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What I've Learned in 19 Years as an Online Gambling Affiliate

I think pretty much everyone knows that the online gambling industry is a very profitable one. I was fortunate enough to start working as an affiliate marketing online casinos in 2001. At that time I was attending the University of Central Florida getting my Bachelors of Finance.
One day in my first couple of months working on developing websites I was watching CNBC or Bloomberg and saw a piece about how the Internet gambling industry was booming and growing rather quickly. As a passionate gambler (blackjack player) and an Internet newbie entrepreneur I saw an opportunity to focus my efforts on a specific market that I was interested in. I'd been an entrepreneur my entire life but I knew nothing about the Internet. I had unknowingly set off on the journey of a lifetime.
I quickly began developing my first casino sites using Microsoft Frontpage and discovered that I was an SEO wiz. In less than one month as an online gambling affiliate I had numerous top 10 rankings on Yahoo and I was getting a lot of valuable targeted traffic (Yes, I said Yahoo - It was 2001 and they were huge in search still).
I couldn't believe how much I was about to potentially make according to my affiliate stats. That first month I was even asking the casino if they would pay me in the middle of the month because I just couldn't believe the stats were real and I was actually going to be paid the amount shown.
Well they didn't pay me in the middle of the month but when the month was over they paid me every dollar owed according to the affiliate stats tracking software. I had found a goldmine!
It didn't take long before I woke up one morning and all of my top 10 rankings were gone. Just like that, overnight my goldmine had disappeared.
But why? Well my SEO wizardry came back to hurt me. The same technique I had employed to achieve amazing search engine rankings was now the reason they were gone. But how could that be? Well, in 2001 search algorithms were still in their infancy. So with rather primitive marketing efforts it was not difficult to achieve top listings in the SERPs.
The search engines were getting smarter. Linking a bunch of keyword-hyphenated domains together and with heavy on page keyword density and over usage of keywords in image alt tags wasn't cutting it. As they got smarter I too had to work smarter and start focusing on developing high quality content that was better than my competitors content.
At that time even the definition of "quality content" was very different than it is today. In 2001 if you wrote 500 words of original content and included a couple of images named with targeted keywords and used image alt tags that was actually quality web content.
Basically <img src="/images/online-casinos.jpg" height="36" alt="Online Casinos"> for example.
Oh how much things have changed over the years. As each new algorithm change rolled out new search results there was a typical recurring pattern of what was working before was no longer. I was forced to learn why, what had changed and how to adapt.
Fortunately because I really did have a gift for cracking algorithms I would normally understand exactly what had changed with the algo and what I needed to improve to adapt to the new one. In the meantime, Google was gaining ground and became just as important as Yahoo was. It didn't take long for them to pass Yahoo by and there were two major sources for search engine traffic to optimize my websites for.
I attended my first online gambling conference in Montreal in 2001. I was only 24 years old and had been working as a casino affiliate for a couple of months. I had dreadlocks at the time.
When I met up with Roy (remember the guy working for the casino I was asking to pay me mid-month?) he couldn't believe that I was a 24 year old kid with dreadlocks. We had only talked on the phone until we met in person at that first i-Gaming conference.
He said he thought I was in my mid 40's or 50's and was someone that knew a lot about Internet technology given my excellent rankings. In reality, I knew very little about the Internet and human computer user interactions at that time. I was just really good at figuring out the algorithms and worked really hard to be #1 with engaging content. We had a few good laughs about it and discussed our plans on how we could do even more business together.
Roy, if you're reading this, it has always been a pleasure to know you and do business with you. You are a kind person and honest business partner. That's one thing I learned is not so easy to come by in my years as an online gambling affiliate. So thank you Roy for being one of the good guys!
As the years passed by my business grew month after month, year after year until sometime 2009. I can't remember the exact month. As the demand for exposure on my websites grew I learned another important way of doing business as an affiliate.
Prepaid minimum guarantee deals based on guaranteed exposure on my group of gambling guides. First and foremost I have always required that any casino I work with is a trustworthy and reputable gaming operator. Ethics and morals are something I hold in high regard so I wouldn't sell out to the highest bidder.
However, I did have reputable casino affiliate programs paying a minimum guarantee in advance of every month. If you're familiar with the time value of money then you know that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.
By getting paid in advance I was getting the cash flows 45 days sooner than most other affiliates were. I was able to reinvest those cash flows into the business, acquire competitors, acquire domains names, etc. From a business cash flow perspective things we're looking extremely solid.
However, sometime in 2009 the industry panicked when the U.S. government seized millions of dollars and brought charges against Pokerstars and Full Tilt I believe it was.
Once again overnight, the goldmine had disappeared. Most of my casino affiliate partners and prepaid advertising deals closed without prior notice and my monthly revenues lost 85% instantly. It was a devastating blow at a time when I was investing in a social network on a side project and had a 26 person staff of full time employees and major monthly overhead. I had to act fast.
I headed to a small but great affiliate conference held at Niagara Falls. I met with Colin who told me that I needed to diversify Internationally and use geo-targeting on my sites to deliver the right content to visitors depending on their location.
We soon began working together and I was able to rebuild the business to a financially solid point approximately half of what I was earning at the prior peak. I learned how important diversification is with revenue streams and target markets.
At a web 2.0 conference in San Francisco I once heard Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google at the time, say that "the way to more revenues is with more revenue streams". That was another important lesson that my friend helped me to learn. To this day Colin and I still do business together and he is also one of the true good guys.
I say this because there are some people in the industry that its better not to work with. Not everyone has the same ethical values and there are some in the gambling industry that don't treat players fairly. Recommending honest and fair online casinos is my first priority as an i-gaming affiliate.
Another lesson that I learned along the way is how important it is to properly vet an online casino site before accepting an advertising deal with them. One time I made the mistake of accepting an advertising deal in person with someone I met at one of the conferences over the years.
Long story short they didn't pay what they agreed to in our meeting and were not acting like the honest operators that we we used to doing business with. In the online casino business you have to find reputable Internet casinos to work with and develop strong relationships with trustworthy gaming brands.
With SEO there is has much I have learned and probably more forgotten than most will ever know. The most important lesson with SEO has been the importance of following Google's webmaster guidelines and using their search console tools to improve user experience and search results.
Delivering quality content with a user-friendly, mobile-friendly design is something that is an absolute must at bare minimum in the modern SEO world. It is advisable in today's SEO era that content producers should create useful content for their readers. Create powerful infographics, include numerous relevant images, embed related videos, create polls and Interactive quiz games for your readers to learn from and engage with.
Today I work full time on GambleRock - online gambling social network for Internet gamblers and betting websites. Please come check it and sign up to join the community conversation on GambleRock. It's free to join and create business profiles and brand pages for online gaming sites. Gamblers get access to exclusive casino bonuses and up-to-date reviews of reputable online casinos and top online sportsbooks.

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Comments

August 11th, 2019

Indeed, the meaning of quality content has changed over time, and for all the good reasons. Even today, Google’s new algo updates kick off some major website to the rock bottom.

Great to know that you survived through it. Kudos to your company.

August 11th, 2019

Thankfully, we no more get to see articles with uselessly stuffed keywords on the SERP. Glad that lazy content creators are out of business. However, I still sometimes find crappy businesses put up crappy content with 5% keyword density in hopes that they’ll rank on top. I feel sorry for them.

August 11th, 2019

Great to read your insights man! You seem to have been through it all in the age of internet.

And I checked out your website, looks great. But don’t think BTC is going to hit $24k by Christmas as you say in one of your blog posts. The reason mentioned in the blogs don’t even closely justify the price hike.

Anyway, thanks for sharing this post.

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