Online Marketing Strategies for Gambling and Casino Websites
This is a Step-by-Step guide on the strategies we used to get to #1 for “online casino”.
In my 12 years of search marketing, I’ve haven’t seen many fields as hard to compete in, as online gambling (the gaming industry in general actually). The persistence & hard work you need to rank for the most searched online casino keywords is immense and requires meticulous skill and a well laid out plan of attack.
There’s tough, then there’s gambling tough!
Online gambling key-phrases are arguably some of the hardest to rank on Google. Increasing a website’s search engine rank isn’t easy when the majority of the websites that you approach do not want to work with you because you’re an online casino, poker site, a sports betting website or some version of a gaming website that deals with money.
The standard SEO principles still apply
If you’re reading this, you probably already know that Google’s algorithm considers just under 200 factors when determining the order in which to display search results.
So, there’s obviously more to it than the obvious.
In this post, I’ll discuss some things much more actionable. Actions that have led my client sites to rank #1 for notoriously competitive keywords.
I’m going to give you the exact method in brief that I have used to rank my clients for some of the most competitive gambling-related search terms in existence – short-tail terms such as “online casino,” “online roulette” and “online gambling.”
We’ve done that in various International markets and as I write this article, we rank #1 for these keywords in various European markets.
I’m not talking about ranking in the top five here – I’m talking about page one, result one organically.
The good bit? My strategy can be implemented by anyone. The bad bit? It requires research, time, money and persistence.
Do you want an online casino SEO strategy that’ll get your website to Google’s first results page every time? Here it is.
Lay the Right Foundation! Know with 100% Certainly Whether It’s Even Possible to Rank in that Market.
Before you begin, you need to know that there are certain impossibilities. For example, you CANNOT rank an affiliate site in the UK for “online casino”. You can rank an actual online casino site though.
Because both gambling and online gambling promotion is legal in the UK. That possibly means Google has given some kind of importance to actual online casinos, compared to affiliates. Have a look for yourself (screenshot dated 10th of May 2017) – top 10 results for “online casino” on Google UK. You won’t find a single affiliate in the top 10.
But you can rank affiliate sites in the European market!
It’s the local government’s policies based on which Google decides who can and can’t rank. On Google Germany a search for “casino online” results in 4 affiliates and 6 casinos. (see screenshot below)
In Netherlands, it’s 8 affiliates and 2 casinos. This is important SEO data and you must do careful market analysis to see what is and isn’t possible in your target market.
You see where I’m going with this?
I can assure you that there’s no shortage of ninja affiliates in the UK, but they all saw their websites disappearing for reasons only better known to Google
Which is a shame because many had worked very hard for years and BOOM! They were gone.
100 Hours of Competition Analysis – The Holy Grail to Success.
If I want to enter a new market, I spend time to average out:
The types of sites ranking (affiliates or actual casinos/betting sites)
Authority (Ahrefs is my favourite, but I also use Majestic)
Link types (text, image, flash)
Follow vs nofollow
Links to homepage vs links to internal pages
Links from local country vs worldwide links
Anchor texts (general, URL, money, mixed)
I look at the above to get a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t in that market.
The better you know your competition; the more likely you are to win!
This is what my analysis sheet then looks like:
These numbers are based on averages taken out on other sites in the same genre. They represent averages of websites doing excellently on Google for my target market.
In the above images, you see how I have gathered data for various websites that rank very well for various gambling related keywords in my target market.
I’ve then noted these numbers in an Excel file and taken out averages. That gives me concrete proof that we can’t go wrong if we adhere to these numbers.
This research takes many hours, but is worth every minute. Here’s what I note for upto 30 high ranking competitor domains:
Number and percentage of nofollow links – In the above market for example, I want roughly 15% of my links to be nofollow.
Number and percentage of follow links – I want 80% of my links to be follow and 5% to be just website references without a link.
Links from high authority root domains – I want 5-10% of my links to be from homepages of super high authority websites – This is the real muscle builder. The rest should be from internal pages with very relevant content.
Text links (90%)
Image links (10%)
Links to homepage (75%) – the reason it says warning on my Excel sheet is, my client’s website has over 75% links pointing to the homepage, which needs fixing.
Links to internal pages (25%)
URL anchor texts (12%)
Broad anchor texts (majority) (usually containing a permutation of money keywords) – In this category I would put anchor texts like “legal casinos in the Netherlands” (when my money keyword is say “Netherlands casino”).
Exact money anchors and their percentage (13%) – for example in the above research we found that the combination of broad and exact money anchors should not exceed 13%. We then went about giving money anchors from only the most powerful links we built. In other words, we gave one money anchor for every 7.69 links we built. The rest were url, image, url with www, with https, website name with spaces or even “click here”, “visit website” – all surrounded by keywords that explained what the site is about.
Social metrics – In the above example you can see that even sites with no social visibility rank. But it’s still better to have a few shares on Facebook and G+ only because that enables people to get in touch if they need to.
Links from domains with the country TLD (over 55%)
And finally outgoing link numbers and authority of websites being linked to (about 20 outbound links from the entire site)
How does this competitor research help?
This allows us to identify “safe ranges”. For example, if I know that in Sweden, the sites ranking in the top 10 have an average of 13% exact match money anchor texts, then I know that I will need some too to get the relevancy.
That also tells me that I won’t be penalized if I stay within the limits. This sheet then acts like the link building bible and we follow this at all times.
It might be worth re-doing the sheet every 6 months especially if you notice some top sites disappearing. You can come back to this sheet and identify the metric that the website probably overshot, helping you understand more clearly where not to go overboard.
The perfect domain – Fresh or old?
That depends! If you have a decent budget, I’d always recommend buying a site that is old, ranks between page 2 and 3 for a wide selection of keyphrases, has good content that has links and one that has some genuine editorial links.
If it ranks between 10 and 30 you’ll grab it for a few thousand pounds plus it’ll save a lot of work and sandbox time.
Make sure you study the Google webmaster console very carefully.Also go through historic rankings on SEM Rush and check for any drops. If there are, the site was penalized, stay away.
SEMRush has a historical rank checker – I high recommend using that and studying how the site has performed over time.
If you can’t find a site that ticks all boxes (or if no one’s willing to sell), just start on a fresh domain name.
Unless it’s a local TLD, set the region preference on Google Webmaster tools.
Round 1 – Fight!
Authority + Relevancy = The perfect partnership!
If you give your site 500 links from the world’s most powerful sites, you won’t rank, unless those links were subjective. Similarly, thousands of subjective links won’t matter unless they had super high authority.
The secret sauce is getting the authority and relevancy right.
Say you’re about to acquire a link from a very popular, high authority website in your country. Instead of inserting your link on an unrelated page, get them to write about a gambling related topic and link to one of your internal pages where you’ve covered that news.
As I said, not everyone will want to link to a gambling site, right? That brings to me my next point.
Build a Network of Sites Around Your Main Money Site
Build sites that talk about:
The biggest gambling wins
Gambling addiction help
Casino etiquettes and rules
Various things to do with casinos like:
Gambling as a business
Success/failure stories etc.
Create sites that that review casinos and sports betting websites on different parameters like:
Even sites about physical casinos or hotels that have casinos
Gambling law in that country
The list is endless! Let’s call these – authority sites!
Host these sites at different hosts/IP addresses with different accounts and don’t interlink them. I’ll come to what these are used for in just a bit.
Preferably don’t login to the webmaster console using the same IP address either. Sometimes I become too cynical, but many of my SEO friends have had no problems logging on different Google accounts from same IPs.
Links – The How, Where & Why!
I’ll divide my link strategy into various parts.
Get links on the most powerful sites in the world.
Give more importance to links from sites that get traffic than sites with high domain authority or trust flow.
Give more importance to local sites (in your target language) than the worldwide giants.
Always create relevancy – no link ever should look like a paid link. You must be able to justify logically why that site would link to you. Create reasons for it to happen.
Audit sites carefully before getting a link – audit organic traffic using SEM Rush APIs, forget everything else. I use URL Profiler, it works like magic and is an SEO’s best friend.
Here’s some spiritual philosophy that applies here.
Once upon a time, a very happy looking, poor monk was asked why he wouldn’t work for money like everyone else?
Monk: “why do you make lots of money”?
The man replied “to buy all the luxuries of life for myself and my family”
Monk: “what would that do?”
The man said “that would make us happy”.
The monk said “I find happiness in this way of life where I help others and eat whatever they offer.”
The monk wasn’t dependent on luxuries to make him happy. He was already happy, which is the whole purpose of existence, isn’t it?
--- Spiritual patronising over --- lol
Bring that same principle a few millennia in the future and apply on to Google rankings:
Say the purpose for existence for a website is to get Google traffic. When the ultimate ask is the traffic, then that’s obviously also the most powerful metric.
We know links are a powerful metric for success on Google, but there are others that are very important too. Whichever website gets high organic traffic must also carry more weight in Google’s algo? Therefore it makes sense to give Google traffic more weight than incoming links? Duh!
This is when comparing like for like.
There are sites getting traffic for non-competitive keywords, and that obviously doesn’t count.
So where would you rather get a link from?
A site that has a great profile or a site that ranks #1 for a competitive keyphrase?
I’ve helped my online casino clients’ websites get links from Huffington Post, Forbes and educational institutes simply by creating a reason, relevancy and working with writers to create great content that they would want to publish.
Writers for publishers such as Huffington Post and Forbes will not link to an online casino. They will, however, link to an authoritative website if that website provides value and is related to an article’s topic.
If that site belongs to you, you can link to who ‘the hell’ ever you want within reason. Right?
A great article about the effects of gambling, for example, could easily receive a link. That article can then talk about casinos that support “responsible gambling”.
If you can get that article a link from Huff post or Forbes, you’ve got your money site some trickling Huff post and Forbes authority.
I would usually go about building links to the Huff post or Forbes page too for obvious reasons.
The trick is to build a portfolio of high-authority websites that link to your money site while passing relevancy.
If you have an opportunity to get a link from a great publisher; but not a link to your money site, then have the publisher link to one of your authority sites instead.
My Secret Link Acquisition Techniques That Got Us Number 1 for “Online Casino”
The broken link technique
Find related websites with broken links (the Ahrefs broken link tool is by far the most amazing tool in this regard).
You can also use Bluechip Backlinks or Domain Reanimator – they have dozens of videos to explain how to use those tools. These tools help you self scrape sites in your genre to find broken links.
Write to webmasters telling them about the broken link and suggesting another relevant post on your site to link to instead. This one’s easier said than done, but give it a shot anyway, you may get lucky.
The broken domain technique
Find expired domain names that have incoming links from powerful sites in your industry and build these domains into proper sites retaining the juice which is otherwise impossible to obtain.
We’ve had top UK casinos linking to sites that didn’t exist. We registered or bought those domains, built them up into nice 10-15 page sites and gave links to either our tiered sites (I’ll come to that later) or to the casino/affiliate directly.
Again, use Ahrefs, Bluechip Backlinks and Domain Reanimator and use URL Profiler to obtain bulk stats.
Citations and Nofollows
Don’t believe anyone who says nofollows don’t matter. In all my right mixes, nofollows have always played an important part.
Also important are citations (just the url as text without a link). These are super easy to get (get 3 virtual assistants in the Philippines doing this for you each and every day) – blog comments, forums, guest posts, press releases, infographics outreach etc.
You will need to create a lot of noise and some not so important backlinks to justify getting very good ones.
I think more than the authority and juice, they help Google understand what your website is about and create link noise. It is a winner for relevancy and fast paced link building.
PBNs – Expiring Domains That Are Rich With Google Love
Private Blog Networks – Master the Droplists
Every country has a domain registration body where anyone can sign up to become a domain registrar. For example, the UK has NOMINET, Netherlands has SIDN, Sweden has IIS, Germany has DENIC etc.
These organisations maintain a database of all domains including details about domains that will expire in the next few days. These lists of domains are called droplists.
If you can get access to these droplists, you can identify domains that receive a lot of Google traffic by using the URL Profiler and SEMRush API + Ahrefs API. Once you know which domains you want, you can bid for them to be backordered on a backordering service like DomainOrder.com.
DomainOrder will try to ping the respective servers many times a second at the time when the domain is expected to expire and book the domain for you.
There are various backordering services, so the more you work with, the more are your chances of acquiring these domains.
Make sure the stats show Google traffic and also at least 50 referring domains on Ahrefs.
When you acquire new domains, look for ones that receive plenty of traffic. Can’t stress that enough!
A property’s inbound links shouldn’t be the only factor into your buying decision. Not nearly as prominently as the traffic the property receives.
Do watch out for links recently removed or very low quality traffic (read non-competitive keywords).
Steps to create the perfect PBNs (very briefly – this would be a 5000 article on its own, but here are the main ones)
Find out why that domain name expired
Was the website moved to a new domain?
Is the company shutting down?
Is the person no longer active?
Did the person forget to renew it?
Was it set up for a one off event? Like a yearly conference etc?
Recreate that website with:
old content using Archive.org if you are sure the original content creator doesn’t need that content, it isn’t published anywhere else.
New content on the same topic if you know the old owner would mind/or if that content already exists at some other website belonging to the old owner. Use Copyscape.com to check for content duplication.
SEO these sites internally, add content, create social media pages, 301 all old pages to new ones, create webmaster tools accounts, host them on separate IPs and let Google index them.
Find a way to create relevance from this website to gambling. For example, if it was a hotel website, write about hotels with casinos. If it was a site about finance, write about money laundering laws in the gambling sector.
Link to one of your authority sites or your main money site from this.
If you know how to play the droplists, you can easily acquire between 20 and 50 domains a week. These, my friends are the most amazing links – they’re pure, clean, loved by Google and most importantly completely in your control.
When you pass link juice from relevant pages on these domains you get both – authority and relevancy. Make sure that the page you’re linking out from has a link from that website’s homepage.
Give them the time, energy, thought, hard work and love.
Make sure the site has high quality content – use TextBroker.com for English content – they’re brilliant.
Schedule posts to go out every month for the next year or so to maintain freshness. Once you perfect this, these sites will rank brilliantly and pass superb authority.
You can use a PBN hosting like Cloudboss.Pro to manage multiple sites (on different IPs) using a common interface.
Don’t spam, don’t take short-cuts and don’t leave footprints
You probably remember the old link building networks that would publish any content and give anyone a link for a price.
They died, why?
Their footprints were easy for Google to detect.
After identifying one website in a network, Google could easily follow the trail and penalize every website involved in the link building scheme.
You can avoid that pitfall by developing each website in your network as a standalone business with its own revenue model and social media accounts.
Re-purposing super high authority domains is a work of art.
Schedule two years of content updates for each new website, and let the website run itself with minimal effort.
WordPress scheduling feature and Vladimir’s SEO Auto links plugin where I also contributed are my favourite reasons for using WordPress.
Final Word of Caution – PBN strategy
The PBN strategy is proper gray hat SEO, if not black hat and Google doesn’t love that – take every precaution with the footprints.
Google’s John Mueller has gone on video on one of the Google webmaster hangouts and said that there’s a possibility in the future that expired domains be ripped of all authority – there are chances that expired domains be given a clean slate, but as as of today they work, so start making PBNs now if you want to rank your gambling website organically!
It’s not easy for Google to strip old domains of all authority because that opens a whole new can of worms – genuine webmasters who forgot to renew, old brands resuscitating and various other reasons why old domains should be continued to be given authority that they deserve.
A few weeks into these strategies, you’ll see your site moving up, unless you make very obvious f*** ups that get you penalised.
An obvious one is building links too quickly – Please be very careful with that.
Start slow and build up speed and you’ll be just fine.
Link building speed (if link acquisition wasn’t a problem)
If you get weeks where you build no links, then restart from 3 high authority links and 10 citations, 10 comments/forums
If you are an experienced Internet marketer, you know that getting links isn’t particularly difficult.
You’ve probably read dozens of articles on the subject, and the fact is that most link building techniques really do work if you put in the time and effort.
Ideally, your portfolio should consist of hundreds of different websites on a variety of different hosts all linking in tiers (next section) to your authority sites.
My suggestion is take it very easy. Excessive and fast linking can trigger auto-penalties. Slow, sensible and an organic mix of links that look natural will lead to guaranteed success. If you have access to links, link to sites in different tiers (I’ll talk about that in a sec) and slightly different gambling genres. Let them absorb the juice and use these gradually while observing how Google is reacting to these links.
And no matter what you do, it will take 12-18 months of hard work to reach highly visible areas and 2 years or more to reach numero uno. But number one you shall reach given you work harder and have the finance to implement these strategies.
Ideally a 5 people team working for 2 years would do the trick.
In maths we’d say:
Right strategy x Investment x Time = Growth in rankings.
If your growth x persistence < your competitor’s growth x persistence
then Google rank 1 = infinitely far
If your growth x persistence > your competitor’s growth x persistence
then rank 1 is just a matter of time.
Finally, Do All The Above In Well Planned Tiers – I recommend 3 Tiers
We discussed about how the authority and relevance are both important for top rankings.
You now know various ways of finding high authority links. But that authority should bring gambling relevance or it’s all a waste.
Here’s how we do it:
Create 3 tiers
Put your unrelated websites that have gambling relevancy from just one article in tier 3. Say you have 600 such sites.
In tier 2 – keep 100 sites about gambling – each with 15-20 pages (of which 8 articles will go on it at the time of launch and 12 will be scheduled to go during the next 12 months – one per month). Now say your main target is to rank for “online casino”, these sites will each be optimised for things like “online roulette”, “play blackjack”, “best online casino”, “casinos in <country name>” etc. These will be individually brilliant keywords and 100% related to your main topic.
In tier 1 will be your main money site.
Tier 3 will always link to tier 2.
Tier 2 will link to tier 1.
And a lot of external links will be built for each tier, but particularly tier 2 and tier 1.
Tier 3 and 2 can also link to external pages that bring authority like a page on Huffpost that has a link to your money site or high authority site.
All these websites will be on different IPs, all will be set up on different webmaster tools.
Tier 3 cannot link to any other tier 3 site (no footprints). Tier 2 cannot link to any other tier 2 site.
Set them up in a very well document way – Excel sheets are the best. These should contain all usernames, passwords of all WordPress Admins, Google accounts, Hostings, Social Accounts.
There should be a separate Excel to check once in every 3 months how these sites are ranking. Use Semrush API.
If you create these sites properly, you will see them rank for various keywords.
Put some Google Adsense if you like – to justify the existence. Or even just normal banner ads linking to other sites with nofollow links.
Happy users – better rankings everyday! The importance of “SERP return rate”
If you ensure that each website in your network has a viable business model, you can potentially earn revenue from each one (or atleast that’s what people or a manual Google reviewer must think you do).
I suggest using Hotjar and Mouseflow to record visits and learn more about how users are interacting with your money and authority websites.
When you begin recording user sessions, you’ll quickly learn that there are some elements of your websites with which users rarely interact.
Remove or fix those elements. You’ll also find that certain elements receive a great deal of attention. Increase the prominence of those elements to keep users clicking and viewing them.
You don’t want people landing on your website to leave your site and continue their search on Google!
That tells Google they didn’t really find what they were looking for, or they were dissatisfied for some reason.
Using a tool to improve the experiences that your users have is absolutely worth the effort
If users consistently click back to the search results after only a few seconds of viewing a website, Google will likely lower that website’s search ranking because it isn’t providing what users want.
Creating better user experiences will improve the search rankings of your websites. It’ll also help those websites attract more natural links — and all of the strength from those links will eventually filter down to your money site.
Remember – It is Possible!
Most ranks are dominated by smart young men and women who focus on great user experience and work smart.
We’ve done it over and over again and you can too.
Don’t play near the edge, the risks are too high and a lot of effort can go bloop! if you’re not careful. Do it with the intention of creating something great and the result will usually be good.
Some say things were different before 2012. The penguins and pandas ruined it.
Fact is – those that ruled the rankings then, rule it now. When rules change, adapt and play by the new rules.
Money Money Money Money (like the US Apprentice title song)
You will need deep pockets and ability to sustain long periods. That’s a given. Give me a shout if you have questions. We are booked for certain countries but if you have a big project that you’d like us to take up, speak with me. 🙂
Arjun Sandhu is the CEO of Modulus Systems Europe Ltd. Modulus Systems Europe offers online casino SEO services including gambling PPC and online casino PPC marketing.
Arjun is the founding Director of Modulus Systems, Modulus Systems Europe Ltd and OnlineMarketing.org.uk. He has 11 years of experience in Search Marketing and runs other non IT businesses in parallel making him a unique search marketing consultant who focuses on conversions and business profits. He has appeared in various TV interviews, helped design some of the most popular SEO Wordpress plugins, set up affiliate websites, Amazon businesses and has helped top UK & European companies in the Travel, Gambing, Education, Hospitality sector achieve #1 ranks on Google for some very competitive key-phrases.
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