Carla Calinoiu, Public Relations Manager at Chipy.com (formerly TheBigFreeChipList), joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
In addition to being highly creative and dedicated, Carla Calinoiu and her team at Chipy.com (formerly TheBigFreeChipList) are also strongly committed to their values: great services, a strong sense of community, and big emphasis on user experience - follow her story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
I started working at TheBigFreeChipList network (now rebranded as Chipy) almost two years ago, and this was my first contact with the iGaming industry. I started as an Account Manager and continued with Product Planning with a focus on developing our 10 websites. Having created and maintained good professional relationships with people from this industry, I’ve also assumed the role of Public Relations Manager. During these years I’ve worked closely with affiliates and also attended a number of conferences in our domain.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
We are a medium-sized company located in Romania. As part of our affiliate program, our team is currently managing 10 active websites and we’re always looking to expand our horizons by developing other sites. Through these sites, we aim to provide players with the most accurate, up-to-date information, that is designed with a worldwide audience in mind. In that sense, we are currently working on growing our Youtube channel as a place where players can learn about all the basics of online gambling in a fun and accessible way. My work covers a range of different projects and tasks, which include on- and off-page SEO, as well as consulting and generating new ideas to improve our websites.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Our focus as of this moment is on English-speaking markets, but we’re clearly seeing the immense potential that several markets all across Europe are showing. We think any market can represent a great opportunity for both operators and affiliates, provided they know how to shape their strategy in order to fit in and be successful.
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?
We’re proud to have built a network of sites which have a lot to offer to players all around the world. Chipy.com (formerly TheBigFreeChipList) is one of the most prominent site in our network, which amasses a very big active community of players and offers accurate, helpful real user reviews, as well as unique features like the Playground, where you can play for fun for a chance to earn Chipy coins, our exclusive currency. The site also has a Community Shop, where you treat yourself to some special items, including real money through PayPal and Skrill, which are bought using the coins. Recently, we celebrated the rebranding of our site TheBigFreeChipList to Chipy.com and we’re looking forward to more positive and fruitful changes like this one in the future.
Our site NonStopBonus focuses heavily on delivering, as its name suggests, exclusive bonuses in real time (that means non-stop, even at night). CasinoFreak is a one-stop-shop for anything casino-related, including many in-depth guides on a variety of interesting topics from the industry. Finally, one of the youngest members on our network is SlotsMate, a site that deals primarily with slot games and includes unique reviews for most slots on the market. There you’ll always find the latest slot releases from the most popular software providers.
As for future plans, we’re looking to stay committed to the same values that have brought us where we are: great services, a strong sense of community and big emphasis on user experience. Surely we want to keep up with the competition and that requires a large amount of creativity and dedication, but we’re always working on new innovative features, some of which will go live on Chipy.com very soon!
Is the grass greener on the other side - have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
We don’t think white labeling aligns with our current business vision. As for sports betting, we think the market is already quite saturated, so at the moment, we are choosing to stick to the things we are good at and improve our work and strategy whenever possible. In the future, we might consider exploring other options as well.
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 aware that regulations do affect operators and affiliates alike, but at the same time, we realise that they are made (and changed) with the players’ best interests in mind. So all that’s left for us to do is adapt to the present regulatory environment and see this situation as an opportunity for growth and success.
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?
Our experience of over 10 years in the industry informs our decisions with regards to players’ interests, and we provide operators with accurate stats. Our traffic is exclusively driven by SEO, we have never used any other traffic source like PPC or back links. We choose to grow our business in an ethical way, no matter the trends.
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?
No, we can’t say it’s something we’re considering at the moment. Looking at similar cases, we think it’s a recipe for disaster.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
Operators can benefit from being more open with affiliates. Building a good business relationship based on trust and transparency is the key to success, and it will surely increase the support operators are getting.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
One of the most important things to keep in mind while working in this type of business is that the only constant is change. The industry is always changing and you have to be able to keep up, by learning and adapting to new situations. Besides that, I think it pays off to have good communication skills and be a good team player.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Obviously, technology plays a huge role in any online marketing company. We use advanced analytics and tools to check the status of our websites every day and make improvements where necessary. We also have a professional dedicated team that uses technology to make sure that everything is always working like clockwork.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
We recognise the Asian market as being one of the emerging superpowers in the gambling industry, and we know many affiliates and operators are drawn to it. We think, however, that this market can pose some challenges when it comes to culture, language and player behavior, which is why not everyone who is attracted to it is also ready to access it.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I personally wish I had the insight and confidence that I have now, but I know that somehow that would take some fun out of it. I’m constantly learning and reminding myself that being a part of a growing business is an adventure and you have to have patience and faith that your efforts will pay off in the end.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Probably brand closures and ever-changing regulations. Also the ever-changing Google algorithms, which is why we are sticking to White Hat SEO principles to avoid any unpleasant situations.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
I think the most qualified person to answer this question is our Head of Affiliation Andrei Serban, the person who coordinates and is in close contact with most operators we work with. Here’s what he shared with us:
“I think every client is unique in this niche. Having a good and trusting relationship with the operators will be a big advantage in the long term. With so many operators on the market, being in touch with all of them takes time, which might be a bit difficult for small affiliates. We value this very much hence we have a team of 20 account managers that are always willing to assist operators in driving results.”
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
Attending large-scale iGaming events surely helps you build a strong network. There’s nothing like meeting your partners face-to-face. By participating in such events we have started new business relationships as well as strengthened old ones.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
The last conference I personally took part in was SIGMA Malta 2019. The marketing team frequently attends conferences all over the world, including Manila. We’re all definitely excited to be part of such events again in the future, particularly the next SIGMA conference, because we had a truly wonderful time. Such events offer excellent opportunities to meet a lot of people from the industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all, business is done between people, not just companies!
- Favorite holiday? Seaside, preferably on an island.
- Favorite book ever read? Lord of the Flies by William Golding.
- Where would you relocate with family if you had to pick one city? Porto in Portugal.
- Favorite quote? “Life is What Happens To You While You're Busy Making Other Plans." - John Lennon.
- Favorite sport and childhood idol? Sport: Figure skating / Idol: Nadia Comaneci.
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SiGMA Americas and AIBC Digital Summit were launched with great success in the past week, pushing the shifting grounds of the gaming industry towards LatAm and discussing the current developments in digitalisation. In a first for SiGMA, both the gaming and the tech segments of the conference were offered in 3 languages, English, Spanish and Portuguese.
SiGMA will launch its next series of events in 2021, with SiGMA Europe headlining next year's calendar. Inaugural summits in Asia and Americas are also set to dominate the year, with SiGMA Asia launching in May 2021 and SiGMA Africa in 2022! Explore the full agenda here and register now!