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Affiliate Interviews: Sirp de Wit of PokerListings.com (HighLight Media Group)

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Today you get the chance to meet Sirp who is the Managing Director of PokerListings, the world’s most comprehensive online poker guide with in-depth reviews of online poker sites and exclusive bonuses, promotions, tournaments and freerolls, Sirp is active in Igaming since 2009.

Name: Sirp de Wit
Age: 34
Hometown: The Hague, THE NETHERLANDS
Living in: Sliema, MALTA
Favorite Food: Italian/French cuisine
Must Read Book: Papillon (Henri Charrière)
Job title: Managing Director at HighLight Media Group

 

GAV: Hi Sirp, first of all tell us and our readers as well, a little bit about yourself, we want to know who Sirp really is. How did your career start in the iGaming industry? Since when are you active at PokerListings?

SDW: I graduated in 2008 in the UK and moved straight over to Stockholm, SWEDEN, after receiving a call to join a Lead Generation company (HighLight Media Group) that is active primarily in the iGaming vertical. My career started as a Site Manager for the Dutch Market and I have been with the company ever since, taking on different roles throughout the last 8.5 years and currently the Managing Director running the Poker side of the business. We control many different poker affiliate sites that generate traffic from Europe to North/South America and Asia. The biggest brand in my portfolio is PokerListings.

Out of office you will find me a lot in the park, spending time with my 2.5 year old baby girl. Other than that I will try to watch as much football as possible and enjoy good food/drinks with my better half.

GAV: Do you still remember when you first heard about poker or played it?

SDW: Yes, this was during my time as a under graduate student in the USA. We played quite some poker on campus and around that time I also got introduced to the online version.

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

SDW: PokerListings is up there with the other big players. We still hold a leading position in the industry while looking at traffic numbers, returning visitors, and value per lead. With the latter being the most important KPI.

 

PokerListings

 

PokerListings has a true identity which is the key to lasting in this industry. There are more poker portals that have one, but the majority of the websites don’t. They focus only on the business side, while not catering for the primary need of the customer. We, as well, are running a Poker portal that focuses on the business side in order to exist, but we do focus more on delivering for the true need of the customer, even though in most cases this is not directly connected to our business model. We cater for all different types of poker players, delivering the best strategy articles to introduce players to the game, bring the latest industry news, have the most in depth reviews, the rules covering all the different poker games, an extensive video section and even have our own annual live tournament, The Battle of Malta, taking place in Malta with a guaranteed prize pool of 500k EUR. From a business perspective we could deliver the same bottom line without half listed above, but we don’t, as we know that we fill a gap that nowadays others are leaving behind which gives us the opportunity to take on a leading role.

GAV: How do you see the online poker market/industry at this moment?

SDW: Poker industry is not what is was, and for smaller affiliates a tough environment to gain market share. However, there will always be a place for online poker affiliation within the iGaming vertical and it is now all about adjusting to a new level of normal.

GAV: What are the strong points of PokerListings and what makes it stand out from the other niche websites/guides?

SDW: Identity, history, value. We are a poker guide that is over 14 years old and has something to offer for all kinds of poker players.

GAV: We have analyzed PokerListings and found some great content. Are you writing it by yourself or do you have a team of people writing for you? How about the blog section?

SDW: We have a Content Team in place in HQ in Malta and have freelancers located all over the world. In order to be top of the game in poker affiliation, you need to deliver top notch content. You won’t survive long enough to tell the tale if you try to do this with half work. Content is King in the world of SEO. In order to keep the visitors engaged and thus the Search Engine valuing you, you need to see this as an investment rather than a cost.

GAV: Tell us about the online marketing and SEO of PokerListings, do you have someone inhouse for that our you outsourced it?

SDW: Also the marketing team is situated in HQ in Malta. We focus primarily on onsite SEO strategies. On top of that we spend time on email marketing, social media marketing, and PPC where allowed.

Our Marketing/SEO strategy has changed over the years, as we needed to adjust due to updated guidelines from the biggest Search Engines. Important to keep up to date with the latest trends as no strategy last forever and you need to keep adjusting.

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

SDW: We run our own content agenda. Yes, from time to time stories need to be covered as they are too big to skip, but most of the fluffy nonsense we don’t touch. The online media landscape is changing to focus primarily on clicks and traffic in order to justify the media budgets. We keep it simple, focus on the world of poker, strategy, bonuses and a bit of fun. So far this has been serving us well.

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?!

SDW: Yes, we do. I think –honesty- is still most important. We have worked with almost all poker brands available. And no matter how good your product pitch is, sooner than later your real performance will be public.

GAV: How does the online poker affiliate ecosystem look at this moment, how about the future? Let us in on a few secrets…

SDW: The affiliation part has seen a negative market trend over the last 7 years. However all about adjusting and setting a new strategy with new goals to reach. Still big upsides on the horizon: US market to open, South America/Asia is emerging, possible liquidity sharing between some Southern European countries etc.

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

SDW: I would like to see the US open up and get the ball rolling with California. This will happen eventually and this will give a boost to the industry. Politicians should to stop talking BS, and start doing their jobs. Too much talk, too little actions. It does not make sense to me that now in 2017 the fast majority of the US landscape is blocked from online poker. Not only are you depriving the US citizens from such a fun game, you are also missing out on extra income you can strike up on a state/federal level. This so called land of the free is not so free after all.

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

SDW: Whatever segment within iGaming you go into, keep the full focus on the visitor. Keep adding value to the chain. It might be a slower and more costly path to success, but once you are there it will last way longer.

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

SDW: I myself only go to those in London and Berlin. I normally skip Amsterdam, Barcelona and the Nordic Conference but then have my Account Managers on the ground. London and Berlin both are special cities. I enjoy coming down every year for some days.

GAV: What do you think the chances are for Eastern Europe to become a potential gaming hotspot in the near future? Where do you think the region must still improve upon?

SDW: It will take time. These things won’t just happen overnight. Not only does the IT infrastructure need to be in place but capital as well. This is still lacking in most of these countries on a scale that it would be interesting to invest. We always set up products in new places where we see potential in the future so that we are ready when needed, but for now keep the marketing spend to a minimum.

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

SDW: Big fan of Prague. Still has the vibe of a medieval town while excellent place to party and enjoy good food.

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

SDW: No place comes to mind.

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

SDW: Tommy Cooper

GAV: Tell us your opinion about the Gambling Affiliate Voice?

SDW: Fine site. I check the site from time to time for industry latest news headlines.

GAV: Thanks for your time Sirp, we really value it. 

 

If you would like to suggest subjects for future affiliate interviews, be sure to send your suggestions to: george@gamblingaffiliatevoice.com .

Affiliate Announcements

Digital Marketing Mixer to be hosted for second iteration of FREE business networking on 30th June

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Digital Marketing Mixer to be hosted for second iteration of FREE business networking on 30th June

 

 

Last month saw the launch of the first Digital Marketing Mixer, a FREE business networking event created by Lee-Ann Johnstone which hosted over 150+ iGaming and Affiliate Marketing professionals in attendance.

The event which received outstanding delegate reviews, will be hosted again on Monday 30th June between 4-6pm (BST) via Zoom. The aim of the speed networking event is to bring together affiliates and digital marketers, technology providers , agencies, experts and marketing service providers together to promote their services virtually.

With limits on travel and attendance at physical events still in play opportunities to network for new business have been limited. That combined with increased remote working has had a natural impact on business development slowing in the short term.

The Digital Marketing Mixer has been created as an open platform for professional social networking to take place in a structured but relaxed virtual atmosphere. The event has been created to support new business and continued lead generation for all businesses operating in the Affiliate industry.

Lee-Ann Johnstone, the event host commented: “The Digital Marketing Mixer is a key event for digital and affiliate marketing businesses to get better connected during this uncertain time. The objective is simple, bring people together to talk, to collaborate and ensure new business and service opportunities continue to thrive. I’ve created this FREE networking event for EVERYONE to benefit from in the affiliate industry to help get new business deals done.”

The mixer remains 100% FREE for delegates to attend and is open to any vertical. Once again the event is held in collaboration with founding collaborators GPWA.org, iBet Directory, and AffiliateINSIDER collaborating to deliver this event.

“The toughest part of the conference experience to replicate online was always going to be those oh-so-important conversations in the bar. I was delighted to find myself in just such conversations at the Digital Marketing Mixer – top marks! “  said Sue Dawson from bestnewbingosites.co.uk who attended last month’s inaugural event. 

The Digital Marketing Mixer will offer a host of  fun networking games, speed selling challenges and enable delegates to enjoy discussing the latest industry trends whilst providing a platform to market their goods and services. The focus of this event remains on getting digital and affiliate marketing professionals quickly connected, getting new deals – done!

Lloyd Richman, founder of iBet Directory commented: The Digital Marketing Mixer Party is a great concept and offers all delegates the option to contribute unlike other webinars and conferences. It had a good mixture of natural event speakers, experienced iGaming professionals and new people to the industry. A great event which was highly successful.

If you are an agency, affiliate, consultant, operator, digital marketer, payment provider or saas product owner, everyone working with or in the affiliate industry is welcome to attend.

RSVP FOR FREE and join the Digital Marketing MixerHERE

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Affiliate Announcements

Mr Gamble is the fast growing iGaming affiliate taking the world by storm

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Player-friendly approach to casino comparisons sees audience grow to new highs 

In January 2019, two iGaming enthusiasts from southern Finland, Paavo Salonen and Jonas Kyllönen, created an affiliate site which follows a different path to competitors in the sector – Mr-Gamble.com was conceived to provide a user-friendly service that details the key benefits for different online casinos.

In a little over a year, the team at Mr-Gamble (owned by CashMagnet Ltd) has grown from two to sixteen people, and their site is attracting millions of views and an audience of thousands, eager to find a more discerning comparison site for online casinos.  With such impressive growth, the company is now moving to bigger offices in their adopted home town of Tallinn, Estonia.

Putting the players first has been key to this success, with the team’s focus to build a casino comparison site which highlights the various benefits from leading online casino operators.  Easy-to-use filters allow players to match specific search criteria to their needs, such as high quality casino bonuses, with a brand promise to help users “find a 200% bonus in under one minute”.

 

Moreover, with responsible gaming high on regulators agendas for 2020, not least due to COVID-19, Mr-Gamble’s onboarding policies for new casinos include strict criteria to ensure player protection.  Time-out periods, self-exclusion options, financial limits, and more are all in place to reassure players that beyond the entertainment factor, their well-being is key. 

Jonas Kyllönen explains, “While our competitors focus simply on the bonus offer and a select few aspects of gaming, Mr-Gamble.com highlights things like hidden T’s & C’s and other small details that make up the overall quality of a casino’s service and the bonuses they offer. We even include a section purely for casinos that offer free spins, allowing players to find free spin offers without deposits.  This sets us apart from old school affiliates and builds trust with our audience, resulting in a high proportion of returning visitors.”

Kyllönen, who leads on all aspects of marketing for Mr-Gamble, also realises that staying plugged in to media platforms such as Twitch and Instagram enable the company to attract some of their users from the elusive millennial market.  

“In just six months”, says Kyllönen, “we became the most watched slots channel on Twitch in Finland, and alongside our Instagram following, this allows us to stay in touch with our audience across multiple touch points – it’s been key to our growth. We still see SEO and PPC as the main pillars of the casino affiliates sector, but complimentary channels like Twitch are both entertaining and good for business.”

This well-rounded approach to the casino comparison sector is both innovative and forward-thinking, standing the company in good stead for the coming decade, during which adapting to change and staying on top of market trends will separate the men from the boys.

Mr Gamble’s affiliate offering is already well-established in Finland, and in April 2020 Mr-Gamble expanded operations to more English-speaking markets including the UK and Canada. The company also plans to target the US market, with licensing currently underway, and is looking at opportunities in Asia. 

Alongside Finnish casino enquiries, the company invites English language operators from international markets, particularly in the UK and Canada, to contact silver@cashmagnet.money for more information on deals and listings. 

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Affiliate Success

Exclusive Q&A with Marinos Shiapanis, CEO at Campeón Gaming Partners

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Exclusive Q&A with Marinos Shiapanis, CEO at Campeón Gaming Partners

 

We shall begin with the iGB award. How do you feel after winning this award? Had you expected this award?

We really didn’t. This was our very first time being nominated at the iGB Affiliate Awards and, given the fact that the competition was really high, we were not expecting to hear our name. Needless to say, we were – and we still are – overwhelmed and very excited. It was a team effort, and this is why we celebrated as a team after receiving the award in London.

This is the first time Campeon has been nominated for iGB Awards. And you hit the bull’s eye in the first instance itself. How do you see this honour: as a reward of your hard work or as a stepping stone for future innovation?

I think it is a little bit of both: it is definitely a reward and a recognition of the whole Campeón Gaming Partners team’s hard work and effort, but, at the same time, this is a stepping stone for us to do more, invest more in innovation, expand and further develop across all sectors. The whole team, and especially the Affiliate & Partnerships team, really devoted themselves to the company and they are the reason we have managed to win this award. Such an award is extremely important for us, as it shows how far we have gone in such a short period of time; we have managed to slowly establish ourselves in the iGaming industry, become a familiar face for affiliates in the market, expand our network and grow as a team and a brand. However, winning this award doesn’t mean we stop here; this is not just a motivation for us, but an obligation as well to work harder, focus more and deliver even better results. I think you will hear more of us the coming months.

The award recognises how Campeon stood out in terms of “transparency, inclusiveness and continuous support”. What are the things unique to the affiliate program of Campeon Gaming Partners?

Since the beginning, our vision was to create an affiliate program that would not only attract affiliates, but it would also keep them engaged. We started off with a small network and as we were building it up, we were also improving our program. Today, our network is comprised of over 1,000 affiliates and our affiliate team has managed to establish personal relationship with each and every one of them. To us, it’s crucial to put a face to the name; it’s not just about numbers, it’s about having a person who you know will listen to you and deal with your issues no matter how big or small. This is our way of thinking: we treat each affiliate’s request as equal, and I believe that our affiliates appreciate this.

In early 2019, our team dedicated themselves into redesigning the program’s strategy, aiming at building stronger, more interpersonal relationships with our partners, and providing them with better models in order to maximize their profits. At the same time, we optimized the affiliate experience, from the registration of the player, all the way to the affiliate statics’ analysis we have successfully merged, integrated, and incorporated all of the Campeón Gaming Partners’ brands into new platforms, ensuring that no affiliate activity was ever disrupted.

The award also mentions how Campeon offered tailor-made program to the affiliates. Could you shed more light into the deeply customizable affiliate programs of Campeon Gaming Partners?

Each affiliate has his or her own needs that looks into serving through a program. At Campeón Gaming Partners, we understand that, and every time we onboard an affiliate, we go into deep discussions with him or her to understand what they are looking for in our program. I think the most important fact for our affiliates is that we assign them their very personal point of contact, who is there for them whenever they are in need. So, when we onboard a new affiliate, we first assign him or her their point of contact, who makes sure to talk to him or her, understand his or her needs and goals and together they create a program tailor-made to the affiliate’s needs.

What are the qualities that you look forward to in an affiliate? Not all affiliates are likely to become successful, right? Based on your experience, what separates the successful affiliates from the rest?

We want our affiliates to treat us the same way we treat them: with respect and transparency. We always do our best to accommodate our affiliates’ needs, so we are looking into building partnerships based on trust. I think this is the most important part for us.

Regarding the second part of your question, I believe that definitely industry knowledge and audience play a significant part in separating successful affiliates from the rest. But besides these, I think that players are looking for affiliates who will be honest with them, affiliates they can trust; I believe it is the only way to build up a players’ audience.

New new social media platforms are increasingly micro-targetting the end customers and automated CRM tools are getting more and more advanced. In this scenario, how do see the future of affiliate marketing evolving?

I believe that affiliate marketing is already changing and with these new tools it will change even more in the future. We are now entering a new era: the digital and customized era. Customers are increasingly becoming more and more demanding; they now know they don’t have to compromise anymore with mass solutions, so they are asking for customized ones. They demonstrate their needs and preferences and demand for an experience tailor-made to them. I believe this is where affiliate marketing will focus in the future, and all the new or upcoming tools available, will give us the advantage of analysing the customers’ behaviours and providing the best solutions to them. Affiliate marketing of the future will evolve around customized player’s experience, in my opinion.

Finally, tell us about any big announcement in the near future. Expanding to more countries? Launching or integrating new products? Or a new marketing campaign? Our readers will be eager to read something first here.

A couple of weeks ago, we launched our first Pay N Play platform for the Scandinavian market, SvenPlay. In a few days, we will be launching our brand new, themed platform, Sons of Slots. This is a challenge for us, as it will be the first time we are introducing such a themed platform to our players. The Sons of Slots story goes back to the motor gangs of the US and it all evolves around that; rough street battles, leather jackets and ripped jeans, long hair, and endless road trips on their Harleys. This is what inspired us and we wanted to bring something very exciting to our players. Entering the Sons of Slots platform, our players will be transferred to a new world, the world of American motor gangs; they will play their favorite games in a new, adventurous environment, with exciting features, which will take their gaming experience to a whole new level. To bring this project to life, we have invested heavily in technology and this is why we partnered with a major agency, MaxCreate, specialized in bespoke front-end design, in order to be able to offer more flexible and versatile platforms to our players and to our affiliates.

I think 2020 is our year, and people will hear more of us: exhibitions, PR, awards… We will make it happen.

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