Get Ready for the Big Gambling Affiliate Takeover

Affiliate marketing drives the online gambling space. Now that the industry is dealing with recent legislation outlawing U.S. Web gambling transactions, some gambling affiliates are searching for new markets to sink their teeth into. As a result, some say mainstream affiliate marketers are in for a rude awakening.

“I am extremely worried about this ban that Congress will put on online gaming,” wrote an affiliate webmaster in a post to the Gambling Portal Webmasters Association forum earlier this month. “We now have to turn our attention to the European market but one can only do so little marketing in Europe!” continued the concerned affiliate under the Net nom de plume Tropics.

“A lot of affiliates are going to bail,” said Marc Lesnick, operator of the Casino Affiliate Convention conference series. “They want to create their own niche markets,” he added, suggesting segments such as men’s dress shirts.

Online gambling affiliates are accustomed to unrelenting SEO competition in the high-stakes game of driving traffic to online poker and casino sites. They are so skilled at what they do, believes Lesnick, “There’s going to be a day of reckoning on the retail market; there will be a huge domino effect in affiliate marketing.”

Greg Boser, search engine marketing consultant at WebGuerrilla, may not employ such biblical terminology, but he, too, thinks an influx of gambling talent into more mainstream markets could pose a threat. “They know where the [search engine] algorithmic holes are you can drive a truck through,” he said. “In these other markets it’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel.”

An invasion of gambling affiliates could drown out affiliates in other markets because of shear volume, according to Heather Gartland, director of online gambling affiliate operation Topboss Limited. “It is going to have an adverse effect on the other affiliates already in the other markets as they will be too swamped,” she told ClickZ News. “As my company is based in South Africa I can still fall back on the South African Online Casinos, but the USA accounts for roughly 40 [percent] of our income. We are looking at the European and British markets now, as we have no choice.”

It won’t be so easy for affiliates like Gartland to simply start partnering with new gambling sites, however. Because many programs are based on a revenue share model rather than the cost-per-action models behind other affiliate programs, affiliates rely on the pool of players they’ve built up over time. They receive a portion of the revenue generated by the individual players who originally arrived on partner gambling sites through their affiliate sites. So, even if they have successful sites, said WebGuerrilla’s Boser, “No matter where they go, they’re starting over from scratch even though they have traffic.”

Shawn Collins, co-founder of the Affiliate Summit conference series expects some gambling affiliates “to go for markets similar in scope to what they’re doing,” he said. That might mean entering financial markets like the insurance or mortgage affiliate industries. Affiliates in more mainstream markets, said Collins, are concerned about a gambling affiliate onslaught “because the gambling affiliates have been known to be very innovative and aggressive,” he said.

More affiliates will make maneuvering affiliate marketing “a lot harder,” said Mark Welch. The affiliate marketing program manager and Internet marketing consultant doesn’t think too highly of the so-called affiliate “black hats” of the wagering world who use pop-ups and adware, or employ underhanded tactics to steal players away from other gambling affiliates.

“I’m not really afraid of anybody coming in and competing fairly,” Welch said.

If less-than-scrupulous affiliates do flood mainstream markets, affiliate program managers may have to raise alert levels. While in more mainstream markets rule enforcement is often based on the honor system, Welch said in the gambling space, “they tend to be very quick to shut off someone” using inappropriate techniques, because it’s a frequent problem. “In the ‘legitimate’ space, the policing for that tends to be slower,” he said.

Flouting the rules of mainstream programs may be a piece of cake for gambling affiliates, but not getting the hefty paychecks they’re used to could be too much to handle. Indeed, the top dogs will find ways to survive and stay in the gambling market, because, according to Casino Affiliate Convention’s Lesnick, “They’re not happy with the levels of the revenues” delivered by other affiliate programs.

“Some retail programs, they want affiliates to be like a little Amway guy,” he said. “The casino affiliate isn’t a 50 bucks a month guy, he’s a 10,000 bucks a month guy.”

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