SiGMA News joins the AskGamblers team for a cracking Affiliate Grand Slam interview on what's next for one of the world's biggest affiliate websites.
Meet: Nikola Teofilovic, Vice President of AskGamblers, Denis Ristic, Product Owner, Dubravka Davidovic, Content Team Leader, Dragan Berak, SEO Manager, Branislav Ristic, Team Leader of Account Management and Milica Kasapovic, Senior Account Manager.
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
NT: I got in touch with affiliation in 1999 when I became the interim CEO of PC Express Norway AS (subsidiary of the 2nd largest e-commerce company in the Nordics back then). I made my first iGaming investment in 2003 but my first operational role in iGaming was joining Catena Media Serbia/AskGamblers as General Manager in 2016.
DB: It happened quite by an accident. I met my present colleague at some SEO conference 2 years ago. We've exchanged some experiences about SEO and I was intrigued. It was pretty fun. I didn't know anything about the iGaming industry at that time. Before entering the iGaming sector I worked mainly within eCommerce and SaaS.
DR: I started almost 6 years ago, in the software affiliate space. From developing our own software applications and recruiting affiliates to actually becoming one of them, my affiliate experience has been quite interesting. 3 years ago I moved into iGaming and it has been very exciting ever since.
MK: I started to work for AskGamblers 5 years ago, back then we were a Serbian startup located in one Belgrade apartment and, soon after, a roller coaster ride started to run. Before I joined AskGamblers, the best affiliate product in the Industry, I was working in a creative agency – digital marketing and advertising.
BR: It was a long time ago when I got into affiliate business, however the first time I joined the iGaming world was 5 years ago when I started working for, back then, a small Askgamblers team.
DD: Almost 6 years ago, I was an English teacher looking for a change. I’ve landed a job as a content writer at AskGamblers and that was my first encounter with both affiliate business and the iGaming sector. Needless to say I fell in love with both and ever since I’ve been growing with AskGamblers.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
DR: Being one of the world’s biggest affiliate websites, AG is placed right in between the customers and operators, servicing both sides. The whole business is focused on sending the best possible customers to operators and on the other hand on serving and helping the customers to get the best possible treatment from the operators. AG is mainly tackling the casino/slots niche, but we are currently focusing on improving our B2B aspect as well as developing some complementary web site sections and services.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
NT: AskGamblers is currently available in English, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese. The growth is in emerging markets, but you have to prioritize those that will give you the best ROI short term. Long term our goal is to make AskGamblers available to the whole world.
What makes your traffic proposition / traffic sites unique? What can you offer that others don’t? Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
DB: Unbiased casino reviews and casino complaints service. Anyone can read reviews before playing and see AG Rank of a casino - and then decide to play (or not). Also, our team of professionals every day helps people to resolve any issues they might have with casinos or payments. For the plans - oh yes, definitely! We are preparing a lot of new stuff but we just can't talk about them yet.
DR: Absolutely! AG is growing every day and innovation matters a lot to the whole team. Within the next few months we will be focusing on adding more languages to the website, redesigning some of the main pages of the site with the mobile-first approach, improving the search algorithm and launching a few completely new, innovative features.
Is the grass greener on the other side - Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
NT: The grass is almost never greener on the other side. Since we’re a listed company I can’t give you any information about our future plans, but we’re constantly following the iGaming market and evaluating new opportunities.
Are you concerned by the impact on the affiliate sector from shifting regulatory environments? (In particular UKGC, Sweden’s Spelinspektionen, and Germany’s 2020 State Treaty on Gaming Regulation)
DD: The shifting regulatory environments are having a big impact on the operators and this is, of course, extending to the affiliate sector, however, we are not concerned about it. We are constantly monitoring the regulatory changes and working closely with our legal team and operators to ensure that the AG website is compliant. It is always our top priority to adapt to changes quickly and meet the requirements.
AskGamblers has always been an unbiased and objective website working only with licensed operators and offering players an opportunity to make a knowledgeable choice where to play and to play responsibly.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your traffic? Are you focusing on SEO? PPC? Any other traffic source?
DB: The majority of our traffic is being generated through SEO i.e. great content and fast, optimised pages. We put a lot of effort in providing our users with relevant information and useful data for better decision making. Our devotion to user experience is the top priority for us. We have a saying here in the office that goes: "In order for Google to love you, users must love you first".
Besides SEO, we are running PPC campaigns as well. It is only natural to complement organic traffic with ads.
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?
NT: We’re constantly working on scaling our business and we’ve enough resources to do that. M&A questions are handled by our Board.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
BR: It’s quite simple – they must play by the rules. iGaming industry itself is super dynamic and as well as we as a listed company are striving to be fully compliant and to be aligned with all the regulations, we expect the same from the operators. Respect your competitors, play nice and Askgamblers will always give a chance to everyone to reach their full potential and make our community happy.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
BR: When it comes to sales, the first thing is that you have to know your product inside and out. Based on that you can make your customers/clients happy and give them what they need. Second, you have to be people oriented with a set of soft skills. After all, everything comes to negotiations and nurturing relationships.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
DD: We live in the world where technology has become an inextricable part of our everyday lives. It has become unimaginable to get things done without the use of technology. For example, even when I want to cook something I’ll use my phone to either google at least 10 recipes before I actually start cooking or call my mom to ask her, and, of course, I’ll also use my phone to take pictures. :) These days with the lockdown, it plays an even bigger part, as technology is the only way to stay connected to the outside world and the people we don’t live with.
And of course, when you are working in an online business, you can’t actually do your job without technology and the internet above all.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
DD: Asian market is an immature market with great potential. It is as interesting to affiliates as it is to the operators, but it is at the same time quite a difficult market to enter. AG is already present in Japan and what we have found so far is that we have a great opportunity to educate the users about the online segment and build trust.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
NT: I’ve learned so many new, industry specific things from my amazing team regarding SEO, Content, Sales and Tech so my answer would be that I wished I had the experience from running a successful iGaming affiliate when I started.
DB: Well, only after I entered the iGaming sector I've met some of the most creative and highly skilled SEOs of today. I wish I knew this before.
DR: The effect of regulation changes in specific markets.
MK: If I knew working in the Industry would be as intensive as it is, I would deal with the fear of speed.
BR: That you never know what new gambling regulations will bring tomorrow.
DD: Since I’ve joined the team, I learned so much in each segment of our business which helped me grow professionally and personally. Still, I wish I knew more about SEO when I first started out, but, in this way I got to learn from extraordinary experts in the field and put everything in practice along the way.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
BR: With such a big list of operators that we promote, comes a big responsibility. Everyone has its own challenges, mostly when it comes to resolving operator’s complaints for which AG is famous for. You never know what case we’ll have to deal with next. Also, one of the biggest challenges is to make everyone equally happy. Most of the operators are targeting the same markets and have pretty much the same needs, so we have to “juggle” between them, our players’ needs and make sure both sides get what they want.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
MK: For us as an affiliate, it is very important to be present at large conferences, to be available to meet with new and existing partners, and to share with the Industry what novelties we have to offer - as we’re adding innovative features a few times a year, this is an additional challenge for us. There is a lot of unnecessary material on all conferences, so we find it important to think about our planet and, in order to reduce rubbish, we only print material that is really necessary, as we all need to be aware of the fact that most of the pamphlets get thrown away in the end.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
MK: Yes, AskGamblers team attended every SiGMA event in Malta; in fact, there are many interesting stories about these visits, but let’s avoid an endless scroll in this interview . We plan to visit Manila at some point, as Asian traffic is important to us, and it’s equally important to learn more about Asia and Asian market.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
DB: I've been working as an internet marketer since 2010, started focusing on SEO in late 2014. And I cannot imagine doing anything else. I love my job and enjoy doing it. It can be quite stressful at times but that's nothing new compared to other fields of marketing. What makes SEO special (for me) is that it's a totally different way of doing marketing, that is - it is not an interruption marketing. When people search for something, they already know about the type of product/service you're offering - you just have to make sure that your page is the best result they can find.
BR: I'm a people-oriented person, I love to travel, to compete, play almost every sport and even though it may sound like a cliché - I love my job.
DB: Italian region - Easter. Molto bene!
DR: Christmas Eve.
MK: International Women's Day.
BR: Instead of holiday – I’d go with any day during winter season, the reason is quite simple – I love skiing, so ski slopes is where you can find me as soon as it starts snowing.
Favourite book ever read? Favourite book you look forward to read some day?
NT: The Art of War – Sun Tzu and looking forward to read Hoodwinking Churchill Tito’s great confidence trick – Peter Batty
DB: Start with Why - Simon Sinek. I look forward to reading some of the pieces of Dostoevsky (which I haven't had time to read until now).
DR: Subtle art of not giving a fuck.
MK: Death and The Dervish – Mesa Selimovic is my favourite one, and I would like to read any of the Niches books, without getting a headache while reading.
BR: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. List of the books I want to read is quite big, can’t decide for only one, just hope I’ll have time to read them all!
DD: I would recommend Norwgian Wood by Haruki Marukami. And since Denis has been recommending the “Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck” ever since we first met, I really look forward to actually reading it one day.
Where would you relocate with family if you had to pick one city?
NT: I’d stay in Belgrade.
DB: Hmm, this is a tough one. I don't know really. I love Serbia. Maybe Bergamo, Italy.
BR: Since we lack a seaside here in Serbia, and on the other hand I can’t give up on mountains and skiing, the best combo mix of those two things is in France – Nice.
NT: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
DB: “Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
DR: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
MK: When is the last time you did something for the first time?
BR: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
DD: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” - Oscar Wilde
Favourite sport and childhood idol?
NT: Handball and my mother
DB: Basketball. Michael Jordan.
DR: Francesco Totti.
MK: Basketball, Zeljko Rebraca.
BR: Basketball. I’ve been playing basketball professionally for 10 years (as much as it can professionally when you are a teenager) so all my childhood idols are from the NBA. If I’d have to pick one, that would be without doubts - Michael Jordan.
DD: Handball, Svetlana Kitic.
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