John Wright – Affiliate SuperStars -Interview- (EEGReport – Magazine – Issue3 – June – September 2016)
EEGReport Magazine: Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you venture and what are your key activities within the online gambling industry?
John Wright: After graduating university with an engineering degree, I gave professional gambling a try with the idea that if it didn’t work out, I’d just get a real job and that would be that. So I guess the real job thing never worked out. Over the years anything I have done career wise has mainly involved the gambling industry. I have done many different jobs in the industry and even within the slice of industry in affiliate marketing, my jobs and roles are in a constant state of change. I would say now the core of what I’m working on has to do with user experience design and conversion rate optimization.
EEGReport Magazine: You mentioned you have been working hard and making a lot of changes to your websites along with creating new projects. What is the main focus behind your new projects?
John Wright: At the time of replying to this interview I’m working on 3 major site relaunches and have been spending a lot of time and energy on designs with as much emphasis on user experience design as possible. Of course one of those relaunches is gaffg.com and expecting to follow it up with helping relaunching thepogg.com followed by casinobonusestoday.com. The past few years my design process has been evolving and getting sharper so at the moment I’m wearing many worker hats and juggling the tasks to make everything happen. So yes this year I’m creating a lot, working a lot and investing a lot. By no means will I be slowing down after this and am planning on a few more major projects which are top secret and you’ll definitely hear about them this summer and later in the year.
EEGReport Magazine: During your career in the industry, have you ever felt that you will give up? What were the bumps on your road and how did you overcome them?
John Wright: Tough answer. I’ve worked on affiliate sites for quite a few years and when you go head to head against the more competitive sites that have larger teams at play, it can be disheartening to put in a lot of work and feel like you are not moving very far. So yes, plenty of bumps in the road but there is no giving up. For every bump in the road, it’s a chance to learn from it and get stronger. For myself personally it has taken longer than expected to grow my sites but for every setback or for any disappointment, it’s been more fuel to take the time to think, create a new strategy and then execute it. I certainly don’t recommend new affiliates go the hard route and have helped to grow them and my advice has always been the same, start small, pick a niche and got for the small wins to build some momentum.
EEGReport Magazine: How do you keep the content of your websites fresh and devoid of clutter when a lot of fluff and nonsense appear on the Internet on a daily basis?
John Wright: This is no easy task as say if you have 500 casino or slots reviews to work with, sometimes content inherently becomes a bit out of date. I’d say first it helps to have quality content with the assumption that some content might not exactly expire or be timeless. It helps to have a content structure in place for items like casino reviews where you know parts of it should be updated when things change. I’d say by taking the time and doing the extra work in updating content can go a long way.
I would suggest to anybody that they do a content inventory and review what they have and see what needs to be updated. Sometimes you just need to check your analytics data to find out what content you should focus on.
In terms of advice for other webmasters on trying to keep content fresh, I’m sure many of them probably think they have a choice of trying to focus on getting more search traffic versus creating new content versus updating content. I think if you have a site that isn’t really earning or converting that it’s hard to get the drive to clean up your content. So I think improving your content is always worth the effort but I personally value a site’s user experience equally as important. I’ve worked with sites that have excellent content but they don’t convert or have good stats. Sometimes improving the content value could be something as simple as adding a header, image, bold or even an internal link.
EEGReport Magazine: What is your opinion about emerging markets? Do they present a huge opportunity for affiliates seeking to enter new markets and being the first ones to promote certain operators?
John Wright: Absolutely, emerging markets you can treat as less competitive and it’s a chance to own a bigger slice of something. It is a chance of gaining rankings and traffic with less effort than trying to do the same in an established market. I’m always encouraging affiliates to either go niche or hit a market that is less competitive because you can see some short term gains which I think is critical for success. Of course if people want to chase markets that already have established competition, you’d better be prepared to work hard and expect to have a good business plan or idea but even with that you could spend up to a year trying to penetrate an established market and make a profit but you could accelerate things in an emerging market. It’s an easy decision and I think that is something new affiliates need to understand when having a choice. They might hear about sites like AskGamblers selling for 15M euros and saying I want that but that’s not easy to get. You can put in the same amount of work into a site, one in a competitive market and one into an emerging market. I think most established affiliates would agree you’d probably see some income in the emerging markets sooner and that is already making your site more valuable. I’ve seen affiliates put in years of effort into English gambling portals and without any traffic or rankings, who wants to buy it?
Maybe one more bit of advice on an emerging market is to think of it like investing and consider not putting all your eggs into one basket. Some gaming laws can happen overnight where a country more or less gets shut off to online gaming and if you were dependant on that market, you could be losing everything like your income source and your site’s value would plummet. Invest in the emerging market first but I’d consider some alternatives whether it’s an escape plan or to find ways so you are not fully dependant on one site. You could say the same if your site ever got a Google penalty.
EEGReport Magazine: What would you change in the online gambling ecosystem, apart from making it more transparent of course? Any ideas on how affiliates and affiliate managers can get a better protection from scammers?
John Wright: I think the transparency in the industry will come with time or at least I would hope. Affiliates are one of the gateways for players to gambling sites so I think as much as operators have more rules and regulations to abide by, the same will happen for affiliates and in theory it should be our job to look out for players.
For affiliate managers, if we are talking about scammers then this could be prepaid deals. Affiliate managers should be networking where they can ask other managers if they have any experience with an affiliate in question. I think now everyone has better tools to cross reference a website to know if someone is trying to pretend their traffic is better than what it really is.
For affiliates if we are referring to dodgy affiliate programs then this is a challenge to help affiliates or give a platform for affiliates to complain which for now is mainly restricted to forums. This is where networking is very important. Not all affiliates are willing to share any aspect of their data and what affiliates really need to know are which programs generate the best ROI, which ones generate the worst and which ones are either not paying or scamming. Forums can help for some of this but certainly not all of it
EEGReport Magazine: What “guru” advice would you give for “green eared” affiliates that are entering the industry?
More work, less forums:
I was just talking about what webmaster forums can be good for which is to read about dodgy affiliate programs but after that I’d recommend webmasters spend less time there. The most successful webmasters I know rarely check the forums or spend time chatting. As well sometimes the advice you get there are from people spending more time chatting when they should be working on their website and being successful. On top of that, some people are more inclined to argue and have too strong of an opinion with the loudest voice. Use it for when you have a quick question to ask a community but I think you are better off building real relationships and your own personal network.
Networking and more networking:
You need to build a network of people you can trust that can help you with the idea that you can help them as well too. I’d extend this to networking in person at conferences like Amsterdam Affiliate Conference, SiGMA ’16 and of course London Affiliate Conference and Totally ICE Gaming. Just like I mentioned about forums, when I want the opinion of my peers, I won’t be asking in a forum, I will ask them direct and I have had that from building up my network which is constantly evolving and there is always room for more quality people in it. That trust is built from meeting people in person so those that are not going to conferences probably won’t know the true value of these events.
Have a business plan:
Most people don’t seem to have a business plan in place and I think this would help a lot of affiliates prioritize and stay focused. Of course be prepared to drop your business plan and create a new one if something isn’t working. Sometimes the next big opportunity is sitting there waiting for someone to adapt. So despite that last comment where I put my foot in my mouth, it really does help to have a plan and if you are a new affiliate, I’d highly recommend getting feedback from some peers. At least in your business plan you can also plan for changes. I’ve seen a team of new affiliates head to a conference before demanding high CPAs and having an affiliate manager criticize both their strategy as well as their website concept. After meeting them my advice was similar, rebuild the website and come up with a good USP. I’m not sure those people are in the business today.
Never stop learning:
The business of being a webmaster is simply evolving non stop so you should always be looking to pick up a new skill whether that means taking a course of some sorts or reading a book. If you do this, try to remain focused as there is a wealth of information out there, you can get information overload and spend all of your time learning and less time doing something.
Sometimes the best way of learning is by doing something and having some work to show for it. Are you writing an article, making a video or building a website? It’s hard to know what works if you are not creating.
EEGReport Magazine: Looking further afield, where are the major emerging opportunities in Europe for affiliates at this moment?
John Wright: A book could be written to answer this. I’ve seen a lot of language focused affiliates accelerate their business faster than people working on English affiliate sites and that includes myself. These markets I still view as up for grabs and not many people have attacked them as much. I view every country and every language as an opportunity. Poker may have lost it’s flare over the years but it is still popular. You can’t go wrong with casino and sports betting. Bingo I’d say has potential in the language markets as bingo in English has become fairly competitive. Lottery is the last gaming product I think that is finally starting to mature although it might have it’s challenges as land based lottery operators are not all fully online nor are they keen on setting up an affiliate program.
Bio: John is an igaming veteran and has launched many affiliate websites focusing on both players and webmasters and through his site Gaffg.com has offered a unique webmaster coaching service. He has helped many affiliates grow and accelerate their business. His skillset includes User Experience Design and Conversion Rate Optimization and works as an igaming consultant through his company Horseshoe Agency.