Michaël Oltra & Olivier Soulier, Co-Founders at CasinoRange, join the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Moving towards expanding their tools to international and emerging markets, CasinoRange are never satisfied with the mediocre. Michaël & Olivier tell us what 10 years of friendship brings to the table - follow their story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
About 3 years ago, my associate, Olivier Soulier, called me and shared the idea to launch our own affiliate site. He is an old friend and he’s like family to me. We have been friends since we met at ESC Toulouse Business school 10 years ago. I have an SEO background and I had worked in an SEO Agency for 10 years. Olivier had the PPC experience, and he had already worked for a gambling start-up as a PPC Manager. We always made a good team.
We decided to launch a website for PPC traffic. It was an exciting time, and we decided to focus on the online casino industry. We both kept our respective jobs and worked for 2 years every night after our day job, investing our time and resources in this project!
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
Our business model is focused on paid and organic acquisition. We started by getting revenue from PPC traffic, then decided to invest into a new SEO website called CasinoRange which would be able to compete with the big guys in the industry.
CasinoRange's focus is to have the most accurate and honest casino reviews for our users. We want to become a strong model for the UK market, then we will expand to new markets.
As we are never satisfied, we always try and find ways to further optimize the user experience. As soon as we reach our targets, we will be expanding our tools to international and emerging markets.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We want to get into the US market, but it’s not that easy. We are in contact with American lawyers to get all the admin ready in advance to be able to launch in several states at the same time but as you probably know the US market is a tough one due to its regulation. Indeed, each state has its own laws, so it is a time consuming and an expensive process.
We also know that the LatAm market is growing fast, which could be interesting for us.
At the moment, new gambling markets are emerging everywhere around the world, but we would rather focus on a few of them and make sure we are successful in them before going everywhere.
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?
CasinoRange's main focus is to share fair and honest reviews about the brands, that is why we created what we called the TrustRange.
Our carefully thought through algorithm helps our casino testers generate a points-based rating on the trustworthiness of an online casino. Our TrustRange is currently based on Bonuses Cashout policy, Game selection, User experience, Mobile support and Customer services.
We genuinely think that our industry suffers from some evident trust issues, and that is why we do our best with CasinoRange to gain back the trust of our audience. When a brand is asking for better exposure on our site, we share their TrustRange score and tell them where they need to improve to give a better experience for players.
CasinoRange became very selective about brands that we send players to. Our team is doing an amazing job to create honest and useful reviews for our users. For a couple of months, we also invested in R&D to create a unique user experience that we believe will change the affiliate market or, at least, the approach of it.
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)
We’re concerned about it in the sense that it is being dealt with during uncertain terms but, overall, we always believed that the increasing visibility of our sector comes with greater responsibility over consumer protection issues.
As the affiliate industry is currently under a magnifying glass over “pressure gambling” ads and misleading statements, we must all prepare for big regulatory changes. So the best thing to do collectively as an industry is to show a united front, preempt the change coming by ensuring responsible and transparent behaviour, and show regulators that we are capable of being a responsible industry and that a degree of self-regulation can still be maintained.
It’s also important to note that corporate social responsibility is key to the survival of any business in the long run, irrespective of industry or regulatory changes. So in that respect, we think that the ongoing discussions are important ones and will be beneficial for the survival of this industry.
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?
We do have SEO & PPC traffic. CasinoRange.com is mainly SEO traffic even if we do run some PPC campaigns. The thing is, UK PPC affiliation has been more and more difficult to be successful with due to the regulations which haven't helped us, but as I said we are always open to new opportunities so if you want to work with us, do not hesitate to contact us.
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?
As businessmen, we are always looking for new opportunities. Our company is relatively new but it's growing fast. Four years ago it was just a side project and now we have our own offices with 10 employees in house and more than 20 outsourced. We have a well-established roadmap and so far we still haven’t achieved 20% of everything we want to do, so there is still a huge way to scale our company.
CasinoRange is our biggest project, we are investing a lot of time and resources at the moment and it’s starting to pay off. We are really happy with the performance so far. We are doing our best to optimise it and make it grow slowly but surely.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
We would say it like this, there are amazing affiliate managers who are working for operators, always giving you a quick answer, reply to your emails in a second, always kind and understand the business, and there are the rest. An affiliate manager is the image of your brand in the business and how they communicate reflects on the business, so choose carefully.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
- Adaptability, it is important in our business to be reactive and change our strategy based on regulation, technology, or market.
- Team effort and communication are key.
- Curiosity, always try new things without being scared of failing.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
We are both in our 30’s, so when we think about our first big square TV and our super slow internet connection that we used to have (56k/s) and now we have a full HDTV on our phones with a 20m/s connection via 4g. We love it.
Based on the current situation, we are quite lucky because first of all, our employees can work from home without having their productivity affected, and secondly, we have so many tools that help us to keep our productivity at the top-level, such as Slack or Monday for example.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
Nothing arrives instantly and when you work hard it always pays back.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Last Google core update, Google released a massive update beginning in May 2020, they took two weeks to fully implement it. A lot of websites in the Gambling industry had a negative impact on their organic traffic, so did we! We worked hard to get our full traffic back and now by optimising UX, speed, mobile experience. We almost get back to normal.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
The main purpose for us is to meet our partners, as we worked mainly in a digital capacity, it's always good to have a good chat face to face at least once a year, it helps to have a stronger partnership but it is not just about business; we love spending time having dinner or just a few drinks with our partners, we spent the whole year working it’s always nice to socialise.
iGaming events are a nice way to learn about new opportunities, new markets and learn the latest news at conferences. Each time we have been to these events, we learnt something new that helped us to move forward and grow.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
We have never been to a Sigma event, we were supposed to come to Malta this year, but we will have to wait until next year based on the current situation.