This is a follow up story for Casino Guru. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published over 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
Hi, it’s good to be back. I am Jan, one of the founders of Casino Guru, a global website focused on online casinos. Over the years, Casino Guru has become an online gambling authority and a trusted source of information about online casinos.
Players turn to Casino Guru when looking for reliable information about online casinos when they need assistance with an issue they experience at a casino, when they want to discuss something with other players, and so on.
Our website is available in 17 languages, is visited by players from all around the world, and is one of the biggest sites of its kind on a global level. It currently generates a revenue of over €700K per month.
Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?
It’s been going well. We’ve been growing a lot – both in terms of staff and visitors – and working on various kinds of improvements and new projects. For example, we’ve launched Casino Guru News, which covers the latest stories and updates happening in the gambling industry.
We've seen space on the market for an industry news outlet that shares the values of Casino Guru, only creates editorial content, and does not display any ads. We've internally developed a custom CMS for Casino Guru News and now cover the most interesting and "hottest" industry topics and events, as well as a lot of unique content that cannot be found anywhere else.
We have also launched the Casino Guru Academy with free courses for people working or planning to work in the industry, as well as the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative, which hopes to improve the safety of online gambling for vulnerable players from all around the world.
We’ve also hosted the first Casino Guru Awards this year, in which we recognized operators with a responsible approach to gambling. Instead of focusing on the areas most industry awards recognize, we zoomed in on responsible gambling, transparency, fairness, and other areas we consider important. Our efforts have been received very well by the industry.
Prioritize and consider the real value of improvements before deciding to act on them.
Of course, these are just some of the projects we have been and are working on. There have been many more over the last year or two, and more are in the works.
We’ve maintained our focus on improving the industry, making it safer for players, fairer, and more sustainable. We have strengthened our position as an authority in the field of online casinos.
On the side of our website, we’ve been working a lot on improving the user experience, studying how people interact with websites, and giving them what they are looking for quickly and with as little friction as possible.
Amongst other things, we started using user research calls for this, giving potential visitors of our website scenarios and seeing how they proceed when looking for information related to online casinos. These have been extremely helpful.
Thanks to all of these efforts, we’ve been growing in search engines as well. Organic traffic is our main source of new visitors, so we need to rank well for relevant keywords.
There have been several Google updates in the last few years, and most of them have rewarded us with an increase in rankings. Our organic traffic has more than doubled in the last year or so.
Besides that, the number of returning visitors is also growing, as people return to us for advice, to get help with an issue with a casino, to discuss things on the forum (which is now the biggest of its kind online with over 10,000 new users registered each month), etc.
Several tens of thousands of users search specifically for our website on Google each month. Both the increase in SERP rankings and returning visitors are clear signs that we are headed in the right direction. It’s good to see our hard work in terms of creating great user experience and focusing on authoritativeness and expertise pay off.
What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?
The biggest challenges we’ve been facing have to do with growth. We are growing as a company, which means we are almost always looking for new talent in many areas. It can be quite difficult to find the right people, especially for more advanced positions like content specialists, data scientists, or AI specialists.
Also, the growth means that we need to standardize tasks and processes. Back when we were a small team, we could just agree on something and find a way to do it, but as things develop and teams get bigger, you need to focus on standardization, prioritization, project management, and so on.
We are defig things in a more organized way now, although I think there is always a place for some improvisation, especially in the early stages of business development.
Also, one specific challenge we are facing has to do with our Complaint Resolution Center, in which we help players scammed or mistreated by online casinos get their money back.
This is a free service we offer to players, which has to deal with more and more player issues each month, now getting close to 1,000 received complaints every month.
We are happy to see the number of players turning to us for help grow, but at the same time, it is getting more and more demanding and time-consuming. Almost 20 people are working on this, and we still need to hire more to keep up with the increase in submitted complaints.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
Probably the most important lesson is learning to let some seemingly good ideas go or set them aside for later. We have a great and extremely capable team that comes up with many good ideas, but we simply cannot execute all of them, due to our capacities.
Some might seem like simple and quick improvements, but as the complexity of our environment grows, they may end up turning into time-consuming projects. This taught us to prioritize and consider the real value of improvements before deciding to act on them.
Also, I feel like we tried to make things perfect in the past, and we’ve learned to satisfy ourselves with something that’s a bit below perfect. Better done than perfect.
Of course, we haven’t started releasing half-done features and creating sub-par content, but the last few steps from something good to something perfect can eat up a huge amount of resources.
People sometimes do things differently than you would do them yourself and that does not necessarily mean that they have done it worse.
That’s why we learned to define what being done means for each project and work towards that. Also, we aren’t afraid to experiment and test things to see what works for our target audience.
Lastly, I would like to mention the importance of internal communication. We are a team spread out over multiple countries, which means we don’t necessarily all meet regularly. That’s why we introduced company-wide events that occur twice every year, where we all meet, discuss work-related issues, get to know each other better, and have some fun. Besides being a fun get-together, it also helps the company a lot.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
Regarding specific plans for the next year, we are planning and working on a redesign of some parts of the Casino Guru website. We want to improve how users perceive our website, interact with it, and understand the presented information.
Internally, we know how honest our approach is and how much work goes into the information we give to our visitors; however, we feel like we can improve on how it is presented to help visitors understand and trust what we have to say about specific online casinos we’ve reviewed, for example.
On a longer-term basis, the main plan – or rather a general direction – is to keep doing what we do best. Improving everything we do, strengthening our authority in the online gambling sphere, and bringing more and more value to our visitors.
Many of these goals reach outside of our company and target the entire industry and make it better. We strive to have a positive impact on online gambling and the lives of people who partake in it, which is why we do things the way we do and launch projects like the Global Self-Exclusion Initiative or the Casino Guru Academy.
What’s the best thing you read in the last year?
If I had to choose one, I think it would be Everybody Lies by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Besides other things, it shows how to find the truth or the real intent by analyzing data, how to avoid biases and misinformation, and so on. Very interesting read, both from the perspective of our work at Casino Guru and for me.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their businesses?
Starting with the obvious, I’d like to highlight the importance of focusing on your users (or customers). We started focusing more and more on quantitative and qualitative analyses of how people interact with Casino Guru or other websites to understand them better.
We’ve established a data analysis team to focus on this area. This has proven to be extremely helpful in tailoring our website for our users and improving their user experience, as well as growing our business.
On a slightly different note, I think it’s key to create a great team of capable individuals and give them the opportunity and space to do what they do best.
As a leader, I try not to get in the way of our team members when I am not needed. It is important to accept that people sometimes do things differently than you would do them yourself and that does not necessarily mean that they have done it worse. On the contrary, it’s often quite the opposite.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are almost always looking for people to join our data team, which reviews online casinos and collects information about them, as well as content writers who are true experts in the field of gambling, which can be quite difficult to find.
Now, specifically, we are looking to hire an AI specialist to help us explore the area of AI even further and explore ways of incorporating it into our day-to-day operations.
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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