Atte Sarantila, Founder of Podium North, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Atte Sarantila and the rest of the team of Podium North are players themselves who live and breathe the industry and that is why they can write in such detail. Their aim is to build more trust in online gambling in their target GEOs, as gambling has been part of their cultures for a long time - follow his story below.
How did Podium North take off? Is iGaming your only vertical?
Sports betting has always been one of my passions and it felt natural to begin with sports betting affiliation in the autumn of 2015 after working for iGame Group over three years. Soon after the start, we were offered a bunch of sports media sites. We grabbed the offer and started to run media business as well. We’re doing business also in other verticals.
Tell us a bit more about your business model, concept, and culture.
We run 22 online media sites which reach over 2.5m unique Finnish visitors monthly. We have a very strong portfolio of sport media with mostly male audience and lately we’ve focused to build other media to reach also females. We have two Finnish Casino SEO sites (Kasinoranking and Pikakasinot), Finnish Sportsbook affiliate site Uhmapelaajat, Japanese Casino SEO site JapaneseCasinoReview, SEO sites for Baltics markets and Mvideoslots for English language markets.
The cornerstone of our company culture is to hire very skilled team players.
What sets you apart from other affiliates? What helps make your performance successful? What makes your traffic unique?
We have very strong local teams for every market we operate. That helps us to understand each market.
Tell us a bit more about your Sports media sites.
We reach monthly over 1m Finnish sport fans. Our sports media sites are about different sports or leagues. This makes targeting different audiences very easy.
The Ice-Hockey World Championships and the Football European Championships are coming up. What are your plans for these two huge events?
We’ll make a huge amount of content around these events and create traffic like hell. The Finnish national team qualified for the first time in the European Championships, so the boom is huge.
Tell us a bit more about your Casino SEO sites.
We have a range of different Casino SEO Sites, most prominently kasinoranking and pikakasinot. Our main focus is our native Finnish market, where Kasinoranking aims to be the authority. It covers all topics and Pikakasinot covers mainly the pay and play phenomenon. With Kasinoranking, we have a very high level of expertise, with our team having years of experience working in the industry, and we pride ourselves with most comprehensive casino reviews and high quality game provider reviews. We can write in such detail, because we are players and live and breathe the industry. JapaneseCasinoReview is our Japanese Casino SEO site, which development has been very promising.
Tell us a bit more about your LatAm site and project.
Casinoexpertos will be launched in April. Our first focus will be Mexico which is one of the biggest markets in LatAm and in which the regulation already contemplates remote gambling. Then we will expand in other regions in LatAm. We see a high potential in the market, as digitalisation is growing at a fast pace and people are getting more familiar with digital services and online entertainment. Our aim is to build more trust in online gambling, as gambling has been part of these cultures for a long time, providing accurate information to users on how to play safely.
How did SEO change in the last few years and what should one expect in the next year or two?SEO itself hasn't changed, it works on the same fundamentals as always; satisfy the user and success will follow.
However, what has changed is the competition. In the past, you could get away with less. But nowadays, if you are not satisfying the user fully, your competitor will, and they will win the competition. I would imagine even stronger competition for the unforeseeable future.
How can SEO experts innovate and remain ahead of the curve in such a fast-paced vertical?
SEO is not very innovation driven. As a whole SEO is usually rather reactive than proactive. Google dictates the framework, and SEOs react.
How does streaming disrupt SEO?
It doesn't in the short term. We all rely on a pool of consumers. In the long term, if bigger portion of that consumer pool watches streamers and base their decision on making streamers' advice, this can shrink the pool that would find information through search otherwise. We can see this in slot content. Gone are the days when users would read anything about slots. Naturally, they want to watch videos of big wins, streamers playing their favorite slots, etc. This is reflected in the SERPs as well already, as majority of the results are videos, not text.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
Podium North is quite a large operator nowadays. We have 40 members in our team, who work in many different locations mainly in Estonia and Malta.
We have been creating structures for the organization to help growth. Still we want to stay agile and lean.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We focus now on our current markets Finland, Japan, and the Baltics.
There is a huge potential in emerging markets. We start now in LatAm and try our best to leave other markets for others to conquer.
Which niches work best for your affiliate marketing, and which are the most profitable?
SEO affiliation works best and is most profitable.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
You need to have a lot of different kind of talents in your team: marketing, tech, iGaming, SEO, CRO, etc.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
We reach players mainly through online channels; therefore, technology has its presence in our discussions and activities. It is also an enabler to reach our audience in new and different ways, so it has a natural part in our strategy. Another thing is remote work and meetings that have brought in new challenges and opportunities alike.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?
Data has had a rising meaning to our industry for a few years now. I see that the importance of it will continue to grow, and also, we will continue to utilise it in new ways.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators? What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
We have an excellent account manager who manages most of our operator relationships.
Operators could communicate better towards affiliates. We aim to provide up-to-date information about operators and their offers, but too many times we have to dig the information ourselves.
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?
Yes, I’ve been to SiGMA every time. It has been fun to see how it has grown from year to year. SiGMA Manila and New Jersey were also excellent events.
I’d book at least Europe and Asia. Let’s hope we can soon meet again at SiGMA events.
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 watch a lot of sports and love to bet. I read a lot of books from poetry to scientific literature and collect sneakers. All the sneakerheads in the industry with US12 shoe size come and say hi at the next conference. I might have more to offer than just NDCs.
SiGMA Roadshow - Next stop Las Vegas:
After our successful roadshow in Ukraine -The SiGMA Roadshow's next stop is Las Vegas
Our Virtual Roadshow reflects SiGMA's global events opening in 5 major regions over the next few years, specifically Europe, the CIS region, Asia, the Americas and Africa. Our previous virtual event, held in Ukraine, welcomed over 2,500 delegate registrations and over 1,500 conference views. There were also over 75 exhibitors and the number of total booth entries hit close to a 6k mark. Join us for our next Virtual Roadshow to learn more about the US gaming market!