Yevhen Bondar, Head of SEO, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Yevhen Bondar and his team's main power is that they have various sub-teams led by different team-leads, each with their own vision and strategies. Their vast experience is shared and implemented inside the company - follow his story below.
When and how did you venture into SEO? How did your affiliate SEO business take off? Is iGaming your only vertical?
The first time I faced SEO was in high school – I found a freelance link building job and started to build some comments for different clients’ websites. After that, I tried to run my own websites. I tried a lot of different niches – starting from mainstream affiliate niches, to the clothing e-commerce shop, and even a dropship store with tattoo equipment. With all that experience, I got my first SEO job and now I do professional SEO for over 8 years. During this time, I was running the most competitive niches mostly in the USA and Europe, and some Asia. For now, iGaming is the main vertical.
What makes your SEO affiliate team unique?
Our main power is that we have a bunch of sub-teams inside, running by different team-leads. Each one with its own vision, methods, and running different SEO strategies. By doing that we have a vast experience shared inside the team, implementing the best strategies and tactics as fast as we can.
What sets you apart from other SEO affiliate teams?
As said before, my team and I have vast experience not only in iGaming but also in different other niches. This helps us to try and test some features which have never been tested in iGaming. We do a lot of stuff which, I believe, no one has ever done before.
For example, we have our own SERP and text analysers which help us create much better keywords, optimised copy, and rank much faster than others.
Tell us a bit more about your future plans.
Compared to others our team is apparently young. For now, we have just “classic” affiliate websites.
Our plan for the upcoming year is to make our websites more valuable and trustful for the players. For example, we have a bit of success in creating the most up-to-date bonuses and coupons website. After doing research, we found out that most bonus websites have outdated bonuses and never update them.
Also, we are developing a smart data-science model, which shows us which brands perform better according to the country, landing page, keywords, and even position at the review table.
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, I believe that iGaming SEO exists. Due to the huge market capacity and almost all the countries involved worldwide in iGaming, I believe that SEO is extremely important in developing the whole industry.
The main goal and challenge for an SEO affiliate website is to propose the best brand for the exact player visiting the website. When a player visits a website and then finds the best brand to play, we have a triple win – player gets a joy playing safe and we have a secure casino, a casino gets an involved and loyal player, and the affiliate gets a commission and is able to do better marketing.
The other part is that SEO is not for quick results. Usually, any website can see significant traffic not earlier than in a year. Also, we can see that a lot of websites have gained traffic even after 2-3 years of doing SEO.
This is pretty much a long time and requires a lot of money and efforts. But on the other hand, when you know what your website will earn after 1 year you won’t drop it so easily as non-SEO teams might do.
What are the main challenges of SEO today and how are they different from just a few years ago?
I see two main challenges:
- The main one - SEO is becoming slower and slower each year. This is the way Google can fight SEO’s specialist, using black hat techniques. Nevertheless, it also hurts the white ones.
- Second one - Despite the fact that the world is changing rapidly, Google is still the main source of organic traffic. Is it not comparable to other sources in most countries, so the second challenge is to become Google's best friend.
Few years ago, you could do things faster. The indexing was rapid, links were ranking websites in months, not years. A lot of grey hat techniques worked as well.
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?
It’s all coming to the website owners and content creators. Google wants to see who is responsible for the website and who is in charge. I think that pretty soon all the affiliates' websites will look like a usual e-commerce shop - providing a valid phone number, personal contacts of the owner, company address, and so on.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Our main focus is the UK and Europe. UK is historically the largest market in Europe which has a great potential even for small teams. Despite the fact of strict regulations, tough competition and hard conditions for the operators, we see a big potential here and build a long-term strategy.
We are also looking forward to further changes in Germany laws and regulations, hoping that upcoming legislation won’t hurt the market a lot.
The new markets will reveal its potential in a few years, so now is a good time to start new projects there, not hoping to get an instant income.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day? 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?
Well, I won’t mention mainstream tools like Ahrefs, Screaming Frog or ScrapeBox. This is not a competitive advantage.
But for us, we have an internal link tracker tool, helping us to reveal dishonest site owners, removing outreach links or making them no follow.
Also, we use an all-in-one website analytics tool called sitechecker.pro - it does some crazy stuff. Not just tracking your rankings daily, but also complex technical audit, website content changes monitoring (and not just our websites), SERP history, and much more.
Another great content creation tool is copywritely.com - super hard to understand, but for those SEO-geeks who know a thing this is a secret weapon for advanced content.
We track all the affiliate traffic we send so we can detect a well-performing or weak brand in just 1-2 days. Missing traffic is also calculated as well, so “cheating” brands are getting caught with ease.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
This is not our main goal to bring investors, but who knows? We are always open for negotiations.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?
Honestly, while starting to work in iGaming I was a little shocked about the low technical level of most of the affiliate programs. Barely 30% of them can provide you any type of tracking such as post back links or analytics pixel. You just send traffic and hope that everything is OK there.
So, I hope that brands will start to make some nice tracking tools for the affiliates, before they would know what is AI and big data really are.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
Luckily, our UK projects were fully made according to UKGC regulations, so we aren't expecting any difficulties with that. But forthcoming changes in Germany are a little bit confusing and alarming as well. Some of the rules like ban on internet advertising between 6.00 a.m. and 9.00 p.m. daily sounds ridiculous. So, I hope that the final law will be more loyal to affiliates.
Do communication and support with operators meet your expectations? What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
Mostly it’s OK, but with closed borders it is harder now to get in touch with them personally. Still, a meet is a meet, not a virtual call.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
Actually, I didn’t see a lot of uniqueness in SEO approaches. 98% of the websites are typical for the niche. And I know why - with a typical approach you can get still good results!
I see here a huge opportunity for our team; there is a great chance to create something new, and we are working on it right now. So, the others can still be typical.
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?
This is a funny story actually - I was going to the last SiGMA show in Malta. I was standing just in front of the plane entrance and at the last minute I noticed that my passport was expired due the day of my flight; not a single airport control officer noticed it! Only I did in front of the airplane.
So, I asked an airport worker if there were any chances for me to be allowed to get in Malta with an expired passport, and he said that more likely I will be deported back.
This was my only trip to SiGMA, and a month after a COVID pandemic started.
If there is any chance to visit SiGMA this year, I’ll gladly come!
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 actually used to try a lot of things. In my childhood, I played football professionally for 10 years. Then I had a photography hobby which, for a while, became a real job. It involved taking pictures for some fashion magazines and it was truly a fascinating experience.
I’ve been playing drums almost half of my life. I played in several bands in the past and even had my own one. But having a managerial job does not allow me to practice every day to play as good as I used to.
The most recent activities: I almost finished an ISSA certification for the in-shore skipper. Going to finish sea practice this spring. The second one: I am in progress of getting a Private Pilot License. A thrill of flight is just something everyone should try!
For the quote, I actually don’t know the author, but this one is what I’ll advise to everyone - “It isn’t something you do. It is something you are.”
I am a pretty much gamble guy, that’s why I always play just for fun and never for money. Mostly I play to test some new brands by myself, so our website can provide as most accurate information as possible. Still never win big, neither lose.
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