Affiliate Grand Slam by SiGMA
Alex Tester, Creator of Casino Cabbie, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Alex Tester at Casino Cabbie explains how their readers know what they are getting when they click through which results in sending higher quality leads. Moreover, their reviews are state-specific - follow his story below.
When and why did you start considering affiliate business as a career?
I never even knew about the affiliate business until 2016, when I got a job as a junior content writer for an affiliate company. As soon as I got started though, I was hooked. Building and working on websites had been a latent desire for quite some time and, thanks to affiliation, I was able to turn it into a career.
From where did you start your affiliate business and how? How much were you willing to commit to it?
Starting my own affiliate business was a big step. I had been working at the aforementioned company for nearly four years, so I benefited from the experience there. I had also branched into building my own sites by this point, and having a grounding in that definitely helped.
The biggest driver though was partnering up with Alex Windsor, who already was well-established in the industry. Once I left my job, I was focused on building Casino Cabbie full-time, although now it is balanced with other work that I’ve taken on.
What were your biggest challenges when first starting?
As I said, partnering up with Alex was a big help - he already had a lot of the contacts we needed and took care of things like licensing. My biggest challenge was going from a hobbyist developer to someone who could build a site with all the features and data that Cabbie has, in a way that would be scalable.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I wish I’d known that the affiliate industry existed back when I was starting university in 2010 - I’d have picked a more relevant subject to study!
What helps make your performance successful? What are the main challenges?
Cabbie is kept going by a small but strong team. Aside from myself and Alex, we also have a superb content manager who handles all of the data collection for the casinos we review and writes all of our pages. Casino Cabbie is a site that relies on informative and thorough content, complementing over 100 data points, so that’s pretty important. Point is: we all do our part, and do it well.
The challenges are the same as any new site starting out in this niche: trying to climb the rankings and get our name out there.
What motivates you to promote more, and what helps you boost your motivation?
I genuinely believe that we have built something great here, and I want as many people as possible to see it.
How is your company, including the affiliate team structured? What aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
We launched the site just under four months ago, so it’s early days. Top priority was to ensure that our casino list was exhaustive, and we now have reviews on every licensed casino site in a legalised state. We don’t have agreements with all of them yet, so any affiliate managers reading this should feel free to reach out. We’re now focused on SEO and getting some organic traffic in. We’re looking into other traffic sources too of course, but organic is the big one.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
It’s difficult, especially in iGaming when there are so many sites to compete with, to be completely unique. It sounds obvious, but the best advice is to think of what you’re able to offer which your competition doesn’t, and get 100% behind that. For example, I thought we could do better with reviews, by making it easier for readers to find out the important information about a casino without reading 2000 words of fluff. Which is what inspired our unique review page design.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
At the moment we are 95% US-focused, but have started moving into Canada and are happy to entertain new partnerships there. Emerging markets in South America and Asia seem like they will be very lucrative, however I’ll freely admit I’m no expert on these regions.
Which niches work best for your affiliate marketing, and which are the most profitable? How did you find your most profitable niche?
Casino is my specialism, I’ve been doing it for a long time now. Sports Betting is the next one on the list, but for now, casino is my one and only.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
Casino Cabbie is unique in a number of ways. Firstly, we’re data-driven: we collect over 100 different pieces of data for every casino we review. All of it is made available to our visitors via the intuitive casino review design, which divides the content into 12 discrete sections.
This data is also used throughout the site, in our top lists, which are designed to show the most relevant information to the visitor according to the page they’re on. For example, a visitor to our Slots page will be able to see how many Slots games are at each casino, how many progressives, the min/max bet, and if there are tournaments. The same can be said for all of our other game pages. All this means that our readers know what they’re getting when they click through, and, as a result, the leads we send are of a higher quality.
Secondly - and I don’t know if I’ve seen this on any other US-focused sites - our reviews are state-specific. We know that a lot can vary between states, particularly game software, bonuses, and payments. So when viewing a casino that is active in multiple states, we ensure that PA visitors see the correct information for their state, NJ visitors for theirs, and so on.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
Never say never, but it’s still a bit early to be thinking about selling. At the moment we are in a good position to keep on growing organically.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
You can go far with a positive can-do attitude, willingness to learn, and a knack for problem-solving. Most things can be taught; I’ve met people who work in affiliation who have come from all walks of life. I did my degree in education, but here I am.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
I think you’re going to see more automation in content and data collection. Apart from that, I couldn’t possibly say.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
Operating in the US, we already had to deal with state regulators. It’s inconvenient and it can put you off certain markets, but it didn’t cause us any insurmountable problems.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
I think the scramble for native Japanese-speaking content writers and SEOs will tell you most of the story there! It’s high-potential and high-value, but the language barrier is a big issue for some.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
More regulation and more growth, particularly in iGaming. It seems inevitable that while the COVID-19 pandemic is limiting people’s ability to visit land-based casinos and do other things, more people will turn to online gambling.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates? Do communication and support with operators meet your expectations? How do you manage your relationship with them?
I think that there’s a lot of scope for improvement here. For a site like Casino Cabbie, which needs a lot of data which is sometimes not so easy to find, simply being able to get a quick reply from a representative who can help find this information would be a big improvement. I also think there should be more openness to mutual promotion, i.e. operators helping affiliates get seen, as well as the opposite.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas - which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?
I really enjoyed the atmosphere at SiGMA 2019 in Malta. It’s great to have all the big hitters concentrated in one place, and to see what is coming up in the future. It’s also really good for networking - in my experience a lot of communication in the industry is done online, and meeting people face-to-face for a drink can really strengthen a working relationship.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into iGaming yourself, etc.
I’m a pretty middle-of-the-road guy! Got married in Cambodia 5 years ago and lived in Malta for 4 years before moving back to the UK. I love playing games and I’m a big football fan, supporting Arsenal. I love to play football too, whether it’s 5-a-side, 6-a-side, 11-a-side, or 20-a-side - I have lofty ambitions about being a ‘#10’, but as I’m about to turn 30, it seems the Premier League will have to miss out on my ‘talents’.
As far as books go, I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling - which also leads me to my favourite quote which is featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: 'If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.'
iGaming is a vice I’ve tried my best to steer clear of, knowing only too well - from many misspent paydays running the Pub Fruities - how susceptible l am. I’m not above the occasional trip to the casino though. I used to consider myself a decent poker player, until I played a cash game at my former company with some colleagues who are decent poker players. I lasted about half an hour.