John Wright

John Wright for SiGMA: The Game is Changing

Don’t hate the player – hate the game

Being a webmaster means you are someone whom has to work hard and live in a constant state of change. You are the person your friends go to for advice on the latest trends for the changes in technology and for being the go to person for ranking a website. That said, it is also quite possible to spend your entire day doing research on all of these changes, trying them all and not really making much progress either. This information overload is what stops a lot of people from starting their own website and in other cases it intimidates other webmasters that are not sure they can keep up with the change. The people that were top of the affiliate game 10 years ago are not the same people that are #1 today. There may be a few exceptions but most would agree that some of the older sites that have been around for a long time are starting to fade away while some of the newer ones have been able to push through. In the
past 5 years there have been so many changes that webmasters have had to react to that it could be the things that make a webmaster sink or swim.

Renee Mate from Rewards Affiliates
“I’ve been at Rewards Affiliates since 2005 and I’ve seen a huge mix of things in terms of which affiliates come and go. A few years after starting here there were sites like LCB and Ask Gamblers who started from scratch and have gone from strength to strength. Small penalties might take them a few steps back but they always manage to get back on their feet and come back stronger than ever.”

In the past 5 years, webmasters have had to endure:
• Social Media
• Mobile Phone
• Numerous changes in Google’s algorithm

Social Media
Social media sites are some of the most visited in the world and are starting to make Google look small in comparison. Social media represents another way to collect followers to retain traffic, it represents another way to pull in more traffic. Most webmasters to date probably couldn’t answer how social media helps them and if it is worth the effort.

Mobile Phones
In the next few years, about 2 billion people will have smartphones around the world. There are many affiliate sites out there that are not responsive design at all or have any form of mobile experience for their users. If that wasn’t enough, mobilegeddon hit this spring as this year Google warned webmasters they would give less traffic to sites that were not mobile ready.

Google’s changes in algorithm

You really should know your Pandas and Penguins by now as Google has unleashed a constant barrage of updates to their algorithm where many webmasters were simply getting shaken down for their traffic. The changes certainly did kill off many websites where the webmaster was content with the traffic and income previously but couldn’t overcome the losses after the fact. In short Your Panda updates targeted low quality content and duplicate content while Penguin targeted your link building. What worked 5 years ago for easy rankings definitely doesn’t work today. That leads us to our next topic of Old School SEO where webmasters are really struggling to adapt to a new environment and a new set of rules.

Old School SEO
The changes listed previously in Google’s algorithm really highlight where a lot of webmasters are really struggling today and in many cases are fading very fast. They struggle to understand the things that matter in SEO today which is what Google has been trying to push for many years, a focus on quality. If you are dealing with an SEO company that is trying to help, you’ll run into companies that are too focused on SEO where the SEO game has really changed a lot over the past few years. In the book called Driven, written by Robert Herjavec whom is a very successful businessman and is a regular on the hit show Shark Tank, his quote on consultants should resonate with a lot of webmasters:

“If the consultants are so adept at suggesting how to run your business, why aren’t they running one like it?”

In my experience it is rare for me to hear sound solid advice from an SEO consultant. Quite often you’ll have someone with a website looking for an SEO to just find a way to turn things around and pay for it. What an SEO doesn’t want to do is to tell someone their entire website is shit and should be fully rebuilt or that it will take a year to recover. It is tough to make a living doing this.

Times are changing
If you focus too hard on SEO, you are going to struggle to find your way in a very competitive environment. For years Google has been screaming the word quality over and over again through all of their algorithm updates. Of course you need to always consider SEO when creating a website and growing it, but there are limitations. At the end of the day if you are focusing on quality content, making a quality website and focusing on your user then you are on the right path. Of course quality links as well are part of that equation. When you focus on quality and providing a good user experience and quality product or service, often you’ll find these Google algorithm updates don’t affect you at all and if they do, often it’s done in a positive way where you gain more search traffic as the expense of the low quality sites that are getting pushed down.

The Need for Speed
Having a very fast loading website is important for many reasons:
• Google likes to reward fast loading websites
• Faster loading means a lower bounce rate, retaining more traffic

This is the technology side of things webmasters will need to focus on more. If your site takes longer to load, this is automatically costing you conversions. There are plenty of case studies showing the correlation between conversion rate & sales versus site speed. One example is Amazon losing sales by 1% for every 100ms delay on site speed. You don’t need more case studies to understand the logic behind it.

Google does after all have their PageSpeed Tools as a means to assess your site’s performance and it gives back recommendations on how to improve your speed. This is of course one of my tests you can do and it’s important to know how fast (or slow) your site is and to identify ways you can make improvements on the load times. For the PageSpeed Tools you can visit them here.
In terms of how much would google reward your site for being fast, this is something Google has addressed at times over the years but in general state that a slow loading site would have a hard time getting ranked well. That said on a mobile device where page speed is going to be important, you’ll want a fast loading site let alone that it is mobile friendly.

Change in Technologies
Of course technology is changing all the time but I’m not so sure who’s ready or willing to change and adapt. Some of the early online gaming companies that started off 20 years ago used the programming languages and databases they had available at the time, not to mention the marketplace for programmers. In the past 10 years, some newer gaming companies have emerged where they used technology to their advantage. Using PHP and MySQL as a common denominator, this was the language and database of choice that started to appear everywhere and at one point PHP was like a sign you were ahead of the times where sites using ASP for example were slower and older. As of January 2013, PHP was used on 240 million websites and on 2.1 million web servers. No doubt PHP is still to have a long shelf life but for how long.

PHP and MySQL were released in 1995 making them 20 years old. This combination of programming language and database made them stable but for sites that grew in a viral sense, the database structure just wasn’t ready for the scalability. On top of that with the rise in the iPhone and Android in the past 6 or 7 years has also lead to the development and acceleration of programming languages and databases.

A new programming language should give you the flexibility of speed and scalability. With speed, you’ll have a website, programs or apps that use less code and should run faster. On top of this is the implied benefit of security. I will quickly review some of the emerging databases and programming languages that are new on the scene and in some cases are maybe even a year old. In the world or programming, the rate of change has never been greater. Of course this doesn’t mean you should always be updating and upgrading, but if you are on one of the older technologies and setups then maybe it’s time to consider something new.

Databases
There are a handful of databases on the scene and I won’t get into too many technical details either. The 2 main emerging players in the scope of databases are MongoDB and Redis.

MongoDB
Released 2009
Is a NoSQL database system that is used by some giantcompanies that include ebay, craigslist and FourSquare.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MongoDB

Redis
Released 2009
Is also a NoSQL database system that is used by some big companies: craigslist, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat. The standout feature and use of Redis is that the data is stored in memory which means you get the fastest speeds possible on a consistent basis.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redis

Best Applications for Affiliates: MongoDB is probably more than suitable for any webmaster. If you have a large forum with a lot of activity, then Redis is definitely something to consider.

Best Applications for Operators: Redis all the way. Players want their games and they want them fast, especially on their mobile phones.

Programming Languages
Javascript might not be something new but it is a pivotal language today with man branches coming out of javascript.

Node.js
Released 2009
Also written as NodeJS, this is becoming one of the go to languages that connects the database to the frontend. If you start to look up NodeJS and all the MVC frameworks with languages and databases it connects to, you’ll get a bit lost if you are not familiar.

MeteorJS
Released 2012
Meteor is an open source javascript web application and it’s very new but gaining a lot of fans in the programming communities. Meteor is something that also might be the most suitable for operators.

User Experience Design (UX)
User Experience Design isn’t one of those artsy flakey jobs that should be overlooked. Quite often they can be the most important people in any company or website and the reality is there simply aren’t enough of them around. Probably any website you visit there can always be something to pick apart of something that can be improved on the user experience whether on the menu, the homepage or any page for that matter. I could have written an entire section on Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) but quite often that’s fully addressed when you focus your design around the user. If you focus on one, you indirectly address the other and vice versa.
While most people are chasing SEOs to fix their website and rankings, not enough are paying any attention to UX. With UX you could take the same amount of traffic you have and make improvements that would increase the pages per session of the view, average time on site and that could easily beat improving your search traffic. In a nutshell, we all want more traffic, but if you already have traffic you need to ask yourself are you getting the most out of it?
Igor from AskGamblers.com says “I often hear people are saying how easily they can find information on AskGamblers, comparing to other sites. It’s because that was our main goal when we did the last redesign. It’s not all about aesthetic. It’s also about something that’s not obvious, but makes the product or website useful and understandable.”

Hacking & Security
I think most can understand what hacking issues can do for any website. The consequences of it can do more damage than it has done before. Your site’s search traffic can be greatly affected by this and if your site has harmful files on it then it can be blocked more than just Google but other sites that link to it including social media like Facebook. Having newer technologies could in theory help minimize your risks but that said any popular platform will always be a target of hackers and people that can find ways to exploit your website. If we use one example of a WordPress site, it is php/MySQL and having more plugins just gives you too many ways of getting attacked as WordPress is just too big of a target for hackers.

Emerging Tools & Resources

Forum Softwares
This area is changing very quickly and those changes are a result of the new technologies in place. For some webmasters, the forum is all of their content and the existence of their site. I think it won’t be long before these new forum softwares start to become more prominent. For some webmasters, the thought of having to switch software, content and databases is a serious risk not to mention logistical nightmare. For people just wanting to launch their new forum, a lighter solution would probably be more appealing. At the end of the day it is all about speed and using new languages, databases and software, you’ll achieve this. Two forum softwares that are available that have a clean design and are ultra fast are NodeBB and Muut.

Muut
Muut uses Redis and it’s insanely fast. I can say one thing I dislike about their software as a service is the idea that you can’t properly moderate posts, that is they like this idea of permanence.
muut.com

NodeBB
NodeBB is great because it’s open source or you can use their shared hosting solution. If you self host then the software is free and you can choose from MongoDB or Redis for your database options. The forums are very fast and have a clean design and layout. Some features that different webmasters are used to are not always there but you can develop them yourself or wait for when they become available.
nodebb.org

Blogg ing and CMS:
Ghost
Open source like WordPress or use their hosted solution. Ghost uses Markdown which makes WordPress look complicated and bloated. If you don’t know what Markdown is look it up: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=markdown. Ghost was created by the former deputy lead for the User Interface team at WordPress.
http://ghost.io

Jekyll
Another open source CMS that uses Markdown.
http://jekyllrb.com/

Meet Your New Competition
To conclude this article I’d like to highlight there will always be competition but I think there will be the next wave of gambling webmasters to come through the door. I think many of them will be experienced webmasters coming from other industries and applying their work ethic and knowledge to the business. The topics I covered from UX design to technology are the tools the competition will use to their advantage. If you are a webmaster that is new to the gaming business then you should have the right attitude that despite tough competition that anything is possible. For those that have been in the business for a while and feeling things are stagnant, then it is time to revise the business plan and assess where your site is and where you want it to go.

About the autor:

John Wright has been working in the gaming industry for a number of years, focusing mostly on consultancy for search engine optimization, conversion rate optimization and user experience & user interface design. His strengths are with online casinos but does have experience in online poker and sportsbetting.

John is also the marketing manager, affiliate coach and editor of Gaffg.

John has been coaching affiliates for over 4 years and worked with many other top casino affiliates. He also works as an online gambling consultant and writes for the iGamingBusiness and iGB Affiliate magazines.His other strengths are in SEO, conversion and content creation. In 2013 he has expanded his skills to include video SEO and social media marketing and how to properly integrate these into website designs.  He has also started his design and consulting agency: HorseshoeAgency.com

He has already coached a few successful affiliates who have gone from barely earning income to 4 to 5 figures per month.

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