When it comes to SEO, seasoned affiliates are often world-class experts who have survived through years of algorithm updates and fluctuating operator relationships.
However, there is one aspect of SEO in which both sport and casino affiliates are underrepresented and can use to drive further ranking growth, and that’s digital PR.
Defining digital PR
Digital PR is the term used at the moment to describe what is ultimately an off-site SEO strategy in which top-tier, mainstream media links are earned as a result of campaigns that hinge upon some traditional PR methodologies.
Not so long ago, plenty of us in the agency world called this technique “content marketing” but terms evolve, and it seems like digital PR is the phrase the industry has settled upon.
There are at least four major aspects of this SEO methodology that generally appeal to affiliates:
- Earned links are by their nature organic, and key Google figures have praised such campaigns – so there’s good reason to see them as ‘safe’
- With creative campaigns there is scope to go viral and earn dozens and sometimes hundreds of links – at no extra cost beyond the campaign. For those who think with a cost-per-link mindset, this can appeal a lot
- The potential to earn major media coverage and direct traffic that can be monetised
- The brand-building value of appearing on major publications and across social where campaigns start debates
The challenge is in how to create compelling campaigns that journalists, who are often sceptical about the igaming industry, will respond to and (most importantly) link to.
Creating an effective campaign
So, what secrets can we share?
The first relates to process – and the need to be disciplined in embarking on this path.
A good digital PR process puts ego to one side and ensures that campaign concepts are tested out with friendly journalists before being greenlit, with creative ideas that may complement your brand without being utterly wedded to the betting industry.
From here, the more access/connections/capacity to cultivate relationships with journalists the better – with full use of traditional methods such as press releases, telephone outreach and even (politely) entering the DMs of key journalists across target publications. A method, backed up by rigour, is key.
What do the best campaigns look like?
There’s no magic formula, but in my article from issue 89 on some of the best campaigns of 2020, top-performing campaigns often have some relationship to pop culture, breaking news, exclusive data (such as topical odds) or some connection with a notable celebrity, brand ambassador or trending topic (see images, above).
Visual campaigns, with authoritative data, exclusive perspectives and newsworthy hooks that can capture mainstream interest while justifying a link to your affiliate site often perform the best – but in digital PR, there are no guarantees. A hedge is important.
The power of consistency – and the random factor
This ‘secret’ is more of an understanding – an understanding that it’s not necessarily the most elaborate campaigns that pick up coverage, and that even the experts in this discipline are open and honest about how predicting the impact of individual campaigns is very difficult.
The answer is to ensure consistency of campaigns with the mindset that though some may only earn a moderate number of links, if you try a diverse series of campaigns you’ll most likely uncover an approach that unlocks serious coverage.
Our way of tackling this is to divide campaigns into what we call lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight.
Lightweight campaigns and the ‘always-on’ mindset
To maximise chances for success, having multiple campaign types makes sense and even independent affiliates with comparatively small budgets can pursue multiple campaigns if they focus on the strongest ‘hooks’.
For those looking to get to the next level in their growth or who have hit a ceiling in ranking improvements, digital PR is worth prioritising as it can unlock competition-beating links, with a corresponding improvement in brand visibility.
A lightweight digital PR approach is what we often refer to as ‘always-on’ – effectively monitoring the news agenda, seasonal trends, breaking stories and live journalist requests for assistance through platforms like HARO (Help A Reporter Out).
The goal is to uncover rapid opportunities to provide quotes, commentary, data or some other insight to earn a link.
Middleweight and heavyweight campaigns
With middleweight campaigns, the idea is to step things up into more of a planned direction, with campaigns that are nevertheless still rapid and comparatively cost-effective to deliver.
An example of this may be an exclusive interview with a brand ambassador or celebrity – from whom there are many to choose when we consider influencer networks and the proliferation of platforms like Cameo and Memmo.
For sports affiliates in particular, the ICS-digital team finds that partnering with former players ahead of international/derby fixtures is a superb source of media coverage, SEO-boosting links and relevant traffic – all with a highly linkable asset, i.e. the interview itself.
A heavyweight campaign is one that has strong evergreen value, i.e. scope to remain relevant and pick up coverage and links into the foreseeable future.
These campaigns are inevitably more time-consuming in terms of setup and development, and therefore riskier.
The secret to maximising success with heavyweight digital PR campaigns is to prioritise depth, more interactivity/data focused around long-term/perennially newsworthy topics and ‘hooks’ that are relevant throughout a year – or perhaps during certain times of the season each year.
For affiliates, we’d recommend avoiding this type of campaign in most cases as they can be phenomenally successful. If you don’t have the benefit of a substantial team, it can be better to focus on smaller, more agile campaigns and continuous link-earning rather than hoping for success with a ‘big bang’ campaign.
That said, if you’re an affiliate with outstanding expertise and authority in sport or online entertainment/casino, you may wish to leverage that as part of a heavyweight campaign.
Betting brands of all types are frequently drawn to digital PR as a means to push SEO forward while building their brand – but being from the igaming industry does present challenges.
To really cut through and connect with journalists, campaigns must be high-quality, authoritative and genuinely newsworthy.
It’s important to avoid ‘fatal half-measures’ and optimistically pump out sub-par campaigns, but an element of volume is needed to ensure consistency of earned links over time – and to account for any campaigns that don’t fly as expected.
For the affiliates who get this right, they’ll be securing SEO advantage over their peers, and picking up the type of links that even mainstream operators often feel are out of reach.
is marketing director for content, translations and digital marketing firm ICS-digital, which works across 68 languages and 80 territories. Prior to joining ICS in September 2019, Martin spent three and a half years as marketing director at Blueclaw.
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