Márcio Pereira, CEO at Casino Gorilla, gives an exclusive interview to SiGMA News as part of our latest series on affiliates
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
Well, unlike many of the previous interviewees, I didn’t get into the business by creating a company, or coming up with a website. I simply applied for a job, and got it. That also answers your second question, as before joining the company I was working on the accounting side of a different sector. However, quite a few skills learned there translated fairly well to the Affiliate business.
Over time the scope of my responsibilities, and the trust placed in me by the company owners increased, and that’s how I got to where I am currently.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
At the moment our affiliate business consists of two main websites: one in the finance niche and one in the online casino niche (nettikasinot in Finnish). The former site has been online since 2014 and runs quite nicely on its own, so the main focus during the last 1.5 years has been our new site Casino Gorilla, which is an international website offering casino reviews, casino bonuses and free spins for our visitors. We are also planning to launch a completely new website this year in a different niche to get our eggs into one more basket, so to say.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Our main markets at the moment are the UK, Germany and Finland. Casino Gorilla also has some content in Swedish, Italian and Spanish, but traffic for those languages is still very small.
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?
I am not sure our traffic proposition is in any way unique – we are focusing mainly on SEO traffic like quite a few of our competitors. The main idea in everything we do is to try to do everything a little bit better than our competitors, or at least as well as we possibly can. We believe in consistent work and right now it looks like our hard work is finally starting to pay off nicely. The most exciting plan at the moment is probably the new website we are launching soon, but unfortunately I can't reveal too much about that one yet.
Is the grass greener on the other side - Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
Yes, that idea has been on the table a few times, but after doing some calculations and reality checks, so far the conclusion has been that it is better to focus on our main business, which is the affiliate side of things, and try to maximise success in this part of the supply chain before doing anything else. It's better to be a great affiliate than an average affiliate and average white label casino owner.
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)
Not really. The market has always been changing and there have always been opportunities for success. I believe that hard working and open minded affiliates can succeed in the future as well – no matter how much the regulatory environment changes.
Our brand and website has been designed from the beginning with the primary idea of being able to cater to different markets with one good website, which means that if one market closes, there are still a few good ones that we can use our site for. It is also easy to add completely new languages to our website, even though it takes a lot of work and time to make them rank well.
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?
There aren't really any secrets to what we do. We have tested a few different traffic sources but SEO seems to be the best way for us. Maybe at some point we could be interested in getting traffic from YouTube or Twitch, but those channels require a decent effort to succeed in, so right now it's mostly just SEO traffic for 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
Right now our own revenue is more than enough to scale our business at the correct speed. I believe that it is possible to try to do too much at once and lose focus. Keeping it simple can often be a good idea.
Selling the business is always an option, but right now our growth is at a very good level, so it is far more motivating to see how well we can do in the next few years if we give our best. Who knows what happens when it seems that the maximum potential for the site in our hands has been found.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
First thing that comes to mind is fairness and trust, and both could be improved with transparency and proper contracts that are not as one sided and in favour of the operators, as they are now. There has been an idea of creating a sort of badge of trust for operators from us affiliates, which I think is a great idea. It would motivate operators to implement better practices.
Fair and open cooperation always benefits both parties in the long run, no matter what the business is. So far there have been a few too many casinos that just rip off their affiliates whenever possible. Of course there are also quite a few very trustworthy partners in this business, which I am very happy about. I believe that being trustworthy is one of the main reasons for their success.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
For our company the idea has been to keep overheads as low as possible, so we like to use mostly freelancers for all tasks that it suits well. It is important to be able to see the big picture and where it is heading, and also give attention to tiny details that sometimes make a big difference. Most people in our team work independently and the contact happens online, so it is important to be clear about each persons tasks and goals.
This way of working is not suitable for everyone and every business, but when you find the right people for the right tasks, the whole team can work in comparatively low maintenance and be very effective.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Following affiliate and website statistics is made quite easy nowadays with certain apps, and it is important to have the right tools for each task. Other than that, I believe that it is us humans that make the real difference.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
I have heard that there are some quite lucrative markets in Asia, and it is not an impossible idea that we would also focus on some Asian markets in the near future as well. So far we don't have any personal experience regarding the Asian market though.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
Everything I have learned so far, hahah. No, really I think life is a journey and a lifelong learning process where ups and downs both benefit us in the long run and shape us to be who we are. Maybe it would have been beneficial to realise earlier that there are no shortcuts – hard work and doing everything as well as you can is the way to go.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Last project ended up suffering quite badly at some point because of financial regulations and a weakening trend regarding the niche, but in the end that was not too bad of an experience. With low fixed costs the company has been making a decent profit regardless of ups and downs. Also, it is important to remember that money is just money – not really the most important thing in life or something to lose sleep over, as long as you have the basics covered.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
It takes a lot of negotiating and talking in several channels, but the good thing is that one person doesn't have to do everything. Sharing responsibilities in the team is smart, and managing relationships should be done by people who are naturally good at it and enjoy doing it.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
The main benefit seems to be managing relationships with people in the business and often also getting new ideas. I think one thing to improve might be to have the events in interesting places that would make attending them as fun as possible.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I have, even though in our company the owners are usually the ones who attend the events.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
Definitely Naples. The whole ambiance of the town blew me away, and it really has everything, from food to cultural venues.
Favourite book ever read?
“Growth of the Soil” by Knut Hamsun.
Where would you relocate with family if you had to pick one city?
Likely a small town in the United States, in either New England or the Midwest.
I’ve never really had one. If I had to pick, being a history fan, I’d go for “Carthago delenda est", as I find the whole context and usage of it amusing.
Favourite sport and childhood idol?
Being from Portugal, I am fairly sure it would be a crime for the answer not to be soccer and Ronaldo.
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