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ISSUE62APRIL/MAY2017
ISSUE 62 APRIL / MAY 2017
INFORMATION, INSIGHT AND ANALYSIS FOR THE BUSINESS OF INTERACTIVE GAMING
NO...
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3iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017
Tying in to our first-ever event in the region with
the Nordic Affiliate Conference, thi...
AFFILIATE EVENTS CALENDAR
4 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017
Due to their popularity and wealth of information, analysi...
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MEET US
AT THE AAC!
AT THE AAC!
Become a part of it. July 12th and 13th at b...
WEBMASTER NEWS
6 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017
CHERRY IGAMING, COMEON! UNVEIL BRANDING PLANS
THE CHERRY IGAMING arm ...
WEBMASTER NEWS
7iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017
BETSSON ENTERS SPAIN WITH
PREMIER CASINO ACQUISITION
Betsson is to exp...
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FEATURE - AWARDS SPECIAL
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33iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017
FEATURE - AWARDS SPECIAL
36 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017
THE NORDICS
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ROUND TABLE: CATENA,
RAKETECH, XLMEDIA
Ahead of our Nordic Affiliate C...
37iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017
THE NORDICS
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The last year saw a wave of MA
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THE NORDICS
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THE NORDICS
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THE RISING WAVE
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iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
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iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
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iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
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iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May
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Tying into our first-ever event in the region with the Nordic Affiliate Conference, this issue of iGB Affiliate looks at the big affiliate networks and consolidators reshaping the affiliate sector in the Nordics and beyond.

For Catena, RakeTech and XLMedia (see roundtable p34-36) the future is all about harnessing the synergies, data and technology that acquired scale brings. We look at the inevitable introduction of PPC in Sweden post the recommended market opening and re-regulation and the impact on affiliates that today generate valuable traffic via SEO from that territory. But as Catena’s Erik Bergman emphasises, the proposed framework is all still some way from being agreed by the politicians, let alone implemented.

We also drill down into the wave of Nordic-led M&A sweeping the sector (p38-41) and provide some expert advice for affiliates considering an exit as dealflow, prices and multiples continue to rise (p42-43).

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iGB Affiliate magazine issue 62 Apr/May

  1. 1. ISSUE62APRIL/MAY2017 ISSUE 62 APRIL / MAY 2017 INFORMATION, INSIGHT AND ANALYSIS FOR THE BUSINESS OF INTERACTIVE GAMING NORDIC POWER!HOW SCANDINAVIAN BUSINESSES ARE RESHAPING THE AFFILIATE SPACE PLUS: IGB AFFILIATE AWARDS SPECIAL THE IMPORTANCE OF INFLUENCE MILLENNIAL CONTENT STRATEGIES
  2. 2. HIGH – P A R T N E Join our renowned ne fastest-growing Binary o Affiliate payouts per month ASIC regulated AFSL No. 364264 Dedicated affiliate management team Your customers w Bonus on new accounts. Traders receive a $50 cash- back that is fully withdraw-able (also available in £, €, ¥). Incredible support. Our highly skilled support team is dedicated to Trader satisfaction. No call centre. Think trusted, secure, regulated. Think HighLow.
  3. 3. AFFILIATE HLOW E R W I T H – etwork and market the options broker, globally. Premium marketing materials Average trader conversion rate Real-time data tracking will love HighLow Industry-high payouts. Only HighLow offers option types with payouts of up to 200% on initial investment. Trade on the go. Anytime trading is a reality with powerful web, iOS and Android platforms. Find out more at affiliates.highlow.net Contact us: affiliates@highlow.net PLATINUM SPONSOR // 2017 AMSTERDAM AFFILIATE CONFERENCE
  4. 4. 3iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 Tying in to our first-ever event in the region with the Nordic Affiliate Conference, this issue of iGB Affiliate looks at the big affiliate networks and consolidators reshaping the affiliate sector in the Nordics and beyond. For Catena, RakeTech and XLMedia (see round table p34-36) the future is all about harnessing the synergies, data and technology that acquired scale brings, with the inevitable introduction of PPC in Sweden post the recommended market opening and re-regulation likely to impact affiliates that today generate valuable traffic via SEO from that territory. But as Catena’s Erik Bergman emphasises, the proposed framework is all still some way from being agreed by the politicians, let alone implemented. We also drill down into the wave of Nordic-led M&A sweeping the sector (p38-41) and provide some expert advice for affiliates considering an exit as dealflow, prices and multiples continue to rise (p42-43). Look out for the blue NAC boxes at the end of articles for details of when and where you can catch several of our expert contributors speaking or presenting at the event on 6-7 April. See you in Stockholm! Stephen Carter, Editor FREE SUBSCRIPTION email: alex.pratt@igamingbusiness.com Printed in the UK by: Pensord Press, www.pensord.co.uk Published by: iGaming Business Ltd, Bedford House, 69-79 Fulham High Street, London SW6 3JW, UK T: +44 (0)20 7265 4227 F: +44 (0)20 7265 4214 www.iGamingBusiness.com © iGaming Business 2017. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in any retrieval system of any nature without prior written permission, except for permitted fair dealing under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. Application for permission for use of copyright material including permission to reproduce extracts in other published works shall be made to the publishers. Full acknowledgement of author, publisher and source must be given. iGaming Business Affiliate Magazine is published by iGaming Business Ltd, Bedford House, 69-79 Fulham High Street, London SW6 3JW, UK. The views expressed by contributors and correspondents are their own. Editorial opinions expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the Publisher. The Publisher does not accept responsibility for advertising content. Cover image: istockphoto.com. ISSN 2041-6954. Editor: Stephen Carter stephen@iGamingBusiness.com Head of content: Jake Pollard jake.pollard@iGamingBusiness.com Publisher: Alex Pratt alex@iGamingBusiness.com Designer: Scott Mackie Production manager: Craig Young craig@iGamingBusiness.com Sales director: James King james.king@iGamingBusiness.com Sales manager: James Harrison james.harrison@iGamingBusiness.com Account manager: Jack Hill jack.hill@iGamingBusiness.com Senior account manager: Luke Webb luke@iGamingBusiness.com CONTENTS http://on.fb.me/1CGEIgk @igbaffiliate www.igbaffiliate.com Events calendar 04 News 06 Moving to HTTPS (part 2) 09 Engagement and black hat SEO 19 What does your content say about you 25 iGB Affiliate Awards special 30 Round table: Catena, RakeTech, XLMedia 34 The rising wave of affiliate M&A 38 Q&A: Ben Robinson, RB Capital 42 Four content strategies to build loyalty with Millennials 45 The importance of influence 49 Why UX should be your top priority 51 Creating content for the Gen C 52 Meet the new ad men 54 Data centre, including European regulation, H2 Dashboards 60
  5. 5. AFFILIATE EVENTS CALENDAR 4 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 Due to their popularity and wealth of information, analysis and discussion, conferences have become an integral part of the affiliate industry and a key communications bridge between affiliates and affiliate managers. Whether used for networking, education or just as an excuse to meet up with friends, the affiliate conferences listed below provide all the tools you need to improve your business. AFFILIATE GRAND SLAM 2017 27TH - 28TH APRIL, 2017 HILTON TALLINN PARK, TALLINN, ESTONIA affiliategrandslam.com I-GAMING FORUM 2017 5TH– 6TH APRIL, 2017 VASA THEATRE, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN www.i-gamingforum.com NORDIC AFFILIATE CONFERENCE 6TH - 7TH APRIL, 2017 GRAND HOTEL, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN www.nordicaffiliateconference.com GIGSE 26TH - 28TH APRIL, 2017 MARRIOTT MARQUIS MARINA, SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, USA www.gigse.com AFFILIATE MANAGEMENT DAYS 2017 15TH - 17TH MAY, 2017 MARRIOTT MARQUIS, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA www.affiliatemanagementdays.com BETTING ON FOOTBALL 2017 3RD - 4TH MAY, 2017 STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON, UK sbcevents.co.uk
  6. 6. www.bet-at-home-affiliates.com GET YOUR DEAL! MEET US AT THE AAC! AT THE AAC! Become a part of it. July 12th and 13th at booth F1+2. UP TO 50% REVSHARE? CPA? HYBRID DEAL? UP TO 50% REVSHARE?UP TO 50% REVSHARE?UP TO 50% REVSHARE?UP TO 50% REVSHARE? HYBRID DEAL? ins_pfeile_2017_210x297_en.indd 1 23.03.2017 13:25:48
  7. 7. WEBMASTER NEWS 6 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 CHERRY IGAMING, COMEON! UNVEIL BRANDING PLANS THE CHERRY IGAMING arm of Cherry AB, and ComeOn! have announced plans to rebrand the Cherry business area as ‘ComeOn!’, as part of the integration project between the two companies. In December, Cherry AB exercised an option to acquire the remaining 51% of shares in ComeOn Malta, and in doing so, took full ownership of the business. From April 1, Cherry iGaming will resume the brand ComeOn!, in a move that the firm said will “re-emphasise its operational independence”, as well as align it with other business areas owned by Cherry AB. “We are building a business area, merging Cherry iGaming and ComeOn!, with a number of brands within it and setting a new unified culture and actionable values,” ComeOn! chief executive Jonas Wåhlander said. “We therefore wanted to take this opportunity to have a really good think about what name mirrors this the best. “After spending some time we weren’t able to point to any brand alternative being on par or better than ComeOn!.” Anders Holmgren, chief executive of Cherry AB, added: “By clearly branding this business area we are, just as with XCaliber, Game Lounge and Yggdrasil, being even more clear and specific about how we build shareholder value, while supporting and acknowledging the diverse needs of each of our business areas.” DRAFTKINGS CONTINUES EXPANSION WITH GERMANY LAUNCH DAILY FANTASY SPORTS (DFS) operator DraftKings has completed the latest stage of its ongoing expansion strategy by launching in Germany. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to enhance its presence in the European market after acquiring a Controlled Skill Games Licence from the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). At the time, DraftKings cited Germany as a potential expansion market, and has now completed the move by opening up a beta version of its DFS platform to all consumers in the country. German players will have access to all 10 sports currently offered by DraftKings in its core US markets, including contests based on the NFL American football league, Major League Baseball and the NBA basketball league, as well as seven leagues of football. Jeffrey Haas, chief international officer at DraftKings, said: “Germany is known for its passionate sports fans and we are pleased to welcome them to daily fantasy sports. “Germans show a proclivity for American sports, particularly the NFL and NBA. “Initial testing in Germany shows that our most popular sport has been the NBA, which is why we are opening our beta test to all German sports fans.” PLAYTECH ROLLS OUT £500,000 CASINO CASH GIVEAWAY PLAYTECH HAS ANNOUNCED the launch of a new £500,000 (€577,300/$622,900) casino network promotion. The cash giveaway, which will run across the Playtech network for 28 days, coincides with the launch of three new slot games based on the Superman film franchise. The new promotion features a top prize of £200,000, with three others worth £100,000 each. In addition, headline prizes of £5,000 will be up for grabs, as well as hundreds of smaller cash prizes, with players to receive one ticket for every £10 cash bet placed on selected titles. Last year, Playtech also ran a £250,000 giveaway across its network to promote its new DC-branded range of games, and the latest promotion is the largest in the company's history. Shimon Akad, chief operating officer at Playtech, said: “We have meticulously planned the last nine months’ content release schedule and strategically aligned it with a series of fantastic marketing promotions. GERMAN STATES GIVE GREEN LIGHT TO REVISED GAMBLING TREATY GERMANY’S 16 STATES have jointly approved a new federal gambling treaty that could lead to an expansion of the country’s sports betting market. Due to take effect from January 2018, the State Treaty on Gambling would lift the controversial cap on the number of sports betting licences that are on offer to operators wishing to offer services in the country. The new treaty also sets out plans for stricter enforcement against unauthorised operators, as well as the possibility of legalising online casino gambling activities in the future. However, the approval comes despite the heavy criticism from the European Commission (EC), which earlier this month said the treaty was “not a viable solution” to issues highlighted in the failed 2012 treaty. The treaty also still requires ratification from each German state, and lawmakers in Schleswig-Holstein, a long-time supporter of online gambling, have said that the treaty is unlikely to be approved. The EC has now called on Germany to accelerate the legalisation of other online gaming formats in order to help provide more protection for consumers in the country. However, the German Sports Betting Association (DSWV) said the approval was a “small step in the right direction”, while member operator mybet said that it “welcomes the efforts to regulate the German market in total”. In a statement, mybet added: “As a member of the DSWV the company supports the offer by the association to start a dialogue with politicians to develop a mutually satisfactory sustainable solution.”
  8. 8. WEBMASTER NEWS 7iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 BETSSON ENTERS SPAIN WITH PREMIER CASINO ACQUISITION Betsson is to expand its service offering into the Spanish gaming market with the acquisition of locally-licensed operator Premier Casino. The purchase price amounts to #3 million ($3.2 million) in cash, with Betsson hoping to close the deal before the end of the month. Premier Casino primarily operates as a pure-play casino, although it does hold general licences for sports betting and other online games, and has more than 260,000 registered customers. Betsson said the deal would have no material impact on its short-term financials, but did state that it would enable long-term profitable growth in Spain. The firm added that it could also launch more brands under the Premier Casino licences as part of its wider, multi-brand strategy. Ulrik Bengtsson, chief executive and president of Betsson, said: “Spain is one of Europe’s largest gaming markets and especially casino is growing fast. “This acquisition is in line with Betsson’s ambition to increase the share of locally regulated revenue.” PADDY POWER SEEKS APPOINTMENT TO LEAD TRUMP BETTING Paddy Power has created a new role to head up the bookmaker’s betting options on US President Donald Trump. The successful candidate for the ‘head of Trump betting position will manage the company’s ‘Trump Hub’ of special bets. Paddy Power currently offers more than 100 markets on the US President and the three-month role will include devising new special bets on Trump, who took office earlier this year. Paddy Power lost almost £5 million (#5.8 million/$6.2 million) by paying out early on Hillary Clinton winning last year’s Presidential election. However, despite the loss, the bookmaker has pushed ahead with further betting options on Trump, and the special ‘Trump Hub’ launched last month. Current wagering options include enhanced odds for Trump to be impeached and for Mexico to directly fund the planned wall on its border with the US. UK GOVERNMENT TO CONSULT ON EUROMILLIONS BETTING LOOPHOLE THE UK GOVERNMENT has announced that it is to consult with stakeholders over a loophole that allows gambling websites to offer cut-price betting options on the EuroMillions. The current set-up allows punters to place bets on the outcome of the draw, even though the UK’s Gambling Act prohibits betting on National Lottery games at a cheaper price than buying a ticket. Websites are able to bypass the law by offering UK-based punters the option to bet on the outcome of the draw in other European Union countries where the EuroMillions is played. The draw result is the same for the UK as all countries that partake. However, critics have argued that the £2 cost of placing a bet, lower than the ticket price of £2.50 a line, takes money away from Good Causes, and the government will now take action to close the loophole. Lotteries Minister Tracey Crouch said: “We want to act to ensure that money going to Good Causes is protected and that there is no confusion around the EuroMillions draw, providing the same levels of clarity as there is with the National Lottery.” In response to the news, Nigel Birrell, chief executive of Lottoland, one of the websites that offers the betting service to punters, said that his company would “welcome the opportunity” to be involved with the consultation over the new laws. However, Birrell also said that the time has come for a “general discussion about the justification of the monopoly”, and added that monopolies ”hinder innovation and progress”, and this in turn impacts the consumer. He also warned that lottery operators must work to update their products and services in order that lottery games remain relevant across the market. Birrell told iGaming Business: “The EuroMillions price increase was the final straw for the consumer; the retail decline, lack of innovation and a greedy monopoly is causing the haemorrhaging here. Moreover, people want to win big jackpots not small raffle prizes." In response, Camelot’s head of policy and regulatory affairs, Daniel Dyball, told iGaming Business in a statement that: “Our overarching objective is to raise as much money as possible for Good Causes, and we've long argued that bet-on-lottery firms are circumventing the legislation and causing player confusion by offering bets on EuroMillions – with Good Causes missing out.” AUSTRALIA CONSIDERS POINT-OF- CONSUMPTION ONLINE BETTING TAX AUSTRALIA’S FEDERAL GOVERNMENT has revealed plans for a point-of-consumption tax (POC) on online gambling. On 24 March, Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison spoke with officials from states and territories across the country about the matter ahead of the 2017 budget. Speaking to the Australian media, Morrison said an agreement had been reached to “move forward to prepare a proposal for a nationally consistent approach to point of consumption tax on online gaming”. However, Morrison said that such a move would not be “about raising revenue for revenue’s sake”, but instead minimising gambling-related harm for consumers and national sporting bodies. Morrison did not set a date for when the new laws might come into effect, and he added that the country’s state and territory governments need to examine the matter further. The proposed changes come shortly after the Australian Senate gave its approval to various amendments to national online gambling laws that are set to outlaw internet poker and in-play sports betting. Earler in March, the Senate gave the green light to changes set out in the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, including legislation that bans all online gaming activities not specifically authorised within the new national codes. Online poker will be one of the areas impacted, while although sports betting will remain authorised, the amended law reiterates a nationwide ban on any form of in-play wagering.
  9. 9. Fancy being part of the industry’s premier affiliate network? hi@activewins.com | www.activewins.com | @ActiveWins NEW BRAND Don’t miss out! Proud sponsors of Contact us today to find out about promoting our brands. C M Y CM MY CY CMY K Presser_Activewins_iGB_Mar2017_v2.pdf 1 27/03/2017 17:02
  10. 10. TRAFFIC 9iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 Fili Wiese from SearchBrothers.com continues with his granular guide for webmasters looking to make the transition from HTTP to HTTPS as smooth and painless as possible THE FIRST PART IN the previous edition of this magazine went into how to prepare for moving to HTTPS. This next part explains how to accomplish the actual move. Copying and updating content Duplicate the content of the HTTP version to the location of the HTTPS version, including XML sitemaps and all other files. Often this just involves copying the content of one directory to another directory on the same server. Once this has been done, the HTTPS version needs to be updated. The following suggested changes only apply to the HTTPS version and not the still live HTTP version, unless specified otherwise. Canonicals Update all the canonicals to absolute HTTPS URLs on the HTTPS version. So <link href=”http://www.example.com/deep/url” rel=”canonical” /> becomes <link href=”https://www.example.com/ deep/url” rel=”canonical” />. Avoid using relative URLs in canonicals1 . If no canonicals are currently present on the site, first implement canonicals before proceeding. Be sure to update the canonicals on the mobile version of the website to the HTTPS version. Pagination If pagination2 is used on the website, update these to absolute HTTPS URLs on the HTTPS version. So <link href=”http:// www.example.com/deep/url?page=3” rel=”next” /> becomes <link href=”https://www.example.com/ deep/url?page=3” rel=”next” />. Alternate annotations There are several alternate annotations that can be implemented on a website, and they all need to be updated. ●● Hreflang If the website uses herflang3 annotations in either the XML sitemaps and/or the website, these need to be updated to the absolute HTTPS URLs on the HTTPS version. So <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x- default” href=”http://www.example.com/” /> becomes <link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x-default” href=”https://www.example.com/” />. ●● Mobile If there is a separate mobile website, it is likely that mobile alternate annotations4 may be present on the website. So <link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)” href=”http://m.example.com/ page-1”> becomes <link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)” href=”https://m.example. com/page-1”>. ●● Feeds Alternate annotations to Atom or RSS or JSON feeds also need updating on the website. So <link href=”http://www.example.com/feed/rss/” rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” /> becomes <link href=”https://www.example.com/feed/rss/” rel=”alternate” type=”application/rss+xml” />. And <link href=”http://www.example.com/ json.as” rel=”alternate” type=”application/ activitystream+json” /> becomes <link href=”https://www.example. com/json.as” rel=”alternate” type=”application/ activitystream+json” />. Internal links If the website uses only relative internal links, including in Javascript and CSS files, you can skip this step. Internal links are important for the user and search engines, and most websites also depend heavily on assets, such as Javascript, CSS, web fonts, video and image files, including a favicon. All these internal links and internal references can be found throughout the HTML source and may also contain internal links inside the assets, e.g. image file references in CSS files or internal URLs in Javascript files. The following types of internal links need to be updated: • Links to other internal URLs inside the HTML source code; • Links to internal image files inside the HTML source code; • Links to internal video files inside the HTML source code; • Links to internal web fonts inside the HTML source code; • Links to internal Javascript files inside the HTML source code; • Links to other internal URLs inside the Javascript files; • Links to internal image files inside the Javascript files; • Links to internal CSS files inside the Javascript files; links to internal CSS files inside the HTML source code; • Links to internal CSS files inside the HTML source code; • Links to internal image files inside the CSS files; • Links to internal web fonts inside the CSS files; • And any other internal link. To do this update, there are a few options. ●● Option 1 Switch to using only relative URLs, for example, a href=”http://www.example.com/”home/a becomes a href=”/”home/a. This option may conflict with internal links to assets, especially when defined in CSS and/or Javascript files. Also, it may be useful to define a base tag5 URL in the top of the HEAD of the HTML source code with this option: base href=”https://www. example.com” /. ●● Option 2 Change the protocol on absolute internal URLs from HTTP to HTTPS, for example, a href=”http://www.example.com/”home/a becomes a href=”https://www.example. com/”home/a. ●● Option 3 Remove the protocol on absolute internal URLs, for example, ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR MOVING TO HTTPS (PART 2) 1 https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066 2 https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1663744 3 https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/189077 4 https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/mobile-seo/separate-urls 5 https://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_base.asp
  11. 11. TRAFFIC 10 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 a href=”http://www.example.com/”home/ a becomes a href=”//www.example. com/”home/a. This option makes links dependent on the protocol of the URL visited. For search engines and end users, it does not really matter which of the three options mentioned is used as search engine bots and browsers tend to be smart enough to figure out the final absolute URL. However, using option 2 is playing it safest. ●● WordPress Websites running on the popular WordPress platform may find the Better Search Replace6 WordPress plugin or the search and replace the database script7 useful to quickly update any internal links within the database. Don’t forget to update theme files and general settings as well. ●● Internal redirects If any of the internal links point to an internal redirect to another internal URL, it is recommended to reduce the redirect chain, and instead improve the internal linking structure by linking it directly to the canonicals of the HTTPS end destination. In addition, the internal linking structure needs to be updated to point to the right URLs to avoid any redirect chains (see Figure 1). For example, avoid a situation where a HTTPS URL (a) links to a HTTP URL (b), which then redirects back to another HTTPS URL (c), or worse, back to the original HTTPS URL (a). Figure 1: Example of all redirects as found by DeepCrawl ●● Updating CDN settings Often links to assets are used to render a URL, such as Javascript, image and CSS files, which can be loaded from a content distribution network (CDN) that may or may not be under the control of the owner of the website. Any link references to the assets loaded from the CDN need to be loaded from HTTPS. Also, in this case, it is possible to remove the protocol from the absolute URL, for example, script src=”https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/ libs/jquery/3.1.0/jquery.min.js”/script becomes script src=”//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/ jquery/3.1.0/jquery.min.js”/script. This means that the CDN needs to be enabled to serve the assets over HTTPS. If the CDN is mapped to a subdomain of the website, and most likely, is under control of the owner of the website, then the same SSL certificates may need to be uploaded to the CDN and used for every request, depending on the type of SSL certificate. If the original asset source file is accessible on the HTTPS version, and most often linked to the CDN version on HTTPS, it is important to canonicalize the CDN version on HTTPS back to the asset source file on the HTTPS version using HTTP headers. For example, the asset on the CDN linked from the HTTPS version: img src=”//cdn.example.com/image1.png” / needs to return a link reference with a canonical to the asset source file on the HTTPS version in the HTTP header response, so https://www.example.com/image1.png/; rel=”canonical”. This will communicate to search engines that the asset source file on the HTTPS version is the original version and avoid potential duplication issues. When updating the CDN settings, to avoid any weird potential conflicts on the website, be sure to remove the cached data at the CDN. XML sitemaps Assuming there are XML sitemaps present before the move (if not, be sure to create/export one based on the initial crawl), this one has to be accessible on the HTTPs version. Leaving the original XML sitemaps live on the HTTP version makes it possible to track the indexation status on Google Search Console (under Sitemaps), which is useful as the old URLs get crawled and re-indexed on the HTTPS version (see Figure 2). Figure 2: Example of number of URLs indexed by Google Make sure no redirects or non-existing or non-indexable URLs are listed in the XML sitemaps on the HTTP version, just the canonicals of indexable pages. Otherwise, the submission versus indexed numbers become unreliable. ●● Updating XML sitemaps Next, copy the XML sitemaps of the HTTP version and save as new files. In the new XML sitemaps, change the protocol of each URL mentioned within the block. For example: url lochttp://www.example.com//loc xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x-default” href=”http://www.example.com/” / xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”http:// www.example.com/es/” / xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr” href=”http:// www.example.com/fr/” / xhtml:link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)” href=”http://m.example.com/” / image:image image:lochttp://www.example.com/image.jpg/ image:loc /image:image video:video video:content_loc http://www.example.com/video123.flv /video:content_loc /video:video /url Becomes url 6 https://en-gb.wordpress.org/plugins/better-search-replace/ 7 https://interconnectit.com/products/search-and-replace-for-wordpress-databases/
  12. 12. TRAFFIC 11iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 lochttps://www.example.com//loc xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x-default” href=”https://www.example.com/” / xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”https://www.example.com/es/” / xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr” href=”https://www.example.com/fr/” / xhtml:link rel=”alternate” media=”only screen and (max-width: 640px)” href=”https://m.example.com/” / image:image image:lochttps://www.example.com/image.jpg/ image:loc /image:image video:video video:content_loc https://www.example.com/video123.flv /video:content_loc /video:video /url This example assumes all content is moved to the HTTPS version. If this is not the case, only update the relevant URLs. If possible, create XML sitemaps for every subdomain or subsection of the website on both the HTTP and the HTTPS versions, and update the HTTPS versions accordingly. If the website is large, consider using XML sitemaps index files to group the different XML sitemaps for each subdomain or subsection. This will help at a later stage to track indexation numbers of both the HTTP and the HTTPS versions. Resource Hints If the website is using Resource Hints8 , such as dns-prefetch, preload, preconnect, prerender, prefetch, etc, then these also need to be updated. For example, link rel=”preconnect” href=”http://cdn.example. com” pr=”0.42” becomes link rel=”preconnect” href=”https://cdn.example. com” pr=”0.42” or link rel=”preconnect” href=”//cdn.example.com” pr=”0.42”. Double-check for resource hints in the HTTP headers, the HEAD of the HTML, and in the Javascript code. CSS and Javascript Most websites depend heavily on assets, such as CSS for styling and Javascript for interaction. What most SEOs tend to forget when moving content is that often these assets may import or load other assets, such as images and other CSS or Javascript files on the same or other servers. So @import ‘http://fonts.googleapis.com/ css?family=Open+Sans’; becomes @import ‘https://fonts.googleapis.com/ css?family=Open+Sans’;. Search all CSS and Javascript files for the “http://” pattern and test if this can be replaced with “https://” instead. If an asset is loaded using “//” at the beginning of the URL pattern, the asset is available on both HTTP and HTTPS and the browser will automatically request the version of the website loaded=. Not all assets are, by default, available on HTTPS, especially those from third party sources. Check with third parties if they have an alternative URL on HTTPS and/ or consider copying the asset onto the same server as the website, and import/load it from there into the codebase and/or find an alternative third party source or asset to import/load. HTTP headers HTTP headers can be extremely powerful to communicate SEO signals to search engines9 while keeping the overhead in code base minimal. Often, the link annotations are stored in the PHP code10 , or in the .htaccess files of Apache servers, etc. For example, for .htaccess, the following can be applied: Files testPDF.pdf Header add Link ‘http://www. example.com/ ; rel=”canonical”’ /Files Always make sure to check the HTTP headers of the website for any links, and when found, update them accordingly, for example: Link: http://www.example.com/es/; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es” Link: http://www.example.com/; rel=”canonical” Link: http://example.com; rel=dns-prefetch becomes Link: https://www.example.com/es/; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es” Link: https://www.example.com/; rel=”canonical” Link: https://example.com; rel=dns-prefetch or Link: //www.example.com/es/; rel=”alternate”; hreflang=”es”. Link: //www.example.com/; rel=”canonical” Link: //example.com; rel=dns-prefetch Structured data Search engines want data to be structured11 and SEOs are often happy to provide this, hopeful that the search engines will better understand the content and increase the visibility of the website in organic search. Schema.org is the default and primary structured data repository at the moment time of writing. Luckily, the content of Schema.org is supported on both HTTP and HTTPS, so this can be used in the code base. Update any absolute URL references in the structured data used on the website, and all Schema.org references, to HTTPS. For example: { “@context”: “http://schema.org”, “@type”: “WebSite”, “name”: “Your WebSite Name”, “alternateName”: “An alternative name foryour WebSite”, “url”: “http://www.your-site.com” } Becomes { “@context”: “https://schema.org”, “@type”: “WebSite”, “name”: “Your WebSite Name”, “alternateName”: “An alternative name foryour WebSite”, “url”: “https://www.example.com” } It is possible to utilise “//” for the URL in this example, but not for the context reference. For example, this works too: { “@context”: “https://schema.org”, “@type”: “WebSite”, “name”: “Your WebSite Name”, “alternateName”: “An alternative name foryour WebSite”, “url”: “//www.example.com” } However, this is not valid according to the Google Structured Data Testing Tool12 : { “@context”: “//schema.org”, “@type”: “WebSite”, “name”: “Your WebSite Name”, “alternateName”: “An alternative name foryour WebSite”, “url”: “//www.example.com” } Check for JSON-LD, Microdata, RDF or other possible structured data references in the code base, and when found, update the protocol of every URL referenced in the structured data to HTTPS. RSS/Atom feeds Another item that is often overlooked are the RSS and/or Atom feeds of a website. Although RSS/Atom usage has faded since the shutdown of Google Reader, these are 8 https://www.w3.org/TR/resource-hints/9 Footnot link 09 https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2011/06/supporting-relcanonical-http-headers.html 10 http://php.net/manual/en/function.header.php 11 https://developers.google.com/search/docs/guides/intro-structured-data 12 https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool
  13. 13. TRAFFIC 12 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 still used a lot by feed reader alternatives and other programs that utilise syndication. Check if the website has any feeds, and when found, verify on the HTTPS version if the HREF annotations (the link to the article) to the content and the in-content- link references (a link in an article) are updated to HTTPS. If not, depending on which platform the feeds are generated, it may be necessary to talk to the web developers or the IT team and update all links to absolute HTTPS URLs (don’t use just “//” as it is unknown where the content may be syndicated to, and if this runs on HTTP or HTTPS). Accelerated Mobile Pages If the website is AMP-enabled, the link references to AMP URLs in the source code need to be updated to the absolute HTTPS version. For example, link rel=”amphtml” href=”http://www.example.com/ amp/” becomes link rel=”amphtml” href=”https:// www.example.com/amp/”. In addition, any internal links, link references, canonicals, asset links, etc. in the source code of the AMP pages need to be updated to the relevant HTTPS version. For more information about AMP, visit the AMP Project13 . Cookies It is also important that no cookies are sent unsecure. Allowing this could expose the data in a cookie, e.g. authentication data, in plain text to the rest of the world. Double check the server settings so that cookies are secure. For example, with PHP check the php.ini file for the following: session. cookie_secure = True. With ASP.NET set the following in the web.config file: httpCookies requireSSL=”true” /. Verify the setting by accessing a page that sets a new cookie and check the HTTP headers for the following: Set-Cookie: mycookie=abc; path=/secure/; Expires=12/12/2018; secure; httpOnly;. Moving to HTTPS Now that the content is prepared and updated for the HTTPS version, it is time to move the website. Crawl HTTPS version Before completing the switch from the HTTP to the HTTPS version and going live with the HTTPS version to the outside world, Googlebot included, a safety check needs to be performed (see Figure 3). Crawl the entire HTTPS version, and while crawling, check for the following: • Any CSS, images, Javascript, fonts, Flash, video, audio, iframes being loaded insecurely through HTTP instead of HTTPS; • Any redirects to the HTTP version; • Any internal links, canonicals, hreflang, and/or structured data, etc. pointing to the HTTP version; • Any 40x or 50x errors in the server log files for the HTTPS version. Figure 3: Example of a security audit in Google Chrome Developer Tools, highlighting mixed insecure content When no errors occur, continue to the next step. It’s important to: limit the crawl to the HTTPS version, do not crawl the HTTP version. Updating the XML sitemap (again) Extract all the URLs from the crawl of the HTTPS version and compare this list with the URLs mentioned in the XML sitemaps. Find out which URLs are live and indexable on the HTTPS version and do not have an entry in the XML sitemaps. Update the XML sitemaps with the missing indexable URLs found in the HTTPS crawl of the HTTPS version. Redirects Now that all content has been moved and updated, new redirection rules need to be implemented to redirect all HTTP traffic to the relevant HTTPS versions. A simple catch-all Apache solution can be used in the .htaccess of the HTTP version: RewriteEngine On RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L] This redirects any deep pattern on the HTTP version to the HTTPS version. However, this makes the robots.txt and XML sitemaps on the HTTP version inaccessible as this catch-all redirection rule redirects any request for these files to the HTTPS version. To prevent this from happening, an exemption rule needs to be added. For example, in the .htaccess for Apache on the HTTP version, this may look like: RewriteEngine On RewriteRule (robots.txt|sitemap.xml)$ - [L] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L] This will redirect every request on the HTTP version to the HTTPS version, except requests for the robots.txt and sitemap.xml files. Move through canonicals When moving content through canonicals, wait to implement the redirection rules until enough of the critical content is indexed and served from the HTTPS version. Once Googlebot has seen most or all of the content on HTTPS, the redirection rules can be pushed live to force Googlebot and the users to the HTTPS version. Reduce redirect chains When implementing the new redirection rules, double check the old redirection rules and update these to point directly to the new HTTPS end destination. Avoid a redirect chain like: HTTP A redirects to HTTP B, which in turn redirects to HTTPS C. Also keep in mind that some systems may add or remove trailing slashes by 13 https://www.ampproject.org/
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  15. 15. TRAFFIC 15iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 redirecting them to the other variation on the same protocol, resulting in additional redirects. For example: http://www.examples.com/dir redirects to http:// www.examples.com/dir/, which redirects to https://www.examples.com/dir, which redirects to the final destination https://www.examples. com/dir/. More efficient will be to redirect any of the following URLs: http://www.examples.com/dir http://www.examples.com/dir/ https://www.examples.com/dir Directly to: https://www.examples.com/dir/ When creating the new redirection rules, check if it is beneficial to make the trailing slash optional in the regular expression for the redirection rule. For example: RewriteEngine On RewriteRule ^(dir[/]?)$ https://www.example.com/ dir/ [R=301,L] Naked domain vs. WWW While writing the new redirection rules, choose a primary hostname and set up redirection rules for the non-primary to the primary version on HTTPS. For example, when the WWW hostname is the primary HTTPS version, let’s also redirect all naked domain URLs on the HTTPS version to the primary WWW on HTTPS version: RewriteEngine On RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example.com [NC] RewriteRule ^(.*)$ https://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L] Once all new redirection rules to the HTTPS version are live, continue to the next step. Crawl HTTP version (again) This time, find the earlier extracted URLs from the server log files, the XML sitemaps, and the crawl of the HTTP version. The names of the files may be: • logs_extracted_urls.csv • sitemap_extracted_urls.csv • crawl_extracted_urls.csv Use a crawler such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider to crawl every URL and verify that all the redirections work as intended, and that every URL on the HTTP version redirects to the correct HTTPS version. When all is working as intended, continue to the next step. Replace robots.txt At this stage, the robots.txt on the HTTPS version needs to be updated. Copy the robots.txt file from the HTTP version to the HTTPS version and update the sitemap reference to the new sitemap file. For example: User-Agent: * Disallow: Sitemap: https://www.example.com/sitemap.xml Configuring Google Search Console Now that the content has been moved to the HTTPS version, the redirections on the HTTP version are in place and the XML sitemaps and robots.txt have been updated, it is time to go to Google Search ConsoleGoogle Search Console and let Google know about the update. Adding sites variations A minimum of four variations of the domain name need to be present in Google Search Console. These are as follows: http://example.com http://www.example.com https://example.com https://www.example.com Verify and add the ones that are currently not currently present in Google Search Console. When If the website has any subdomains in use, or any subdirectories separately added to Google Search Console, then these also need to be added for both the HTTP and HTTPS versions. For example: http://m.example.com https://m.example.com ●● Create set Since May 2016, Google Search Console has been supporting grouping data14 of one or more properties as a set. This is extremely useful for the move to HTTPS. So add a set with every relevant HTTP and HTTPS property in the Google Search Console. For example, add the following properties to one set: http://example.com/ https://example.com/ http://www.example.com/ https://www.example.com/ When using subdomains and/or subdirectories for specific geographic targeting, add additional sets for each geographic target with every relevant HTTP and HTTPS version. For example, add the following to sets: Set 1: http://www.example.com/nl/ https://www.example.com/nl/ Set 2: http://de.example.com/ https://de.example.com/ Test Fetch and Render To make sure everything works as intended15 for Googlebot, use the Fetch and Render toolFetch and Render tool in Google Search Console to fetch and render see Figure 4). • Go to the homepage of the HTTP version and verify it redirects properly. If everything checks out, click the “Submit to Index” button; • Once in the homepage of the HTTPS version, verify that it renders correctly. If everything checks out, click the “Submit to Index” button and select the “Crawl this URL and its direct links” option when prompted (see Figure 4). Note: The submission to the index will also notify Googlebot of the HTTPS version and it requests Googlebot to starts crawling it. 14 https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2016/05/tie-your-sites-together-with-property.html 15 https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6066468 Figure 4: Example of the Fetch and Render tool in Google Search Console
  16. 16. TRAFFIC 16 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 Verify manual actions Before anything else, double check there are no manual actions holding back the migration of the website by going to the Manual Actions Overview in Google Search Console for the old primary HTTP version (see Figure 5). If there are any manual actions present, hire some trusted Google Penalty Consultants to help address these Google penalties as soon as possible. While this process is started, continue to the next step. Preferred domain settings To make sure the preferred domain is set16 correctly, go to the primary HTTPS property in Google Search Console and click on the gear icon (upper right) and click on Site Settings. Verify that the preferred domain is set to the primary version, for example, see Figure 6. If not set, update the setting with the primary version. Crawl rate Most SEOs do not change this setting in Google Search Console, but if anyone with access has changed the crawl rate Crawl Rate in Google Search Console in the past for the HTTP property, then this may also need to be updated in the HTTPS property. Check in the old primary HTTP property in Google Search Console, by clicking on the gear icon (upper right) and click on Site Settings. If this does not say “Let Google optimize for my site”, then remember the current setting and go to the primary HTTPS property in Google Search Console, click again on the gear icon and Site Settings, and change the crawl rate to the equivalent on the HTTPs property (see Figure 7). When unsure if anything needs to be changed, check with the IT team of the organization. Keep in mind, ideally, from an SEO perspective, this setting is not to be changed unless absolutely necessary. Geotargeting If the website is not a common country top level domain, chances are that the international targeting in Google Search Console has to be/was set manually. Verify the old primary HTTP property in Google Search Console if any international targeting is present for the primary HTTP property and changeable with a pull down, and if so, go to the primary HTTPS version and change the international targeting to the same region (see Figure 8). URL parameters Go to the URL parameters tool in the old primary HTTP property and check if any URL parameters are crawled. If so, download the table of URL parameters and its settings (see Figure 9). Now go to the URL parameters tool in the primary HTTPS version and add and categorise one-by-one the downloaded URL Parameters from the old primary HTTP version. Completing this step may assist Googlebot to focus its limited crawl budget and prioritize the important URLs when crawling the new HTTPS version of the website. Removed URLs To prevent sensitive URLs of the HTTP version being reindexed and served as a search result in Google Search, go to the URL removal tool in Google Search Console for the old primary HTTP version and check if there are any URLs submitted for temporary removal. If any are present, then write these down and go to the URL removal tool for the primary HTTPS version and add each pattern one-by-one (see Figure 10). Note: The effect of the URL removal tool is just temporary. If certain URLs need to be permanently removed from Google 16 https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/44231 17 https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93710 Figure 5: Example of a Manual Actions notification in Google Search Console Figure 6: Example of preferred domain settings in Google Search Console Figure 7: Example of crawl rate settings in Google Search Console Figure 8: Example of International Country Targeting settings in Google Search Console Figure 9: Example of URL Parameters settings in Google Search Console
  17. 17. TRAFFIC 17iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 Index, remove the specified URLs from the HTTPS version and return a 404 or add a meta noindex to the specified URLs to prevent it from being indexed as Googlebot crawls the new HTTPS version. Disavow file To prevent any backlink issues (such as Google Penguin or a manual action to be applied) for the new HTTPS version, go to the Disavow toolDisavow tool in Google Search Console for the old primary HTTP version and check if there is a disavow file present (see Figure 11). If yes, download it and rename it from .CSV to .TXT. Next, go to the Disavow tool for the primary HTTPS version and upload the renamed TXT file on Google Search Console. If no disavow file is present or if the file has not been updated in a while, prevent the website from being held back in reaching its full potential in Google rankings due to a risky backlink profile, and hire Google SEO Consultants to assist with a full manual backlink analysis and a new disavow file. Crawl errors To avoid any trust issues with server response codes, let’s have a look at the crawl errors overview in Google Search Console for the old primary HTTP version (see Figure 11). In particular, check if there are soft 404s reported by Google. If so, it is important to fix these by returning the 404 status codes for these URLs. As Googlebot does not favour soft 404s, it is important to avoid duplicating from the HTTP version any potential soft 404 issues on the primary HTTPS version. To learn more about why Googlebot dislikes soft 404, click here. Submit XML sitemaps Earlier in this guide, a number of XML sitemaps have been created, updated, and placed in the roots of the relevant subdomains and/or subdirectories and/ or the primary hostname, for both the HTTP and the HTTPS version. These XML sitemaps contain only indexable and crawlable URLs (preferably canonicals), extracted from the old XML sitemaps, the server log files, and from crawling the HTTP and HTTPS versions of the website. For example: http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml http://de.example.com/sitemap.xml http://www.example.com/nl/sitemap.xml And https://www.example.com/sitemap.xml https://de.example.com/sitemap.xml https://www.example.com/nl/sitemap.xml Test and submit each XML sitemaps to the relevant Google Search Console properties, based on protocol and/or subdirectories and/or subdomains (see Figure 12). Figure 12: Example of testing and submitting a XML sitemap in Google Search Console Conclusion The next edition of this magazine will have the final part of this series, where the move to HTTPS is completed with Google Search Console, and we cover how to log files and how to measure the impact. FILI WIESE is a renowned technical SEO expert and former senior Google Search Quality team member. At SearchBrothers. com he successfully recovers websites from Google penalties and offers SEO consulting with SEO audits and workshops. Email: hello@ searchbrothers.com and web: https://www.searchbrothers.com Figure 11: Example of error reports in Google Search Console Figure 10: Example of the URL removal tool in Google Search Console
  18. 18. Meet our team at AAC 2017, July 11-14, stand F8
  19. 19. TRAFFIC 19iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 NICK GARNER recently took a break from SEO while he focused on building the product, UX and brand for his Oshi bitcoin casino. Here he shares some insights, tips and tricks around ranking that have evolved out of this year-long process. FOR THOSE OF YOU who may not know my story, I started my igaming journey as SEO manager for Betfair and then became head of search for Unibet, then I set up my own igaming SEO marketing agency 90 Digital and now I have an online bitcoin casino called Oshi. I took a year-long holiday from SEO to concentrate on building up my casino. We decided to focus on product, i.e. the customer experience and brand, instead of just going out and marketing ‘another’ casino. So why not hit SEO from the start? Engagement. That’s why. If you’ve ever read anything from me about SEO over the last three years, I’ve always said the same thing: ●● Be relevant and engaging to the people who can make you money ●● Make your site Google-friendly ●● Get PageRank ●● If the inflow of PageRank is powerful enough and your site is ‘Google-friendly’, Google will rank you on some competitive phrases… and the real test begins. ●● If your site gets the necessary engagement, i.e. click-through rate, Google will keep you ranking. The way I always describe it is that it’s like being given an audition. If you pass this, great, you’re on stage. However, If you fail the audition, it’s much harder to get re-auditioned. That’s why in my experience, sites which have failed their audition are really difficult to re-rank, whereas fresh websites, which have no history to speak of, often rank much more easily. What’s the dynamic here? Simply, Google is becoming much more of a meritocracy. In other words sites that people want rank more than ever before better than the sites marketers want to have ranked. As a user, this is a great thing. We trust Google more than ever and this is proven by the Edelman Trust Barometer, which revealed in 2015 that Google is the most trusted source of news globally. Google is now more trusted than the mainstream media, which includes TV, newspapers and radio. Google of course loves this, because it means AdWords receives the radiated trust from the organic search results. From my point of view, I realised that the SEO game was on when we started to rank just outside the top first page results for a bunch of phrases, despite having undertaken no active SEO efforts. You might be thinking, “That’s great Nick but I want tools tips and tricks”. Okay then! I’ve talked about engagement, so let’s talk about what’s engaging? This is a huge question that I’ve thought about. A lot. In gambling, especially casino, what is an engaging casino brand? Casinos all look the same, so if engagement is the key driver to rankings then why would one casino rank more than another? The short answer is brand and first-reaction experience. Obviously, a lot of those reading this are affiliates, so let’s talk about you. Broadly, as I see it there are two groups of affiliates: ●● Truth givers ●● List providers Truth givers I use the term ‘truth’ pretty loosely, because as we all know the number one operator is the one which makes the affiliate the most money in the long term (excluding CPAs of course). Ironically, the operators which make the most money are also the ones which look after their customers the best. Nice. Being a truth giver is tough, time- consuming and ultimately expensive. This is where you become an expert in the subject, build up a body of social proof, i.e. customer reviews of casinos, and generally come across as very credible. Great examples of truth givers are of course Casinomeister, Latestcasinobonuses, AskGamblers and ThePogg. These sites became brands in their own right, and AskGamblers is probably one of those strongest of these brands. Google recognises the power of that domain and users have grown to trust it enough so AskGamblers ranks across huge keyword territories. So, as an aspiring truth giver, which keyphrases should I be looking to rank for? The answer is ‘[operator] reviews’/‘casino reviews’/ anything where you are looking for somebody to trust and help you make a qualitative judgement on your behalf. If you’re a noob affiliate, I suggest being a truth giver would be a tough path to follow unless you can find a niche in which you have a lot of expertise. The Internet loves niches. I know a guy who made a load of money on ‘fruit machines’ (aka slots). But some people still call slots fruit machines, therefore it’s a keyword niche. Once upon a time ‘PayPal casino’ was also a niche. My point is if you want to compete as a trust giver, be engaging relative to the key word you rank for. List providers Lists are much more straightforward. There are keyword neighbourhoods where people just want a list of bonuses. Why is a list of bonuses engaging? Because it answers questions users might ENGAGEMENT AND BLACK HAT SEO
  20. 20. TRAFFIC 20 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 have. And of course, the question is often “where can I get free money?”, and the answer is on your webpage. In this case, to be engaging a user doesn’t want huge in-depth reviews of the casino, along with a plethora of user feedback. Users just want to know the bonus figures on your list are current and relevant. The best example of this in my opinion is thebigfreechiplist.com (not to be confused with bigfreechiplist.com). Other great examples of list providers are sites such as Oddschecker and Easyodds. Fundamentally, they are data grids to help you make more efficient bets. If you want to compete as a list provider, you need to be appropriately engaging. And to be engaging, it’s also a question of your understanding user intent around key phrases. Once you have a grasp of the customer intent behind different key phrases then the rest is straightforward; you build a site to meet that need. Tool time! An excellent tool for understanding the intent of keywords is http://labs.linkdex.com/term-tagger/ (free to use of course). This gives you a useful mental framework around the intent of key phrases. It’s only a beta/experimental tool, but that’s okay because it gives you a real sense of how different phrases have different intentions behind them. (see Figure 1) Let’s take ‘casino bonus codes UK’ as our specimen phrase. It has the following properties: ●● it’s a location phrase (UK specific) ●● it’s in a niche, casino ●● the buying cycle is around consideration and research ●● the search behaviour is is ‘couponing’ i.e. collection of a code ●● it’s geographic research (see Figure2) For me, looking at key phrases within this mental framework gives me a nice clear roadmap. And to save you some thinking time, this is what it tells me: I should build a list of UK casinos bonuses and maybe focus on keyword ‘couponing’, because it’s a fairly low traffic, fairly high intent niche, i.e. ‘UK casino Coupon Codes’. Tip/insight: Google uses the term ‘satisfying’ in it’s Google quality rater guidelines (a must-read if you want to understand what the perfect website looks like according to Google), which you can find by searching for ‘Google search quality rating guidelines 2016’. When embarking on this process, it’s worth taking a moment to think about what’s satisfying for you as a user when it comes to the search experience. From my perspective, this needs to be: ●● fast. Yes, we know Google likes to rank fast pages ●● immediately relevant. Yes, we also know Google likes relevance ●● obvious from the search results that this page is the one to click. Yes, we know that CTR indirectly affects rankings At this stage you will have: ●● a clear idea of which niche you want to work in ●● played around with ‘term tagger’ ●● read the Google quality rater guidelines ●● understood where you can be engaging, useful and satisfying to users ●● used tools like https://ubersuggest.io to come up with lists of key phrases very relevant to you ●● and, for the sake of discussion, you’ve now built your first WordPress list website. The next step in this process is PageRank. To put PageRank into context, I generally think of three elements which make a website rank on Google, of which PageRank is just one: PageRank – the raw force of a domain, determined by the volume of qualified links. ‘Qualified’ is the important word here, because once upon a time links were not qualified and any link would have PageRank. Now, with Penguin, links are aggressively qualified. Based on tests with the agency I founded, 90 Digital, they built a basic site and spammed it with millions of cheap links. The idea was to kill the site. The site carried on ranking in its niche, which just validates that links hit by Penguin have neither positive or negative value. In other Figure 1: Linkdex term-tagger tool Figure 2: Linkdex term tagger tool results
  21. 21. TRAFFIC 23iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 words, a bad link has zero value. TrustRank – the history and authority a domain built up over time. When you have high TrustRank as a domain you can rank really easily, and if your content is consistently engaging, you will maintain those rankings. And our old friend – engagement. To be ‘auditioned’ for a key phrase, you need a bit of TrustRank and some PageRank. TrustRank comes from being engaging. The accumulation of PageRank (the black hat part) Once upon a time, the game was all about PageRank, and whole businesses and ecosystems built up around delivering and acquiring PageRank. From my point of view, I see PageRank as a ‘raw force ‘ separate from the location of a website and its content. As mentioned before, there is a PageRank ‘on off switch’, controlled by the Penguin algorithm. If your links are ‘PageRank off’, then you’re wasting your money acquiring them. So how do you know if a link is ‘PageRank on’? Having been away from the SEO scene for a bit, instead of talking to my content marketing friends, I decided to get in touch with the most hard-core black hat people I know; the blackhatworld crew. Why? Because they know what ranks and roughly why. My question to them: if a website ranks on Google and has good Majestic Citation/ Trust Flow, can I be fairly confident about PageRank being ‘on’? My content marketing friends didn’t really know, but fortunately the crew in 90 Digital, which corroborated with the answers from my blackhat friends, did. The consensus is: if a site ranks, links from that site will pass PageRank. The rationale is really simple; if Google ranks a website, it likes that website. Therefore it’s more likely Penguin has not switched off PageRank for outgoing links from those sites. Tools to assess ranking How do you work out which sites rank? SEMrush scrapes Google search results and collates them on a big database so you can work out whether a domain ranks in a particular country. You can then get an estimation on the value of the traffic from those key phrases. There are three ways you can get this information: ●● run SEMrush reports on each separate domain (very slow) ●● use your urlprofiler, a bulk analysis tool which gives you a combination of SEMrush and Majestic data (fast) ●● talk to a friendly agency which can run these reports for a modest cost If you’re the DIY kind, to make it work you will need to buy SEMrush API credits, only available on the business plan, which is $399 a month (I know, it’s expensive). You will need a tool like your urlprofiler, which comes with 500 majestic lookups per day. Your urlprofiler has a 14-day trial and costs £155 a year. If you’re not the DIY sort and you want to do this, go and reach out to a friendly SEO agency and ask them to do what I’ve outlined here. Links seller lists My old agency, 90 Digital is an obvious target for link sellers, and over the years the agency has built up tens of thousands of links seller domains. As a small favour to me, I asked one of the team in the agency to run reports on some fresh lists of domains they received in the last couple of months. Around 5,000 domains were analysed and about 15% of these domains actually rank for something somewhere on the Google index, according to SEMrush. For context, were talking about junk sites with link placements going for around US$80, which unbelievably rank on Google. Typically, these sites rank down in 30th position, but among them you will find a few domains which are very strong in particular phrases. Combine this ranking data with Majestic key metrics such as number of referring domains, Citation Flow and Trust Flow, and you can build up a very accurate hit list of domains to go and get placements with. Going back to my earlier point about ‘if it ranks, PageRank is probably switched on’, this will provide a nice supply of fairly cheap PageRank. You will probably start thinking about the ‘Fred’ algorithm update targeting medium- to high-quality spun/badly written content blocks, and you would be right. Huge numbers of these links seller sites will be hit by Fred, but that doesn’t really worry me because as long as the SEMrush database remains up-to-date, 90 Digital can run API reports for me and isolate those domains which still rank. And by definition if a site ranks, it’s got through ‘Fred’. SAPE If you’ve never heard of SAPE, maybe it’s time... It’s a Russian link network. They are a marketplace for links. You go there, you rent links. Here’s the ethically difficult part: often those links are submitted by hackers who find vulnerabilities in sites and inject links. It’s not pretty, it’s not ethical, but the PageRank can be awesome. If you play a dirty game, this is a great way of renting PageRank really cheaply. I’m not advocating it, but I am saying it exists and it works. The important part with SAPE: qualify the domains you rent from. As with links seller lists, there are 10% of these SAPE domains which rank and maybe 3% which are great value i.e. big Majestic Citation Flow/Trust Flow and some nice rankings. Once again, SAPE is not ethical and you’re playing with fire, but it works. Tip: never directly link from SAPE to your money site. Caveat: This is hard-core igaming SEO. You do this kind of thing with great care. Finally I’m very relieved that SEO hasn’t really changed all that much in the last year. All I’m seeing are megatrends moving steadily in one direction or another, i.e. ●● the selectiveness of Penguin controlling PageRank ●● Google’s artificial intelligence getting better at judgement of content ●● Google search results becoming more meritocratic ●● Engagement still being a long-term decider on rankings Any page of content can rank, as long as it satisfies users. So think carefully about how you can satisfy user intent before you go accumulating PageRank. NICK GARNER founded the successful SEO agency 90 Digital and subsequently founded Oshi bitcoin casino: oshi.io.
  22. 22. 25 TRAFFIC iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 WHAT DOES YOUR CONTENT SAY ABOUT YOU? Nichola Stott of theMediaFlow navigates you though the process of crafting content that resonates, rather than clashes, with the personality and values of your brand. IN A FUN COMPETITIVE space like online gaming, we’ve got to get crazy- smart and creative to get the best links. However if you’re pitching high quality media outlets to take your story, your content message has to adhere to similar standards as your advertising campaigns. The message you put out as a brand speaks volumes about your organisation to your potential customers. It has to resonate with the same personality and values you are looking to project via the brand. So how do we balance creativity whilst maintaining brand-fit? Know thyself! Your audience should be positioned front and centre, and knowing who they are and how they should be spoken to will dictate the tone of your content and identity. You may already have highly insightful customer persona data to hand, which can be used for setting that tone of voice. Try to fix an ideal customer in mind and work through some exercises with your colleagues to set some of the real tone of voice fundamentals; such as: ● Are we formal or informal? ● Is our language technical or plain English? ● Are we colloquial or diverse? ● Do we ever do little swears!? Perhaps try using polarising viewpoints to begin with when setting some of your tone of voice fundamentals. Another tactic to try is to take a well-known piece of writing or handful of song lyrics and rephrase a few lines into varying degrees of formality, neutrality and informality. Pass them around and try to get consensus as to which your organisation would say if it was a living entity. So, work out if would be… Morning has broken (formal) It’s morning (neutral) Yo! Sun’s up (informal/slang) Cringe Nothing is more grating than a brand trying to project an identity it doesn’t possess and to connect with an audience in a way that it shouldn’t. For some brands in other sectors, failing to nail your tone of voice is a gamble that may or may not backfire and can be recoverable, but we’d suggest that in online gaming this isn’t a chance we should take due to the requirements of credibility and responsibility. I’m reminded of McDonalds’ attempt to get down with the kids in its campaign from a couple of years ago (see Figure 1). Not really what “the kids” mean when they say “I’d hit it”, and definitely not something to openly confess to doing Figure 1: Example of brand adopting discordant tone of voice and personality
  23. 23. TRAFFIC 26 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 with a cheeseburger! In all seriousness though, this is an attempt by a global fast food chain to adopt a brand tone of voice and personality that it absolutely doesn’t have. Whilst the consequences here are laughable examples for marketing types like me, I think the consequences could be far more damaging from a brand perception perspective if done in online gaming. Brief on brand Whether your content is being produced in-house or by an external agency, a good project brief is essential for hitting the right note. Understand your core motives and make sure everyone involved in the project is on the same page. Communicate openly and honestly, and be prepared for the likelihood that you project will change and evolve during the process. As well as what you want to achieve, to stay on brand your briefing process must also facilitate an identity component. Try to be quantitative as well as qualitative; otherwise too many intangibles may leave things too open to interpretation. A brief such as “we want to be provocative and edgy” works for a brand like Cards Against Humanity, but would we trust a high street bank with content that could be described like that? To help with this, we as an agency stick to a consistent briefing form with our clients. This includes some static checkbox items around values and feelings, as well as more open-ended interview-style questions. Tip: Limit the number of choices you offer or need to select to define a brief, otherwise there can be too much overlap. Whilst it is possible to be fun and creative as well as serious and earnest; stick to primary values and feelings – up to three at a time. Getting it right So what does your content say about you? Good quality content that resonates with your customers lets them know that you understand them, recognise their needs and care about their interests. If your content is consistent in tone and overall message, it will signal trust, reliability and credibility. Content that is thoughtful, well-written and free from spelling and grammatical errors will give users faith in you and your business. Brand identity matters, and your content marketing has the power to develop it, or to damage it. That’s all well and good, but as creators it can be difficult at times to step away from our output and objectively assess if we’ve nailed the brief. So here’s a great way to test if your content is on brand… Focus At the start of a campaign we strongly recommend setting up a focus group with around 20 to 50 individuals and road-testing around three content sample pieces for tone of voice. Select participants that are not already customers or identify as very familiar with your brand but still fit broadly into your demographic. Allow them to read and process hard copy versions of content concepts and complete an evaluation form that shares some common fields to your briefing form. You should keep the following questions front of mind during this process: ●● Are you getting strong overlap in brief input and evaluation choices? ●● Is there a huge disconnect with your perceived tone of voice and your ideal demographic? Depending on the size and scale of your content plan, you might also want to consider a ‘control’ focus group of people that are outside of your target demographic, as what may be a perfectly resonant message with your target audience could be completely discordant, even offensive, to another. Freedom in a framework If you follow the advice and process ideas we’ve provided here you can push the boundaries of creativity with your content marketing without fearing that your campaign is going to bomb. Get it right and you will have an entertaining marketing asset that will have a consistent message which aligns with target users’ expectations and assumptions about you and your brand. Be aware of what tone and what type of content your customers are likely to expect from you, i.e. what is appropriate and what fits your overall message. Don’t be afraid to show your brand personality! NICHOLA STOTT is founder of theMediaFlow, a multi award-winning digital marketing agency that specialises in organic search and content marketing. Nichola has almost two decades of experience in digital communications and featured in the BIMA Hot100 Digital People of 2015. “If your content is consistent in tone and overall message, it will signal trust, reliability and credibility”
  24. 24. Enjoy gambling responsibly. begambleaware.org 18+
  25. 25. A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES POKER SPORTS BINGO VEGAS CASINO © Barcrest Group Ltd 2015
  26. 26. 30 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 FEATURE - AWARDS SPECIAL The 10th edition of the iGB Affiliate Awards saw the gaming affiliate sector’s annual celebration and recognition of its achievements over the prior 12 months on the move again, not just to a spectacular new venue but also from its customary time slot on the eve of the London Affiliate Conference to the end, allowing the cream of the industry in attendance at the historic Grade II-listed The Brewery in the City of London to really let their hair down and celebrate in style. Here we run down the winners from all the 32 categories and feature a selection of images from a highly memorable night in London. iGB Affiliate would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the individuals and businesses who won or who were nominated. See you next year! THE IGB AFFILIATE AWARDS SATURDAY 11TH FEBRUARY 2017
  27. 27. 31iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 Best Bingo Affiliate Manager Lauren Wiggan - bet365 Best Casino Affiliate Manager Martyn Beacon – AffiliateEdge Best Financial Affiliate Manager Gonzalo Rojas - Empiremoney Best Lottery Affiliate Manager Helen Taylor - CherryAffiliates Best Poker Affiliate Manager Stephanie Robinson - WPN Affiliates Alex Smith - bet365 Best Sport Betting Affiliate Manager Daniela Davenport - bet365 Best Bingo Affiliate Program Broadway Gaming Best Casino Affiliate Program CherryAffiliates Best Financial Affiliate Program Empiremoney Best Lottery Affiliate Program LottaRewards Best Poker Affiliate Program WPN Affiliates Best Sports Betting Affiliate Program bet365 Best Foreign Language Affiliate Program Kindred Affiliates Best Affiliate Program Newcomer Codetaff Best Affiliate Marketing Campaign Coral Affiliates Best Bingo Website WhichBingo.co.uk Best Casino Website AskGamblers.com Best Financial Website FXEmpire Best Lottery Website LotteryUSA.com Best Poker Website Pokerisivut Best Sports Betting Website At The Races Best Foreign Language Website Apuestasdeportivas. com Best Affiliate Newcomer WantMyBet Best Use of Social Media by an Affiliate Footballtips Best Innovation SmartBets by bettingexpert
  28. 28. The Industry landscape: Affiliates in igaming 2017 NEW REPORT COMING SOON What igaming affiliates really think. [ ]
  29. 29. 33iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 FEATURE - AWARDS SPECIAL
  30. 30. 36 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 THE NORDICS 36 ROUND TABLE: CATENA, RAKETECH, XLMEDIA Ahead of our Nordic Affiliate Conference, we rounded up top management from three of the biggest affiliate networks and consolidators in the region, Erik Bergman, Chief Strategy Officer of Catena Media, Michael Holmberg, CEO of Raketech and Ory Weihs, CEO of XLMedia, to gauge their reaction to the proposed Swedish opening and get their views on the current state of play in the Nordic affiliate space. The Swedish government review has now recommended the opening of the online market to non-monopoly operators with a tax rate of 18% on GGR. What is your initial reaction to this news, and how do you see this scenario affecting affiliate activities and business models in the country? Erik Bergman (EB): I’m positive towards the 18% GGR tax rate. The talk beforehand was of it falling in the range of 15-20%, but in my opinion the most likely scenario was 20%, since that’s how it is in Denmark. However, this is still a long way from being signed off by the politicians, so we will see where things end up. With regards to effect on the affiliate activities or business models, I don’t think much will change. This is in line with our expectations and in line with the UK and Denmark, which are markets that have a lot of similarities to Sweden. Michael Holmberg (MH): We think it will be business as usual. The difference will be the tax, which we believe the operators will try to pass on to the affiliates. However, this will mostly impact the smaller affiliates and not us to such a large extent. We feel confident that our position as one of Sweden’s biggest affiliates in combination with our very good relations with the operators will provide us with an exceptionally solid base for further successful business development in Sweden going forward. We are also expecting PPC advertising through Google to really take off. Ory Weihs (OW): My initial thoughts on this are very positive, as we have seen this to be a very workable tax rate in other countries. As we have always said, a regulated environment is the correct one in the end, creating a larger addressable market with more marketing methods available (paid search, video, social etc.). We believe affiliates with a strong tech foundation and multi methodology approach will benefit from this regulation. What are the most valuable countries in the region for affiliates in terms of average player values, and what impact did Denmark licensing online casino and betting have on player values and profits there? EB: With regards to player values Norway is and has for a long time been the country with by far the highest average player values. Sweden is second and Finland comes in as the third. When it comes to Denmark, I unfortunately have very limited experience since it has never been a focus market for us. MH: We have no experience from the Danish market but regarding player value, Norwegian players are worth most, then Swedish and lastly Finnish. OW: We see many countries as high value, from the Nordics to the UK, as well as a few other European ones. The Danish regulation as a whole was a very positive development, as following an initial dip the market picked up and now allows for a wide variety of user acquisition methods to be used. “We have seen the 18% GGR tax recommended in Sweden to be very workable in other countries. As we have always said, a regulated environment is the correct one in the end” Ory Weihs, XLMedia market with more marketing methods available (paid search, video, social etc.). We believe affiliates with a strong tech foundation and multi methodology approach will benefit from this regulation. What are the most valuable countries in the region for affiliates in terms of average player values, and what impact did Denmark licensing online casino and betting have on player values and profits there? With regards to player values Norway is and has for a long time been the country with by far the highest average player values. Sweden is second and Finland comes in as the third. When it comes to Denmark, I unfortunately have very limited experience since it has never been a focus “We have seen the 18% GGR tax recommended in Sweden to be very workable in other countries. As we have always said, a regulated environment is the correct Erik Bergman 34
  31. 31. 37iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 THE NORDICS 37 The last year saw a wave of MA engulf the affiliate space Why is the consolidation play unfolding now, and why are Nordic-founded companies – both as acquirers and those being acquired – so prominent in this process? EB: I don’t know why the consolidation didn’t start earlier. My best guess is that most affiliate businesses were started by accident rather than with a clear strategy, hence most people focused on running their own shows and didn’t hire a lot of people or try to acquire each other. When the industry started to mature, investors and experienced business people starting to see the opportunities and partnered up with the existing affiliates. When a few larger acquisitions were undertaken and made public, everyone started to ask themselves the question: “Why don’t we do this?”, and more started doing it. A couple of years ago the multiples were really low and pretty much any deal that could be done was worth doing. Today, things have changed and the prices are, as you said, significantly higher, but there are still plenty of exciting prospects. The reason Nordic-founded companies are so prominent is probably the same as why they are so prominent when it comes to betting operators. There is a strong culture of gaming and online businesses in Sweden, so before the acquisitions started, there were already many affiliates active in the region who came from Scandinavia. We have also seen experienced people from the operators move across to the affiliate side and then it went from there. It got a lot of exposure in the Nordic media and even more people got interested in the possibilities. MH: Many of the big operators, such as Betsson and Unibet for instance, originate from Sweden, as well as leading game providers such as NetEnt and Evolution. Sweden has a strong history of producing successful entrepreneurs in the IT sector, as evidenced by globally known companies like Skype and Spotify. It’s therefore not that surprising that that the Swedes, together with their Nordic neighbours, also are very prominent in the industry of igaming affiliation. Regarding last year’s MA, we think it just proves how young the igaming affiliate industry really is. What we are seeing now started happening 10 years ago on the operator side. Catena Media’s entrance on Nasdaq Stockholm further accelerated this process, and had a strong effect on the public perception of our industry. It’s getting more professional with every day that passes. “A couple of years ago the multiples were really low and pretty much any deal that could be done was worth doing. Today, things have changed” Erik Bergman, Catena Media the prices are, as you said, significantly Michael Holmberg Ory Weihs
  32. 32. 38 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 THE NORDICS 38 OW: The gambling scene in the Nordics has always been one of the larger ones, so it is no surprise to me that strong affiliates and marketing partners have emerged here as well. There are many potential gamblers, many ways to try to reach them as well as operators to send them to. There have been many success stories that help smaller players gain trust. The scramble to acquire the best affiliates is seeing some eyewatering prices and high multiples being paid for some very young businesses with very little track record. Is this not a risky strategy to pursue, or should we be looking beyond conventional valuation metrics when assessing these types of businesses? EB: There have been quite a few deals where the prices have been over the top, if you ask me. That said, every case is unique and it’s all about weighing the risks with the rewards, getting to know the people behind the business and assessing its potential. The age of the business is of course relevant but it’s only one of many parameters, of which others can be far more important. MH: We have completed 14 acquisitions in the last 24 months and our experience is that the multiples have been very stable. One thing you have to remember though is that smaller affiliates most often have worse deals with the operators than the larger ones, and that the multiples that usually get communicated in public are before synergies and optimisations have been implemented. We don’t believe in looking beyond conventional valuation metrics; we try to focus on the underlying fundamentals and reflect any potential risks in our valuations. OW: We at XLM are not dependent on acquisitions to grow and therefore might have a more conservative valuation matrix, as well as a generally safer and more solid approach. We choose targets that can really add value to us, to either one of our main two divisions. We focus on targets that we feel can be easily improved. Scale brings with it the ability to take advantage of new marketing technologies (to optimise conversion, the funnel, automation etc.) How do you see this shift towards scale and technology reshaping the affiliate sector, and also how operators engage and work with performance marketers? EB: Obviously the game changes and there are a lot of pros to being a big player with the synergies that brings. However, I still believe there will be space for the more old school, smaller SEO affiliates for quite some time to come. They have great experience when it comes to SEO and know their markets. In the long term, it will be tough for them to compete with big teams from larger affiliates and operators, but there is still plenty of time. With regards to the operators, I think a lot of them will chose to work with a smaller number of larger affiliates rather than plenty of small ones. It will increase the prices per new player a bit, but will give them less overheads and more reliability. As in any industry, it all comes down to trust and it is a lot easier to trust a few important partners than tons of small ones. MH: I believe SEO will always be important and as long as your sites really add user value, they will be relevant. And of course size matters with regards to being able to invest in technology, but also it is preferable for operators to work with larger affiliates since it is more convenient. OW: As I have mentioned many times before, affiliates who do not embrace technology in developing a true technological edge and entrance barriers will be left behind. We now employ more than 80 developers and have been creating our optimisation and operational tools for more than a decade. As a large affiliate/network, what do you see as the biggest immediate challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector in the Nordics? EB: Right now, a lot obviously depends on the regulatory environment but since we will know a lot more about that in just a few days it’s hard to say anything more right now. Other than that, I don’t see many immediate challenges or many changes from how it has been the past few years. It’s more or less business as usual. MH: The introduction of Google’s PPC advertising in Sweden when the market gets re-regulated will affect all affiliates that today get their traffic through SEO. We further believe that smaller affiliates will see lower margins as a result of the operators trying to push over the new tax on to them. However, from our perspective, this will just increase our possibilities to optimise small business that we might acquire on the Swedish market following a re-regulation. OW: Mainly the understanding that the one-trick-pony affiliate with a few sites or a few media campaigns will struggle maintaining scale, especially the ones that have no real team or tech background. “The introduction of Google’s PPC advertising in Sweden when the market gets re-regulated will affect all affiliates that today get their traffic through SEO” Michael Holmberg, Raketech NAME: ERIK BERGMAN ORY WEIHS DATE: 7 APRIL 2017 WHEN: @ 14.45 36
  33. 33. 38 iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 THE NORDICS 38 THE RISING WAVE OF AFFILIATE MAThe past 18 months has seen a ramping up of MA activity in the gambling affiliate space, with Nordic- founded and managed companies the main protagonists. Scott Longley delves into the dealmaking activity by the likes of Catena, GIG, RakeTech and others, which only looks set to continue rising in 2017. THE MA MOVES IN the operator and supplier space understandably dominate the headlines, but an equally significant process of consolidation has been underway in the igaming affiliate world. And going by the news that has appeared to date this year and regular exchanges with affiliate contacts, the pace of change is likely to quicken in the coming year. But first, a recap of recent events. Privately owned affiliate network RakeTech announced it had raised €70m in funding in order to fund future acquisitions; then Catena Media, a leading Stockholm- listed affiliate consolidator, released news of its latest buyout, the €8.6m acquisition of Swedish-facing affiliate Slotsia. Finally, Oslo-listed Gaming Innovation Group (GIG) announced its affiliate arm had bought an unnamed affiliate network for €3.5m, following that news up a week later with the announcement that it had secured a SEK400m (€42m) bond, the bulk of which would go towards further deals in the affiliate space. On 10 March, it announced its largest affiliate acquisition to date, of Casinotopsonline.com for €11.5m. These moves come on top of an already busy period of MA in the affiliate realm involving not just the aforementioned firms but also XL Media and Cherry Gaming. As can be seen from our tables, iGaming Business has tracked at least 33 deals within the last three years involving these businesses alone, and this doesn’t include a dozen deals in the past 12 months mentioned by RakeTech in its fund-raising news. The dealflow, if anything, is speeding up and the amount of money involved in each individual buyout would also appear to be on the increase. Deal sizes in the low single-digit millions of euros just one or two years ago are now rising into the €10m-plus territory, and in the case of Catena Media’s recent buyout of the US-based PlayNJ business, up to a potential US$45m if earnout targets are reached. Figure 1: XLMedia gambling affiliate acquisitions PROPERTY DATE FEE + EARNOUT MARKET FOCUS Scandi/Danish network July 2014 $2.3m Denmark UK sports betting site August 2014 $2.3m UK MarMarMedai June 2015 $7.36m Unknown Figure 2: Catena Media affiliate acquisitions PROPERTY DATE FEE + EARNOUT MARKET FOCUS Finix Invest November 2014 $6m Scandinavia LJFK Ltd March 2015 Unknown Netherlands Promo6000 March 2015 Unknown Norway Stay Media July 2015 $2m Sweden Arctic Marketing August 2015 $0.3m Finland Cornvinus August 2015 $0.65m UK La Luna September 2015 $0.45m Netherlands Good Game September 2015 $1.5m Finland Right Casino November 2015 $6m UK Unnamed Italian/ Belgium-facing sites March 2016 $9m Italy/Belgium Wonko Media March 2016 SEK32m Sweden AskGamblers April 2016 $15m UK German-facing network June 2016 $6.5m Germany Spelbloggare.se July 2016 $5m Sweden SBAT October 2016 $13.5m UK CasinoUK November 2016 $10.6m UK PlayNJ December 2016 $45m US Slotsia February 2017 $8.5m Sweden
  34. 34. 39iGB Affiliate Issue 62 APR/MAY 2017 THE NORDICS 39 Multiples and earnouts Edward Ihre, co-founder of live casino operator Codeta and a respected consultant in the affiliate space, says the spate of acquisitions makes sense in terms of respective valuations between the acquirers and their targets. “Being able to buy these assets at such cheap valuations makes sense when you can add their earnings to the balance sheet,” he says. The multiples in question vary according to each deal. In terms of recent buyouts, Catena’s Slotsia deal (see Figure 2) saw the company pay €3.6m upfront for a company which will generate an expected €300,000 in revenues in the first quarter of this year at margins of approximately 75%. On an annualised basis this would equate to circa €1m in operating profit. However, according to industry sources Slotsia only started to generate meaningful traffic around June 2016 and recorded annual revenues of, at most, €500,000 at the time. With multiples based on historical earnings, Catena Media therefore has brought Slotsia on a multiple of just over seven times historical earnings. Clearly if a two year-old business can attract such high multiples, it would suggest that the true value of affiliates is only just starting to be realised. Should the company hit its earnout target of 130% revenue growth over the next two years a further €5m would be due, boosting the multiple to 10 times. Still, for comparison we should note that the listed Catena Media is trading on an historic P/E of around 35 times. Another recent deal, this time from GIG, saw it snap up an unnamed affiliate network with annual revenues of around €1.4m for €3.5m at a multiple of around four times EBITDA. Again, for comparison, until the second half of 2016 GIG was loss-making. Robert Andersson, chief executive at Catena Media, says the deals were not necessarily cheap but he said the target businesses were often unstructured and without any underlying technology. By plugging them into the Catena Media network – and linking them up with the company’s proprietary tech platform – his company believes it can substantially boost revenues once any acquisitions are under its wing. Unsurprisingly, Andersson is a believer in the long-term consolidation story for the online gaming affiliate sector. “The affiliate space is becoming more professional,” he says. “It’s a bit like the travel industry and what happened there with dozens of travel sites and affiliates consolidating down to four or five global players. We’re pursuing exactly the same strategy.” Attractive structures... Ben Robinson, director of boutique MA specialist RB Capital, agrees and says consolidation in the affiliate space is no surprise if one looks at the underlying structure of affiliate businesses. “Many affiliates operate at very attractive margins of 60%, if not more. This is harder for the larger players to achieve, scale brings higher operating costs and when PPC and media buying efforts are brought into the equation, margins of 25% are more common,” he says. “Having said that, affiliates are still two “GIG’s recent results showed that of the 36,100 new first-time depositors its affiliate arm Innovation Labs had referred in 2016, 19% were directed towards its own brands” Figure 3: Gaming Innovation Group affiliate acquisitions PROPERTY DATE FEE + EARNOUT MARKET FOCUS Spaseeba June 2015 Unknown Scandinavia Unnamed Finnish network July 2015 Unknown Finland Unnamed Estonian network August 2015 Unknown Estonia Delta Markets March 2016 $4.2m Netherlands Magenti Media March 2016 SEK47.5m Sweden Unnamed international network February 2017 $3.5m Unknown Casinotopsonline.com March 2017 $11.5m UK
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