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Affiliate Interviews: Luke Eales, Founder of Seven Star Digital

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Affiliate Interviews: Luke Eales, Founder of Seven Star Digital

Seven Star Digital (SSD) was founded by Luke Eales in 2016 with the aim to provide better gambling comparison services to consumers in the UK and beyond. Since then, SSD’s first website TopRatedCasinos.co.uk has consolidated a very strong position in both PPC and SEO channels within the UK Casino industry, delivering thousands of FTDs to licensed casino operators every month. With a vision for creating a truly comprehensive global online gambling comparison site across all verticals, the company launched Compare.bet in October 2017. Seven Star Digital currently employs a dozen talented marketers and technologists in its London HQ.

 

Name: Luke Eales

Age: 32

Hometown: London

Living in: London

Favorite Food: Italian

Must Read Book: The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten by Julian Baggini

Job title: Founder & CEO

 

GAV: Hi Luke, tell us and our readers as well, a little bit about yourself, we want to know who Luke really is. How did your career start in the industry? What was your first job?

Luke: This is my first real activity in the gambling industry. But if we’re talking digital marketing, I got started back in 2003. Personal SEO projects made for a nice side earner while studying – at the time I had no inkling that it’d become a career.

 

GAV: Do you still remember when you first heard about gambling or online casinos?

Luke: It was probably about fifteen years ago – I set up a very small and unsuccessful affiliate site with my brother called Bonkers Betting! It’s hard to avoid the industry when working in digital. Partly because it’s an incubator for bleeding edge acquisition tactics.

 

GAV: Since there are thousands of websites and portals in this niche out there, where do you think your websites stand at this moment and what is that plus that the other comparison portals don’t have?

Luke: One of our strengths is we’ve come from outside the industry with a fresh perspective. Our inspiration also comes from outside the industry – the big travel and insurance comparison sites for starters. They’re a long way ahead of gambling comparison, but we’re aiming to catch up fast – in terms of content, user experience and brand.

 

GAV: Tell us about your team a bit!

Luke: We’re based in Shoreditch – hipster central in London. The area has a great buzz, full of startups, as well as vibrant bars, restaurants and galleries. There are currently around a dozen of us at the company, spanning marketing, commercial and tech. We’ve got a great bunch of people all striving to take gambling comparison to the next level. Also, we’re hiring!

 

GAV: What kind of SEO, digital marketing or affiliate techniques do you follow this year, and how about any new upcoming trends?

Luke: For us, the definition of good digital marketing doesn’t necessarily change monthly or even yearly. Paid search, paid social, organic search – the platforms and behaviours evolve, of course. We’re less focused on the next new thing, tactical marketing trick or short-term win. For us the differentiation is in execution, organisational agility and deep understanding of our lines of business. This allows us to adapt to the evolving landscape, including from a regulatory perspective. Of course, the big change happening right now for data/permission marketers is GDPR. We’re hopeful that this will succeed in ensuring users’ interests and personal data is protected.

 

GAV: What are the challenges that you and your team face in regards to affiliate marketing in 2018.

Luke: Put simply, the ever-increasing ferocity of competition in the sector. Everyone wants a piece of the pie – we are acutely aware that in order to maintain and grow ours, we have to earn it. This keeps us at the top of our game. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

GAV: How do you manage to keep the websites fresh and relevant, when a lot of fluffy and nonsense appear on the Internet non-stop?

Luke: The crusade for ‘fresh content’ has created a cottage industry of content churners who prioritise volume over quality. We take a different approach – while we do aim to create vast and comprehensive sites, we’re not fans of expansion for expansion’s sake. We find that writing for people rather than search engines acts as an automatic fluff filter.

 

GAV: We are pretty convinced that you receive messages from Affiliate Managers on a daily basis showcasing their best products. You, of course select them by the brands they work with. What are your thoughts on how a real Affiliate Manager-Affiliate relationship should be built, and how not?!

Luke: Trust, transparency and sharing of insights. When you’re providing a quality service and valuable traffic, there is no need for smoke and mirrors in the partner relationship. This honest and open approach makes everything easier and is best for all in the long run.

 

GAV: Next to the UK market, which are the other ones that you already target or want to expand into?

Luke: We have our eye on several regulated/soon-to-regulate markets in Europe. We’re also growing Compare.bet with a global scope – the recent US news creates great potential, but we expect to pick up traffic from a real long tail of geographies.

 

GAV: How do you see the Nordic market?

Luke: Having been a fairly stable and attractive region for some years, things are starting to change – with regulation in Sweden and moves to restrict in Norway via payment blocking etc.

Our first step into Scandinavia is with our Swedish comparison site ToppOnlineCasinon.se – we already work with most of the top operators in the region but are being very careful not to make assumptions about user behaviour and what will work over there. Our eyes and ears are open to the requirements of Swedish players and operators alike, and we expect the user experience to diverge from our UK sites based on what we learn about specific local needs over time.

 

GAV: Tell us one change that you want to see in the online gambling industry?!

Luke: We want running a ‘gambling affiliate site’ to be as well respected as running a ‘finance comparison business’. This will only happen with the industry taking more of a user focus and thinking bigger. There are certainly signs that this is starting to happen.

 

GAV: Do you have any advice for newbies who are looking to venture into this majestic industry!?

Luke: Get into the data. Not only will it allow you to improve your own metrics, but it will create transparency with partners and the opportunity to work together to grow based on real insights.

 

GAV: How about iGaming/online casino/gambling conferences, do you attend any of them? If so, which one is your favourite and what is your most fun experience?

Luke: We try to attend as many as possible. It’s rare to leave without a killer insight or two, at least. Face time with partners is also invaluable We’re looking forward to Lisbon this autumn – the weather should in theory be better than Berlin, which is a plus!

 

GAV: Where would you like to travel in Eastern Europe, any favourite country or region?

Luke: I haven’t seen much of it, so I’d have quite a long to-do list! In particular, I’ve heard great things about Slovenia.

 

GAV: Where you wouldn’t want to travel in Eastern Europe?

Luke: I wouldn’t rule anywhere out!

 

GAV: How about a favourite celebrity or a mentor, do you have one?

Luke: I’m not a big follower of celebrity. I have however been fortunate enough to have worked with a range of experienced and knowledgeable senior colleagues throughout my career, all of whom have had a great influence.

 

Affiliate Success

MyAffiliates announces its rebranding

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MyAffiliates announces its rebranding

MyAffiliates, the affiliate marketing software provider, announced today a major rebranding of its product image to reflect the company’s evolution in the online betting, gaming, forex and binary industries.

Clemence Dujardin, General Manager at MyAffiliates said: “MyAffiliates has been around since 2007. Our technology and our products have evolved considerably since then. It was high time for a rethink of our brand to plot our journey in the years ahead. We have been very successful over the years working with an ever growing number of online operators worldwide. Our new brand is an invitation to them to join us as we continue to improve our offering.

“The new brand recalls MyAffiliates’ sterling reputation as the most flexible affiliate marketing software on the market. This flexibility is built on the features we developed along the years. But our success also rests on transparency in our pricing structure and the support we provide our customers anytime they need it, whichever time zone they are in. Our vision remains to build software that answers the needs of the industry, backed by reliable and scalable technologies.”

Steven Harris, MyAffiliates’ founding Director said: “Over the years, our professional and well-grounded team, managed to evolve our product into the affiliate marketing software affiliates love. For us it is crucial that our clients find all they need and more to run a successful affiliate program and grow their business. It is equally important for us that the end users — the affiliates — continue to enthusiastically approve of our solution. We will not rest on our past successes.

“This rebranding tells the story of our evolution and better represents MyAffiliates as the young and dynamic company that we are, continuously striving to develop the best product of its kind on the market as we help our clients grow.”

Visit www.myaffiliates.com.

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iGaming Focus Areas and СРА Selection to Be Discussed at Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference

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iGaming Focus Areas and СРА Selection to Be Discussed at Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference

 

The second Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference organized by Smile-Expo will come back to the capital of Ukraine on September 26. Relevant case studies, networking, and afterparty: the conference program will be as efficient and useful as possible.

 

What issues will be raised by speakers

Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference will involve expert speakers: webmasters, affiliates, arbitrage specialists, marketers, and specialized lawyers. Presentations by most of them sparked the great interest of the audience at the previous event. This time, professionals will introduce new presentations and recent case studies of their practice.

  • Tatiana Nasonova, CEO at Gambling Pro and an arbitrage expert, will analyze why advertisers and affiliates need to work closely to reach the maximum result. She will talk about core factors in the brand confidence as well as explain how advertisers can offer the best possible conditions to webmasters so that it won’t cost a bundle. At the past event in Kyiv, the speaker revealed how to enhance the conversion of your own offer tenfold. Tatiana is a frequent guest at international events as well as the founder of ‘Tough Arbitrage of St. Petersburg’ and Black Inc public pages.
  • Roman Bout, Founder of Quints – a developer of affiliate program software, will illustrate how operators can seamlessly shift from Revenue Share to CPA and stress the importance of the registration to deposit conversion when selecting the СРА model. Besides, the speaker will mention special features of player behaviors and traffic analysis. At the first Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference, Roman shared examples of the high-quality support increasing online casino revenues and gave use cases of reducing the customer attrition by 50%.
  • Viacheslav Ustimenko, CEO at LAWBOOT and an expert in legal consulting of IT, fintech, and gambling companies, will tell attendees about the legal difference in gambling, games of skill, and loot box projects as well as examine pros and cons of work with them. Moreover, conference guests will discover all about the banking compliance in 2019 from the expert: what has changed since 2018, what should be taken into account, what is already inefficient in comparison with the last year. At the previous conference, Viacheslav clarified where to register a company for the affiliate program and why the GDPR was a significant aspect for iGaming company operations.

“LP and LLP partnerships are no longer legal solutions. If you need a reliable banking account, change LP for Hong Kong,” the expert stated.

For the first time, Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference will engage Vitaliy Stetsenko, a speaker at top conferences and events dedicated to arbitrage, CPA, and online marketing, and the founder of Initium Group (the holding company includes RichAdvert traffic arbitrage school). As an entrepreneur and infopreneur, he frequently provides the audience with interesting arbitrage best practices. At Kyiv’s second event, Vitaliy will present workable strategies for mobile traffic arbitrage and examples of efficient creatives and advertising campaigns.

Panel discussion

The conference will feature a panel discussion allowing influencers to talk about prospects of such areas as casinos, betting, and esports. They will highlight what to emphasize this year and how to find the necessary balance between the above-mentioned sectors. The discussion will be moderated by Levon Nikoghosyan from PartnerMatrix.

Target audience

If you are an operator, a developer, a webmaster, an arbitrage specialist, an affiliate, or a SEO expert, the major affiliate marketing event is a crucial point in your schedule.

Networking and afterparty

Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference means not only beneficial presentations and case studies. Event guests will also be able to take part in fruitful networking and obtain new partners for cooperation as well as for business promotion and growth.

The afterparty will be available to owners of VIP tickets, sponsors, participants, and speakers. It is the best chance to negotiate on professional issues in a relaxed atmosphere.

Organizer and partners

The conference is organized by Smile-Expo, an international company that has been holding business events on innovations for 13 years. Media Gambling Sponsor of Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference will be a business online publication called Login Casino, while Media Sponsor will be YOGONET International Edition.

The event program can be found on the official website of Kyiv iGaming Affiliate Conference.

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Boots on the ground: What it’s like being an affiliate in the US sports betting market

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Boots on the ground: What it’s like being an affiliate in the US sports betting market
Photo Source: imgarit.pw

 

Mike Murphy, founder of BettingUSA.com, talks about the challenges and opportunities that await those getting in on the action in the US sports betting affiliate sector

The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) in May 2018 has unleashed a sea change in the regulated US sports betting market.

What was once illegal and the realm of shadowy offshore sportsbooks has now come into the mainstream with legal in-person and online sportsbooks slowly but surely funneling gamblers back onto regulated platforms headquartered in the United States.

Change can be uncomfortable, but it also provides opportunity. Many affiliates made a lot of money and got comfortable during the unregulated offshore days, but those days are dwindling and a new order is rising.

The question for sports betting affiliates is whether or not they will adapt to the changing environment and capitalize on the new opportunities before them. We suggest taking full advantage while the getting is good but acknowledge we will all face challenges moving forwards.

Let’s consider what we face and what we stand to gain.

Challenges Facing Affiliates in the Legal US Sports Betting Market

The greatest opportunities in life always come with challenges, and the newly-regulated sports betting market in the United States is no exception.

The good news is these challenges will sharpen and diversify your skills. Overcoming these challenges will make you a better, smarter and more well-rounded affiliate.

You will also find these challenges act as a sort of filter such that when you emerge on the other side, your competition will be reduced in number. The competitors who remain will be skilled affiliates like yourself, but there will be fewer of you competing for a piece of the action.

Higher Quality Competition

The regulated online gambling and sports betting market in the US has already attracted the attention of big players with deep pockets. The quality of websites that appear in search results is a night-and-day difference compared to just a few years ago when the only real opportunities to make money as a US-focused gambling affiliate were either questionably legal or outright illegal.

Legalization and regulation have resulted in major media companies finally entering the US market now that they can do so in a fully legal and transparent manner. These companies have big budgets, hire the best writers and churn out high quality websites in bulk.

Competing against these types of affiliates is challenging, and there are no indications things are going to get any easier. If you’re an independent affiliate with a website, you have your work cut out for you. The bigger companies can outspend you and likely have better connections.

That doesn’t mean there is no room left for independent affiliates like some of the doomsayers have taken to claiming of late. It just means you’ll need to be agile, pick your target markets carefully and cultivate a real relationship with your viewers.

New Licensing and Compliance Hurdles

One of the most challenging and frustrating hurdles we see in the US market today is the introduction of regulations that impact affiliates. States such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania require all affiliates to acquire a license in order to make money promoting licensed sites to players in those states.

The magnitude of this challenge remains to be seen as additional states pass legalization laws. New Jersey’s affiliate licensing process really isn’t all that difficult. Getting licensed in Pennsylvania has proven to be fairly complicated. Meanwhile, we have seen no indications affiliates need to be licensed in West Virginia.

The types of laws passed in the future will determine the true startup costs associated with licensing. Our best advice to smaller affiliates here is to target states in which the licensing hurdles are minimal or nonexistent and build out from there.

Additional compliance hurdles are likely to materialize at some point as well. We can look to recent developments in the UK online sports betting industry for a preview of what may come in the future.

Advertisers in the UK are subject to an increasingly complicated set of rules regarding how to promote gambling responsibly, for example. The US has not gotten to this point yet, but it is worth keeping in mind additional regulatory hurdles remain a distinct possibility.

A Fractured Market

Online sports betting and gambling are regulated at the state level, which means the rules vary from state to state. You may need an affiliate license in one state but not another. A particular betting site may be available in one state, but not in the next one over.

This means you’ll need to take a state-by-state approach to your affiliate business by promoting particular sites to visitors from particular states. Some operators have opened shop in multiple states, but you’ll need to stay on top of which sportsbooks are available where so you can direct your visitors to the proper websites.

The upside to this challenge is it too provides opportunity. As legal sports betting spreads across the US, people are going to have many questions regarding the law, where they can bet online legally, where to find licensed mobile betting apps and much more. Affiliates are well-suited to educate consumers and earn some money at the same time.

Opportunities

Now that we have the biggest challenges out of the way, we can move on to the fun stuff: the opportunities that await affiliates who are able to deal with the aforementioned obstacles. The United States presents some very big opportunities for those intrepid affiliates who dare tackle this market.

There is A Lot of Money to be Made

The US online sports betting market has enormous potential for simple reasons. The US has a large population, it has a pro-sports culture and the people have high levels of disposable income.

We also have a strong pro-gambling culture with hundreds of casinos spread across the US and widespread familiarity with sports betting even if it was limited (officially anyways) to Nevada for several decades.

Consider this: The American Gaming Association (AGA) has estimated that one quarter of the US population participated in a sports pool in 2017. The AGA has also estimated Americans already wager upwards of $150 billion per year on sports through illegal channels. That is a lot of pent up demand.

This isn’t just us talking up the industry – major industry players have been staking their claims in anticipation of widespread legalization. Caesars Entertainment, FOX Sports and even Buffalo Wild Wings have all made moves to position themselves for a piece of the pie.

Some affiliates have already made a fortune even though the industry is just now gearing up. We have seen multiple eight-figure sales of sports-oriented affiliate websites in recent times for monthly multiples that would have been unthinkable during the turbulent, uncertain offshore sports betting days.

Case in point: The Better Collective Group recently purchased 60% of the RotoGrinders network for $21 million up front, plus a plan to purchase the remaining 40% “at a valuation based upon an EBITDA multiple between 5x and 10x.”

We also saw Catena Media purchase BonusSeeker last March for $6.5 million with a potential additional payout of $9.5 million based on performance after two years. Mind you, this was before the Supreme Court decision. BonusSeeker was restricted to legal online casinos in New Jersey at the time, and still it sold for that much.

The financial potential for affiliates is almost overwhelming to consider, and yet the industry is still just getting started. Many more states have yet to pass legislation to legalize online sports betting and gambling.

Industry is Ripe for Innovation and New Ideas

This is an exciting time to be an affiliate with operators and traditional media companies alike exploring the possibilities of legal sports betting. We’ve seen the likes of PointsBet hit the market with innovative new ways to bet on games while other operators have greatly expanded their in-play wagering capabilities.

The United States, home to Silicon Valley, has a strong culture of innovation. Even though the European markets have had a lengthy head start when it comes to legal sports betting, nobody can innovate like motivated US companies.

Not only does this make it more exciting and interesting to be an affiliate, but it gives affiliates even more opportunities to show value by answering questions and sharing interesting updates with viewers.

It is Still Early in the Game

The US online gambling industry is still in its infancy. Yes, some of the bigger affiliate networks have already paid millions for well-established websites, but we haven’t even come close to reaching peak saturation.

Consider the acquisitions discussed above: BonusSeeker being purchased for $6.5 million up front with a final sale price of up to $9.5 million after two years; 60% of the RotoGrinders network being purchased for $21 million up front with a very real chance of the final deal being realized for $50 million or more a few years from now.

Consider that these purchases happened when the majority of states still haven’t legalized online sports betting or gambling. Major affiliate companies are not paying that much money for digital assets just for fun. They see the market potential. They know the US market is just barely getting started.

Now, imagine the types of buyouts that will be possible after 20, 30 or 40 states have legalized online sports betting – or if Congress steps in and passes nationwide legislation.
We see the occasional discussion among smaller affiliates bemoaning the “corporatization” of the affiliate business.

Some will tell you it’s too late to get in the game now with the likes of Catena Media and Better Collective out there spending millions on marketing, acquisitions and staff.

It’s true the level of competition has increased and affiliates do have to jump through new hoops with licensing requirements in some states, but the market is still just barely getting started. Those challenges can be overcome, and the rewards will be very much worth the trouble.

There are plenty of opportunities even for the lonely one-man operation. Those who work hard and provide informative or entertaining content have a world of opportunity open to them with the US market just now getting off the ground.

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