We are just approaching the end of the first year of running Slots Guide and one thing we really wanted to do is write a blog for those of you who are interested in starting your own gambling blog or portal or simply for those of you interested in what it takes to run a website.
We wanted to share some of the things we have found during our research and experiences and share other little tit-bits that don’t really fit in anywhere else on this website. So this blog isn’t going to be a piece of literary genius and it might not flow like a single article but hopefully you will find some of the posts interesting nonetheless and maybe even pick up a few hints for yourself for use on your own future site.
Start your website for the right reasons
If you think you can start a gambling website, put a few links to casinos on there and sit back and rake in money then you are sorely mistaken. A decade ago you might have been able to make money for little effort but these days there’s no money in it. The top 1% of gambling websites take home 99% of the advertising revenue and these sites are virtually impossible to beat simply because they have been at it for so much longer than you or I. And of course the top websites are big businesses with dozens of employees! Yes these sites may claim to be run by “a former online casino manager” or “a former slot machine designer” but in actual fact these sites are run by companies. There are numerous writers, SEO experts, web designers, social media managers, accountants, etc etc etc. The big websites change hands for millions of dollars and the top companies own numerous top websites.
99% of gambling portals close down inside a year because the owners get disillusioned or don’t put in the time and effort needed to make the site work. The big search engines have long cottoned on to all the tricks webmasters used to try to get ranked highly. Building a website and spamming it doesn’t work. For example naming your website “Playtech casino bonus” and having pages called “Playtech casino bonuses”, “Playtech casino bonus”, “The best Playtech casino”, “Top 10 Playtech bonuses”, etc etc and then just filling the pages with all those terms – It just doesn’t work. Spending half an hour investigating SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and deciding to go out and buy a whole bunch of inbound links to your website, that doesn’t work either. Nobody will see your website.
Only start your website if you are prepared to put in the hard work and if you have something interesting to say. Google (more than Bing and Yahoo but they will catch up) is interested primarily in quality content. Write loads and write interesting stuff and eventually people will start finding your website. But don’t expect to make a living off of any website these days. Don’t make money your aim and you should be fine!
You will be screwed over by some big casino chains
You would think that the casino chains would be nice to the people sending them customers. But actually no not all of them are. Big chains like William Hill, Ladbrokes, and numerous others are not afraid to steal your outbound clicks to them. They don’t care about their reputation in the affiliate industry because people will still advertise them and people will still gamble there.
Some affiliate programs will retroactively apply rules to screw you over and some may even close their program completely to avoid paying out their affiliates. Until one of the major casino portals or a group of smaller ones decide to take a stand and file a class action lawsuit against these big chains, nothing will change. So be aware no matter how good your research is, somebody will screw you at some point!
There are also some casinos who own their own casino review websites. This is HIGHLY unethical. And of course there’s the high profile case of William Hill, 888 and Ladbrokes wanting to setup their own watchdog and regulate themselves! They seriously have some nerve. This industry is corrupt enough as it is without that kind of $#it being allowed to happen!!!
Dmoz, Wikipedia, etc
You may well have already read about corruption at sites like Dmoz and Wikipedia. Don’t waste your time and effort trying to get anything on those sites. They are a closed shop.
The gambling sections on these big websites have traditionally been run by a conglomerate of the big gambling portals. They have built a nice big web of partners and connections and have designed a network of mutual linking that looks legitimate to Google. The websites in this circle have inbound backlinks from Wiki and Dmoz and even from their non-gambling owned websites (porn, etc). Collectively this is a very powerful network. You will struggle to ever get listed on Dmoz and of course you are not allowed to apply to be an editor of the gambling section of Dmoz. These guys have made millions and millions over the years and will do everything they can to stop anybody new trying to join in their party. Fair play to them for spotting an opportunity and taking it. It can just be frustrating for the rest of us!
Oh and whilst we are on the subject of these big boys, don’t rely on them to get your opinions of what a good gambling website is. Do your own research and look at many sites for their ratings and experiences. Play at the casino yourself and test out their customer service. If one casino portal is a bit too favourable to one particular casino chain it might be because they are brilliant but it might be because they have struck a good deal together. Trust yourself first and foremost!
Casino affiliate managers
Not all affiliate managers are the same. Some give you more time than others. But a key thing to remember is to be respectful and friendly to your affiliate managers and you will get the same in return. It is important to build up good relations with these managers because they can really help you out. Skype is a really useful tool for this. We have had a lot of feedback from a few casino affiliate managers which has helped us redesign and improve our website.
We have also heard from countless affiliate managers how “most casino portal owners are rude, arrogant and greedy”. In any walk of life this kind of attitude is going to get you nowhere. Because we have built up good relations with our contacts, they are always willing to help out with questions and give us the heads-up about upcoming breaking news before it is generally circulated. It shouldn’t be rocket science that you get further by being nice!
We should also add that at a certain point the casinos will come to you trying to strike a deal to get their site advertised on your website. They will do this via email, Facebook, Skype and any other way you are reachable. Don’t just agree willy-nilly. Make sure you do your research before striking up any deals. There are a lot of rogue casinos and scammers who are very aggressive in trying to get you to promote them. In the long run having an honest website that can be trusted is far better than advertising anybody and everybody. And bear in mind that if a casino screws their players would you trust them not to screw you (and vice-versa).
Contact and offers from other portals, SEO services, etc
Once your website starts getting noticed you will also start getting a lot of contact from all sorts of people. So called SEO services will try and get you to buy their services to make sure your website is number one in Google for this, that and the other (we would advise against wasting your money on this kind of spammer).
You will also likely be emailed from other gambling websites trying to get paid links onto your website, paid articles on your site or cross-linking link exchanges. Be very very careful when checking these out. We would advise steering clear of any of these but the choice is yours of course. However we would like to warn you against one of the worst offenders. We don’t like to name names but you will grow to recognise emails from one casino portal because you’ll received one nearly every day from one of their army of spammers. Their emails virtually never mention their main website “VM”. And their emails go something like this (they come in various languages too):
“Dear Website owner,
I am the SEO manager at an online casino portal and have been looking at your site and… *insert generic compliment*.
We would like to offer you a three way deal to boost both our websites,
Blah blah blah”
These guys are evil geniuses. What happens is that your website gives a ‘backlink’ to their main website and in return they give your website a link from one of their hundred tiny backup websites built specifically for this purpose.
But wait….. There’s more……
Their backup sites are actually built in such a way that they actually carry penalties with the search engines!!! So they are gaining something from you whilst at the same time punishing you in the eyes of google. I made this mistake with Slots Guide back when the website was very young. I actually had to “Disavow” that link they pointed to our site!
If you really want to make some friends then go on one of the affiliate forums, spend some time there and see who you think you can work with.
Microgaming casino bonus scam
Here’s a good one for you, and one we are trying to check with a couple of casino chains at the moment. It goes a little something like this:
Net revenue = Gross gaming – Bonuses – Progressive Fees – Taxes etc.
The honest casinos will class the bonus then as zero if a player loses both his/her deposit and bonus. Basically meaning an affiliates income is their percentage of = Deposit – Progressive Fees – Taxes etc. Net income then is usually round the 70-80% of a deposit if a player loses all of their deposit.
Now with these bonus scam casinos they are basically counting the casino bonus as a separate entity entirely. And what’s more is that the affiliate portal is the one who is paying for the bonus in it’s entirity. Even if a player loses their deposit and then loses the bonus back to the casino, the casino still charges the full bonus amount even though it has disappeared. So let’s do some quick sums with examples from the well known 32Red and a new underdog Fruity Casa.
Player A deposits $100 at 32Red
Player A accepts a 160% bonus
Player A loses all $260 from deposit plus bonus
Player B deposits $100 at Fruity Casa
Player B accepts a 150% bonus plus free spins
Player B loses all $260 from deposit plus bonus plus free spins winnings
In both cases the players have lost their $100 deposit. So the net revenue at both should be something like $75. The affiliate has lets say a 30% rev share meaning for both players the affiliate earns $22.5. Now at Fruity Casa this is true. However at 32Red it doesn’t seem to work that way because from the gross revenue they are deducting the full bonus even though it has been lost. Meaning the affiliate earnings are actually in the negative!!!
From what we have heard this is only an issue affecting a limited number of Microgaming casino bonuses but we need to verify this for certain. We are in discussions with a few casinos regarding these scams and will report back here once we know more!
Edit: We have received a full and complete breakdown from 32red and while they appear to be in the clear regarding the microgaming bonus scam, however some numbers don’t entirely add up. We will carry on our research.
Mistakes we’ve made
No website runs smoothly all the time. Everyone makes mistakes. We’ve mentioned making link deals with the devil but what other mistakes have we made?
Well the biggest mistake we made at the start was thinking we could setup 5 or 6 websites all at once. Crazy idea. My advice to you if you are thinking of making a site is to do just that… make A site. We wanted to talk about everything but along with full time jobs there’s just not enough hours in the day to run more than one website properly.
Other mistakes we have made are down to naivety and being too trusting. It’s a learning process and hopefully we will carry on learning and improving.
When we started this website we had a forum that was slowly starting to grow. But all of a sudden we had an influx of hundreds of new members every day for a week. Little did we know that some black-hat SEO company had targeted our website and was trying to use if for a link building scheme where they would put a link in a profile and then have a few of their other websites point a link at that profile. If it were to happen just once it wouldn’t have been an issue, but it happened hundreds of times and it was threatening to destroy all our hard work.
In the end we had to take the hard decision to delete the forum and start cleaning up all the mess that was left behind. That’s the last forum we’ll ever end up running I think! Learn from our misfortune, make sure you use really secure forum software (we were using MyBB which should have been secure but unfortunately it wasn’t quite secure enough).
What experience is needed to run a portal and how much does it cost?
The short answer 1: It should only cost you about 50 GBP per year for the first couple of years.
The short answer 2: No experience is necessary at all, just hard work and passion.
The long answer 1: You need to find yourself a good, cheap webhost which accepts gambling sites and which can get you up and running with everything very quickly. Vidahost is a good budget host.
The long answer 2: WordPress is very easy to get to learn, SEO is more complicated but for the first 6 months you don’t need to worry about that if you don’t want to. You also don’t need to be a professional journalist. Just set your site up and get writing about what you are passionate about. “Content is king” has long been a phrase with websites and search engines and you can go a long way just focussing on writing some good stuff!
There are a few big affiliate forums where you can pick up hints and tips about all sorts, from web design to SEO to avoiding groups who will rip you off or rip off your readers. It’s a shame these forums don’t go a step further and actually act like the watchdogs they claim to be, taking action against the rogue gambling chains or being more conscientious about certain things. And they do sometimes allow rogue programs to be their sponsors. So enter these forums bearing in mind that not everything should be taken as gospel, and you should be just fine!
Fiverr, Fourerr and those kinds of sites
There are dozens of websites which are marketplaces for people selling their services. They offer all sorts of services from SEO to link building to artwork and anything else under the sun. Don’t be fooled though, many if not most of the services that promise to boost your website ranking will actually harm it in the long run. If something seems too good to be true then it usually is. Promising to get you 10,000 backlinks from high authority websites? For $5 only? Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out how that’s going to end for you!
On the flip side if you are selective and know what you want then you can pick up the odd bargain from these sites. We have used them to knock up a few quick bits of artwork for us and we have used them to run website reports from places we would otherwise have had to be tied to expensive yearly accounts. But that’s it. These kinds of services are safe and can save you some bucks but most of the crap on offer is either a waste of money or worse still, going to damage your site.
Hackers, Scrapers and Spammers
The world is full of criminals, cheats and bar stewards. Make sure you protect your website. If you are using WordPress then make sure you get some good security plugins installed. There are groups of people who try and hack your website to get their links and content on there. There are others who hack your affiliate account and steal your earnings. Or there are those who go around “scraping” websites (meaning they steal all your content and that of others, bang it up on their website and score very highly on the search engines for a month or two before that website gets blocked by Google at which point they simply repeat the process with a new website). Finally there are the spammers who buy and steal databases of email addresses and send out spam mailers. You are likely to have seen numerous examples of this in your own email inboxes and junk/spam boxes. Lazy thieving scumbags the lot of them!!! But the point is, do everything in your power to protect your website!
Cookies: Torrents, Porn and other iffy websites
Ever been on a website and had pop-up windows pop-up in the background? Notice how many gambling websites are popped up?
As an affiliate if somebody clicks a link on your website the user gets tracked. Usually by a cookie and usually for 72 hours. If the visitor registers to that gambling site within this 72 hour period then that visitor is registered to you.
What some of the richer and more established affiliates do is buy pop-up options from porn sites, torrent sites and other questionable websites like that. That pop-up means the affiliate gets his cookie on the visitors computer for the 72 hour period. This means of advertising costs a LOT of money to do but I can only assume it is a worthwhile investment for them otherwise they would stop doing it.
There’s nothing any of us can do to stop this suspect behaviour but it is still worth bearing in mind when checking out your statistics. Mr Green for example seems to be a particularly popular casino that this pop-up advertising targets. Never get any registrations from Mr Green clicks? Well maybe this is the reason why!
If you have a website and you get Google analytics on there then you are going to come across a lot of so called “referrer spam”.
These are websites that show up in your list of referring urls that you have no connection with. They are not real visitors but bots who only touch your site to fool you in to checking out the url that popped up into your analytics system. It won’t do too much damage to your website but it is advisable to tackle it quickly all the same. A quick google of “referrer spam” and you’ll get plenty of results that will show you how to clean up your google analytics. Repeat the process for all the spam results you see.
Annoying Affiliate Managers
There are a number of really big gambling portals who are big businesses with dozens of employees. But there are also the sites that are run as a hobby. Slots Guide is a labour of love. I have a full time job, family and other hobbies. There’s only so much time I have free to work on this website, the same goes for so many gambling sites. A lot of affiliate managers just don’t seem to get it. Emailing me 5 times a day, contacting me by email 5 times a day… EVERY DAY!!! Or casino reps wanting me to add their casino immediately upon first contact… It just doesn’t happen like that. We have a to do list of things for the website, we need to review slots, write articles… and for casinos we don’t just add a casino and make up some crap. We need to do our research and test the casinos out fully before we can make an assessment. And when we decide a casino is not of good enough quality to recommend or when we have to blacklist a casino then just accept it. Some do, I’ve had some great conversations with reps of whole groups we couldn’t add to Slots Guide. Other reps however can be super pushy and irritating.
So here’s some advice for the reps and affiliate managers: Try and understand that a lot of portal owners are doing this in their spare time. Understand that some of us are thorough and it takes time to add anything to our sites. And here’s the clincher… if you are patient and understanding with us you are more likely to be higher on the to do list. Annoy us and you will be at the back of the list.
Bonuses, links, updates, marketing tools, etc
You will find that casinos sometimes change their referral links. This is annoying but sometimes necessary when they change back-end software. You will also find that casinos (very) often change their bonusses. This requires updating the website but it is par for the course.
What is annoying though is when chains don’t update their landing pages or their marketing materials, leaving hundreds of outdated banners and links etc in their software. How are we supposed to know which is the one to choose? And when you change your links or bonuses can you please inform us in advance so that we can get our websites up to date? We just don’t have the time to check every single link or bonus every single day for any potential updates or changes!
If I could offer you only one tip for the future…
Don’t try and run a website like this by yourself. It is just exhausting. At least if you have a full time job as well it is. If you just want to run a little blog then you are probably fine by yourself but if you are aiming to make something large then you are going to need help. The bigger your website gets, the more work you seem to attract. So if you have a friend with a common interest try and share the load with them. If not then there are plenty of forums out there and maybe you can join forces with another potential starter. So many websites fail in all sectors because the workload explodes at a certain point in time so just prepare yourself for it and consider your options so you can follow through when the going gets tough.
… Sunscreen would be it:
I’m sorry, I just always really loved this song and wanted to crowbar it in somewhere on the website! It is an oldie but a classic:
Did you know: “Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young”, commonly known by the title “Wear Sunscreen”, is an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by columnist Mary Schmich, originally published in June 1997 in the Chicago Tribune. The essay, giving various pieces of advice on how to live a happier life and avoid common frustrations, spread massively via viral email, often erroneously described as a commencement speech given by author Kurt Vonnegut at MIT.
The essay was used in its entirety by Australian film director Baz Luhrmann on his 1998 album Something for Everybody, as “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”. It was released in some territories in 1997, with the speech (including its opening words, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of ’97”) completely intact. This version appeared in the Triple J Hottest 100 of that year at number 16 in the countdown, and was released on the subsequent CD in early 1998.
Also known as “The Sunscreen Song”, it sampled Luhrmann’s remixed version of the song “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Rozalla, and opened with the words, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of ’99” (instead of “’97”, as in the original column). It was later released as a single in 1999.
Luhrmann explained that Anton Monsted, Josh Abrahams, and he were working on the remix when Monsted received an email with the supposed Vonnegut speech. They decided to use it but were doubtful of getting through to Vonnegut for permission before their deadline, which was only one or two days away. While searching the Internet for contact information they came upon the “Sunscreen” authorship controversy and discovered that Schmich was the actual author. They emailed her and, with her permission, recorded the song the next day.
The song features a spoken-word track set over a mellow backing track. The “Wear Sunscreen” speech is narrated by Australian voice actor Lee Perry. The backing is the choral version of “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)”, a 1991 song by Rozalla, used in Luhrmann’s film William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet. The chorus, also from “Everybody’s Free”, is sung by Quindon Tarver.
The song was a top ten hit across Europe, but largely obscure in the US until Aaron Scofield, a producer in Phoenix, Arizona, edited the original 12″ version into a segment of a syndicated radio show called Modern Mix. This show played on many stations in the United States. In Portland, Oregon—where Modern Mix played on KNRK—listeners began requesting the track. KNRK program director Mark Hamilton edited the song for time and began playing it regularly. He distributed the song to other program directors that he networked with and the song exploded in the US.
The song reached number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay in the United States; by the time it was released as a commercial single in the country, radio airplay had declined significantly, and only managed to peak at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked at number one in the United Kingdom and Ireland, partly due to a media campaign by Radio One DJ Chris Moyles. It is played during the end credits in John Swanbeck’s film The Big Kahuna, starring Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli.
There are four versions of the song: the original 7:09 minute mix from the album Baz Luhrmann Presents: Something for Everybody; a 1999 single release which features a 5:05 minute edit that lacks both choruses; “Geographic’s Factor 15+ Mix” that runs for 4:42 minutes; and a “2007 Mix” of the original 7:09 minute version released on the 10th Anniversary Edition of the William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet soundtrack on which the opening words are changed to “Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2007”.
There are two videos for the song: one which uses the 1999 5:05 minute single edit of the song (the version in which Quindon Tarver is not featured), directed and animated by Bill Barminski; and another using the 7:09 minute edit made by the Brazilian advertising agency DM9DDB.
The song also appeared in Germany and was soon followed by a German version with the title “Sonnencreme”. The German translation is narrated by the German actor Dieter Brandecker. A Brazilian version is narrated in Portuguese by Pedro Bial, and a Swedish version is narrated by Rikard Wolff. A Russian adaptation of the song, recorded live by Silver Rain Radio, was performed by Alex Dubas and Yolka.
On August 10, 2008 the song re-entered the UK Singles Chart at number 72.
You should also consider if you offer things like the Euromillions and other lotteries