Mark Wadie, founder of online casino comparison site, TheSlotBuzz.com, talks to iGaming Times about the challenges of launching a new brand in the highly competitive affiliate space.
iGT: Can you tell us a little bit more about The Slot Buzz and why you launched the site? What makes it different?
MARK WADIE: At The Slot Buzz we cover a mix of casino reviews, slot game reviews, news and gambling features. We see ourselves as a fan site for true slots enthusiasts who are
hanging on the latest news of a new Big Time Gaming slot release, or a blockbuster game out of the studio of NetEnt. The last few years have seen a new generation of slots players enter the market who are younger, savvier and more enthralled by products like the high variance games put out on the Megaways™ engine. We target our content towards these players as much as the broader base of slots gamblers. It’s not an easy market at all but there are interesting things happening all the time – like the slot streaming trend, the extraordinary growth of Big Time Gaming and Megaways and the continued proliferation of new casinos on the market. These are all opportunities for us.
iGT: What are the challenges faced when launching a new online casino affiliate brand? How were these overcome?
MW: Initially the biggest challenge is to differentiate yourself from the rest of the market. As we all know it’s a very crowded industry and whether you are a game developer, an operator or an affiliate, you need to do as much as you can to make your product stand out. When we set up The Slot Buzz we had already spent some time looking at the slot streaming community and how some of the best and most savvy in that niche had moved from running a streaming channel on Twitch or Youtube to owning their own affiliate site.
The quality of their content is far better than most affiliates because they are players with a passion for the games. Whilst as a team we do not play as much as those guys, we do have a background as operators and understand what makes a slot player tick. I think that comes across in the quality of the content on The Slot Buzz.
iGT: The online casino affiliate market is highly competitive. How have you found working in such a space?
MW: It is competitive for sure, and recent regulation and taxation have only made things more challenging. It’s about hard work now and finding opportunities and building your business slowly. The challenge as a smaller affiliate is to look for niche opportunities and move quickly. This is the advantage you have as a smaller business and you need to use it. We work hard at testing new traffic sources and SEO strategies and opportunities all the time. The competition isn’t going to go away so you need to accept the challenge and face it head on.
What methods do you use to attract traffic to the site? How do you ensure you are sending quality traffic to operators?
MW: Our primary source of traffic is SEO, though we do also run small budgets on PPC and other channels. The first 6 months is a challenge in bringing quality traffic via Google, but over time we have built good rankings on stronger keywords so that we are now bringing in really good player values. This has enabled us to negotiate good deals with our partners. The opportunities in PPC are fewer and further between for smaller affiliates in 2019. The market is dominated by operators and bigger affiliates with huge budgets so we are very careful in how we spend money on that channel.
iGT: How do you plan to grow TheSlotBuzz over the next 12 months? Will you look to launch additional brands?
MW: We will continue to grow the site organically through SEO. We have some content initiatives which will help us to stand out from our competitors and improve the stickiness of the site, as well as helping us to rank on more competitive and high-traffic keywords.
We have one other casino site that has just gone live and two more in the pipeline before the end of 2019 – one in sports and another in slots.
iGT: What are your thoughts on the state of the affiliate industry in this new era of compliance? Is it sustainable?
MW: There are a lot of things happening that are making this a harder industry to work in, both as a result of GDPR law and UK Gambling Commission regulations. But these are important areas of compliance that are necessary to protect the consumer and to ensure operators comply with the terms of their licenses to protect the vulnerable and underage. So we have to find ways to work within those constraints.
I believe it is sustainable, though the days of windfall profits are long gone. All the challenges I have already mentioned will make it harder for affiliates, and even more so for the smaller affiliate businesses, but as a marketing channel we are here to stay