How can affiliates remain important to operators?

Gone are the days when affiliates could build a review page for a gambling product, apply some SEO and sit back in anticipation of their audience. That’s the view of Ellen Learmonth, who manages the affiliate program for Golden Euro Affiliates (a partner of Safe Affiliate Programs). 

Just a few months after sharing her concerns over the “unusual relationship” between the two, she explains how consolidation has posed a series of challenges for affiliates looking to remain a relevant source of traffic for operators.

Writing for SBC News, she also discusses how each operator must ‘find their niche’ and know the intricacies of that particular vertical, as well as integrating into communities.

Not so long-ago operators in the iGaming industry were completely reliant on affiliates for their gambling-related traffic. Some of the casino start-ups never invested a penny in other marketing offline or digital. Instead they booked themselves on the next affiliate conference and kicked off their affiliate marketing with the aid of experienced affiliate managers with a great contact list who could recruit well performing affiliates to the new product. 

SEO savvy affiliates used to have an advantage over operators ranking higher than the owners of the brands they were promoting. However, operators did not stand still. They started building up their own SEO departments. Once they had their own SEO experts, they implemented rules and regulations into their affiliate marketing terms and conditions that would prohibit affiliates to bid for any keywords related to the operators’ brand terms. 

These were the first signs of a changing environment for affiliates who had dominated the market. The affiliates who were still growing did so on the back of bonus offers, the bigger the better and if possible exclusive. This race to entice the players via incredible and exclusive bonus offers consequently lead us to the restrictions now implemented by advertising standards and regulators to the landscape of ever-growing rules. Now compliance is suffocating the affiliate bonus sites with a possible ban of all bonuses on the horizon.

Operators have gradually changed their affiliate focused marketing over the past five years, as we saw the first operator consolidations. As they consolidated affiliate databases, they introduced new terms and conditions. This meant it was harder for smaller affiliates to maintain a regular income. What followed was a consolidation in the affiliate space. Media companies were on a shopping spree and they quickly grew with their acquisitions targeted to seek market dominance, financed by well-funded IPOs. 

There is no doubt that those big affiliate media companies remain important to operators. Their sheer volume of traffic will see them being able to gain and keep operators’ attention. 

But what about the affiliate with one to five websites, maybe focused on one gambling vertical? Can they stay relevant? This is going to be more difficult. It is no longer good enough to just build a review page for a gambling product, apply some SEO, then sit back and wait for the audience to come. And it has not been that way for a while.

This is where the affiliate must be savvy.  One thing they can do is to decide who they work with more closely. Do they want to focus on the big operators? The ones that have sponsoring budgets and SEO departments? The ones where the offline marketing departments are in competition with the digital marketing department and affiliate marketing is just a subdivision? Or do they concentrate on the operators who still value their affiliate efforts and care if their partners achieve a living for themselves?

The other consideration has got to be to re-focus on their offer. Maybe narrowing their niche.  As bonuses become more restricted and compliance is heading towards no special offers for the potential customers, the target audience is harder to lure. Thus, affiliates should consider narrowing down on their niche. What I mean by that is the following. 

As an example: If you advertise casinos, make yourself an expert in all slots related to “Rainbow Riches”. This would be relevant for players who love those slots. In sports betting, you could target a certain fan base and place your content around that. The expert content would be just what should be relevant to get a good ranking and, in theory, you should find high converting customers.

Another way to stay relevant is to build on communities, something that used to be more popular and should be considered again especially in conjunction with the building of narrow niche product offerings and expert status. By building a community the connection to the customers starts with the affiliate, thus he can in fact play his part in customer loyalty and retention. This is a powerful position to be in.

I am afraid the situation is evolving past the abilities of a lot of smaller affiliates. Simple spare time dabbling in affiliate marketing is not something that will survive. You must focus completely, or you will not be able to enjoy the fruit of your labour, which will be frustrating.

If affiliates out there are looking for brands that support them and guide them in their efforts then look no further than the brands listed at Safe Affiliate Programs. These are not just there for the big guys but appreciate any partner that is willing to grow with the program.

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