Words by Jonathan Casuncad. Jonathan is a blackhat digital marketer specialising in the iGaming industry. He has worked with large companies as well as startup online casino operators who target the Asian region. Jonathan has also co-founded a local animal rescue organization in Manila, Philippines
Compared to regulated markets like the UK, Asia can be a much more challenging market to succeed in, if you are a new brand, with very little brand recognition in the region. Since Asia is unregulated, major marketing channels, which are proven to be main player acquisition channels such as Google and Facebook, do not allow gambling ads to run on their platform. When it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), all Asian markets are already dominated by affiliates who control most of the organic traffic, even for brand terms of online casino operators themselves.
So how can an operator that is new to Asia, fast track its player acquisition? Here are several ways.
1. Make sure that your website can be accessed by Google – I’ve seen websites that are on backend platforms that are not designed for marketing in today’s internet. A good backend platform should at the very least, allow for search engine spiders to find and index your website so you can show up on search results at least for your own brand name. This sounds simple enough but is actually quite tricky because most Asian facing online casinos exclude traffic from the USA. Interestingly enough, they do not realize that Google’s search engine spiders are on US IP addresses, so by default, Google’s search engine spiders are not allowed to access these websites. This often overlooked technical detail can have tremendous impact on the success of any new operator going into Asia, because when someone searches for their brand name, affiliate websites are often ranking higher on the search results than their own website.
3. Put your affiliate marketing into overdrive – Whatever Asian country you want to get into, there are already several established brands that dominate the market. The fastest way for you to get noticed by players, is to be where your established competitors can be found. This is almost always going to be affiliate websites, since they own organic traffic on Google. The best way to do this is to reverse engineer your competitors’ affiliate network to identify their top affiliates in terms of traffic that they drive to your competitors’ websites. Once you have identified these affiliate websites, it is just a matter of reaching out to them and offering them a good deal, so they would agree to put your affiliate banner alongside your main competitors an start getting associated with them.
One way to get this done is to do a reverse image search on Google. Feed your competitors banners, into Google search and let it find websites that have that banner (or banners similar to it) published. Those are most probably affiliate websites that have your competitors’ banners up.
Another way is to use popular SEO tools such as AHREFS to find websites that are linking to your competitors using their affiliate links. This method would also yield you a list of affiliate websites including important information such as traffic volume, keyword rankings and other metrics that you can use to assess these websites and determine which ones you should be getting as your affiliates as well.
4. Secure your brand name – Simply put, make sure you have registered and control all possible logical permutations of domain names related to your brand name. If you’re targeting Japan, make sure you own example.co.jp as well as example.com, example.net, example.org, example.co.jp. This prevents affiliates from cannibalizing your brand name on Google. It also helps prevent fraudsters who would launch websites using your brand and scamming players while destroying your brand name.
5. Be prepared to get your hands a little dirty – Asia is an unregulated or grey market. This means that there are no actual, hard and fast rules. Don’t be surprised if your website gets DDoS attacked by your competitors or by affiliates of your competitors. Also, most operators do not know what they are doing when it comes to SEO, so affiliates swoop in and outrank you for your own brand name keyword and hold your brand name hostage. Whenever there are big events like the World Cup, you should expect your website to be shut down by the Government. This is especially true if you are targeting China. Governments of other Asian countries like South Korea and Vietnam are also known for going after online casino websites and banning users from within their countries from accessing them. All these challenges require that you roll up your sleeves and get your hands a little dirty.
Lastly, one common mistake that operators from other territories such as Europe often make, is believing that since they are already successful in their part of the world, duplicating that success would be easy when they enter the Asia market. Do not make this costly mistake because Asia is not a walk in the park. It would be best to hire the services of an Asia igaming consultant who is familiar with the Asia market, to increase your chances of getting it right from the start.
About SiGMA Europe Virtual Expo:
SiGMA Group is excited to announce the launch of their November event, SiGMA Europe Virtual Expo. The online event, which runs from the 24th to 25th, will focus on the European gaming and tech marketplace.