Alexander H., Co-Founder of CasinoSeal, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
At CasinoSeal, Alexander H. and the rest of the team value local knowledge and it is very important for them to understand the traffic flow and unique customer behavior in each GEO - follow his story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I have been working in Sales since I was 16 and co-founded a call center business couple of years later back in 2009. Then in 2013, I got approached by a friend of mine who asked me if I would be interested in starting out with online sales and affiliation.
With my background in outbound sales, I thought this whole affiliate business model of having high converting incoming search traffic was just too good to be true. Even though we started our first iGaming affiliate site in 2014, we didn't really focus on the sector until 2017. Mainly we have been into eCommerce but iGaming is still the biggest source of income.
Tell us a bit more about your future plans.
If you broaden your horizon and dive into the true DNA of affiliation, expanding into new sectors and markets is always the future for building up your business.
We will continue to enter new and prospering markets, at the moment we think that LatAm and Africa are very undervalued and underexplored. Even though the EU markets are getting more regulated, there is still a lot of money to be made. If you adjust your ROI and think on a more year-on-year basis the EU is still interesting.
The long-term plan for us is to expand into new emerging markets while at the same time developing our legacy domains and maintaining the positions we have in the regulated GEOs.
What sets you apart from other affiliates and what makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
I think that doing business should be on a win-win basis. We are keen on working with rev share deals (even with new casinos), while many of our competitors try to squeeze every single dollar out of the Casinos with as high CPA as possible. There are of course both casinos and affiliates that try to fool each other but a few bad apples can’t ruin the industry. If the casino doesn’t make enough money they can’t pay you on time or even in full anyway. Be more careful with who you are promoting, or just accept that a white label casino with a Curacao license doesn’t have those deep pockets as you might think.
One of the biggest things that set us apart from a domain perspective is that we think that every piece of content should be researched and double-checked. I guess we approach content writing as a piece of content that someone actually wants to read. If one landing page is about “PayPal Casinos” we open up accounts on casino sites and double-check if they actually offer PayPal as a deposit method.
The industry norm has long been to take some parts of the data from your competitors high ranking sites instead of actually researching it yourself.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Scandi and LatAm are our strongest markets, and other English-speaking countries such as Canada and New Zealand are growing as well.
Coming from matured markets such as Scandi, you can sometimes lose your ground and even start to assume that all GEOs are the same. Getting local knowledge and understanding the traffic flow and unique customer behavior in each GEO is very important to us. I think it’s good to talk to other industries and get a little bit of perspective now and then.
The potential in the EM is very much overlooked. Lots of countries just skipped the desktop computer and landline phones and went straight to mobile-based browsing.
I mean, having a photo ID or even a passport is not even a thing among the general population in the UK or the US, for example. In the US you can even vote in the presidential election without a photo ID. We are still in the very early days of the whole iGaming industry and it’s very important to not forget that. Just because you can use Trustly and electronic BankID for 1-click-deposits in Scandi, doesn’t mean that every GEO is that far ahead.
The true potential of any emerging market is when you integrate the deposits and KYC into a seamless system that takes a couple of seconds to process.
What can you tell us about the regulated Swedish markets? What about the growing black market, and casinos with no Swedish license?
The Swedish market is still alive and growing, and will continue to mature for years to come. The megatrend of offline betting moving to online will continue, the Swedes will continue to gamble on slots and watch Premier League on Saturdays while playing Stryktipset. The amounts being deposited might change, ever since self-exclusion came into effect with the launch of Spelpaus.
Sweden as a market is a great example of a mixture of both complacencies from the iGaming industry and politicians that don’t care about researching the market. While weekly deposit limits and bonus limitations have been wreaking havoc, there has also been some fundamental issues that were overlooked for years.
Sweden has been deeply affected by the ruling political block of Social Democratic Workers' Party of Sweden for the last 100 years. This has shaped the country with monopolies and state-owned gambling being the norm. This is nothing that will go away in our generation, as the politicians are raised within this “semi-socialist” system.
One way of addressing the black market issue could be to think of it more like other highly addicted industries such as soft-drugs. Legalisation efforts made in the US have been pushing some of the black market dealers off the market, while at the same time awarding more tax dollars coming into the government’s pocket.
While the iGaming industry likes to think of itself as a “computer games industry” you can’t deny that a lot of politicians in Sweden think of slots more like alcohol or pharmaceutical in terms of the addiction level. For example: there is a social stigma that comes with saying that you’re a gambler who bets 20 000 SEK on slots per month.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
Sadly, I think that the regulations are here to stay and that the politicians will never understand that iGaming can’t be blocked. If you can’t ban black market casinos in China or the US you will never be able to pull it off in Sweden or elsewhere either.
Lower profit margins and less money on the table are the end result for companies that follow the rules and play by the book. What’s important to understand is that we are still talking about our profit margins and how much money you’re making - not losing. Yes, your profit margins are shrinking in those markets. But at the same time, I think that the P/E ratio for those profits goes up. So in the end, you should be valued more as a company for working with regulated markets.
How important is social media activity for your affiliate business? How difficult is it with Google's constant updates?
We do not work with social media, and focus on SEO as the sole source of traffic. Google updates are just something you have to accept, prepare for and try to overcome. One way of dealing with Google is to launch multiple domains and spread your risks.
A couple of questions about SEO:
- What are the main challenges of SEO today and how are they different from just a few years ago?
The challenge today is that the SERP is more crowded than ever. As more and more domains are launched, there will be more competition for the top results on all keywords. Personally, I like this since the moat gets deeper for new players. Compare this to 10 years ago when you could build comment section spam links and get rewarded for that.
- Why is SEO important for gaming and how long does it take to see results from SEO?
From a casino standpoint, buying FTDs from affiliates working with SEO is the cheapest way for casinos of building up their customer base if rev share is used. From an affiliate point of view, the results can take anywhere from 12 months and more.
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?
While we are aware of the growing M&A part of iGaming, we have yet to find suitable partners as investors. It’s easy to say that you would like to have a cash injection for scaling your business and growing faster. We would also want long-term partners and not just another pump’n’dump equity firm that just wants you to try to replicate one of the Swedish stock listed affiliate companies.
How do you choose your operators and how do you manage relationships with multiple operators?
We work with both incoming marketing requests and also approach operators ourselves. We value industry knowledge and prefer affiliate managers that understand us as affiliates. Then again, If the casino doesn’t convert the whole point of having a good affiliate manager is lost. So we try to balance the income with how the operators are doing business.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
At the core of the affiliate team, you have data. How you choose to analyse and act on that data is up to you. What we think is that you should take actions based on that data and not on only how your competitors are doing. I guess you can call it a kind of freethinking mindset.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas - which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?
I’ve been to SIGMA Europe a couple of times, and I am really looking forward to the return of Expo shows in 2021. Malta is a great island for business meetings and we will definitely go this year.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
I’m not a big fan of sports, and I don’t watch Swedish TV. Other than that, I’m a self-proclaimed foodie and like to play a couple of rounds of golf here and there. Years ago, I read a quote from Warren Buffet, “You can never make a good deal with a bad person” which kind of changed my mindset of doing business and also in my personal life.
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