“Poker branding” is a big part of being a celebrity poker player. Phil Hellmuth is known as the poker brat for a reason. Barry Greenstein’s reputation as the Robin Hood of poker is brand conscious development. Phil Gordon, David Sklansky, Doyle Brunson, Mike Caro…all of these poker players have created poker brands for themselves. Doing so has made them buckets of money.

Something else each of these poker branding wizards have in common is that they write and publish poker books. (It’s no secret that some of their poker books might be ghost-written.) Their name on the cover of these books is a major factor in the sales figures for these poker books. Their poker brand becomes a marketable commodity.

Most of these name-brand poker players also have endorsement deals with various online cardrooms. They lend their name, their unique poker brand, to an online poker site in exchange for money, and both the cardrooom and the player benefit. Ultimate Bet’s brand name becomes associated with Phil Hellmuth’s brand name, for example, and the poker branding spirals upward.

How does creating a poker brand apply to a poker affiliate or a poker affiliate site though? Most poker webmasters are’t celebrity poker players. Creating a poker “brand” doesn’t apply at all, does it?

If you create a website whose sole purpose is to generate scads of visitors from search engines, then creating a poker brand associated with your site might not apply. It might not matter at all. But I contend that a poker website which establishes a brand name for itself will rank better in the search engines too.

How do you go about creating a poker brand for a poker affiliate site though? I can offer some poker branding tips based on some of what I’ve seen in the poker affiliate site industry over the last four or five years:

  • Have opinions. Whether you’re right, wrong, smart, or dumb, have an opinion and express it on your site. Generic content that no one cares about doesn’t build a brand, not in poker, and not in any other kind of information economy. If you have an opinion and express an opinion, then people will care about your content, even if they hate it.
  • Distinguish yourself. Some people think branding is all about getting people to remember the name of your website. They approach that by printing t-shirts, buying ads, and repeating their brand name as often as possible. Those might be important steps to building a brand, but a more important step is to be different from the other poker sites out there. The only way anyone will remember your brand is if your brand is different from everyone else’s.
  • Avoid anonymity. Anonymous poker sites lack credibility. Even if your content is ghost-written, you should look as if a real person is behind the site and the content. Some of the biggest poker brands on the Internet make it clear from the first page of their site who they are.
  • Start conversations. Having a forum or blog can do wonders for building a brand, even though both are basically the same thing – the starting point of a conversation. (The difference between a forum and a blog is that anyone can start a conversation on a forum, but only the blogger or the team of bloggers can start a conversation on the blog. So if you have a blog, turn the comments on.)

Why bother creating a poker brand for a poker affiliate site though? What’s the point? I can think of several advantages to having a poker site that has a “brand”:

  • Â A poker brand doesn’t rely as heavily on search engines. If you have an easy-to-remember domain name as part of your brand, people will just go directly to your website.
  • Search engines need branded sites more than branded sites need search engines. This is sort of a followup to that last point. But if Google wants to serve relevant results, and your brand name is a search engine phrase, it’s harder for Google to justify penalizing your site. If someone is searching for Coca-cola, and the Coca-cola website doesn’t appear in the results, it’s Google that loses credibility, not Coke.
  • Poker brands inspire loyalty. The Coca-cola example again. I know people who would never dream of drinking a Pepsi because their Coke-people. And if you know beer drinkers, they have a tendency to be loyal to a particular brand of beer. Would you like people to be loyal to your site when they’re looking for information about a poker room? Or when they’re looking for poker strategy tips?

Put some thought and energy into what kind of brand image you want to put across, and then use that as a touchstone for every decision you make about your online presence moving forward. You might find that it pays dividends in surprising ways, and for a long time. Changing your reputation and brand image can take time once someone’s developed a rep, so putting some thought into your image beforehand can be a wise move.