Poker Community: Forums, SEO, Social and Video Combine to Deliver Growth

This case study includes some powerful examples of how you can start to use multiple angles of attack to achieve growth and exposure for your business, even if you operate in one of the tougher niches such as online poker.

The site in question was closed by regulation changes in the US relating to online poker, but the lessons from this campaign apply today just as they did then.

Educational Video Content

Many niches have ‘tube’ sites that host video content about that niche. Often almost all of it is user generated and uploaded. Naturally, much as you wouldn’t just go and upload a video ad to a fishing tube site, the poker community on PokerTube is fairly resistant to ads and attempts to leech their visitors.

The strategy was (much as with our seminars) to provide high quality, educational content, that was truly valuable to the community. The content came mostly in the form of shorter versions of the full length poker videos with a note at the end saying it was available in HD on the main site (PokerTube at the time wasn’t HD).

Using Suggested Searches and Newsjacking To Get ‘Links’ Into Forums

Almost all forums in ‘tough’ industries like poker don’t allow you to just use signature links advertising a service without paying a fee. You are also not allowed to drop links to your own articles etc. into relevant threads. They’ve worked hard to build up an audience and are keen to keep all the discussion on their site.

The technique our team used was to build stories around breaking news in the poker community that was being discussed in active threads on popular forums in the niche. Using highly active and natural looking accounts (this can’t be stressed enough – just signing up and trying this will get red flagged, but do it now and then as an otherwise active and normal user and it will often fly under the radar) we dropped suggested searches that we knew returned our articles.

“I was really shocked too to read that [person] had done [some awful thing like cheating on some site]. It’s really blowing up all over the news now, if you search for [something we knew we showed up for] you’ll see some interesting angles, particularly the rumour that he [something to whet their appetite to find out more].

The other strategy that worked well with forums was to make comedy youtube videos parodying the news item that had just occurred. Sharing these was usually considered fine by the moderators and didn’t require any special techniques, however if your video was clearly branded, and drove traffic to a page with more of your similar content, it was a great way to drive people to the community.

SEO To Pick Up New Users

The first step here was to identify some keywords or niches that weren’t well served in poker. Many of the good chats people could participate in were private members only and many of the forums failed to cultivate good live chats about poker.

A chat room was created and staff loitered in the room and gave bonuses to poker players we knew on various poker rooms (paid for by the small rooms mostly – this was negotiated in exchange for things like exclusive ad placements on the site etc) in exchange for loitering in the chat to ‘get it started.’

It was then necessary to create a page about our poker chat room. With most of the competing chat rooms existing as just a short sentence and then a plug in, it was easy to put together an article about the benefits of poker chat, meeting new players etc that was higher quality than that content.

We then, however needed links.

Building Links in Tough Industries – Egobait

Even in tough industries there are people who like to talk about it. As a hobby industry, poker is also fortunate to have a number of ‘personalities’ who like to blog about it and often have fairly reputable sites with good domain authority (and historically page rank before Google stopped providing that information in public).

The beauty of poker is that a number of them have achieved something ‘notable’ during their time playing. Whether it’s winning a tournament or final tabling at the World Series, or having written a book, poker gives each player dozens of opportunities to feel they have something to talk about.

We devised an interview show, in a light hearted format, that encouraged them to come on and promote themselves in a light hearted way. Many of them had blogs and linked to the site. “Hey I was just on…”

With the niche being so competitive, and tough to get natural links in, these natural mentions from authority poker sites, combined with our copy on the landing page, was enough to put the community on the first page and start driving new chatters. These became part of the community site, forums and started to buy the products advertised on the site driving more revenue.

Conclusions

This campaign is a great example of taking on a niche that’s too competitive to attack directly with SEO or advertising on a small budget given the huge number of competitors, high profit margins and therefore high budgets of the incumbents.

A strategy that combined various ‘traffic leeching’ approaches, attracting the existing audiences of popular sites in the niche, with building our own authority in a ‘micro niche’ allowed the community to grow and carve out a piece of the poker landscape.

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