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IN-DEPTH 8 December 2015
How to survive without Google
Brean Wilkinson considers affiliate life beyond the world's leading search engine
By Brean Wilkinson

About three years ago I was attending an affiliate conference when, during one of the panel discussions, the host asked a selection of different affiliates whether they sourced some or all of their traffic from popular search engine Google. Almost all said yes to this question. Amazingly though, one of the affiliates suggested he got very little traffic from Google and didn’t see it as a necessary source of potential business for his site.

Despite not recalling the affiliate or their website, the thought of not having to rely on Google for traffic really stuck with me. I mean, imagine not having to worry about sourcing any traffic at all from Google – a search engine so powerful and so intertwined with the world wide web that when it went down for just a few minutes back in 2013, an estimated 40% of internet traffic went with it.

Many affiliates, along with operators, publishers, distributors and software manufacturers, have possibly dreamt of a day when they weren’t spending huge chunks of marketing budget on SEO, PPC, and display campaigns with Google and other major search engines. Many affiliates reading this magazine will have seen top ranking sites in their network wiped out with a swipe from a Panda’s paw or even worse a 'phantom update' (so named because it comes with no warning, no indication of what its targeting and no response from Google).

Now this article is not designed to bash Google, as many of us rely heavily on the traffic it produces and the tools that help our websites thrive. However, I am interested in whether there are ways to grow a business online without the need for the traffic Google provides.

The key to success seems to be finding other high volume sources of quality traffic, and that most likely means social or mobile apps
There are a few examples of companies that I know of that may have figured it out. In all the cases that I am aware of, the key to success seems to be finding other high volume sources of quality traffic, and that most likely means social or mobile apps.

Example 1: Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums). This UK outfit burst onto the sports-betting scene in 2011, using the power of social media to make them a near overnight success. By providing informed judgements on upcoming football fixtures they have amassed a very healthy 230,000+ followers on Twitter and several more thousands on Facebook. Their success has seen a string of similar services popping up, such as Spank the bookies (@spankthebookies) and Footy Super Tips (@footysupertips). Their success is largely down to building large followings on social media and finding a product that really suits its audience.

Example 2: Jack Media (jackmedialondon.com). This agency is well connected within the online gambling sector and has a variety of means of sourcing good quality traffic for their clients. Although they do run PPC and display campaigns though Google, they seem to have found plenty of other sources of traffic that include Facebook, in-app advertising, mobile marketing and offline campaigns. This is not an affiliate, but many affiliates could learn something from the way they explore all the different traffic opportunities that are out there.

I have no connection to either of these examples, but I can admire what they are achieving. If you have the right product and it is suited to your chosen traffic source then you can certainly do well without the need for Google. But who is willing to take that plunge?

Brean Wilkinson has been involved in affiliate marketing for eight years. He is a director at Click Profits, which has a network of websites involved in betting, gaming and finance. Almost all of the sites within the company are affiliate sites, making money through referrals.
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