If I'm totally honest, I wasn't 100% ready when I decided to announce the launch of HowAbout Bingo.
I had been working on the site, off and on, for the past 10 months, in between other work, lockdowns, furlough and homeschooling. The perfectionist side of me kept delaying the site launch as it wasn't quite right, there weren't enough sites on it or some other technicality that gave me any excuse to keep it private.
However, it was almost a year since I decided to quit working for WhichBingo and go it alone and I still had nothing to show for it. So I set myself a deadline of December 1st and whatever state the site was in, I would put it live on that day.
I met the deadline by publishing the site at around 11:55pm, just as my wife was shouting at me to finally go to bed.
Now the scary part
For months I had been safe in the knowledge that no-one else could see what I was doing, but now it was time to announce the launch and see what people had to say. I was a bit nervous, but after announcing the launch on LinkedIn and other social media, I was pleased with the positive feedback I got from friends, family and industry connections.
Everyone seemed to agree it looked great, but would it translate into players visiting the site? Time will tell.
Another big challenge I faced early doors was ensuring that everything on the site was 100% compliant with all of the various advertising standards and responsible gambling rules that operators and affiliates have to meet.
I knew that wherever there was a sign-up offer, there must be key terms visible and so very early on in the design of the site I made sure that this was included, and not like on other sites where they make it so incredibly tiny you can barely read it. However, one of the features I added to the site at the very last minute almost got me into trouble with one operator, who deemed it uncompliant with the rules and asked to be removed from the What's On? page.
The original design included a list of promotions, and when you clicked on them a pop-up would appear explaining each promo in detail, along with the entire T&Cs (not just key terms). I felt pretty confident that because all the T&Cs were there that I couldn't go wrong, but it turns out that wasn't the case. They cited some advice from the CAP copy advice team that said it was likely to be considered a breach because key terms weren't visible before the click.
After a bit of back and forth with the operator and a phone call to the CAP team, I eventually tweaked the design to the satisfaction of the operator and CAP. Now the key terms would be visible before the pop-up, as well as within the pop-up and all the full terms are there too!
Getting the word out and links in
One of the biggest challenges to launching a new site is getting the respect of Google. Older sites are given far more favour from Google, so it is harder than ever for a brand new site like mine to compete with the more established bingo review sites that have been around 10 or even 20 years.
While I'm not going into details of my SEO strategy here, it's needless to say that getting links in to your website is important for your Google ranking. That's why I am incredibly thankful for a couple of interviews that I was invited to do about the site launch that went up on Affiliate Insider and IGB Affiliate.
The latter wouldn't actually link to me (even when I asked nicely) but I guess the citation helps a little bit. Lee-Ann at Affiliate Insider has been very supportive of new affiliates and I am grateful that her interview gave me my very first genuine link into the site. She now actually has two links back in return, one from this post and another from my About Us page where I have an 'In The Press' section which is a record of any site where I'm featured for comment or interview.
If you have a site and would be happy to feature or link to me, I'm more than happy to provide some content, commentary of anything else of value in return. I'm not interested in paying for links, so don't ask. White hat all the way here my friends.
As a one man operation at the moment, I am writing everything myself including all the bingo site reviews. The site launched with about 30 reviews, and in December there were a couple of new bingo sites that launched (Pizazz Bingo and Bingo Barmy) so I spent a good chunk of time joining those sites and doing some in-depth reviews, including a First Look video of Bingo Barmy.
I don't like to just look at a site and write a review. I actually like to deposit, play the games and get a real feel for what it is all about. Although it does get difficult when you start reviewing white label sites that are pretty much the same, sometimes I won't bother to deposit if that's the case.
Kitty Bingo also moved software during December, but I had to wait a few days to complete my review as I was unable to deposit. Apparently my KYC checks had to be redone and so I had to go through the process every player dreads - having to send in copies of passport and proof of address documents. It's so annoying.
Since then I've been looking at a very, very long list of sites I wish to add to the directory. I eventually want to get every site listed - not sure if I'll manage that in the year if I still opt to do everything myself. I guess we'll see. In the meantime, I've updated the list of sites at the bottom of the homepage to display the most recently added first (regardless of age), so if you want to see which site I've just put up, you can check it there.
New game launches
New bingo games don't pop up so often but in December there were two or three notable games that I had to update or write about.
The biggest one was the launch of The Masked Singer Bingo which came out a couple of days before Christmas. Ever dedicated to the site, I ditched the family for a few hours and did a video review of the new game on Christmas Eve. Check it out it was quite a good one.
Another new game that appeared was Fluffy Favourites Bingo on Entain / GVC / Electraworks. Previously this was a Playtech exclusive but now it seems that there are two versions of Fluffy Bingo out there, both very different from one another. I've ended up putting reviews for both on the same page. I wasn't sure whether it made sense to have two different reviews - SEO dilemma!
Pragmatic Play also amended their Bingo Blast game and gave it a winter theme. It's now called Snowball Blast - I've not managed to find the time to do a big update for this but it seems like it will be staying as a snowman for a couple more months yet, so there is time.
Banned from bingo
Another thing that happened in December I have been cautious about mentioning is that I was actually banned from one of the online bingo sites I had been reviewing.
The site in question had an event on every Friday at 8pm, which I attended every week because I was preparing an article about it for the site. The event had seeded prize money and not a lot of players, so each week I was one of maybe 8 players taking part. All in all this meant I would frequently win, and indeed I eventually won enough to cash out £50.
I got this payment but then shortly afterwards found myself locked out of the site. Eventually they informed me that they believed I was part of a professional group of players who were deliberately trying to cheat the site, and that I was banned from there and every site on the network! All this because I only ever came to the site when this event took place.
I can see why they had their suspicions, but their unwillingness to even contemplate that I was there in completely innocent circumstances made me very angry. I'll definitely write about this in a future blog, once the dust settles and my appeal is finalised.
Coming down with COVID
To top things off I ended the month by contracting COVID-19 over Christmas and therefore spending the last few days of December and into the New Year not only in isolation, but usually asleep in bed as I was so wiped out by it.
Fortunately I am back to normal now, but it wasn't a pleasant experience but at least the rest of the family all tested negative. I'm now looking forward to the rest of 2021 where hopefully I can kick on with new stuff for the website.
I'm not sure how often I'll do these blogs, but I will do some more throughout the year just to keep track of how things are going and to point out one or two new things on the site that maybe people hadn't noticed.
Until then, I hope you enjoyed this little window into the first month of HowAbout Bingo. I hope you'll be back for the next exciting issue! :)