As new technology and evolving player tastes continue to change the face of the igaming industry, the affiliate marketing sector has been forced to widen its scope to keep pace. However, as Seven Star Digital’s CEO Jack Lodge explains, that does not mean the longer-established approaches are any less effective than they used to be.
Seven Star Digital runs review and comparison sites – including its flagship TopRatedCasinos product and the sportsbook focused Compare.bet – and Lodge told CasinoBeats he is confident that the combination of best practice SEO and providing information players need will continue to deliver results for its partners.
CasinoBeats: Could you begin by giving us an overview of Seven Star Digital’s services for online casino and sports betting operators?
Jack Lodge: Seven Star Digital offers a number of comparison sites on which we list and review multiple operators within the gambling industry. Our aim is to create content that’s helpful, factual and that can be used to inform users of which operator best suits their requirements – from there, we direct users to that operator’s site. Across our sites, we offer content that is informative, regularly updated and honest about our experiences.
Over the last six years we have developed strong relationships with the operators we work with, meaning we’re able to provide the best possible value to them and, as such, create long lasting and sustainable partnerships.
In turn, showcasing a portfolio of long lasting working relationships provides us a good backdrop in agreeing partnerships with new operators, thus allowing us to offer even more casino and gambling site options to our audience.
CB: There’s been a lot of talk recently in the igaming affiliate space about the development of newer approaches, such as streaming and influencer marketing, but what does the future hold for the tried-and-tested comparison and review site model?
JL: As a fairly new source of traffic, there’s no doubt that regulation will evolve to ensure igaming streamers and influencers promote gambling responsibly. We’ve already seen Twitch introduce a ban on content from unlicensed gambling sites and I’m certain we’ll see updates to their content guidelines for streams featuring licensed gambling sites.
The comparison site model is one that continues to dominate the search engine results, even outside of the igaming industry. The likes of Booking.com, Which? and Comparethemarket work well because they provide helpful content created by experts in their respective fields, allowing people to make informed decisions.
Most of these users have already decided they want to play at a casino, or get car insurance, for example, and are searching for a provider that suits them best. They get free access to information that can help them get more value for their money – I don’t think that’s a model that’s going away anytime soon.
CB: One fear people have about an SEO-driven approach is the unknown impact of future changes to Google’s policies and algorithm. Does that concern you, or do you believe the benefits outweigh the risks?
JL: For us, organic search is a positive way to provide the information we know our customers are looking for, and as such, we feel very confident in the SEO-driven approach to content that we take. Through marketing this way, we’re able to target the intent of our customers, and provide them with the right material they want to find.
If you look at the broader marketing picture, there are plenty of issues outside of SEO, such as how will paid media change over time? Taking Sweden as an example, affiliates aren’t allowed to use paid media on Google so is this something we can expect to eventually filter into the UK? We’ve already discussed how streaming services like Twitch have recently changed their rules, so I think there are potential pitfalls in all areas of marketing.
It’s true that Google updates are not always completely easy to understand, however, we feel that if we do the right things from an SEO perspective – and we cover all bases and can qualify the decisions we make when updating content – then it will work out for the positive. For us, it’s all about putting the user first.
CB: The industry seems to have a real focus on acquiring players aged 18-25, but are affiliates and operators at risk of missing out on older customers with more spending power?
JL: As with most industries, certain elements of gambling are more appealing to particular segments of society than others. For example, if you look at horse racing as a sport to bet on, it attracts a very different target market to those looking to place a football accumulator on the weekend.
So it’s more complex than saying the industry as a whole is focusing on acquiring players aged 18-25, but rather this age group may be the target market of a specific area within gambling.
CB: How do you manage the task of delivering loyal, high-value players to Seven Star’s operator partners, rather than players just looking for a sign-up bonus?
JL: Something we pride ourselves on is maintaining strong relationships with our operators, and through this we are able to discuss how things are going, which players we’ve sent that they feel are of the highest value, as well as how we can potentially direct more of this type of traffic.
We work with a quality over quantity frame of mind. We recognise we aren’t the biggest affiliate in the UK, but we have a track record of delivering value to our partners which in a market like the UK is becoming increasingly important.
We feel very confident that the content we produce is of the highest standard, and as such, this helps players to understand the industry in general as well as what they are potentially signing up to when they click through to an operator. Our writing is informative, educational and regularly updated to ensure accuracy across the board. Again, through this transparency, we think we are able to direct the right sort of players through to our partners’ sites.
CB: Finally, the company has taken its first steps into US markets. How does doing business there differ from the UK?
JL: Because of its newness, we are finding that a lot more educational information is needed for the US market to ensure a decent understanding of the betting world, before we are able to direct individuals to the best bookmaker for them. We see this as an exciting opportunity as we believe we have the knowledge and expertise to feed accurate and informative information to a completely new market.
From an operations perspective state-by-state affiliation is a challenge, with the requirements needed differing within each one. For example, some states require fingerprints whereas others don’t. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in that it helps to regulate the market, however it will definitely be a barrier to entry for certain affiliates.
Finally, one of the major differences is the huge costs associated with acquiring a gaming licence – as such there is a much more limited range of operators available and we are finding that this equals less choice for our customers. It will be interesting to see how things play out in the US over the next few years and whether operators can sustain the same high levels of spend on acquisition as they have spent over the last couple of years.