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The Art of Casino Link Building
This is not least because of the moral and ethical standpoints that many webmasters take, when it comes to certain industries.
We’ve built thousands of iGaming links over the course of the past couple of years, but it’s the casino and slot areas that many find most challenging.
We’ve listed a number of key takeaways from our findings over the past few months, on how search in the casino sector has changed, what to avoid, what to do, and how we’ve managed to overcome an array of difficulties building such links.
What Not to Do
Link farms are becoming ever more prevalent in the iGaming link building space. In fact, they’re being used for two reasons – both of which are extremely contradictory in their methods:
- Using exact match anchors in an attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithm for money/commercial terms.
- Used as a negative SEO attack on a competitor’s website, in an attempt to get the competitor penalised by Google.
Whichever the reasoning from the above, both are ill-advised, but unfortunately still common-place.
Link farms from the latter, are almost always preceded by an order number, as a simple anchor text repot for 888.com, on Majestic shows:
Links from Sites Under Penalty
We’ve had casino operators and affiliates come to us, having worked with previous agencies, saying: “They built loads of links for us, but the results weren’t great in terms of rankings and organic traffic.” One quick look at the links built, and we can see one of (the many) reasons why: the linking sites were mostly ones under some form of penalty.
A simple browse on Ahrefs enables us to check the current status of linking domains, paying particular interest to organic traffic trends. It’s trends like this on the organic traffic front, that we don’t want to see:
From circa 20,000 organic visits per month, to almost zero instantly.
And likewise, with keyword trends:
Again, a similar pattern – over 7,500 keywords that the site ranked for, to almost zero instantly.
Footer Links & Spammy Advertising
Another issue we see quite often in a casino site’s backlink profile, is spammy ratios between total number of backlinks, and the total number of referring domains. Almost always, this is caused by paid footer links, or spammy sidebar ads that appear on every page of the linking site.
Some extreme examples of this are shown in in the screenshot below:
178,795 links from just 5 referring domains should set alarm bells ringing. Upon further analysis, this particular site had some exact match anchor texts in the referring domain’s footer – something that had quite clearly been paid for, and solely designed to manipulate Google’s algorithm. Not advisable.
This is another classic trick that some casino operators and affiliates have added into their link building strategy. Given that most people know the negative consequences of doing so, it remains somewhat baffling as to why this dark art still exists.
We came across one, only a few days ago – a forum with no real purpose, or indeed a focus on any particular interest or topic – something completely generic that anybody could post in, comment in, and add their piece. Almost every single post in there was 3 or 4 lines of incredibly poor quality content, containing one exact match anchor – and in most cases, those anchors included, but weren’t restricted to, ‘online casinos’, ‘best online casinos’ and ‘play online casino’.
If this isn’t asking for a Google penalty, then I’m not sure what is.
What to Do
Internal Linking Strategy
Internal linking is something that almost always gets brushed under the carpet, and in the vast majority of cases, it isn’t treated with the respect it deserves, and held in the same esteem is backlinks.
Site architecture is becoming ever more important – it helps Google to understand the structure of a site, and its content. As such, a proper internal linking strategy is an absolute must. Most backlinks, in a natural backlink profile for a casino site, will point into the homepage. As such, it’s important to channel that link equity into the relevant, deeper, perhaps more commercial pages.
A proper internal linking strategy, with a proper site architecture does just that. A simple structure, as an example, would be:
Real Money Casinos
Play Money Casinos
No Deposit Casinos
There is a clearly defined structure, whereby Google can understand how the content is broken down and funnelled accordingly. Any link juice from the homepage, is then channelled into the deeper pages, with an internal linking strategy to suit.
Anchor Text Strategy
We’re seeing more and more of it, especially when building links for casino sites – over-optimisation of anchor texts is becoming ever more common place. And we couldn’t advise against it any more, if we tried.
The number of casino brands who are using exact match anchors on almost every inbound link, is quite staggering – ‘online casino’, ‘play online casino’, ‘best online casinos’, and ‘no deposit casinos’ to name but a few.
Sites who are prevalent in this practice are a penalty waiting to happen – be it algorithmic or manual, perhaps more likely (and more serious) the latter. It just isn’t natural, and it’s that age old saying we’ve used a few times in this article – they’re links designed with the sole purpose of manipulating Google’s algorithm.
So, what should be doing? We should make the link profile as natural as possible – a mix of branded anchors, no match anchors, phrase match anchors, and indeed exact match anchors. Striking the right balance is key to success – building hundreds of links into commercial pages, with exact match anchors, isn’t.
Data Collection & Unique/Engaging Content
Having unique and nagging content is as important, if not more important, than it’s ever been before. If we scraped the internet for post related to ‘What are the best online casinos?’ or ‘Top 5 Tips to Winning on Roulette’ – we’d find hundreds of thousands of articles, if not more. The content is the same, it’s monotonous, and it adds little to no value to the publishing site’s readership.
We need something unique. What can we produce that is going to add value to a site’s consumers? Data is key. Running surveys and market research, analysing market trends, interpreting existing data and running PR campaigns with our findings – these are great ways to gain some traction when it comes to inbound links.
An article, or press release, about how different iGaming products are searched differently, for example, is unique – it’s not indicative of the same old recycled posts that we see with the majority of casino links built. It’s real data, and offers something to the consumer.
Keyword Intent & Entities/Topics on a Page
Google’s AI learning is moving evermore towards natural language processing (NLP). This is the process carried out by AI to understand the text and content on a page.
Entity salience refers to the prominence that a word or phrase has within a particular text. An entity is a named thing in a text – be it a noun or a phrase that Google can understand.
In NLP, a salience score is always a prediction of what a human would consider to be the most important entities in the same text. This is important when analysing the content on a page, as we need to consider what Google understands about the content, and what it considers the most important entity within that content.
Google’s Natural Language AI uses linguistic cues to determine which parts of a text are the most important. Some of these cues line up with what we would recognise as human readers, while others are subtler:
- The entity’s position in the text
- The entity’s subjectivity
- The entity’s linguistic relationship to other parts of the sentence
- The clarity of the entity
It’s important to remember this when we’re producing content for casino backlinks. We don’t want to be stuffing the same terms in an article – those days are long gone. Instead, we want to ensure that we are structuring our content in such a way that is natural, and that Google’s NLP system can understand.
Online casino is an entity – we don’t need to keep stuffing the term. There are other ways that we can talk about, and Google will understand. Rather than keep mentioning the term, talk about aspects of it – bonuses, pay out percentages, products on offer and so forth.
We hope this has been helpful in understanding our do’s and dont’s, in a challenging sector.
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