Konstantin Rabin, CEO of FM LLC, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Konstantin Rabin of FM LLC, a highly committed and dedicated SEO expert, shares his insights about SEO in iGaming - follow his story below.
When and how did you venture into SEO? How much were you willing to commit to it?
It was pretty random. I used to work in marketing for one of the operators in the financial industry, and then I got fired. So, I decided that I want to start my own affiliate site in the same niche, and well, at that time I did not think much about how I am going to generate the traffic. I was willing to commit all of my free time and most of my savings, though back then I did not have much. Once the site was up and running, I was trying out a few things: social media, direct email marketing, paid ads, yet I found SEO to be the most effective.
What are the main challenges of SEO today and how are they different from just a few years ago?
It is obvious that it won’t get any easier to do SEO as the competition from both the affiliates and operators is increasing every time. I can’t say that many things have changed for the last few years, just the competition went up, the costs went up quite a bit as well, yet the payouts have not changed much. Which is not really a big challenge, but more of a natural progress as affiliation via SEO in iGaming and similar niches still provides quite a substantial margin.
On a bright side, however, the sites seem to appear much faster in SERPs in 2020 and 2021. When launching BitcoinCasinosReviews we have seen nearly instant results:
It took us about a week to get some first page rankings for some of the competitive KWs as well as to generate first FTDs without even having the first links built. This would certainly be impossible a few years ago.
Is there such a thing as iGaming SEO Specialists? Why is SEO important for gaming and how long does it take to see results from SEO?
Yes, most certainly there is such a thing. When working for an operator, you are often very limited in terms of technical SEO and often you have to optimise a website that returns very low scores on Google PageSpeed Insights (hello softswiss), and there is little you can do to fix it. Besides that, acquiring decent links for an iGaming site is quite different when compared to other niches. When doing affiliate SEO in iGaming, it is also very important to look outside the box as you simply may not outrank the competitors by simply spending more.
How important are backlinks? And would you consider buying those given that many are reluctant to provide links organically to online casinos and sportsbooks?
To be quite honest, many are reluctant to provide links organically to every possible niche, not just iGaming. A year ago, we launched a CoronaVirus tracker website, something we even didn’t plan to monetise but did just for fun. And while the website was pretty fast, sleek and useful, nearly nobody wanted to link back to it free of charge. Why? Simply because the webmasters are getting bombarded with both free and paid offers, hence over the course of the last few years nearly nobody is willing to provide an organic link for free. For example, we run a few news portals and typically we get 1-5 guest post/sponsored post requests on a daily basis, with the vast majority of these requests asking for a sponsored post.
Nevertheless, backlinks are very important and you do have to pay to acquire links. Yet this is where most of the SEOs get it wrong, they often look at the quantity of the backlinks they can get rather than their overall quality. Besides that, they rarely look beyond simple metrics like DA, TF, CF, etc., and very rarely look into proper integration of their links in the content.
How did SEO change in the last few years and what should one expect in the next year or two?
I doubt SEO will get any easier or more profitable than what it is right now. Most likely Google will still be looking for ways to show less organic search results per page, most likely Google will be introducing new things that “enhance user’s experience” like featured snippets. I can also assume that we might face a certain new update that will kill most of the websites that massively sell links.
Black Hat vs White Hat - what is prevalent in Gaming SEO? What works and what should be avoided at all costs?
I doubt such a thing as White Hat SEO exists in iGaming. Organic Traffic has been the main source for iGaming affiliates, and unless you have a super unique product (which 99% of affiliates don’t have), there's little you can achieve with just following Google Webmaster Guidelines.
What should be avoided at all costs? Most likely getting your links from super cheap vendors that spam us all on a daily basis.
What works? You certainly can never go wrong with properly investing in your content - whether the content goes on your site or on other websites to build links. Besides that, it is always a good idea to come up with a certain unique strategy rather than copycat other websites.
Google is constantly updating its algorithms. From Panda updates to Penguin updates. Put yourself in Google's shoes - what can we expect in its next update?
Nobody knows. And there is a huge difference between what Google wants to achieve vs what it achieves with its updates. In addition to this, Google updates became much more frequent now, so my suggestion is to simply care less about the updates and focus more on improving your website. Ideally, however, backup your main website with a few satellite websites, it might be very helpful in case one day Google stops liking you. This actually happened to one of our sites in December 2020, the traffic has dropped from an average of 400 unique daily to around 120 unique daily.
Luckily, most of the site’s lost positions were taken by our other sites.
Hence, while one of our sites may lose some of its traffic due to the recent update, other sites that belong to us may simply take the positions of the losing site. This way we simply risk less.
Besides Google, do you also focus on ranking on other search engines like Baidu in China?
We do have a couple of .RU projects that should be optimised for Yandex; however, we commit very little effort to rank these projects.
How does streaming, twitch, disrupt SEO?
I don’t think streaming has much (if any) impact on SEO. You rarely see streaming platforms in SERPs. Besides that, the intention of a user that wants to see someone playing slots online vs the intention of someone who looks for the best slots to play online is quite different.
Which SEO tools do you use? Link tracking tools, translation software tools, heat tracking maps - what's your favourite must have tools out there? Can you share a few of those and tell us what makes them so indispensable?
I don’t think we are using a different tool set when compared to others. We do, however, place quite some importance on our custom-made Google sheet templates and they help us to design internal tasks and reports much nicer and faster. We often test new SEO tools like Frase or Surfer, but we rarely see much of a value in them.
Lately we have experienced good results when using email text shortcodes via Linguix. While Linguix, a tool designed to compete with Grammarly, does a poor job when it comes to spell checking (its core task), its built-in feature of copy-pasting premade texts by typing in a short phrase is a great time saver when doing outreach.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?
It is hard to tell, but I’d certainly love to see a certain blockchain affiliate software that will provide transparency between the affiliates and the operators. Currently, every affiliate is sure that he is getting shaved, whether this is true or not.
Ever heard of Voice Search? What impact will voice search have on SEO in 2021 and beyond?
Usually, we do SEO with a certain search intent in mind, and to me it seems that the intent of Voice Search can be rarely monetised via affiliate channels, so for now we are skipping it. However, it might be important when offering Online Reputation Management services to our clients.
How can SEO experts innovate and remain ahead of the curve in such a fast-paced vertical?
Run tests, see what works. Try out a fun project every now and then.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets? Europe seems saturated and it's hard to rank on good keywords. Which regions are hottest today for SEO ranking?
I believe that it is possible to achieve success in any market as long as you have proper language expertise in your team. Obviously, large European markets like Nordics and DACH have quite some competition, and ranking there is considerably harder than elsewhere, yet does not mean it is not possible or that the ROI is not attractive. However, for this year we see the highest priority in African and South American countries and Japan as well.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas - which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?
I have attended only SiGMA Europe so far, and I will definitely be coming back. I am also attending other affiliate and web conferences, so it is pretty difficult to attend more than one edition of each per annum.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
I have loved gaming since I was a kid. I can still remember saving up for PlayStation 1, and then blowing up my console savings on scratch cards. Yes, I was raised in a country where a 12-year-old can easily buy scratch cards, cigarettes, and vodka... Also, I’ve been playing Counter-Strike and Warcraft (the RTS version) on a semi-professional level. I like to gamble occasionally, I usually play Sunday Million poker tournaments when it is cold outside, and I don’t really like to watch sports, so when I get together with friends and they watch some football, I have to bet to spice things up a bit. I am practising MMA and I love snowboarding. I really like electronic music, especially drum and bass. You will rarely see me sober at the conference, so it is best to do business online.
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