Just to give you bit of background on what’s going on, were launching the final set of ‘phase 2’ features over the next two weeks> They include:
- Our personalisation algorithm, which connects games together by one or a number of variables. We’ve got something like 80 different attributes per game, which we then meshed together in our relevance algorithms, which then tie into user behaviour and ultimately lead to suggestions. It’s the kind of thing you’ll get on eBay or Amazon
- Reload bonus of the day, for logged in users
- Bonus of the day, for all users
- Game pick of the day based on a group of games with varying attributes, so users have something interesting to look at each time they arrive on site
- Logged in game pick of the day which is based on your user behaviour and the results from the relevance algorithms
- The Oshi lottery – when you login, you will get free tickets to our in-house lottery, sometimes you’ll get loads of tickets and sometimes very few… We do daily/weekly draws
- Microgaming games – we’ve got something like 500 games that were categorising at the moment and will go livevideo preview thumbnails for all games
- Video preview thumbnails for all games
- Tagging system, so you can search by tag, very similar to the kind of thing you’ll get in eBay.
- Saved searches
- A complete rewrite of the template, making the mobile experience far better and the site faster overall.
- Proper caching and content distribution network integration, to make the site faster.
- And a bunch of other stuff
At this stage were in the late beta, which means we’re getting there… But there’s still a lot to sort out.
Obviously with technology, it’s difficult to make promises on delivery times but… Were planning to have most of these releases out by mid-March.
Who should drive? You or us?
That’s a big question and one that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.
The short answer is: you drive.
You’re here to play the games you love, were here to facilitate that. So our core function is very similar to any e-commerce business, where you search, find, buy (or in our case ‘play’)
If you look at the greatest websites on the Internet, they all share one thing in common: they serve their function perfectly.
Take Google, in the early days they were criticised for just having a search box on a white page. But Google’s function is to find websites related to your search query, so why have homepage cluttered with noise?
Same principle applies to Amazon and eBay. You want something… They help you find it.
A websites core purpose should be embodied in everything it does. For e-commerce, it is navigation and helping you make decisions.
So what’s the function of a casino?
Tom, Mike and I (founding team) have collectively put a lot of thought into this and here’s what we came up with:
“Were here to help you find and play the casino games you love.”
If the core mission is to help you find the games you love to play, then our mission is to make it as easy for you to do that.
To fulfil that mission, we’ve gone down the e-commerce road. The difference between iGaming and e-commerce is pretty straightforward:
• shout a lot
• give away free money as a hook for you to join
• make navigation a secondary priority
• sell on how much you can win
• navigation to items
• clear description of items
• value sell (be clear on the merits of items)
• ‘if you liked this, you may like that’ – item associations
Our hybrid approach.
Of course, you want bonuses and you want to win. But on another level, I expect you want to be entertained. After all, playing games, where you can win some money, raises the stakes and makes things much more entertaining.
But, there’s more to it than that.
Really good e-commerce website help you to make balanced decisions within your own frame of reference about which things to buy.
The same principle applies to casino games. Different people like different things and the key is to make easy to find what you want to play.
The Oshi website
We’ve built version 2 of the website from the ground up. We took an e-commerce approach to the whole thing, beginning with the site structure.
The difference between us and an e-commerce site is; we navigate you to games, they navigate you to items.
We looked very closely at different types of e-commerce website but the user flow didn’t quite work. In other words making an Amazon type site into a casino just would not work.
But… We noticed that real estate websites and car sales sites would typically have up to 1000 items in them. This is about the same as a casino.
So, we looked at theme templates from sites like ThemeForest and found some real estate themes from which we based Oshi 2.0
Were just at the beginning of this journey and our roadmap is full of interesting projects ( see the roadmap blog post )
The developments which come to mind are:
• ‘you played this, you might like that’ suggestions
• Instant video previews of games (see y8.com )
• detailed categorisation, showing you things like game theme, type of music, colours.
• Reward system for engaging on the website
As you can see, everything is about navigation and engagement. We give you the tools, you make the decisions.
As these projects come through, I’ll give you more detail on how they work
With my marketing hat on, I thought I would just share some thoughts about the iGaming sector and SEO. The subtext to all of this is my conviction that if you do a really good website that people love, even in a competitive sector like online casino… The site will break through the noise and do really well.
SEO – RIP the link.
Over the last two years, Google has conquered many of its Demons. One of the greatest afflictions it’s suffered has been links. IGaming, along with other competitive sectors, has been ultra-aggressive on link acquisition in its attempts to game the Google ecosystem.
In the past, a good well funded link purchase program could produce excellent return on investment. Even despite penalties being imposed on sites, the economics of link purchasing had been very compelling.
However in 2015, Penguin had reached a tipping point, where it had become very difficult to buy good enough links with a low risk of penalty.
Finally, in 2016 we will see the fall of aggressive, non-editorially driven link acquisition. In place of links in their traditional sense, will be user engagement as a ranking driver, along with a ‘nudge’ from very specific links.
There will be several consequences:
- the amount of iGaming related spam sites will decrease
- many iGaming operators will simply give up on SEO and end up using PPC
- sites that are genuinely better, will receive the kind of links that Google knows our valuable, and those sites will rank, as long as they get user engagement.
SEO – the machines are taking over.
Artificial intelligence is something which has been talked about for many years, but only now have hardware costs become cheap enough for mass scale data analysis, which can lead to artificial intelligence that makes itself useful. And Google has been a leader in this area.
Part of its shift away from relying on humans has been an update called RankBrain. It’s now Google’s third most influential ranking factor. Simply, RankBrain interprets search queries that aren’t specific and serves up the right search results.
This is a great example of how artificial intelligence can learn and figure out things in a humanlike way at massive scale. Like humans, artificial intelligence only gets more and more accurate through experience and accumulated knowledge..
In 2016, we will see Google’s artificial intelligence efforts begin to mature. More and more of the search results will be controlled by this technology.
Ultimately Google will be able to interpret a website, or a page more perfectly than a human.
The consequences in iGaming?
- To win the rankings battle this year, site owners will have to think about user engagement and satisfaction first.
- Because so many sites in iGaming suffer huge technical debt, I expect we will see fresh players coming through the rankings and comfortably beating mature incumbents who do not see the shifting tides.
Technical debt – a tide that kills.
IGaming has the luxury of being a rich industry and therefore relatively lazy. If you basically get traction with your brand and have a decent operating infrastructure, you can more or less print money. That’s why governments legislate around it, to harvest some of that cash. It’s also an industry that been around for nearly 18 years. In technology terms that his ancient.
In the early days of iGaming, technology was fresh and completely up-to-date. But over the years there’s been a cumulative buildup of what’s known as technical debt. This involves building upon websites that haven’t had sufficient investment, because of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality of so many iGaming operators.
The upshot for users is that so many operators have appalling websites which feel like something from 2006.
In 2016, we will see
- Google being a catalyst for change. If your website feels like it’s a decade old, with functionality belonging to another age, Google will not rank you because users will not want to engage with you.
- Whilst many iGaming operators will argue that search engine traffic is not that valuable to them… It’s important to remember rankings on Google not just about getting traffic from generic phrases. It’s also about brand awareness and confidence. If you don’t rank you will lose out.
- Beyond Google, I just think that users grow less and less tolerant of bad website experience.
- Related to users wanting a better experience, one fascinating trend which threatens operators is what I describe as ‘proxy betting’ , where an affiliate site will have an API with an operator, allowing their users to make bets directly from their own affiliate site.
- This means anybody who can build a good website and can out manoeuver and out rank an operator without the overhead of licensing and iGaming operations.
- With this combination of ‘proxy betting’, Google’s intolerance of bad websites, along with rising user intolerance, I expect to see sites like Oddschecker or OLBG taking on the big operators… and winning.