“Look. I got bored of the regular casino content. Take 100 casino blogs and you’ll find the same content repeated over and over again, everything is just a copy of a copy, it might hold some value to the user, but it’s not unique, you’re not standing out, you’re just another Poker Guide, gambling listicle or any other over-chewed blog post. I wanted to do something unique for Betsafe, something worth the buzz that reflects the daredevil in it, and this is where this project came from.”
This was the opening sentence of our 1-hour interview with Arren Kingsley, the project owner of Betsafe’s Slot Restoration that we mentioned back in May last year. Backed up by Betsson’s Emerging Markets team, he created one of the most creative casino-themed SEO campaigns of 2021. Within a series of articles, the team uncovered the story behind the magnetic slot machine that got lost in time, then chronicled its disassembly, restoration and return to its former glory. If you haven’t read them, we highly recommend doing so before jumping into the interview.
With thousands of SEO campaigns on his shoulders, Arren is known for his creative approach to digital marketing. Today, we’re going to uncover what was happening behind the scenes in his latest project, the Slot Restoration Series.
Q: Arren, how did you come up with this idea? What lead you to it?
You know how you sometimes, by accident, end up with a huge bowl of snacks in front of a completely random YouTube video? And then it’s 3 AM in the morning, but your dumb ass still decides to finish the video (and the bowl) because the content is so crazy but good? Well, this happened to me with a motorcycle restoration video (here it is). I don’t own a bike, I’m not a workshop enthusiast nor did I explicitly search for such a video, but I loved every minute of it!
Once I finished the 35-minute-long bundle of joy, I was mesmerized by the idea and wanted to do something similar within the igaming industry, so the next day I ended up in the office and presented an early draft.
Q: I’m curious, how did you manage to “sell” the project to your stakeholders?
Corporate stakeholders are pretty stiff by default, we all know that. Everything is revolving around ROI (return on investment) and beating the numbers from last quarter, so when presenting an idea, you have to make sure that everyone involved in the approval process understands the benefits of your project and sees the value in it.
If you can generate a healthy ROI for this quarter, or even better, the whole year, you’ll already get the attention that you need for the presentation, and once you’re inside, you need to focus on the numbers; how much budget do you need, how much noise can you make, what ROI will you generate.
After that comes the cherry on top – why should we start this project and not stick to the same old campaigns with a proven track record?
My reason for the “why” was simple – I was tired of all the regular casino content out there. I already mentioned it to you once we sat down, if you open the blogs of 10 operators, you’ll find the same topics recycled over and over. No one is innovating or making something out of the box, which is a pity, igaming is such a colorful industry with thousands of options.
So, when presenting the project, I said that I wanted my team to become an outlier within the industry through buzz-worthy campaigns that will not only generate ROI, but also develop a sense of pride and originality within the crew.
This approach to SEO is especially important for leaders who are looking to motivate their team and attract better talent, because people who constantly cover regular no-name affiliate or SEO campaigns have nothing exciting to show on their LinkedIn profile – but if you have a successful track record of out-of-the-box creative campaigns, you’ll not only motivate your current team to log in to their shift and create even more buzz, but also attract better talent for your future marketing positions.
Just look at Paddy Power, you remember their campaign with Ryan Giggs’ brother? It was a blast, and once you start producing campaigns like that, people want to join you and help replicate the same success with a different idea.
Q: I remember that campaign with Rhodri, it got banned soon after, no?
Well, yes it did, but that makes it oh so much more special. You first get the launch buzz through paid media, then once people forget about it you get the buzz again, just this time you’re not paying for it because “it’s controversial” and every site wants to cover it. In my eyes, the campaign wouldn’t be as successful if it wouldn’t have been banned.
With that said, it must have been quite challenging for them to produce such a campaign and I salute the team behind it, I just think it’s a pity that no SEO specialist was involved in it.
Q: You mentioned some challenges of your own, what were the biggest ones? How complicated is a restoration, in reality?
Oh boy… Where do I even start! Let us say that creating such a project during the pandemic wasn’t one of my brightest ideas, but luckily we had great suppliers and partners on the job, so we still managed to do it.
The first challenge was getting the slot machine that I wanted. I didn’t want to settle for the standard ones available on eBay, no, I wanted a device that was around 100 years old and featured an electricity-free mechanical system that relied on a magnet. Now, obviously, the pandemic was roaring throughout the EU and any travel in or out was either restricted or too risky. We had to change and adjust our plans close to five times, and in the end, we decided to produce the whole project in the country where we actually found the machine. A couple of weeks and several antique stores later, we found one model in Croatia, and it was the Beromat B model – and let me tell you, that thing was HEAVY. A proper wood- and steel-type of mechanical structure, a real Chad.
The second challenge was finding a restoration specialist who had the right tools and products within the country. Luckily we already had some contacts within the automotive restoration industry, so finding a person willing to tinker around with a 100-year-old slot machine was somewhat easy, but replicating the colors was the real challenge. We experimented for a few weeks and managed to get the right colors on our second try.
What I thought would be the biggest challenge (and in the end wasn’t one at all) were the replacement parts for the machine. To my surprise, the slot restoration industry is huge, and getting a new magnetic handle mechanism was easier than I thought. They were and still are quite popular with German collectors, so the replacement parts came within just a few weeks.
Q: Yes, so I’ve heard, especially Pachinko collectors!
True, but those are mostly electric and if you don’t have the right parts you can probably find a workaround if you’re a good engineer and understand the game. I saw some DIY Pachinko projects with a Raspberry Pi and they work great. What I thought the challenge with this project would be is to replicate a mechanical part that is no longer in production, you can’t 3D print that! But luckily I was wrong and there are tons of them out there.
Q: What about the next steps? How did you manage amplification?
Before I start with the marketing channels I have to tell you that it doesn’t matter what type of project you’re working on, you HAVE to create a good media library for it to be a success. I’ve put a lot of emphasis on assets like infographics, photos of the individual parts, before and after comparisons, and so on, just to have a proper library for the later stages of the project: amplification.
My most common instruction to my team, that I repeated over and over again like a parrot, was “the goal of the project is not to restore the machine, the goal is to cover the restoration of the machine through text and photos!”
The finished machine is just the by-product of the project. Without interesting content, your readers will not get a full picture of what you did, the campaign will end up boring and it’ll soon be forgotten.
One example would be the situation where the repair specialist wanted to remove a bee nest from the inside of the machine before the photo shoot because “it would look cleaner”, and I just accidentally overheard the conversation through Zoom so I was yelling like an idiot: “NOOOO, LEAVE IT FOR THE PHOTOS!”
Q: I saw the bee photo, that was hilarious! The writers must have loved that part, it definitely adds to the story.
Yes, the writers did an amazing job describing the process through text, while the photographers and their creations added color to it. Without those assets, you’re really handicapped in the SEO world, and the ROI will not be met.
Q: Let’s jump into the amplification now. How did you generate the ROI?
SEO campaigns can be really simple if you have the right budget and good ideas. The formula went like this: create content worth sharing, know which keywords you want to target, package it well and push it through enough press releases and guest posts until search engines notice you.
The best thing about such buzzy projects is that once the first wave of press releases and guest posts starts, you will be getting a second and third wave of natural coverage, not only through regular websites, but also through social media, forums and various subreddits.
So, instead of having a bucketload of PBN links that will probably die off in less than a year, we have coverage from sites like Yahoo, Insider, Yogonet and tons of igaming communities, which I think is huge.
Once all that noise settles, you’ll start ranking on Google for your specified keywords, which will naturally attract more customers through organic search and bump up your conversation rate in registrations and deposits.
Now, there was a more in-depth formula we used with our own internal data – every operator who’s serious about SEO knows how many customers are attracted through organic means and what the conversion is per keyword – but unfortunately, I can’t go into specifics due to NDAs and my respect towards the data analysts at Betsson, they are doing an amazing job.
What I can tell you is the data that is public and can be scraped from tools like Ahrefs and SEOMoz. Basically, we targeted highly competitive keywords within a newly opened market and managed to rank them from outside 100 to the top 10 within less than a quarter, including some extremely heavy keywords like Sports Betting, Online Casino and so on.
In retrospect, the ROI was there and the site is still benefiting from all those articles and links, and I’m sure it will continue doing so throughout the next few years.
Q: What would you recommend to someone who would like to replicate your success, or at least try to go in that direction?
I am aware that a proven formula to generate leads can’t be ignored, this is why some standard acquisition methods are still there and are being copied over and over again. But (always a but), my opinion is that there should always be room and a budget for creative projects, at least one per quarter.
What I would recommend to my fellow SEO enthusiasts is that you research what other industries have been doing successfully for years and then implement it in yours. You don’t have to invent the wheel over again, just make a twist on it.
An example from today would be the restoration industry. If you go to YouTube, you’ll see tons of restoration channels that focus on various things, from luxury Swiss watches to Soviet-era motorbikes. From there, I took the idea of restoring an item and made a twist on it, producing the Betsafe Slot Machine Restoration Project.
Q: Sounds like a simple approach, but behind every simple idea is a stressed project manager!
That is true, but what I wanted to say, and what the moral of this story is – the internet would be a much better place if every igaming campaign out there would have a whiff of creativity in it. We would have tons of great content to read and watch, while the operators would have much better results in organic acquisition and branding.
Q: Arren I agree with you 100%! Thank you for joining us for another behind-the-scenes article, we’re looking forward to your next project!
Always a pleasure, keep safe and let’s chat soon!