking at the social space. They’re looking at how to do great content. They’re looking at building brands and not just about linking and about spamming things up.
The people that are going that route have had success and will continue to have success and have built a lot of stability for themselves. And I’ll continue to keep preaching that because even if you’re an affiliate you can build a brand. Building a brand isn’t hard. It’s just about creating content and getting an audience to follow you, which again in this space is great, specially if you’re on a rev-share basis. So now you’re able to retain your players and get them to keep coming back. Make sure you keep your whales coming in and churning the money.
But I think when you look at the big operators, they’re doing the smart thing. They’re looking out what’s coming next and they’re saying, “Okay. We still have to link buy to survive but that’s not just all that we’re going to be doing anymore.”
So the advice I’ll give is definitely look into doing content… It’s hard. Yeah, sure it’s kind of hard, but there are ways to get it done. You know what I mean? There are always creative ways. I’ve worked in every space, and I’ve done it in every space, casino, payday. It doesn’t matter. There are ways to create really good content and build organic links and get rankings in a sustainable way.
Got it. Okay. So for our industry, in iGaming, a lot of affiliates are trying to move out of the US market that live here, that work here, or successful affiliates in the European market are trying to move to other new emerging areas. What are the top three recommendations that you can give for an affiliate who’s looking to diversify out of their core market and rank internationally, if you will?
For international ranking, it’s really not that hard. The biggest thing is having a… Because for example, it used to be important to host in the country. With the invention of cloud computing and that becoming really popular, that’s not as important anymore because people might host on Amazon or whatever. What you want to definitely have is a TLD, or you want to have a variation.
So, uk.abc.com, and then de.abc.com. Then you want to have the actual language of each location as well. Beyond that, you also want to get links from that area. If you can do that, you can rank in any country you want to.
I’m sorry. When you say links from that area, because of the advent of cloud computing, how do you know if a link is from a specific area? Look at the sub-domain or the TLD only?
Well, it’s sub-domain, TLD, or the language. Also, if you’re the owner of the site, you also want to register that site in your Webmaster Tools as being from that country. So if you have multiple sub-domains, you can actually say, “Okay, this sub-domain is for Germany. This one is for UK. This one is for Australia.” Like I said, build links from those areas.
Because you can tell, when you look at a blog if that has an Australian TLD, it’s probably from Australia. But there are other ways that you can find. Mainly if a site is written in German, most likely it’s a German site, or Austrian, or something around that. So, that’s the basic nuts and bolts for ranking internationally.
It’s really not that difficult to rank internationally and probably the best strategy is the sub-domain strategy, so that way you can use the equity and the brand that you’ve already built and the engine.
Okay, great. This will be our last question, but Dave, in terms of the US market, and we all know that legislation is coming, how can affiliates prepare from an SEO standpoint and branding standpoint?
Yeah. I think if you’re not making money in the US right now, it kind of gives you time to build up that brand. So, go out there and just put out sites that are putting out killer content, with the idea that one day you can drop that blog or whatever it is to just a /blog and put up a sales page long-term, or some kind of affiliate page long-term.
For me anyway, I keep eyeing that saying, it’s really like making an investment. We all know it’s going to open up eventually. It has to. This country needs the breadth of the tax revenue from that. So, it’s just a matter of time before it does and there are going to be big budgets behind that. You need to get in front of those budgets.
I mean, it’s the biggest budgets ever are going to be after that market. So, what smart affiliates could do now is just invest in really good content with the idea of knowing that it’s going to come out eventually.
All right, Dave. I know you’re super busy. It’s been really great having you on. Thanks so much for your time and all the expertise. It’s been super useful.
So, if anyone is interested in contacting Dave after the interview, go ahead and send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to put you in touch. Stay tuned for future interviews with iGaming industry leaders. Thanks again, Dave.