This is an article I wrote back in April 2010 for Randy Rays Poker SEO Blog. The original article link is here. Recently I’ve been getting a few 404 alerts on the article stating that his server is down. Due to the possibility of that happening with no updates on there since 2012, I thought it best I archive it here. Although it’s from 2010 the information is still fairly relevant today.
Disheartened by the lack of regular content on here lately, I decided to write a new article for Randy’s awesome Poker SEO Blog to hopefully inspire him to get back into writing again. I’m sure Randy knows full well that from a writer’s point of view, when you stop updating a website it can be hard to start updating it again. I’ve been in that situation many times before, putting off updating a website “until tomorrow” then looking at the website and realized it’s been over 5 weeks since my last update. Oops.
While this is primarily an SEO Blog, this article will actually cover the redesign of a sports betting site that I recently did. If you ask many poker affiliates they’ll tell you the two biggest factors of running a successful website is Search Engine Optimization and Content. However many seem to neglect visitor optimization, which really should be going hand in hand with SEO and content in terms of your priority.
However sometimes that isn’t always the case – and it is website dependent. A mini-site you can focus on all three with ease, but with bigger sites sometimes it’s better to wait, study the visitors that come in, and then optimize for them. On my new Online Casino Guide website for example, we focused primarily on content and basic search engine optimization, and now that we’ve past the 250 article benchmark are now working on both search engine and visitor optimization. Sections of the website like this Marvel Comic Slot Machines article or the Casino Flash Games section would be two examples of pages where I study what the visitor does, how they go to that webpage, what they do, and then optimize for all of that.
Building a Website
I’m a big believer of “Build It First, Perfect It Later”. Every time I build a website, or every time I write an article, I’m generally surprised by the reaction of web visitors, and the way they navigate it. I’ve built websites with primary calls to action and secondary content with the belief that the calls to action is enough for the visitors, and been surprised to see the amount of visitors that will spend the time reading the text.
Contradictorily, I’ve written articles where I felt a lot of reading was required, and been surprised at LTK visitors that barely read the article, clicking on some random banner or weak call to action within seconds of visiting the article.
So now whenever I build a website or write an article, I don’t go for the “home run” on the first go. I go for something simple, I let it sit for awhile, and then I take the time to break it down piece by piece.
Now the first thing you need to know is this: don’t redesign for the sake of a redesign. Too many people fall into this trap. If your website is working well and converting well, then you can leave it. Do minimal things to it for sure, see if you can convert any better – but don’t do a big overhaul just for the sake of it.
Old Website Design
Now I’m obviously optimizing for phrases like “NBA Tips” and “NBA Betting Tips”, and visitors who are looking for recommended betting options for that days NBA game. So – what does the average web visitor do? My assumptions when building the site were:
- They find what they are looking for, in the form of NBA Betting Tips.
- They click the various calls to action underneath the actual tips, or written within the tips content.
- They subscribe either via e-mail, RSS Feed or Twitter to stay updated on the tips.
That’s the main three functions I assumed when I built the website, and that was more or less the case. A few visitors would spend time reading on the site – they’d read some reviews, read about the system, click a few of the background call to actions – but those were few and far between. The majority did exactly what I expected.
Unfortunately, they never did #2 or #3 enough. I studied the Clicktale statistics as well as Analytics and some in-house software I utilize. The majority of visitors were doing #1 and that was it.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’ve been doing very well in regard to conversions – however I really felt I could be doing a lot better. This website brings in low five figures on an average NBA month, however if you saw my conversion ratio you would be shaking your head – it should be able to make double or even triple what it makes now. Before going for the big overhaul, I tried a variety of different calls to action on the primary call to action area. Those included the live odds that you can see in the screenshot above, banner ads, the e-mail subscription form and even big red buttons
I saw some improvement after using the big red buttons above, however it just wasn’t enough. I realized that the time had come where I would have to rethink my whole concept of the website, and redesign it.
And let me tell you – redesigning isn’t a case of “lets put up a new theme and hope for the best”.
(I also just want to add that I don’t want to write anything about figures in this article because really, that’s a whole essay in itself. It’s not as black and white as “visitors->conversions”, especially with a website like this. You have to look at unique visitors versus returning visitors and what converts them. You also have to factor in the likes of my mailing list, my RSS feed and my Twitter in regard to conversions. Comparing the conversion rate of a first time visitor that googled “nba tips” versus a visitor who has returned to the site for the 5th time in a week via his bookmark just isn’t possible for example, and I just didn’t want to bog the article down with all that.)
Planning the New Website Design
So we’ve established that NBA Tips isn’t converting as well as it should be. I felt I wasn’t converting as well as I should with the website, both to online gambling properties and to my mailing list or RSS Feed. After testing out the market with various changes, it was time to do a complete website design overhaul.
Now before you start the redesign of a website you have to ask yourself: what works? Not what you WANT to work, but what ACTUALLY works. For example, I bet sports professionally, and one of the greatest inventions is mobile betting software. I’ve spent a TON of time pushing that on all my sports betting websites, to very little conversions. So while I WANT that to work and I believe in it, that can’t be a focal point of the new website design because it has proven not to work.
So it was time to look at the statistics. When it comes to analyzing your visitor, you really have to go in-depth – I mean there really is just so much to it. What if a visitor comes to my page, reads the tips, clicks through my link to a sportsbook landing page but doesn’t convert? Does that mean the landing page sucks? Is it as simple as focusing on another landing page within that sportsbook, or even another sportsbook altogether? Of course not. There could be a million factors that the visitor didn’t convert. Lets list some!
- The sportsbook didn’t accept sports betters from the country the visitor resided in.
- The visitor clicked through just out of convenience – they already have an account with that sportsbook.
- The visitor clicked through looking for information on a specific subject, didn’t find it immediately then closed the page. For example if they clicked through on a banner that promotes a sportsbook bonus, but the landing page was a registration form with no information about the bonus, then they are less likely to convert.
- The visitor clicked through, went to register, saw a “signup code” field, googled “_____ signup code” and got tracked that way.
- The visitor speaks a language which the sportsbook doesn’t support.
That’s just five reasons, and there are many more.
Now when I was looking at the statistics, I was looking for one thing: what is my primary moneymaker? What do I want to push the most? When I initially started the website, the tips were the main focus point. The reason for that is that I trusted in my system that we’d have winning seasons, and that eventually I was aiming to go to a fee-based subscription service.
I ultimately decided against that model, so I was left to determine what the most profitable solution was for me – what should I make prominent on my website?
To make a long story short, I discovered 4 key factors which would influence the design of the new website:
- The most money came from the e-mail & RSS subscribers.
- Short blurbs about a sportsbook in bullet point format followed by a link converted very well.
- Live odds were converting poorly. My “Where to Bet NBA” article was converting really well.
- The calls to action under the tips when it came to unique visitors converted poorly.
The most important one of the above four is #1. It was a lot easier to convert visitors to e-mail or RSS subscription than it was to gambling properties. More importantly, this is where the most money was coming in. My theory on that is the trust factor. People have signed up and continue to remain subscribed because they trust my picks, so converting them to sportsbooks is even easier due to the trust factor. If I tell them to sign up at a sportsbook and why they should do that, then I was seeing ridiculously high conversions.
So based on that, building the website was easy. While the website is about NBA Tips and that’s what the visitor is looking for – the tips wouldn’t be the most prominent part of the website anymore. If they want tips then they can hunt for them, and fight their way through my various calls to action first
The New Website Design
Note how I have taken what WORKS and made it the focal point of my website. E-mail and RSS subscription works the best, so that is now the #1 primary focus point for all new visitors, and my main aim is to get those subscriptions.
If that fails to convert, then they are next presented with the next best thing that works: where to bet on the NBA. A list of sportsbook, all provided in bullet list format, with easy links to reviews or to bet now.
Failing a conversion there, then the visitor is left with the actual tips, which they must click to get to. And did you know that a visitor that visits more than one page of your website is a lot more likely to convert than a visitor that just visits one page? It’s true, but that’s an article for another day. Now that they HAVE clicked through I can try various other calls to action on them.
Is this change going to work? It’s a bit too early to tell. Things are looking good however it could be the upcoming NBA Playoffs that are dilluting the statistics.
However whether or not it works isn’t really the point of these articles – it’s to remind you that everything has a purpose. Every time you look at your website, or you ask someone else to look at your website, don’t be thinking about the overall design.
It’s not about how a website looks cosmetically – it’s whether or not the website serves its purpose to the visitor, and if it does so in a manner which will help you convert visitors.