Alex Windsor, Founder of Apps4web Media and Bettingworx.com, join the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
With an industry veteran leading the charge, Apps4web Media is on a steep upward trajectory. Alex Windsor tells us how years of experience have informed his business decision - follow his story below.
How did your affiliate marketing business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
The sites I am working on now were only started in February 2017, so they are all relatively new. Previously, I had 14 sites that I built up over five years, but I sold them in 2015 and then had to start from scratch two years later. The industry has become a lot more competitive now than it was five or six years ago and there are a lot more people in the industry now.
I also run a link building and SEO agency called Level88 Media too that works with some big names across the industry. The company is new but we have been link building for lots of clients under the apps4 web media brand but decided to split the company into two parts earlier this year.
As well as working in iGaming, I have a property company too where I let outhouses. During my non-compete years, I set up and ran a successful mobile bar company selling cocktails from a converted campervan which I sold before restarting on my new sites.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I have been an affiliate for almost nine years now and love it. I actually stumbled into the affiliate and iGaming world when I was working at a call centre as a sales advisor. I was trying to find a good betting app for my phone, and there were a lot of choices and not a lot of websites offering reviews and guides on the apps. So, I thought, why not try and make one? I have always been into technology and gadgets, so it seemed like a perfect fit.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing when I started out. I paid over the odds for my first site but had no idea how much these things cost. I then spent a lot of time looking at SEO forums, reading e-books, listening to audiobooks and using whatever I could get my hands on to try to understand the web and search engines. I went to lots of conferences too which really helped my knowledge grow. Since getting into internet marketing, gaming has always been my only focus.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
As the business owner, I run all aspects of the company. Sites, SEO, content, accounts, licensing and everything in between. I oversee all the sites with a small in-house team, but we also use freelancers to help with logos, banners, design work and some writing too. I am the first to admit I am useless at design. We’re currently looking at taking on more content writers to appease demand and grow our sites.
Our main focus now is the regulated US market. It is going to be such an exciting market with so much potential when it all kicks in. We are licensed in New Jersey, Indiana and Colorado and have applications pending with Pennsylvania and Tennessee for our US site which is gamble-usa.com.
I am also working on two other projects with two other companies to launch some dedicated casino sites in the US as well. Again, these will be in the regulated markets. These sites will be casinocabbie.com and teamgamblers.com. Both are in the infancy and have not been fully launched yet but will be in the next few weeks.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
I think that all operators and affiliate managers should try and work with sites to increase exposure and help them. A lot of companies are too quick to pull the plug on affiliates if they haven’t delivered in a certain time. There are all sorts of horror stories on the affiliate forms about being let down by a company.
How can affiliate marketers be more unique in their approach?
This seems to get more and more difficult each year. There are that many sites out there now that everything all seems a bit samey. It is hard to find a niche that doesn’t have a lot of competition and you can go in with your unique take on it. Work in a niche and on topics you love and speak from experience.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
Our sites mainly focus on mobile betting and mobile casino. We try to offer a personal, friendly experience when using our sites. We will be launching a lot of US-focused sites this year and next year to capitalize on the growing US market.
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?
I did sell my portfolio of 14 sites back in 2015 and it is not something I am in a rush to do again. I have had several offers to sell up again but have said no. I love working in this industry and can’t see myself doing anything else.
I am in a fortunate position that after selling my previous sites I can put money into the company to grow it. We have teamed up with a couple of other companies to launch some sites but this is more to do with manpower rather than funding.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate marketing team/business?
Doing something you love is an essential part of working in this business. For me, there is no other industry on the planet like it. The opportunities, the reach, the networking, connections, conferences etc. are all unique and amazing. I work all the time. I never stop reading forums, magazines, looking at competitors, looking at my owns sites and analysing everything.
You need to be prepared to work all the time and be focused.
The industry grabs you in and doesn’t let go. Well, for me anyway
What sets you apart from other affiliate marketers?
I am very approachable and always try and help where I can. I am friendly and love chatting with affiliates and sharing ideas information.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
I would be lost without my laptop and mobile. My phone is near me all the time. I use it to organize my day, reply to emails, make notes and connect with others. Technology plays a huge part in my day.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
AI will definitely play a big role in this industry in the future. With machine learning already happening at the search engine level, I think it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a part of everyday life.
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered going down the operator route?
No, it is not something that I have ever considered. I see all the competition and the number of new startups that close after a few years and that is enough to put me off. I know financially the rewards are very good but it seems very difficult to do, especially with all the licensing and regulations in place.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority in 2020, and why?
The regulated US market is the big one for us. I love America. The people and the passion they have for sports and gambling is insane. I have been to Vegas a fair few times and love it. It is such a diverse country and the possibilities over there are huge. With a population of 330 million, there is a big enough pie for everyone to have a slice. Sure, the licensing is a bit of a pain but if you want to work in the regulated markets over there, it is essential.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
Rules have definitely got a lot stricter over the past 4 years. T&C’s and bonus info must be placed everywhere across the site and updated on a regular basis. This is very time consuming and can place a lot of restrictions on affiliates and sites. I think regulation is a good thing to protect players and are happy to see the rules in place.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
The Asian market looks like a very exciting one but not one we are looking at. I prefer to work in markets where we know and understand the language.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I wish I knew that sports betting would be legalised in the US in 2018. I would have started sites a before then ready for when it went legal.
I know how important a proper SEO plan is now too. Through keywords, search intent and fulfilling what a user is searching for.
Having seen the effect coronavirus has had on sports and sports betting over the last few months, I wish we had made more casino sites to cover the loss of sports traffic.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
One of the biggest nightmares for any online marketer is the Google updates. They can kill or make a business. We have had a few sites impacted in the past by core updates and luckily recovered from them quite well.
What are the main challenges for the sector in 2020?
Regulations and the ever-changing legal landscape will continue to play a big part for any affiliate. I think it’s about finding a nice balance between protecting players whilst not restricting people’s choice and freedom.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
I can only see iGaming continue to grow. I look at where we are now compared to 8 years ago and it's incredible where the industry has gone. Live casinos and in-play/live betting will get more popular too as players want the full live experience.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
I find communicating by email and skype is my preferred way of managing relationships with operators. I like to be able to see what we have been discussing and having copies of chats to refer back to.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
I love going to conferences. You can learn so much from them. Meeting with fellow affiliates and account managers is a nice change to talking over email or skype. I love feeling the buzz walking around the floor. It’s a great way to meet new operators and catch up with existing ones.
The only thing I would like to see is more talks and panel discussions on SEO and other marketing opportunities.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I went to SiGMA Malta in 2018 and will be going again later this year (flights permitting). I would definitely consider going to Manila to see what is available in the Asian market.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
I am a relaxed, easy-going guy who likes to have fun. I love spending time with my family and friends. I am a massive football fan and will watch it at any chance I get.
I also love travelling and visiting new places. Italy is one of my favourite countries to visit and have been lots of times over the last few years. Having a young son means I am limited now to how many times we can go away. I have swapped the canals of Venice for splash pools and a bucket and spade.
What’s on your must-read list right now?
I struggle to find time to read any books apart from when I am holiday, there just aren’t enough hours in the days. I try to take a book with me when I go away, the last thing I read on holiday was an industry magazine around the pool.
Which quote do you live your life by?
You can rest when you’re dead.