Business principles for affiliates

Business principles for affiliates

Although affiliate businesses are by their very nature at the mercy of third party forces often beyond their control, having a solid set of business practices in place will protect them from the worst case scenario, writes leading casino affiliate Ian Sims.

One of the things that I love about being an iGaming affiliate is that it is accessible to almost anyone. If you know a bit about gambling, can set up a domain with a CMS like Wordpress and read (a lot!), you can give it a shot. Once the players start to trickle in, you can increase your effort and aim to build a comfortable living from it.

For many, it can even go well beyond that. Before entering this industry, I built two real-world companies, one of which ultimately wound up because I wasn’t able to manage the risk and one which once employed 20 staff, survived some tough times and is still going today, 10 years after I moved on.

Being an affiliate is different though. Lower barriers to entry do level the playing field, but they bring with it a danger of relying on a method of income that is potentially dangling by a thread. Often, that thread is being dangled by someone you don’t know and can’t control. It might be Google, an operator, your ISP or even the CMS you use. Any one of them could cut your thread and you’d fall. How far will depend how securely you have built your safety net which in turn, will depend on how well you evaluated the risks.

If you read the affiliate forums, you will be familiar with the story about earnings taking a nose-dive. There is usually someone to blame but ultimately, it is the affiliate’s fault for not identifying and insuring against the risk. The thing is, without some sort of experience, that can be a very hard thing to do. There are common mistakes that are easy to rectify and there are those that aren’t.

For example, when you see a programme doing well with your players, do you send them a higher percentage of your traffic and if so, where do you stand if they cut off affiliates or sell up? You can easily control that, but many of us also overly rely on third parties like Google organic results for traffic, and we all know the problems that can present. There are solutions, some more obvious and less appealing than others, but if you want this to be your long-term business rather than just a form of income, you need alternatives. PPC, ads on other affiliate sites, other search engines, social media.

These can all help take the strain. But it’s not just traffic that business model will have identified where it is vulnerable and made provisions. As affiliates, we rely heavily on third parties: ISPs, Google, the operators we send our traffic to, and maybe others. We have little control on their policies or the way they operate and any change, downtime or mistakes they make could negatively impact our business, often with immediate effect.

There are however red flags all over the place you should look out for. A programme that has retroactively changed terms is a huge one. Even if they change back under pressure, it tells you a lot about the relationship. If your ISP has downtime for over two-three hours, you really need to think about changing. If it happens twice, you have to change. If most of your money comes from one programme, you need to start spreading your traffic around.

And there are many more considerations. If you operate multiple sites, are they split across different ISPs? Is most of your traffic coming from just one or two search terms and lulling you into a false sense of security? Are your current positions over-reliant on links? All these are big, big risks that are easily brushed under the carpet but vulnerable to changes that could devastate your business in minutes. But not all risks are technical. A lot of risk arises through ineffective communication and mismanaging relationships.

Relationships are the cornerstone to pretty much every business, irrespective of what you do. If you manage them well, then they will benefit you. If you mismanage them, then they could very well hurt you. If you ignore them, then you miss opportunities. Wherever you are in life, if you like and get on with someone, you are going to be more likely to help them than if you don’t like them.

Any relationship where one side doesn’t trust the other is going to cause pain at some point. I don’t care what anyone says: if you are serious about growing your business and you have an argument or are rude, disrespectful or simply aggressive to someone in a public forum it is doing harm to your business. It may simply be in missed opportunities, it may be in other ways but ultimately you may be souring existing relationships and putting off people from dealing with you.

And what you post will probably remain accessible for many years. Is that really what you want?

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