Wayne Howe, Managing Director of HowAbout Bingo, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Wayne Howe of HowAbout Bingo has a genuine affinity for the bingo sites he promotes and is not chasing the cash but the sites he likes best - follow his story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I got into the affiliate space by accident really. It was 2006 and I had just finished university. I applied for a website administrator role for a company in Leeds. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were one of the biggest online bingo affiliates.
I started out managing a newly launched free bingo website and from there I moved up the ranks to eventually manage all of the bingo sites in their portfolio, including the market leading bingo brand, WhichBingo.
When WhichBingo was sold to XLMedia in 2018 I was made redundant, which led me to create my own company, Howe Gaming, and eventually to now where I’ve launched my own bingo affiliate site.
You have built your brand around your persona. Tell us more about it.
I knew I had to do something a bit different to make my website stand out from the crowd, so yes I decided to take the approach of putting myself out there, front and centre as the face of the website.
So unlike other bingo affiliates, all of the reviews, news, and guides are all written by me, with my voice and my opinion. I also have lots of video content where you can see me playing and talking about the different brands and games. I believe it is a great approach to go with as I am genuinely passionate about online bingo and think that comes across. Players (hopefully) will buy into that.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
One of the key features on HowAbout Bingo is our What’s On page. This section lists all of the major promotions taking place that are open to new and existing players. Rarely do affiliates focus on existing players, as it is all about getting those FTDs. It is a lot of work to maintain this promotions database and keep it up to date, but I believe in the long term it will be become a mainstay of players wanting to find a quick overview of what’s going on in the market.
I also believe that through the way I present the content, including my gameplay videos, visitors to HowAbout Bingo will be more educated about the sites and games I’m promoting. That way, those who do click through to the operator are more likely to convert as they’ve seen and read what the site has to offer before they click out.
What helps make your performance successful?
Ultimately what determines whether I am successful will be down to the gods at Google. If I can get ranking for some big key terms, then I am sure once I build up a head of traffic I will be able to eventually catch up to the big boys in the industry.
A lot of what I will be doing, and why I have built the site around my personal brand, is because I want to be less reliant on Google. In other words, when people do find my site, I want them to make this personal connection with me and be more likely to choose my site over a faceless bingo affiliate, for their bingo needs.
What motivates you to promote more, and what helps you boost your motivation?
Personally, I love it when my peers in the industry see the site, or some content I’ve created, and say “hey that’s great”. For me, the site is as much a vehicle to push my personal brand beyond just generating some affiliate income. That is why I do a mix of content which sometimes includes stuff written for industry people, like my review of the Mecca Bingo site redesign.
I figure that if the worst case scenario happens, and the affiliate site is not a success financially, at the very least I will have vastly increased how well known I am in the industry, which in turn may lead to future opportunities.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Right now my focus is 100% on the UK online bingo market. I’ve no plans for world domination or anything like that. I just want to make the absolute best bingo affiliate site I can, and put all my efforts into making that the number one in the UK space.
What sets you out from other affiliates?
I think what makes sets me out from other affiliates is that I have a genuine affinity for the bingo sites I promote and respect for the players who play there. This leads back to my time as free bingo manager, where I would regularly host chat games and even meet up with players for special real-world events. I understand that bingo culture that exists in the UK, and how it applies to the online space.
I’m also not chasing the cash, which is already rubbing one or two affiliate managers up the wrong way! They can’t seem to understand why I am unwilling to accept payment to put their brand in top positions. They just can’t get their head around an affiliate whose list of best sites is simply the sites he likes best, and not sites who paid to be there. I hope it is these kind of differences that will eventually connect with players for long-term success.
How important is social media activity for your affiliate business? How difficult is it with Google's constant updates?
Social media isn’t really that important, as ultimately if I can get the site ranking in Google, this will bring way more traffic than anything on social ever could. When I worked on WhichBingo the only time we ever got anything decent from social was when we did live-stream bingo events, with a real person hosting them. This is kind of why I have done my gameplay videos on YouTube. People are more likely to connect and trust a real person, than some faceless affiliate brand.
The difficulties though in social come from the regulatory changes that keep happening, such as the latest guidance which is to restrict content to over 18s only. That’s easy enough to do, but the downside is you cannot watch a YouTube video that is restricted to over 18s as an embed, you can only view them on YouTube. This change only occurred a couple of days before I launched, and I still have a fair bit of embedded video content that now is just a black screen saying ‘watch this on YouTube’.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Technology is super important to me as I have been fortunate enough to subscribe to multiple tools that allow me, a one-person operation, to pull of designing and maintaining what I hope you agree is a very professional looking website.
I built the site in Webflow, which is a no-code solution that allows people with not much coding expertise to make some pretty nice-looking sites. It also allowed me to build my own CMS, which I used to ensure whenever I edit an affiliate link, offer text, or key terms, it automatically pushes those changes to every page on the site where that brand appears.
Originally when I set out to create the site, I thought I would have to partner up with a WordPress developer. But fortunately Webflow has meant I could do it all myself, and lower my start-up costs considerably.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
To be honest it is not always uniqueness that makes an affiliate successful. I know plenty of bingo affiliates who have done a great job and earned a decent amount of money by building a website with literally the same WordPress template used on a dozen other affiliate sites. It isn’t a prerequisite for success by any means.
However, if you want to build a brand that stands the test of time, then you need to find something that makes your affiliate stand out from the others. I’ve gone for using my personal knowledge as that USP, other affiliates I am sure can work out what could be unique for their market.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?
I’ve seen a few articles floating around that has used AI to actually write the reviews of the brands on an affiliate’s website. The standard of review written by these AI appears to be pretty high, almost indecipherable from a genuine writer. As someone who sometimes spends 1 or 2 days writing an in-depth review for a brand, it is scary to think an AI could churn out better content than mine in just a few seconds.
I hope it is a long while yet though before such use of AI becomes commonplace, and that users have some way of identifying a real writer from these AI ones.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators? What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
I knew I would need some way to keep on top of all the operators and affiliate managers I have to deal with, so very early on I started using Trello to keep track of who I was speaking to, which brands I was registered with and what stage in the process I was with each one. I’ve still got more to sign-up to as I flesh out my bingo directory, but I won’t be rushing the process.
I think there is an assumption that whoever signs up to an affiliate program, already understands how that affiliate program works and how to use the backend systems. I’m a bit of a newcomer to this side of things, and there was only one or two, when asked, could provide any kind of documentation on how to use their platform.
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 never had any need to go to SiGMA in my previous roles, but in the future it would be nice to attend the Europe event.
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’ve got three boys aged 8, 5, and 1 who keep me busy when I’m not in the office. I love taking them out into the countryside or to local parks and woodland walks. I’m big into football and enjoy watching the mighty reds of Liverpool FC, as well as playing 5-a-side on a Sunday night.
I do play online bingo myself, usually in the evenings when more players are on and when the more interesting events are taking place. It is part of why I understand the sites and games so well.
What I really miss most though since all of the COVID restrictions is not being able to go to comedy gigs. I was never into music festivals but absolutely love nothing more than going out with the wife to see a stand-up comedian. My favourite quote is from the great Billy Connolly, “Never trust a man who, when left alone with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on”.
SiGMA Group releases its latest publication:
SiGMA is proud to announce that the 13th edition of SiGMA magazine is now available online here. The magazine is packed with quality content, interviews and features coming from four different continents around the world - including Europe, Asia, Africa and LatAm. The magazine will be distributed by post to leading gaming and business companies worldwide. Should you wish to be featured in the next issue please contact Katy Micallef.