The impact of Google’s Penguin update on the iGaming affiliate community

ON APRIL 24 2012, Google changed how its ranking algorithm scored links and changed the game about what mattered in SEO. Overnight, iGaming affiliates around the world found that previously strong sites with great rankings and high traffic had nose-dived.
Google said the Penguin update was part of its on-going high quality sites algorithm but, at first, it appeared almost arbitrary. Sites with great content saw their traffic decimated, content websites that had been built as a labour love were as prone to penalisation as the most aggressively optimised low quality sites.

Within the SEO community, consensus about Penguin came quickly. Leading up to April, Google made noises about changing how it treated anchor text in links. Until fairly recently, SEOs would recommend that people get links using optimised phrases as anchor text to make pages appear more relevant.

Real people link using shortened URLs, brand names, ‘click here’, or ‘more info’, and they link from places like Facebook or Twitter rather than networks of sites. Real people link differently to SEO people, and as more and more of the links online are made by real people, this has made pure SEO links look increasingly obvious and less relevant to what matters when it comes to recommendations and authority.

In an industry like gaming where the prevailing wisdom is that it’s tough to get ‘natural’ links, website owners across the board got a kicking. Big brands weren’t as badly hit as affiliates because, generally speaking, brands tend to have more people linking to them because they’ve heard of them. People link naturally to websites such as or Ladbrokes because they’re in the news whereas affiliate sites aren’t.

Penguin was so hard, so fast, and so indiscriminate that it felt like a weapon, and pretty quickly, people began to realise it could be used as one. If links could hurt your rankings, then surely they could be used against others.
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Knowing what your competitors’ backlink profiles look like is key to understanding how to outrank them in the SERPs and where to draw the line in your link-building efforts

However, before doing so you need to be able to differentiate the spam from the good, and make sure you are focusing on the right sites. This article will explain how to do so.

WE HAVE ALL been there: we have a quick check at the SERPs for our money¬making keywords and a few sites seem to be constantly outranking us. How can these terrible sites outrank us? Why can’t we beat them? These questions are more than legitimate, and possibly the best starting point for an effective SEO strategy and link- building campaign. However, focusing and trying to emulate the wrong kind of sites can make you lose focus, time, money or, even worse, your beloved money-making websites, due to some serious penalties or to the effects of Google’s recent Penguin update. Therefore, the first step of every serious backlink analysis should concern the choice of our target competitors.

In this article, we will go through a simple process you can follow to understand who to compare yourself with, how to quickly create the right competitors’ roster and how to gather all the data you need to finally identify your real competitors.
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How affiliates can avoid being scammed into spending vast amounts of money on ‘cowboy’ optimisers

Sales pitch

Let’s start first with the common sense approach of why people get ripped off and why really good SEOs don’t get recommended as much. Some of the most successful SEOs are best at sales and not so much at SEO. It is too bad that their SEO skills or services are not as good as their salesmanship. So if these people are getting ripped off, why are they not being called out in public or in the forums? Fear is probably one factor but most people like to quietly move on and are usually embarrassed to admit they paid a huge amount of money and didn't make any efforts to ensure they were getting their money’s worth. So, they feel like an idiot and will probably keep quiet but another reason for wanting to keep quiet is maybe the fear that the SEO in question would seek revenge and get their site banned because they possess black (hat) magic. They will, however, tell a small number of people, so if you ask around for references they do exist, both positive and negative.

So why aren’t the really good SEOs being recommended all the time? People are greedy. Imagine you hire a SEO and that person does great work for your site and you start to outrank other casino portals that you are competing with. Are you going to be telling people how great this person is? You’ll tell the SEO they did a great job but you secretly wouldn’t want other affiliates getting a hold of this person. The only time you would refer this SEO to anyone else is to close friends or family that work in other industries that you don’t have to compete with.

The best part of SEO is that most of the information and knowledge base is available online and for free. There are some great guides and books on the subject but the truth is that everything can be free if you want it to be. Of course, learning SEO and implementing it takes time so there will always be a need to hire an SEO or to learn the trade.

Tips to avoid getting ripped off by an SEO

1. Trust your gut instinct
If your stomach starts to feel funny it is probably your natural instinct kicking in telling you that you are being deceived and that this person just wants to take your wallet for a joyride.

2. Over promising and under delivering
Most of the time, if it is too good to be true, then it probably is. If anything seems like the guaranteed get-rich-quick theme then this is the over promising part; don’t buy and experience the under delivering. If an optimiser can guarantee top listing or instant results then this is, in my strong opinion, a warning sign, and more so if you haven’t even told them your website yet.

3. Ask around for references
If the SEO doesn’t want to share any references at all (which I think is a bad sign) then ask around until you get someone you know or trust who can clarify their credibility. Often, when someone does get ripped off, they then ask around only to find other people who confirm that the SEO is bad news. Just ask!
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