Affiliate Grand Slam by SiGMA
Asker Thalidzhokov, CEO of Bookmaker Ratings, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Asker Thalidzhokov and his team at Bookmaker Ratings are now very successfull in the CIS markets with a strategic plan of expanding internationally. They make first-class products and attract quality traffic. The teams' vast experience in this industry allows them to be one step ahead of their competitors; their people are their strength. BR Lab is a trendsetter - follow his story below.
Tell us a bit more about BRLab - Online Sports Media Platforms. When and how did it take off? How did it scale up? Which projects does BRLab include and what do they specialise in?
BR Lab is a media holding company made up of both large and small projects across the online sports betting space. Our flagship project is Bookmaker Ratings, the site was launched in 2011 and was conceived as a site to help players both to choose a betting company and to assist in settling disputes with bookmakers. Since then, we have helped players by returning over 550m rubles, almost $8,000,000, compiled about 400 reviews, and published 200 000 reviews from real players. Bookmaker Ratings is currently the market leader across Eastern Europe.
Our next major project is MetaRatings.ru. We use our own state of the art tech, based on machine learning, which compiles maps of entities from aggregated reviews of bettors from all over the Internet. So, by going to Meta Ratings users can easily find out what players like or dislike the most in a particular bookmaker, as well as get an objective meta evaluation of the bookmaker, which is based on the collected reviews.
Among others is Odds.ru. It is an odds comparison service, looking at the odds of more than 15 bookmakers operating in Russia. Another unique feature of the project is the history of the odds movement for each outcome, market, and bookmaker. Our users can track the movement of odds since the opening of the line by the bookmaker on a particular event. Better informed bettors are crucial for our success.
Our holding company also includes Social.bet, a social network for bettors, and Tips.ru, a service of aggregated forecasts from all over the Internet.
Your company is the most trusted analytic media in the CIS market, please tell us what contributed to this result and what difficulties did you encounter on your way.
We are now well represented in the CIS, primarily as a result of the trust gained from our users in the Russian market. We scaled our successful experience to countries such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia. Each market has its own nuances, so we need to monitor each country for different changes from the regulatory side and in relation to the changing trends on the market. We gather new teams and train the people. Our people are our strength.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique? What sets you apart from other affiliates?
We make first-class products and attract quality traffic on them. The vast experience of our team in this industry allows us to always be one step ahead of our competitors, BR Lab is a trendsetter, among betting and sports betting projects, disrupting the marketplace any way we can.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
Within the holding company there are departments with project teams that share experience, knowledge, and best practices among themselves. Each team consists of experienced professionals: developers, designers, marketers, and managers. At the moment we are spending a lot of time on mobile app development, loyalty program development, as well as international versions of our projects.
You are firmly established in the Russian and CIS markets. Are you targeting any other markets and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
International expansion is a key part of the strategic direction of our holding company's development. We are now actively working on creating products for international markets. We see huge potential in the already established UK market (we make bookmaker-ratings.com for it), as well as in the relatively new, only emerging market in the USA. We believe we can build on our success in the Russian, CIS market and use our expertise for global expansion.
How important is social media activity for you? How difficult is it with Google's constant updates?
Our projects are well represented in social networks, making a total of about 1 million followers. Our editorial staff makes exclusive and exciting content that keeps our users informed and satisfied. We plan to continue developing our social networks.
As far as search engines are concerned, search engine rankings are already inextricably linked to the quality of websites and their content. As we are constantly working on improving the UI/UX, speeding up websites and creating interesting content, this combined with SEO optimisation ensures our partners get good results in search engine rankings.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
We pay a lot of attention to the technological side of our projects; we always follow the latest trends in technology and implement them ourselves. Our projects use machine learning, cloud technologies, modern development frameworks for both frontend and backend. In addition, we have our own patented technology with which we entered the Skolkovo technology park.
How did you find your most profitable niche?
First and foremost, we have tried to solve users' problems with the best choice of bookmaker and the bonuses they offer. By providing this service we have gained the trust of users, and now players visit our resources before registering on bookmakers’ sites.
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? Have you considered going down the operator route?
Finding investors is not our primary goal; we are a successful business that is, thankfully, growing and expanding. However, we do allow investors to participate in our projects, in cases where it helps us to make a leap in development. The question of selling or opening our own bookmaker has not come up, but we never say never.
From your experience, which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
Firstly, it is a team that can adapt to changes, and be flexible. The world’s changing fast and you have to be able to adapt to the situations and come to terms with events, whether it’s regulatory action or changes in search engine algorithms.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
Definitely machine learning and AI, we are already seeing our bookmaker partners incorporating it into their products. Data is becoming a core value and its analysis is becoming an effective tool in the hands of bookmakers.
Did the fragmentation of regulated markets affect your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
When regulations are tightened in one market, companies look for new opportunities in other markets, thus having a generally positive effect on our CIS projects. To a lesser extent, it affects Russian projects, as entering the Russian market itself can be a time-consuming process.
Can you foresee any growth for the affiliate business industry? Why and by how much?
Of course, major international events such as the 2018 FIFA World Cup attract a huge audience to the market. In 2021 there will definitely be an increase due to the European football championship, some of these matches taking place in Russia. Previous experience has shown us that the number of bets and consequently turnover increases 2-3 times during such events, and for some bookmakers even more.
In your opinion, how can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
On the whole, affiliates are looking for quick profits not long-term investments and they don't bother with the product or the traffic quality. Many of these affiliates need to change this short-sighted approach.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators? What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
As we have so many partners, we use a help desk to work with them so that every question or query is handled. We believe that good partner relationships and simple human communication are very important for productive business and if our partners feel the same way, this will be the key to everyone’s success.
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?
Unfortunately, we have not participated in SiGMA before, but of course we are ready to take part in this event. We currently have ICE, iGB, SBC, and BoSA under our belt.
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 Gaming yourself, etc.
I guess I'm lucky. I really like my work; I don't separate it from life and I firmly believe that life is work.
Thanks Asker, it's been a pleasure speaking with you.
You too, I'd like to give a special thanks to Konstantin Ulanov, our friend, partner and founder of Vseprosport.ru.
Yes, that's right, we interviews Konstanin back in August last year.
He's a truly professional person and an expert in our industry.
Good luck in the future Asker.