Content and SEO with a twist

June 20th, 2008

So my latest challenge is a website that some people my find uncomfortable. Smart Live Casino is one of the world’s growing numbers of gambling websites.

Smart Live’s “twist” is just that: it’s live roulette, streamed via webcam or broadcast on UK digital television (SKY 851 and Freeview 22) from early evening to the wee small hours, presented by attractive croupiers, in a relaxed style.

I’ve never been much of a gambler myself, although I’ve always enjoyed the spectacle of gambling events like casinos or horseracing. And the vast numbers of people who flock to the great gambling meccas like Las Vega or the Aintree Grand National show just how popular it is. For most, it’s just a hobby: a way to release tension at the end of a busy day. And for most, it’s completely harmless. Sure they may lose occasionally, but don’t we all take risks every day and aren’t we okay if things don’t go quite as we’d planned.

Still, there is an understandable air of uneasiness when it comes to the subject, especially when people don’t want to be seen to publicly endorse a lifestyle which others object to.

This has proved to be a problem in relation to our attempts to launch a Pay Per Click campaign with the world’s biggest search engine company, Google.

Google (motto: do no harm) has a strict policy when in comes to online gambling advertising — they don’t do it! Geographical casinos are allowed, as are non-profit casino games such as those used by charities at social events. And if you make poker chips or roulette wheels, or have a surefire system to beat the house, you can advertise those too. So you will see PPC ads for gambling on Google properties when you search for relevant keywords.

However, you soon learn that some of these ads are not what they seem. The URL from a recent ad for “freegamblepackage.com” was

http://www.google.co.uk/aclk?sa=l&ai=BvJfi2WVWSImMB6HmQru-5ZgKscj_ Qb3ooq8FpbeaBfCzpQEIABABGAEoAzABOAFQn4rcigJgu76ug9AKoAHH teL5A8gBAYACAdkDLsK5FNgVhxjgAwg&sig=AGiWqty1Q9aMG-bEIwSlo_el85zW6e P2EQ&q=http://www.freegamblepackage.com/%3Faff%3D52123%26c%3D1.

However, after the inevitable blank screen where the background referral script worked out where it was being linked from, the page was redirected to http://www.primecasino.com/?aff=52123, which is a rival online casino and therefore not allowed under Google rules.

What’s going on here is an affiliate scheme; not of itself illegal (even Smart Live Casino is dipping a toe into the partnership model) but in the way campaigns like the one above currently operate, it’s just downright sneaky. In the above example, simply typing freegamblepackage.com into a browser produces a lame page for another surefire system to beat the roulette wheel, but in itself it is almost certainly a satellite website run by the affiliate marketeers.

Google say they are investigating and offenders will be removed. Another campaign run by online casino giants 888.com is (at the time of writing) now pointing to a geographical casino and not their online one.

Sadly, the reality is that as soon as these scams are stopped a new one pops up to take its place.

Another SEO manager told me recently that he didn’t believe in “ethical” SEO, and he is right … to an extent. Today’s “tweak” inevitably becomes tomorrow’s “White Hat technique” and next week’s “Black Hat swindle“. I would still err on the side of Google’s “Do No Harm”, although I might add “unless you know you won’t get caught”.

Me, I’m no gambler. I always believe I’ll get caught.



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