How Google Spoiled my Fun with the Panda Update

OK, since I kind of promised, when I wrote my last post nearly a year ago, to write a new one a little bit sooner – which I didn’t, I am going to start by saying that I’m not going to make any other promises again. The affiliate life is like a roller coaster ride, even worse, a roller coaster ride but in the dark, as you’ll never know which turn will be coming up next.

One month you’re celebrating and thinking of buying that new Audi, the next one you’ll be set back to where you were before. And usually this goes along with the amount of time and money you are willing to invest into your sites. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m still far better off being on this crazy ride than working as a corporate slave from nine to five –  besides making better money, I can honestly say that freedom is what makes being an affiliate so great.

Another factor that always comes around to mess things up when things seem to go well is good old G. Most of you know that I have been hit pretty hard by the Google Panda update last year, and that I am still struggling and stuck with lower rankings for my main site www.pokerforfree.org today. I hate to say it, but Google is doing a lousy job!  The SERPs are filled with thin affiliate sites, where mine has grown to a very decent resource with great content, including:

  • a comprehensive World Series of Poker guide,
  • an ongoing European Poker Tour guide, which includes my best page of the site, the yearly EPT Grand Finals coverage,
  • a completely new Poker Rules section, with well written in-depth guides,
  • and much much more… in fact, still adding as we speak.

For anyone who doesn’t understand the impact of the Panda update, the following graph reveils everything.

This actually means that it takes much more, to recover from the Panda update, than just locating and rewriting a bunch of bad pages. The examples I outlined above are just a small portion from what has been ‘fixed’. I literary spent thousands of dollars to improve the quality of my site, with the result I am aiming for still lacking. One thing I have to admit though,  frankly most of the content on my site sucked, so it should have been penalized in the first place. But it’s time to reward good sites, with great content, not just sites with a shit load of links!

To continue on the subject, other things I did in my best effort trying to recover from the Panda update, was moving the Italian version of Poker For Free to it’s own domain www.giochipokergratis.co, and as well the German version to www.kostenlospokeronline.de. The reason to move these sections was that I suspected them to have a negative impact of the total quality of my site. Unfortunately it didn’t make a difference, or not yet at least.

Furthermore I also bought myself a licence for a free poker game, which I am hosting on one of my own servers. It’s pretty cool actually, since I was able to create custom tables and card decks, and it would be even cooler if there were any active players, but with a limited amount of traffic the only thing I can do is keep dreaming.

Of course, all the trouble came during the aftermath of dealing with the douche bags from Stickyeyes, but that chapter is closed and I’m not going to touch it again. (Alright, for the sake of it, one more time: Stay away from dealing with Stickyeyes. They do more harm than good, or if your budget is sky-high, they will certainly abuse it by taking much more than needed! In fact, I’ll do the same for half the price if you want me to!)

Finally I have been examining my site inside out, and tried to fix any flaws that could possibly have a negative impact on SEO. For example, I fixed a bug that redirected non existing pages to my File Not Found page, without generating a proper 404 header. Instead, I am no longer redirecting pages, but parsing the content and a 404 header right on the spot. So no more Soft 404’s in Google’s Webmaster Tools soon!

Hereby I am concluding this post with a short message for anyone who would like to add a free poker game to their site. I’ve developed an API for my free poker game, to use it throughout my own network, and could offer this to the public. If you’re seriously interested and think you have the audience for it, please get in touch with me. I can definitely use some players!

Thanks for reading, and ’till the next, when I’ve finally recovered from Google Panda. (I know… just wishful thinking.)

There’s a Whole Lot to Write About

WOW, has it really been that long since I wrote my last post on Pursuing Success? Almost six friggin’ months! And I was so determined to post more frequently….. oh well… guess that’s what my life looks like, like a roller coaster.

At least this gives me something to write about, since so many things have happened since my last post. I remember being all excited moving pokerforfree.org to Rackspace – it’s still there, but I recently got a Virtual Private Server, or VPS, at myhosting.com. All together it comes down to Rackspace being more expensive, and dirt slow. I still have to move everything over, but didn’t find a spare moment yet.

Let’s see what (the fuck) happened after moving my site. It didn’t rank any better, I can tell you that, in fact I lost about 60% of my traffic, but I will get to that later in this post.

Take my Advice for Granted!

Most who know me have heard I terminated my contract with Stickyeyes.com, the self proclaimed SEOs from Leeds, United Kingdom, which have a booth at most iGaming Shows to lure unexpecting affiliates into their scam with nasty contracts.

Yeah you got that right, Stickyeyes.com are scammers. I have paid them a total sum way over $30,000 over the course of a year, and all I got was a bunch of excuses why my site would not rank any higher. First time I got suspicious was when my friend Alon told me about my link on some site that was offered to him from some Indian guy for $5 a year, a link which was a premium link according to Stickyeyes.com. Of course they had an excuse for this specific link, but the fact of the matter is that over time more links like these would show up.

I also talked to more of their customers, and everybody I spoke to had the same story: Stickyeyes.com are worthless. Someone else I know told me he heard my budget was too low, so I guess their bigger clients pay lots more, and get stolen from lots more too, without them knowing of course as they retain their top rankings anyway.

Past January, at the London Affiliate Conference, I stepped up to Paul Hill, the one actually responsible for making me sign the contract after we met for the first time at the Budapest Affiliate Conference in September of 2009. I asked him man to man about my site failing to rank better after spending that crazy amount of cash, and his answer was that it was something technical on my site, but he wasn’t completely sure. He told me he was going to find out and get back to me personally – obviously I am still waiting. But wait a minute… if it really was a technical issue on my side, WHY THE FUCK DIDN’T THEY TELL ME SO?!?

Ok, enough ranting about Stickyeyes.com, I guess I needed this. I can go on and on about my negative experience with them, but let me end with giving you some free advice. Have you ever considered, or are considering doing business with them, take this for granted: Don’t do it, or you’ll be sorry.

Post Stickyeyes.com Adventures

So what happened after the Stickyeyes.com debacle? First of all, I ended up paying a some more months, as they keep you to your end of the contract, which means a three months termination period. Of course, they only did the bare minimum of work, if at all. After these three months went by, they took down most of the links they created, and you know what that means, right? Yes, you are abso-fucking-lutely right: My site dropped from rank #7 to rank #12, for “free poker” that is.

So the drop in rankings meant the loss of some like 4,000 unique monthly visitors, but if that wasn’t worse enough, Google came with the Panda algorithm update, also known as the Farmer update, that basically ruined my good mood, and positive look at the future. Pokerforfree.org dropped from 20,000 unique visitors to less than 10,000, and that means I lost half the revenue my baby was generating. Ending this part of the post, the Panda/Farmer update bounced my site from rank #12 to rank #26, for “free poker” in Google.com.

Killing the Damn Panda!

Everybody who knows me well also knows I am a fighter, not a quitter. I have never learned the meaning of giving up, hence I decided to pump all my funds into Poker For Free to enhance the quality of the site’s content. If Google’s really became this smart as they try to make us think, it should also be capable of figuring out that I am now only doing things that are valuable to my visitors.

First of all, I decided to make Poker For Free a real free poker site, not just a site where visitors can find a free poker bankroll. I acquired the pro license for a poker platform, which is fully hosted and controlled by nobody else but myself. I completely integrated it into Poker Club – pokerforfree.org’s members zone. Unfortunately my free poker game doesn’t have much traffic yet, as Aweber.com, which by the way are great for newsletters, didn’t allow me to import my existing member base of more than 8,000. In the mean time, a couple of hundred new members have signed up for the free poker game already, but I still have to find a way around to let my former members know about it, whitout the risk of beeing seen as a e-mail spammer.

Furthermore, I improved the site’s structure, and all of the sudden it came to my attention why Google has been so harsh on me. I had many pages in the first layer of the menu that didn’t make any sense – they were indeed of very low quality, and not valuable for my visitors at all. So I told my writing team to take care of this. Elizabeth – she’s one of the best writers you can think of – has taken care of the European Poker Tour pages, and Ken has written a comprehensive Guide to Winning Poker, as well as written an in depth World Series of Poker section. I estimate the site now has 50-some newly created, or rewritten pages of 1,000 words on average, and the end is not in sight yet. Take that Google!

My current rankings are a tad better, but still nothing to brag about. The Panda hunt, however, will go on, as I believe I still have some trump cards in my pocket!

Fortunately, my business doesn’t solely relay on Poker For Free anymore. I can still support my entrepreneurship. Remember some posts ago that I was going to move into my new office? Well I have in September of 2010, and frankly I am enjoying and loving every single moment of it. Working from home, or going to work makes such a difference. Efficiency and productiveness must have doubled to say the least – or at least as long as my brother in law Theo doesn’t pay me visit for an espresso out of my full automatic Saeco espresso machine.

Time for a Much Needed Break

Even I need a break away from everything every now and then, and to be honest, everything could use a break away from me too. So, I agreed some time off with my girlfriend on Wednesday, booked my flight on Thursday, and left for the States on Saturday.

I booked business-class seats using up 50,000 air miles to spent a week with my best friend Terry, his wife Ada and their newborn daughter Maya, in DC, my second hometown. Boy, I friggin’ love that place, though I hated the day after we went to Ozio on M street drinking with the fellas. We had a great night, on which I met my Scottish friend Paul who’s now an assistant coach next to Joe Wootten – yes Morgan’s son – at Bishop O’Connell High in Virginia, one of the nations top basketball programs. My man Greg-a-lirous also came over to meet me, and so did Kenny and Ron – which I already met earlier in the week when we went to the driving range for some swings. That’s actually as early as they told me about Crown Black, that it was going to be really nasty, but I never thought it was going to be this bad. Boy, did I suffer the day(s) after. Oh and Ron, if you happen to read this at some point, please don’t ever participate in American Idol – but please do keep singing for us, as that was fucking hilarious!

On my way back the Dutch customs made me open my case, after I told them I had nothing to declare. Fortunately they guy bought my story and I was free to walk with about 21 Kilos (like 45 Lbs.) of new goods worth almost as much as $2 grand!

Even though I am not telling half of what I did during my stay in DC, it was just long enough to get the much needed rest, but I have to admit that I was dying to see the loved ones who came to pick me up at Schiphol. ‘Till the next time!

A New Project, Bigger and Bolder than Ever Before

My latest project is quite amazing. I joined ventures with Andrew, someone I have been working closely together with lately. I believe he has all the skills that I have lack off. I think that this project could turn out to become my/our biggest ever, not only because it covers all gambling niches, i.e. casino, poker, bingo and sports betting, but mainly because our joint partnership.

Can’t wait to launch this sucker with a big bang, probably somewhere next week, as the domain is already getting some traffic. I don’t like to post the URL on this site, as you never know if there’s anyone willing to sabotage it after this post, but please feel free to poke me privately and I’ll tell you all about it.

What’s More?

After spending nearly two hours on something that doesn’t generate any revenue, I am going to keep the conclusion pretty short. The Donar semi-quarter series against Eiffeltowers Den Bosch are tied 1-1, but we have home court advantage. My guts tell me that Donar will come to their senses and advance to the finals, not losing another game.

Today I picked up going to the gym, after a two weeks period of rest. I was surprised to see that I was still bench-pressing the same amounts of weights as before, although I am pretty sure I will suffer from severe muscle pain either tomorrow or the day thereafter.

Finally, I can’t tell if I will post again any time soon. I might, or not, but if you like to read my blog, just make sure to subscribe and you don’t have to miss out when I do. However, I do believe my blog could use a new look and feel, so I might at least update the theme sometime soon.

Cheers!

Oh crap, before I forget. Play Poker Online <- There you go, some link-love to my friend Akhilesh, the goat herder from India.

 

Back with a Vengeance!

The summer is nearing its end, and the ‘good times’ are coming. Just like most other gambling affiliates, I suffer badly during the months of July and August – less traffic, less rake, and so on. During the 2009 summer I lost about 50% of my income, which scared the crap out of me, but thankfully this year, mainly because of investing a fair amount of money into SEO, I managed to keep a stable income. Fair to say, I hate the summer just as much as I love it!

Thursday we came back from our family vacation. This year we’ve spent two weeks in Estepona (15 km from Marbella) South of Spain. This is also the region we are planning to move to, at least in our dreams (until I convince Lydia that there are plenty of decent schools for our children). The climate is very good all year around, the Spanish people are really friendly, and life over there seems to be a real bargain compared to the Netherlands. And let’s not forget, with a possible government ran by Geert Wilders’ party… who wants to be here after all.

Anyway, the vacation was rather good, although the hotel could have been much better for a four star hotel. The room was nice, the hotel looked nice too, including the pool side, but these douche bags were charging us for about everything you can think of! If you ever think of going to Estepona, think again before booking the Pierre et Vacances – Calendonia Golf Resort.

Three weeks before leaving I decided to do what Tim Ferriss says, the author of the 4-Hour Workweek. I decided to focus on projects that are currently generating the most of my income, to make even more with them, instead of putting my energy into newly launched projects. So I redesigned Poker For Free, the site got a complete overhaul. While I was doing so, I was split testing the homepage to see if the new design outperformed the old one, and it did. So after working day and night for three weeks, I decided to put the site live just before flying to Spain. Quite a risk, but I was so excited that I didn’t want to wait. Fortunately it didn’t turn out to be a bad decision.

While I was gone I used my iPhone to periodically check my e-mail and my statistics, and was happy to find out that Poker For Free’s traffic went up by 50%!!! Of course this had nothing to do with the new site, but all with the $20,000+ which I invested into SEO over the past 8 months. With my site performing so well, I couldn’t wait to get back and work, but on the other hand I was really enjoying the time off with the family – so I let it rest.

As Pursuing Success is my personal and marketing blog, it’s about time that I should write somethings interesting about affiliate marketing, right? So my next blog will be about the new Poker For Free, and what I did prior to merging hundreds of pages into the new site. That’s a promise! But for now I will keep it a little bit more personal though.

While in Spain, I kept going to the gym every other day while Dante went to bed for his siesta. Since I started working out in February, it has become one of my favorite pass times. I managed to lose 7 kg already (my current weight is 82 kg), but I think that it must be at least double as much in fat effectively, as I gained quite a bit in muscles too, obviously. I am now proud to announce that I have a Four-Pack, and it won’t be too long before I get to that much admired Six-Pack!

August 18, 2010 – I’m continuing where I left off 10 days ago, and of course many crazy things have happened in the mean time. God, don’t you love the affiliate life! One of the things that worries me is PokerStars. They are so big and powerful, and think they can keep screwing affiliates… over, and over again. And the shittiest thing about it, is that I have just reinstalled them on Poker For Free, as a service to my US visitors, about 40% of my total traffic. Want to know why I don’t feel comfortable with my recent decision to continue working with PokerStars, please have a look at this PAL thread: PokerStars Partners are Fucking You Over. Read, or scan it, but you will get the point.

Before I left to the South of Spain, I received an email from Barry with Heaven Affiliates. One of my domains, pokerheavenreview.com, infringed their registered trademark, and he politely asked me to take it down, either by handing over the control to them, or redirect it to another domain. I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to get something out of it, and asked them for a compensation of $250. Unfortunately they denied it, but in a very decent matter, so I let it rest and told them I would take it down after I got back from vacation. So today I finally moved my Poker Heaven mini-site to its new location, and 301 redirected the old URLs. The new location, DepositPoker.co.uk, is a site I bought from a guy at the forums, which I already wrote something about in one of my previous blog posts.

During my daily workouts sessions at the gym, I have given some special thought to my next blog post. As you could read earlier in this one, my next post will be about redesigning an existing website with reasonable amounts of traffic. I think I might have found a few ideas to come with an interesting article, and with the transition of PokerKamers.nl the other day, the Dutch equivalent of Poker For Free, I also managed to refresh my own memory a little bit. I am actually looking forward to writing it, but I have some other real important things on the agenda first, such as the translation of the almost 3,000 words counting Poker Crusher Review. I shouldn’t be making any more promises, except to my kids!

Screenshot of Externally Linked ImageLast topic, before I call it a day and visit my brother in law for a cup of coffee, is something I discovered while exploring my site’s statistics. I noticed a lot of hits coming from two specific freeroll forums. I am not mentioning their URLs on purpose, because I believe password thieves are about the lowest scum of the affiliate industry you can get. Back to the point, it came to my notice that the hits from these specific referrals were occurring because of an externally linked image causing a 404 error, an image that was deleted when I launched the new Poker For Free site. Today I gave them a Dutch treat, and replaced my image with a new one telling their visitors: “Type pokerforfree.org in your address bar.” I don’t know, and honestly don’t care if I actually get any traffic of it, I just had some fun doing it. Next time you steal from me, or which ever hard working affiliate, think again bitch!

Mixed Feelings

Today was the day Argentina was playing the 2010 FIFA World Cup quarter final game versus Germany. Where I would usually would cheer for Argentina, I kept my fingers crossed for Germany today, as this game would mean the difference between climbing to the first place in the PAL World Cup Pool, or falling further behind to Niko de Jonge. Niko, a young aged internet entrepreneur from Canada, who was first on the ladder up ’till now had Argentina win over Germany, and I picked it the other way around. I now have a five point lead, and have to say it must get really awkward if I am not going to end up with the win. With three more games to come, there are 2 x 16, and 1 x 32 points to earn, but with Brazil out – favorite to many ones – the only real threat is the Netherlands losing from Uruguay in the semis, plus Spain winning it all. I remain unbeatable in any other case, and will strike up a fair amount of money.

Netherlands Team '74
Netherlands Team '74

Of course you should never count yourself a winner too soon, but looking forward to the new office I will lease as of September 1st, any additional cash is more than welcome. And of course, we’re all looking forward to a final where the Netherlands beats the crap out of Germany. I might have been just one year young in ’74, but our revenge will have a darn sweat taste.

So, again there’s been a lot of time between my last post and this one. I just didn’t have a moment any time sooner. It’s past midnight now, and even though I have planned a Sunday morning session at the gym tomorrow morning, I decided that I didn’t want to go to bed just yet. One thing that writing entries on Pursuing Success helps me with is making me think about the things that currently keep me busy, and that’s exactly what makes me focus on the right things tomorrow and the days thereafter.

Let’s start with a few business updates. You might have read in a previous blog that I am working on something big. Well, I am still working on it, and this in fact could become the biggest thing I’ve done to date. Thank goodness I am not into this all by myself, as this is something I am setting up with my friend, my basketball team mate, and my workout buddy Shandell. We both have completely different backgrounds, and especially that’s what intrigues me about this project, which by the way has nothing to do with online gaming. Unfortunately I am not in the position to undisclosed the details yet, but once I am I will be dedicating a separate post to it.

Furthermore, the affiliate business has been level the past few months, and quite frankly, that’s not what I expected after injecting almost 15,000 euro into SEO over the past 6 months. Caffeine seems to be the troublemaker, and I hope that we can surpass this dang problem in the upcoming couple of months, say the summer. The whole situation has given me a lot of stress, as I had to come up with all kind of funky ideas to generate extra cash to keep paying the respectable fees to Stickyeyes.

Internet Gambling SitesThe biggest news from the past few weeks must have been the acquisition of internetgamblingsites.net, an exact match domain for a phrase which I was targeting since the time I was still working together with fellow entrepreneur John Holloway, who owns OnlinePoker.org. I was delighted when I found it up for sale, and didn’t hesitate buying it. I had a bargain buying it from Jim a.k.a. Poker Prop for just $175!

So I created a complete new website, and moved (yes, I 301’ed all the old locations to the new ones) over the good old English version of Casino Warehouse, since I never got the .eu domain to rank well. Together with this move I decided to drop all casinos that I was promoting and were performing (way) under the limit… shocking to say, almost all Playtech casinos. As I had so much left-over content I created another new website to store it. With some more content that I got in exchange for links, I had a new casino portal done in the matter of a few hours: CasinoWarehouse.net. Opposite to Internet Gambling Sites, which is going to end up as one of my main sites, this reincarnation of Casino Warehouse will function as another one of my supplementary sites.

There’s always more to tell about my projects, take iDEAL Poker for instance, another one of my numerous forgotten treasures. I have teamed up with my buddy Alon and his Colleagues from Reef Media to make this one work, without the need to spend tons of money to make it rank myself. Can’t say too much about the deal, but this is a typical win-win situation.

Last but not least I acquired another pair of websites – Deposit Poker, and Deposit Bingo. The former owner moved to Dubai where gambling is against the law, and needed to get rid of his sites asap. I was lucky to pick them up for just $150. However, Weycrest (stay way from this crap UK hosting company) was pretty screwed up and that’s why, after finally being able to transfer the domain names, I eventually received the contents of both sites in chunks, which I had to assemblage myself. Not a very difficult job, but still a little bit time consuming in my overwhelming schedule. The site as we speak is far from ready, no call to actions and such, but in the mean time I am just letting it age in piece.

Despite the fact that business has been great – don’t get me wrong, it is far from going bad, but nothing more than steady – I can’t complain about my personal live. I am still going to the gym about five times per week, and am still loving every bit of it. When I am walking down the street, I feel really good, and when I look into a mirror I can see the results of working out consistently for a straight half a year. Healthy wise could be much better though, as my back has become a serious problem, and even my neck starts to act up a lot lately. After all kinds of treatments I now have an appointment at the hospital next week. Several specialists are going to examine my back, and hopefully they are able to diagnose what’s causing the tremendous pain, and come with some sort of a recovery plan.

Enough for now! Time to get some sleep, but before I am going in, and since it’s only football that matters these days, I would like to share a quote from manager Bobby Robson – which hopefully applies to me one of these days!

“He’s very fast and if he gets a yard ahead of himself nobody will catch him.”

Bobby Robson

My Traffic is Back

Google is one big mystery, this is something that all Internet marketeers, and search engine experts know. I don’t consider myself to be an SEO expert, nonetheless I do know the most important things to make sites rank pretty well. But sometimes, I remain clueless about what’s going on with my rankings.

Take one of my mini sites, Online Casino Roulette [sold], as an example. As I stated in one of my previous posts, I am not actively working on casino related sites anymore, however I make sure to check all of my sites’ statistics every morning. So this site is not a highly trafficked site, but it had a nice and steady average of 7 unique visitors per day. Then last week it happened… I could already see a downfall, but when my site hit rock bottom, I started to worry about what Google had against it.

Google Analytics for Online Casino Roulette
Online Casino Roulette Visits

At first I thought of some sort of penalty, but that was not the case as my site was still fully indexed. I performed several tests, amongst them checking the site’s current rankings with SEOBook.com’s Rank Checker, and discovered that I was no longer ranking in the top 20 SERPs for my most prominent keywords.

But as mysterious my rankings disappeared, today they reappeared. After analyzing my positions, I can say with confident that everything is back to normal. Once again, I remain clueless.

5 Months to Become a Super Affiliate

Last week, I finally started working with the guys from Stickyeyes. Stickyeyes is a leading SEO agency from the UK with a multi million dollar yearly turnover and loads of experience in the online gaming industry. I’ve met Lee and Paul at their booth at the Budapest Affiliate Conference, past September, where I had a free consultation of 30 minutes for Max Poker Bonus based on what they call a SEO surgery report. I applied for this free consultation ahead to see if I could learn something from it.

The free consultation exceeded all my expectations. They really did their homework well, and because of that (yes I know, that’s of course the whole idea behind it), they’re now hired to do SEO to take Poker For Free to the next level.

As I’m sick of the permanent struggle, I’ve set a goal to become a super affiliate withing 5 months. Of course I have a really nice income, in fact I doubt that any of my former school peers make even half of what I do, but after years of consistently working 60+ hours per week, it’s time for a change! And I promised Kurt.

Anyway, I won’t disclose all the details of the deal, but I will post about the progress frequently.