‘Online casino’ is one of the most competitive keywords in the world, let alone the gambling industry. A top 10 ranking typically requires massive brand presence, or World War Two levels of spam.
The emergence of bgo, however, is proof that some clever SEO ‘engineering’ also goes along way. At the time of writing (February 2015), they rank 5th for ‘online casino’, 10th for ‘online bingo’, and most impressively, 1st for ‘online slots' in the UK.
Having launched in 2011, bgo have enjoyed a meteoric rise up to pearly gates of Google’s kingdom, racking up over 38,000 hits a day.
Now, over recent months, bgo has channelled significant effort into brand building. And they’re being rewarded - ‘bgo bingo’ alone gets 15,000 searches a month.
Playboy gambler Dan Bilzerian – dubbed the ‘highroller’ in their new advertising campaign – has joined Verne Troyner as an ambassador.
But bgo have enjoyed good visibility for some time, before brand buzz has had its chance to influence rankings. In fact, they were reaching pretty formidable heights in September 2013.
It begs the millionaire dollar question: what is their secret? Well, I’ve identified three major factors that I think are influencing their rankings.
Well, bgo have arranged just that. To see what I mean, you can head over to this affiliate website and check out ‘blackjack sites’ on the side-bar. You’ll see that, unlike the affiliate links for other casinos which go to subdomains, bgo’s affiliate link goes straight to their domain.
It appears bgo are using a custom-built affiliate tracking system. A lot of operators are stuck on systems such as Income Access, which don’t have the architecture to pass on direct link juice.
What does all this mean? Well, bgo doesn’t have links from the BBC or Forbes like Paddy Power and 32Red et al, but it does have lots of links (3,000+) from relevant websites, predominantly gambling affiliates.
Whether this is legitimate in Google’s eyes is another question. According to its guidelines, the following links are deemed ‘unnatural’:
bgo has every right to receive links from affiliates (after all, a link is a ‘vote’ or a ‘recommendation’, and bgo is a great, popular casino!) But affiliate links come under advertising, and thus strictly speaking, should be no-followed.
If you aren’t familiar with anchor text distribution (i.e. the different between URL, brand name, branded keyword etc), then check out this post on MOZ.
To summarise, you need diverse, well-proportioned anchor text distribution. This ensures a healthy, natural backlink profile – a backlink profile Google is going to love and reward.
There’s no ‘magic ratio’, but current consensus is that the majority of your anchor text (45% + as SEO expert Brian Dean maintains ) should be unique. The rest should be a mix of brand and URL.
As you can see, bgo has a solid backlink profile according to Majestic SEO – 80% is ‘other’, and they have a nice mix of branded name (bgo) and keyword branded (bgo bingo, bgo casino, bgo vegas). Google loves brand signals, as they underline trust.
There’s no doubt in my mind that when bgo have been ‘acquiring’ links, they’ve paid close attention to anchor text ratio.
BGO’s best ranking is for ‘online slots’. Aside from the 58 referring domains (including adventuresfrugalmom.com, mummyknowsreviews.com, lovefrommummy.co.uk…) that link to their slots page, BGO have a powerful product. A product that more than just a mother would love!
Along with popular titles from Netent and Microgaming, BGO have their own proprietary slots (such as Aladdin and the Wild Genie), courtesy of ‘BGO Entertainment’. This gives them a genuine USP in a crowded market. Throw in a TV commercial, free spins and a ‘sexy’ Vegas theme – and all the direct and returning traffic that comes from that – and you have a slots brand that Google wants to rank.
bgo have demonstrated that through clever SEO engineering you can rank for fiercely competitive keywords within 2 years (though please note, I’ve only analysed elements of off-page SEO).
Have bgo paid for links? Of course, but they’ve retained a semi-‘natural’ overall backlink profile. They’ve also kept exact match anchor text such as ‘online casino’ to a minimum, opting for less risky keyword branded anchors, such as ‘bgo vegas’ and ‘bgo bingo’. This, coupled with the fact that they're a big brand users are searching for, means they're unlikely to receive a Google penalty.
Neither Dan Bilzerian nor Verne Troyner is the boss at bgo. Rather, it’s their head of SEO.