This week marks the last that I own the website thatsyourbestbet.com. It’s been one the first projects I started back in 2012 but fast forward 7 years and I’m closing it down. So, what’s happened?
History of That’s Your Best Bet
That’s Your Best Bet was a project of curiosity. To start a website was something I had never done before. It was a time to learn a new set of skills and by venturing in to the world of running a business on the side, it excited me too. It was by no means a simple act of curiosity that started it’s journey though. For I was inspired by my uncle to start a casino website after hearing his success of adventures into the online world.
Seizing the opportunity, I dived head first into owning my first website and on a grander scale, my first business. I started with minimal experience in web design but my passion to learn and create was there. It meant that the site went through plenty of iterations as I optimized, learning new skills and wanting the best for the project.
With the skeleton technology in place, I had to venture into the curious corners of how the internet to business relationships worked. Affiliate programs were the core of how That’s Your Best Bet made it’s revenue. Providing customers with the latest promotions in gambling, I had to figure out how I could grab a slice of the pie.
Following the path that my uncle had set before me, I joined a digital marketing affiliate company and so the journey began. Starting business to business relationships with the biggest names in UK gambling.
The site in its early days was an great testing ground for me to hone my web skills and test new technologies. With a growing number of clients being a part of my project, the wheels were turning. And in fact, they were starting to spin off…
I found limitations of iWeb where I wanted more functionality. SEO tools were advising me to customise all sorts that I didn’t have access too. It was time for an upgrade.
Part of the journey owning a business is that you have to remain agile. Being open to opportunities means at times out the box thinking can help take you to the next level. I researched my options and plumped for WordPress as being the backbone of That’s Your Best Bet. It offered the right amount of out the box tools and the ability to customise and tweak.
That’s Your Best Bet went from a boring website to one that had comments, its own forum, games and at one point an iPhone fixing service. I know right, I took liberties!
Over many years the site would change size and shape. Becoming ever more optimal in a mobile world, That’s Your Best Bet was starting to feel like a great website to work upon and improve.
Focussed on Bingo, Casino, Games, Poker and Sports I created That’s Your Best Bet to be a one-stop shop for all gambling needs. Looking back, this was a bold and risky ideaology that may have hindered its reach. Having a broad site requires a lot of work for it to stand out in the crowded market of casino affiliate websites.
The amount of casinos I’d be approached by while being admin of the site were staggering. Each day I’d receive emails to add casinos that I hadn’t heard of before. Each, I’d make a gut instinct decision upon and more than likely, reject their approach. For I wanted to keep the website specialised to the big names in the industry.
I wanted to make more contacts and represent my business in real-world scenarios. And so, I found a conference in London that is aimed at likeminded people to meet and network in these industry events. It was a great time and I got to meet a few affiliate managers showing off their latest revenue shares with the glitzy, glamourous girls to boot.
I came home with bagfuls of freebies and business cards but I walked away from the event with a low-level of disappointment. For there had been an elephant in the room I wasn’t addressing.
Since its inception, That’s Your Best Bet had problems with staying up to date in a very competitive market. Bookmakers would change their offers all the time to outdo each other and it was up to us affiliates to try and keep up.
With every change to a promotional offer, I had to update the website replacing all review text to match what was now the latest. That would have been manageable with the 30+ affiliate offers I was promoting, but when you add other areas it was near-enough Mission Impossible.
For all the time I had worked on That’s Your Best Bet, I never found a theme, plugin or piece of code that would do the job I wanted. I had gone into the specialty forums, asking other webmasters the same question – how do you keep your websites up to date? The answer, people.
I wanted to be able to update the offer of Ladbrokes Sports (for example) and have it update everywhere across the site where Ladbrokes Sports was. Everything from the text in buttons to the links used to track. Banners around the site would also need changing in at least 3 locations per casino… The sheer frequency of changes these bookmakers were making made it impossible.
I found some workaround solutions to address these back-end issues of the website but deep down I knew the issue wasn’t sustainable. For all the offers, links and banners that were updated; there was one thing missing, readability.
Reviews of casino offers were written by hand at the time of the promo. When offers would be updated by bookmakers, I’d need to go back through the website and re-review their offers and update its page. While it sounds simple enough to do in a blog post, you can trust me that this would be near enough a full-time job.
It was never going to happen.
A new Dawn
When That’s Your Best Bet took me through this journey, one of the things I signed up for was an industry leading gambling affiliate magazine. It was an insightful and interesting read, to see what was upcoming in the gambling space and how others like me had managed the daunting task of running a fully-fledged affiliate business. The fact that plenty had staff working full time on updating the site, running social media and liaising with bookmakers; it was no wonder I knew that deep down the nail was in the coffin.
The gambling industry has the tightest regulations around the world, and for good reason. The affiliate marketing industry over the past couple of years has been at the beady eye inspection of the regulators for the past couple of years. This issue combined with the sheer amount of hours needed to maintain such a website meant that the coffin for me was now sealed. It was time to call it a day.
The cost of running a website isn’t particularly expensive. But it’s the amount of time that it takes to get up to a high standard that means for true quality and great investment. The amount of time I have put into That’s Your Best Bet is astronomical. And to be honest, I don’t regret it at all.
I knew deep down that it was time to call it quits on this project. For the gambling affiliate space I had once joined was no longer the same. I was hitting the same dead ends that others were struggling with too. And what this had inadvertedly lead up to is monopolies in the affiliate space. Sites like oddschecker would have the resource behind them to snowball and keep up in the demanding market. Sure, I could keep my site going forever but I knew it was no longer providing the quality I want my name attached to.
I know that for years to come people will come to my website, have a browse through my portfolio and be intrigued by That’s Your Best Bet. And it’s a shame that I’ve decided now is the time to hang up that hat. But forever will I keep its files, history and expertise that the website gave to me. It made me a better designer, using technical tools like Photoshop to create ever better logos and artwork. The web development tools and languages helped not only to create websites but also helped with programming in other related projects too. The work and time I’ve put into crafting web design has meant that other places have benefitted from my skill too. The Dame Alice Owens intranet, Travel Counsellors TC Service Status and ebb3 intranet would all have not been created for it not for That’s Your Best Bet. Business-sense and userbility has helped me to become a self-taught marketing genius too. The skills and money that the site made on the side helped to shape me into the person I am today, driven.
Driven for perfection. Driven to be entrepreneurial. And daring to try something new.
Till the next one,