GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 16 - May 2011

PETER WILLIS Peter Willis Your sites really have you covered: sports- books, horse racing, casinos, poker and bingo. You’ve hit them all.Why did you go this route rather than specializing in one niche? To be honest, I’m just a bit of a “do- main hoarder”! As you’ll see from the ma- jority of my sites, they are generally all still a work in progress. I’m putting most of my energy at the moment into my “day job” as in-house SEO for an online bingo portal, so I’m finding I have little time to focus on my own projects. I’m exploring oDesk as a route for outsourcing some work in order to develop things more swiftly than I cur- rently have the capacity for by myself. You have two sites dedicated to horse rac- ing.Do you bet on the horses? If so, do you consider yourself an expert handicapper? When did you make your first bet on a horse race? I certainly enjoy horse racing and I’d like to think I’mgood at picking out a winner or two. I would guess my first bet on a horse race will have been the Grand National five or six years ago, although I don’t recall exactly. I didn’t actually go to a racetrack until 2009, but I’ve been many times since. What did you do before you became in- volved in online gaming? I started devel- oping websites from a fairly young age. My first major website was a Pro Evolution Soccer (video game) community, which remains online today via (although I no longer own it, as I sold it two years ago). Back in 2006 I also started, alongside my cousin, an online movie blog at This is still going strong and recently won the Sky Movies Blog of the Year award for 2010. How did you get started in the industry? One of the guys who I had working for me left in2001 or 2002 to start anonline casino portal. At the time I thought he was mad. I mean, who wanted to risk their credit-card details online to gamble? It wasn’t until a few years later that I begin to realize just how popular online gaming was going to become. By which point, of course, every man and his dog had got involved! But I’ve stuck with it, and more recently have been heavily focused on SEO in the online gambling space, working with some major brands as part of my role at Stickyeyes, whom I left in 2010 to pursue an in-house role. Why do you operate both a general horse racing site as well as a site dedicated ex- clusively to the Cheltenham Festival? I actually have quite a few more horse rac- ing sites (too many to list!). Most of them only drive traffic for specific events such as the Cheltenham Festival or the Grand National. The reality is that at the mo- ment Google still adds significant value to keyword domain names, which makes the model of building lots of mini-sites on key- word-focused domains a quicker route to top rankings than creating a sub-page on one stronger portal. That said, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone else go down this route moving forward, as Google has made it clear they are working to reduce the value accredited to keyword domains. You once posted that you have at least 10 sites in other niches.What are some of these niches, and how do their earnings stack up against what your gaming sites bring in? The majority of my other sites are used purely to sell links and make some quick cash – so it’s probably best that we don’t talk about them in-depth! You take SEO, and Google rankings, very seriously. One of your more recent ob- servations was that a site’s up or down ranking might very well be affected by what kind of day a Google engineer was having when he or she reviewed the site. Is that actually something webmasters should be worried about? Yes and no. I mean, there’s not really anything you can do about which side of the bed a Google engineer gets out of in the morning. But you can be careful not to build links which could be deemed in any way black hat. If you are going to pay for links, or even do exchanges, always try to make them look as natural as possible. Don’t give Google engineers any reason to think your site isn’t whiter than white should they ever come to review it. Sometimes the line between white hat and black hat SEO tactics is so fine it’s all but invisible. Is there a “list” somewhere of black and white SEO practices? Or are we all compelled to wade through a vast, swampy “gray” area? I think in online gaming there is no escaping the shadier side of SEO. Look at the top 10 results for any of the top key phrases in any of the industries. I would challenge anyone to find me an example of a site which has got there without any tactics which Google doesn’t want you to employ. As far as I’m concerned there is absolutely no differ- ence between a link exchange and paying for a link. Both tactics are being used to manipulate the search results, so as far as Google’s guidelines are concerned . . . both are a no-no. What’s themost difficult thingabout oper- ating your sites? Lack of time. I just don’t have any! I don’t think it would go down too well with my girlfriend if I got home from work only to then spend another few hours working on my own websites. They get some attention on weekends, but not nearly as much as I’d like. I have a list 10 pages long of plans I’ve yet to implement. What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the industry? Don’t just build a website, try to build a brand He doesn’t like The Godfather , but he IS obsessed with film GPWA Affiliate Interview Series