From Affiliate To Bitcoin Casino Operator
Published 10th October 2015
I have a theory. Once or twice in a lifetime, were all in the right place at the right time to seize a life-changing opportunity. For me, my knowledge of iGaming, SEO and the team I’ve built up through my agency means that cryptocurrency gambling is my lifetime opportunity, or at least I hope it is.
I was SEO manager for Betfair and then head of search for Unibet and then I set up my own agency which specialises in iGaming. I’m also an affiliate with a high traffic sports news website that does okay.
As we all know, iGaming as it is today, really began in 1997 with the introduction of broadband. Between 1997 and 2001, most of the brands we see today were born in that period. After 2002, becoming a global iGaming brand got really tough.
When there is change there is opportunity
There’s a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers. It’s the story of success and one common theme is when there is change, there’s opportunity. The only thing is…you have to be the right person with the right skills at the right time. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Sergey Brin are examples of people who happened to get very lucky when massive change was coming through. In iGaming, Andrew Black, founder of Betfair came up with a simple idea: people could bet against each other, and in May 1999 Betfair was born.
Have you noticed how the Internet just turns things upside down? Uber is the largest taxi business in the world, and it came out of nowhere. Airbnb is the largest hotel chain in the world…and where did that suddenly come from? There is something huge bubbling underneath our feet and is called cryptocurrency. Just like Airbnb and Uber, people will drive the adoption of new Internet technologies because it makes their lives easier. So just like cab drivers complaining about Uber, banks and governments are looking nervously at cryptocurrency. Banks are afraid of massive cost reductions in money transferral and governments are nervous about the anonymity that cryptocurrency gives.
There’s a strong argument that pornography accelerated the development of the Internet. Why? Because video is bandwidth hungry and very popular. Where there is a demand, there is often innovation. The same argument around demand and innovation applies to bitcoin and gambling. As we know, gambling isn’t really that sociable. If it was, then social gaming would have been huge. What gamblers like is anonymity with frictionless immediate payment and cash withdrawal. Cryptocurrencies provide plenty of that. It’s speculated that roughly 20% of all bitcoin transactions are for gambling sites. With this tells me is that just as the porn revolution drove the Internet, gambling and Silk Road drove the early stages of bitcoin adoption.
Why this is huge for anyone in iGaming SEO
Because cryptocurrency is truly borderless and only constrained by Internet adoption, there is a very long tail of territories that transact in bitcoin. And as we know, along with bitcoin comes gambling. Because of regulatory constraints, bitcoin casinos can’t really market in a traditional way on TV or other paid media, and as a result, marketing is heavily reliant on doing well on Google natural search. If you rank on Google in a competitive territory like the UK, you will rank for the same phrases across any global ‘same language’ territory, provided there isn’t too much competition. This is especially the case in segments like bitcoin casino and binary options. In other words, SEO is critical.
Why don’t the big operators jump in?
That was a big question for me. I am fortunate. I know people with the right answers. It turns out that big operators don’t want to get in because of ‘know your customer’. I’ll explain. Somebody joins a typical online bookmaker. That company wants to know everything about you including your address, all your bank details, probably your passport details and maybe even your driving licence. They know exactly who you are. They have to do this because they will lose their gambling licence in territories such as the UK. Bitcoin casinos have no ‘know your customer’, because users would refuse to give this information. That’s because bitcoin can function perfectly well without banks or government institutions. So there’s a problem/opportunity. If you seek customers in grey markets like Canada or Singapore, bitcoin is a huge opportunity, if you’re looking at customers in the UK, that might be a problem. The big operators know that bitcoin customers would not bother going through all of this invasive information gathering, when they could go somewhere else, register with a throwaway email and lodge money within two minutes, win some cash and 10 minutes later they are a bit richer. So the big operators are staying out and watching this space very carefully. To be clear about this, they can’t win bitcoin gambling market share if legislation stays like it is.
Bitcoin gambling will grow like pornography did and operators who are standing on the sidelines will have to push for changes in legislation to allow them to compete in this area. I reckon legislation will change in three or four years, assuming bitcoin carries on growing like it is. Of course three years is a long time on the Internet and if legislation changes, the big operators will get into bitcoin. To get traction fast, they’ll probably try to buy the big incumbent bitcoin brands.
What reassures me
Bitcoin is growing in transaction volumes and the price is stable. In other words, bitcoin has gone from a speculative store of value, to a medium of efficient transaction. And in my view it’s where bitcoin should be.
Stick to my knitting. I’m a marketing person and my agency is an iGaming SEO/marketing technology agency, so that’s what we’re concentrating on. We have operational support from our white label provider: payments, licensing, games integration, customer service et cetera.
Brand for the Internet isn’t like brand for consumer goods i.e. Nike shoes and Coca-Cola. It’s driven much more by site utility and frictionless experience. Google, Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Skyscanner, Betfair all have one thing in common, they did something better and users came to them through ‘online advocacy’. In more recent times, this peer-topeer advocacy is perpetuated by Google, because people go to Google when they have a question and Google gives users answers in the form of search results. More and more, Google will rank sites that should rightfully rank. As my bitcoin casino evolves, my plan is to constantly have a fanatical commitment to customer service and customer wellbeing. That includes measures around responsible gambling (yes, fanatical service is easier said than done). That should reflect in the forums and the blogosphere. Through SEO, I’ll hopefully build a backdrop to the brand so anyone looking, will see were a brand you can trust. The planned Phase 2 of my project is to build a new marketing layer which gives a user experience more like a combination of Netflix and Steam than that provided by any typical casino. For this, I’m working with a brilliant technologist; Tom Finlayson (ex-Unibet) who shares my vision of the ‘non-casino’, casino site. Along with the development of the brand, we will evolve the site’s link equity and make it as engaging and satisfying as possible for anyone interested in bitcoin gambling. Then Google should rank the site globally. As for Phase 3, I haven’t really got that far yet. We might look at getting a UK licence. But it will probably not be for a Bitcoin casino, but it’s difficult to know at this early stage.
One thing which does worry me is accidentally picking up customers from territories we don’t want to engage with, i.e. the UK, the US and other European countries, that have tight regulatory infrastructures. With that in mind we plan to use some sophisticated technology that will help us filter these people out. Also, legislation may turn against bitcoin, but that’s a risk that I’m prepared to take.
If you’re an affiliate
If you know about forex and binary options, you’ll know how many random brands there are. They’re all kind of the same and generally most aren’t doing very well. It’s not good enough to know about SEO, although that’s a huge competitive advantage. To make the jump to being an operator, you will have to build a memorable brand that people want to engage with and trust. Building a brand sounds easy, but despite many years around brand and Internet, I’m going through the steepest learning curve of my life. Despite my concerns, I think the big operators will be out of the frame for a long time. Also, Google makes marketing on a global scale possible for anyone working out of their bedroom. I would argue any smart affiliate has more chance of making this work than most anybody else, because you understand the Internet and SEO. Good luck if you make that jump.
“Just like cab drivers complaining about Uber, banks and governments are looking nervously at cryptocurrency. Banks are afraid of massive cost reductions in money transferral and governments are nervous about the anonymity that cryptocurrency gives.”
“The big operators are staying out and watching this space very carefully, because they can’t win bitcoin gambling market share if legislation stays like it is.”