During 2012, Google clamped down on poor link building tactics, eliminating directories, article submission sites and adjusting the criteria for natural links. Consequently, the gambling industry has been facing the daunting task of restructuring its content marketing and SEO initiatives. Abusing article directories and paying for guest posts with keyword rich anchor text no longer cut the mustard.
Alongside brand building through social media and delivering value-added content, white-hat link building is high on the agenda to restore rankings. But it’s often dubbed mission impossible by gambling marketers.
Traditionally, gambling websites are short of linkable assets. First-party games often constitute a casino’s most valuable content, but they’re developed infrequently and reputable websites are hesitant to link to gambling-related content because of the social stigma attached to the industry.
White-hat link building (an admittedly contentious term) is possible. In this post I’m going to outline four strategies that I have obtained from my experiences of content marketing—specifically ‘guest posting’ for want of a better term—for a gambling affiliate website.
To conclude, I’ll also provide three examples of the valuable backlinks I’ve managed to obtain through using these tactics.
1. Lead generation
Gambling is a multi-faceted entity, incorporating psychology, legislation and social issues. It features heavily in sports, discourse surrounding marketing and advertising techniques, and even celebrity culture. Contrary to popular belief, the scope for gambling related content is massive—it stretches far beyond the roulette guides and blackjack strategies found on poorly constructed, niche gambling websites.
Content marketers let the stigma attached to gambling dictate their initiatives, saying “There’s no way awesomedomain.com will link to a gambling website.” But this blinkered outlook represents a wasted opportunity. Providing there’s no explicit material, a website should link to any credible source that enhances reader understanding.
The kind of headline that demoralises gambling industry marketers
Start to build a diverse list of online publications that can be approached for guest posting. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do they accept freelancer contributions or guest posts?
- Do they accept organic links in the article body?
- If not, do they at least offer a promotional link in the author byline?
- Are outbound links restricted to trusted contributors? In this case, you’ll need to build up your credibility before benefiting from links.
Note: I dislike the term guest posting as it’s often (now) associated with systematic efforts to produce mediocre articles and place them on any website in a similar niche. I do not endorse, nor follow this churned approach to content production. However, we’ll use the term to keep it simple!
Finish by categorising your leads based on the subject (i.e. business, education, entertainment etc) and the website’s SEO metrics (page rank, citation flow, trust flow, PA etc).
- Don’t let the stigma attached to your niche cloud your thought process.
- Think of guest posting as feature writing, not copywriting. Avoid the churn!
- It is not always about getting a link straight away. Sometimes you’ll need to prove your worth with valuable posts to build up trust and credibility.
2: Topic generation
My topic generation tends to fit into three subject categories.
The first is gambling itself. You should aim to cover the full emotional spectrum, from negative articles surrounding consumer gambling addiction to more imaginative, uplifting pieces covering novelty bets and celebrity gamblers. You don’t have to glorify gambling. For instance, you might want to take a critical standpoint towards PaddyPower’s agreement with Facebook to launch a sports-betting app, highlighting the perils of social gambling. This would interest any gambling B2B website.
Marketing and business
Ironically, the second subject area is exactly what I’m doing now. When you’re discussing anything business or marketing related, you can write objectively about the gambling sector. Gambling websites are known for audacious advertising, flashy design and clever conversion optimisation, making them perfect case studies for marketing and UX-related articles.
Though valuable, deep-links to your gambling website’s core landing pages are hard to embed as organic links within an article body. Rarely is it ever organic to link to a page full of gambling bonuses, but it is possible. If you’re discussing website design and innovation, you can specify an excellent landing page, which gives you ammunition for an organic link in a user experience post.
You can also look within for an engaging business story. Does your company have a colourful history? Is your CEO a budding Richard Branson? Entrepreneur websites love to feature original case studies, and should be happy linking to your website if it underlines an intriguing corporate venture.
The third area is shareable, viral content. The internet is awash with trend websites that disseminate funny and digestible content. You should be looking to jump in with a snappy, “Top 10 Amazing Bets” kind of list that incorporates a mix of images, videos and memes.
I’ve hijacked a quirky “question asking” formula from viral scientist Jonah Berger to drill out facts and generate interesting ideas. Using ‘roulette’ for example…
Who chooses to play roulette?
What types of roulette are there?
What can we learn about the type of person who plays X version of roulette?
Now to mix it up a bit…
Where do those people come from?
What is the majority gender?
Now make it controversial…
Are people from region X more prone to gambling? Are men playing the “live” version more? Is this because they are physically attracted to the croupier?
As you can see, questioning your own topic triggers a web of interesting and contentious content – the kind of material which a much wider audience can relate to, enjoy and share. Another creative formula I use for topic generation is ‘subject + random category or buzzword ‘. For instance:
Roulette + films (which brings me to the iconic Russian roulette scene from The Deer Hunter).
Roulette + social (which brings me to the webcam-based phenomenon Chat Roulette).
Roulette + travel (which in the case of Heineken, brought them to a video whereby holiday makers were offered to play ‘Departure Roulette’ and board a flight to a random destination).
Roulette + magic (which brings me to popular British mentalist Derren Brown’s ‘Russian Roulette’ trick).
Once you’ve seeded a topic and an angle, you should be looking to delegate the writing of an article to a crack in-house writer—someone with a passion for journalism and developing their online presence. In my experience, outsourcing to freelancers or an agency comprises quality and article authenticity. The work is thin on research, low on personality and possesses a ‘churned’ feel to it, which brings me back to my stereotypical guest post gripe. Make sure you leverage the knowledge of your internal team—i.e. your designer for design-related material—to cover all potential article bases.
- Explore your niche. It is sure to bring up topics that bear wider social significance.
- Have you successfully implemented a marketing campaign? Is your business doing great? Tell your own company story.
- Brainstorm and generate shareable content. Use the “question asking” formula above to come up with interesting topics.
3: Original and convincing outreach
Here’s a fantastic post entitled “Revealed: Outreach Campaigns from some of the Biggest SEO firms.” It underlines just how useless some SEO agencies are at establishing credibility and building rapport with editors and webmasters. They have to resort to manufactured guest-post outreach.
My outreach is far more tailored and elaborate. I throw in a bio, examples of my published work and a brief employment history. There really is no substitute for published work, and I’m fortunate enough to have articles on websites like Buzzfeed and The Bleacher Report. My emails will be personalised, complimentary and explain why my content is suitable for the website’s target demographic. Email outreach—summarised perfectly by this infographic—is a science in its own right.
I sugar-coat my job role (senior editor at a gaming information portal) and justify my outreach on the grounds of a writer wanting to broaden his horizons and bolster his portfolio. For the most covert infiltrations, I pose as a journalist looking for an actual job as a remote freelancer. Though I’m approaching these websites for a link to my company website, it’s not always at the forefront of my agenda. I want to diversify my writing portfolio and elevate my own online presence to establish regular writing gigs in the future.
For first time contact with an editor, I always include an article attachment. I’ve enjoyed a lot more traction with this tactic. Editors receive and reject an inordinate number of pitches, but are far more likely to respond if you’ve gone to the effort of constructing an original article.
Another top tip is when I’ve linked to a business or website in a previous article, I’ll approach them for a guest post later down the line so they can return the favour. This is a great way to break the ice simply by letting them know you mentioned their insightful article.
- Personalise your outreach. Research the editor, the website and its target audience, and explain why your content is suitable.
- Ask yourself: Are you emailing a webmaster, or an editor? The former will be familiar with SEO, and will scrutinise your outreach more heavily. An editor with a journalistic background should be more receptive to content proposals.
- Be yourself—an ambitious, talented freelance writer. By mentioning your company, you run the risk of being ignored on the basis of seeking commercial gain.
- Where possible, include an original article for the target website as part of your email outreach.
4: Build your website’s linkable assets
Successful link building means working with the internal content team to develop linkable assets. This can be a mix of ephemeral news content, infotainment articles and more academic, educational resources. Across our websites, we’ve covered the whole spectrum—from a Vegas-themed HTML5 puzzle game that amassed 1,000 shares, to a serious investigation into casino design.
One of my company’s more ambitious projects was the creation of an infographic documenting the probability of stumbling upon any given piece of image-based web content. The luck factor prevalent in gambling was a springboard for our tagline, “How Lucky Are You To be Reading This Infographic?” The outreach campaign went far beyond standard infographic “directories,” earning us links from the likes of Cheezburger.com (the heart of many viral pieces), Shortlist.com (known for their magazines in the UK), and even a Mashable.com editor’s personal blog.
- Focus on all media types. If you’re conducting a video interview with a key industry figure, get it transcribed and make it into a podcast to maximise your outreach.
- Formalise a comprehensive outreach plan: Find relevant twitter influencers through Followerwonk, track down key bloggers through Google blog search and contact industry journalists through Journalisted to cover your story.
Three “guest post” examples
Here are three examples of the aforementioned tactics being put into practice. Naturally, I can’t divulge too many leads!
1: The Bleacher Report: “Should Gambling Be Given The Boot From English Football?”
The Bleacher Report is the world’s fourth largest sports website. It thrives on user engagement, and its article base is growing rapidly courtesy of an advanced contributor program. Anyone can apply to write for Bleacher Report, and after a two stage screening process, you’re awarded admin rights to publish an internal article. I was accepted into contributor program after providing examples of my sports writing. The Bleacher Report prides itself on attributing relevant resources, so I decided to produce an op-ed piece about gambling in football with a link to Roulette.co.uk’s internal blog posts; “Footballers in Vegas.”
2: Growth Business: “Five Reasons To Start An Affiliate Business”
Growth Business is a highly respectable business news and advice website. It doesn’t advertise guest posting opportunities, but I noticed that a range of entrepreneurs supplied content in the comments and analysis section. On the back of my experience in affiliate marketing, I pitched an original article “Five Reasons To Start An Affiliate Business.” Lists are an integral part of content marketing: they’re tangible, digestible and make for convenient reference points. Since I was referencing my own websites as case studies, I was able to embed organic links, and my contribution was duly accepted. I linked to other affiliate marketing resources within the article body to aid reader understanding and avoid any suspicions of commercial gain.
3: Grads Blog: “Gibraltar: An Opportunity For Graduates?”
The Grads.co.uk blog welcomes student and career-related content. It’s a growing, multipurpose website offering career advice, job listings and interactive student engagement, so I expect the metrics to increase significantly over time. Having graduated a little over two years ago and moved to gambling operator hub Gibraltar, I offered a featured article on the merits of relocating and finding employment abroad. I embedded a link to my company’s Gibraltar infographic, which included a vexel replica of the peninsula and important stats about its economy and lifestyle. I want to cement a long-term relationship with the editor and avoid the ‘one-off’ guest posting tactic so I offer monthly contributions.
It’s worth noting that the aforementioned tips shouldn’t necessarily be followed in order. Topic generation might be the last thing I do if I’ve forged an editorial contact and secured a regular writing gig. I might publish an internal article on a whim to establish a relevant backlink, or build a whole guest posting campaign around a static, linkable asset.
I’ve written this post with reference to the gambling industry. However, it can be applied to any difficult niche. Left-field topic generation, skilled feature writing and tailored outreach can generate sterling results.
Finally, I want to stress that these guest posting tactics are more than a link building exercise. They’re something we tie into an overall, content marketing strategy to drive referral traffic and social shares. After a three-month implementation period, we recorded an overall referral traffic increase of 45.54% on the previous three months. The majority of this came from social websites, with overall social referral traffic increasing 247.98% in the same period.
Do you agree with these tactics? Have you devised your own, unique outreach plan?
I’d love to hear the Moz community’s thoughts on link building for difficult niches!