Affiliate Grand Slam by SiGMA
Matteo Giannone, Co-Founder of Casino2K, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Matteo Giannone of Casino2K says that they are focusing on the Italian market because they are Italian, they know their country, their laws, their neighbours, their language, and their culture - follow his story below.
11 January 2021, 09:00:00
How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
In 2006, I was a student in Computer Science Engineering, in desperate need of money. One day I typed “how to make money” on Google and I found a website explaining how to easily win at roulette, using the Martingale betting system. I won 600€ in 2 hours and I thought: “Wow, I found the Golden Egg!” I lost 512€ in 1 minute and I thought: “I am missing something”. I started studying some roulette systems concluding that was a stupid way to bet at roulette. I tried to understand why that website was giving wrong advice: I discovered Web Marketing. Since then, I started drafting articles to help players like me to stay away from frauds: after 14 years, Casino2K is one of the most trusted gambling websites in Italy. I am a casino gambler, so my only vertical is online casino right now.
What were your biggest challenges when first starting and what are your main challenges today?
At the beginning, the biggest challenge was finding a smart way to organise and publish my content and my media. I started using Microsoft Front page to write single html pages linked together and archived like you do with a ring binder. Then I discovered CMS and this complicated part of my work became easier. The most difficult challenge today is explaining why your website is in some way different from hundreds of other gambling websites. Before getting an audience using SEO, you also need to convince Google that you work in a professional way with no tricks to provide great content to players.
What helps make your performance successful?
If you like your work and if you like interacting with your team, you will succeed for sure. Every day I wake up with some ideas to discuss with my partners, then I convert them into a concrete project and I discuss them with our skilled and smart developers who are able to enrich management ideas. So, the key for success is working with the right people in the right mood.
How important is SEO? How did SEO change in the last few years and how will it change in the future?
In general, SEO is a long-term investment for the visibility of your business. For our business, SEO is crucial because an advertising ban is in place in Italy (the so called “Decreto Dignità”) and Search Engines are the only safe way to get some traffic.
How important is social media activity for your affiliate business? How difficult is it with Google's constant updates?
We did not explore the social media side of the affiliate business mainly because it is tricky to be compliant with the advertising ban. We will try in the future, but at the moment it is not high priority. Google constant updates are somehow increasing the level of stress in the management, but they are also a challenge to improve our products and our content continuously.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We are focusing on the Italian market because we are Italian, we know our country, our laws, our neighbours, our language, and the Italian culture. We tried to approach some foreign countries but we did not succeed, it is not just a matter of translating some articles and creating a website using a CMS. If we will find motivated and skilled people to help us with a specific country, we could decide to try to enter that market. Emerging markets right now have an immense potential but we have not planned any test yet.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
Casino2K exists in the past 14 years, we have always developed it with the aim to help players stay safe from bad operators and frauds. We have spent many years giving out useful tips to users and now the name Casino2K is well trusted among players and operators.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
We drove a change in the Italian market: we are a model for small affiliates that copy the way we talk to Italian players (and our content, D’oh). I hope this has been important for players and appreciated by operators.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day? Would you be able to live 7 days without it?
I am responsible for the IT part of the business so guess what? I spend hours typing weird commands in remote servers to configure things, debug problems, read logs, and so on… Then hundreds of emails every day, social media, conference calls… I can say technology plays an important part of my life. I hope in the future people will understand how important it would be to stay at least one week away from dangerous technology, like social media.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators? What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
The founders take care of direct relationships with operators, we think it is important to build solid and long-term partnerships. With many affiliate managers it seems more a friendship than a commercial relationship. We like behaving this way and it works with most affiliate programs.
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?
We have been approached by international investors to sell the business, to grow the company, and to switch to the operator side of the business. If you look at the romantic part of the story, it is difficult to sell or share “your baby” with others. But we are entrepreneurs, so we are always open to discuss every opportunity.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
For me it is important to believe in your promising ideas, to share information with your team, and to focus on high valuable aspects of your business. Two other essential skills are being open minded and often innovate your products. Listening skills and empathy are essential qualities too.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
Artificial Intelligence is being widely adopted by big companies that are taking advantage of it and making lot of money out of it. I think we will see suddenly an increase of AI in the iGaming market, mostly in the operator side. AI is difficult to understand and to use, I think affiliates will need a bit of time to start using it.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
It has increased our interest in foreign markets, but we still did not explore many of them.
Can you foresee any growth for the affiliate business industry?
Markets regulations bring new rules and new restrictions to online marketing. In my opinion, the future will be more targeted advertising through affiliates, the best “tool” to understand players’ needs and to provide them with the most relevant products.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
iGaming events can be beneficial to all type of affiliates. Small affiliates can talk directly with operators and understand how serious the market is. Bigger affiliates can fill their agenda with meetings, talk with affiliate managers face to face, and hopefully close good deals with them. An important aspect of the events is building real relationships with real people working for operators. After all, we are real persons and we need to socialise with others and... have fun!
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?
We were planning to attend SiGMA Europe but the outbreak changed everyone’s plans. We will book for sure our ticket for the next edition!
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.
Thank you for asking this question, working remotely we often forget we are real persons.
I live in a small town in the countryside of Milan with my 3 beautiful children and my lovely wife. I love travelling: my first trip has been a 9.000km flight from Italy to Alaska (USA) at the age of 18. I did not know English very well, travelling alone was not that easy… Now I travel at least 3 times annually with my family, I love meeting diverse cultures and I want my family to understand how important it is to be open to every kind of difference: climate, nature, language, and culture.
My everyday life is full of technology, but for me it is extremely important to spend part of my week in the nature. I love gardening, I like mountain biking, I love trail running (I am close to a total of 1.000km in 2020), and I like climbing and hiking. When I started this business, I went fishing 3-4 times per week, SEO was so simple 10 years ago.
I love reading but last years have been so busy that I had to relax a bit on that side.
And I love socialising in real life (not on social media): “aperitivo” before dinner in my favourite bar is the perfect way to relax, meet some friends, and discuss about something completely unrelated to work. So, let us meet at the next SiGMA event and let us have a talk and a drink together!
Thanks for your time Matteo and taking part in the interview.
It's been my pleasure SiGMA, thanks for having me.
Happy new year and all the best for the future.
Same to you too!