A guide to affiliate marketing for online casinos
Affiliate marketing is one of the most widely used strategies for driving traffic to an online casino. But who are affiliates, and how do they cooperate with online gambling platforms? In this article, we break down how affiliate marketing works and why it’s an essential part of an online casino’s marketing strategy — as well as how Slotegrator’s Partnergrator solution can help operators make the most of their affiliate partnerships.
Affiliate marketing is a huge part of the iGaming ecosystem. Online casinos and sportsbooks require large amounts of consistent traffic to build the loyal base of players that they need, but bringing in the required volume of players is simply too big of a task for many operators. That’s where affiliate marketing comes in. Web publishers join affiliate networks and receive a commission for driving players to an online gambling resource. Keep reading for a closer look at who affiliates are, how the partnership models work, and why online casinos rely on affiliates to drive their business.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a very common — and very effective — performance-based marketing strategy used in a variety of different industries. Affiliates, who create and publish web content, promote other businesses on their site and earn a commission for directing customers towards the promoted business. When it comes to online gambling, affiliates build a following by creating and publishing content that players trust and enjoy, often with a focus on long-form, educational content offering multiple perspectives. Via avenues like links, native advertisements, and banner ads, affiliates direct traffic to their partner sites, and online gambling platforms reward them for every player they send over.
One of the reasons that affiliates can grow substantial followings is that very often affiliates are players themselves, so they can understand the players’ perspectives and create their content accordingly. Affiliates are also often casino owners as well as players, given them a view of both sides of the business. There are several different kinds of online gambling affiliates:
- Streamers — Some players stream videos of themselves playing popular games like slots. Players who follow them on YouTube or Twitch develop a relationship with them through the gaming sessions they broadcast.
- Bloggers — Many affiliates are bloggers who write about online gambling. They cover topics like which casinos have the best bonuses, new game releases, and other topics. They also review casinos, both when it comes to their overall quality and whether or not they can be trusted.
- Influencers — Online gambling has its own community of influencers.
- Forums — Online casino players congregate on online forums to trade insights, information, and opinions about online casinos and sportsbooks. The owners and moderators of these forums can sometimes be affiliates.
- Online magazines — Online magazines about gambling, which publish the latest news about the industry, can be affiliates and use their reach to direct a large audience to an online casino.
Content creators and publishers become affiliates by joining affiliate programs. Generally, web publishers need to draw a certain level of traffic in order to be considered for an affiliate program, and they often gain followers by developing a solid, trustworthy reputation.
Affiliates can be industry-wide, bringing together content related to all kinds of casinos and sportsbooks in markets around the globe, or hyper-specialized, focusing on specific types of casinos in certain markets — for example, an affiliate site may exclusively review online gambling platforms that accept a specific cryptocurrency. It’s critical for online gambling platform operators to consider an affiliate’s (or affiliate network’s) target audience when choosing a partner; sports betting bloggers won’t do much good for a bitcoin casino, no matter how big their audience is.
How do affiliate partnerships work?
Simply put, affiliates build up a large following and then drive their traffic to their partners. Affiliates with a good reputation drive their audiences to an online gambling platform, and receive compensation for each new player the casino gains from their resource. Affiliates often join an affiliate network, which connects businesses and affiliate publishers and takes a percentage of the commission businesses pay. A well-managed affiliate partnership is mutually beneficial, providing casinos with players and affiliates with rewards, so both are motivated to maintain the relationship.
There are several different compensation models that are commonly used, including cost per action (CPA), revenue share (revshare), and hybrid. We’ll cover these later on.
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What is an affiliate network?
Affiliates often join networks of publishers who promote the same or related products. When it comes to online gambling, affiliate networks are usually groups of online publishers who promote online casinos, sportsbooks, or other gambling products and services. Affiliates usually perform best when they excel at a single niche, and an affiliate network could unite a variety of different niches and drive them towards a casino.
Affiliate networks provide their members with a list of products, and the members choose which they want to advertise on their site. In the case of online gambling, the affiliate member should choose which online casinos or sportsbooks will appeal most to their audience.
The steps of an affiliate marketing program usually go like this:
- The advertiser determines the desired action to be made by a potential client.
- Publishers provide the advertiser with traffic through their online platforms.
- Target users perform a specific action.
- The business pays for the action performed by the user.
- The CPA network deducts a commission, usually 20-30 percent, from the total amount and pays it to the publisher.
Additionally, sometimes a casino or game developer will launch their own exclusive network of affiliates. However, this is normally only a viable option for very sizable, well-established brands.
What partnership models are there?
There are a few different ways that online gambling platforms compensate their affiliate partners.
- Pay per click (PPC) — In the PPC model, the affiliate program rewards a member every time a user clicks on a link. Rewards for affiliates in this model can be on the lower side, as not all clicks lead to more meaningful actions on the part of the site visitor, such as filling in a contact form or making a deposit.
- Cost per view (CPV) — CPV rewards are even lower than PPC rewards, as affiliates are paid when a user sees an ad, whether or not they actually click on it.
- Pay per sale (PPS) — With the PPS model, affiliates are rewarded if the user who is brought to the website via the affiliate link actually purchases the advertised product or service. PPS rewards are some of the highest in the affiliate world.
- Revenue Share (Revshare) — With the revshare model, affiliates receive a portion of a player’s lifetime losses.
- Cost per action (CPA) — The CPA model rewards affiliates every time players take a certain action, such as filling out a contact form or making a deposit and playing through it.
- Hybrid — The hybrid model is a blend of the revshare and CPA models.
The revshare, CPA, and hybrid models are the three most commonly used in the online gambling sector, with the CPA model being the most common. We’ll take a closer look at each of them below.
In the CPA model, businesses pay affiliates each time a user performs a certain action on a web resource. Some of the actions players could take include completing a contact form, subscribing to an email newsletter, creating an account, or making a deposit. Often, in the world of online gambling, CPA is taken to be short for cost per acquisition, meaning that affiliates are paid once a player signs up and makes a deposit.
The CPA model is the most commonly used payment model throughout the world of online gambling affiliates. Publishers are often paid once players make a deposit and play all the way through it. As the payment is one-time-only, affiliates have a powerful motivation to drive as much traffic as possible towards the site, which is part of what makes CPA networks so attractive, especially for new casino owners looking to build a player base as quickly as possible.
Reputable CPA affiliate programs will use tracking platforms to note the name of the publisher and the channel through which the user was acquired. This data helps ongoing analysis of the program’s performance, as well as preventing fraud by identifying bots masquerading as real users.
Publishers often provide a variety of options to engage customers: contextual advertising, social networking, newsletters, teasers, pop-ups, mobile applications, etc. This allows businesses to choose the promotion channels best suited to their goals.
However, bear in mind that in CPA models, the publishers are only incentivized to direct a high volume of traffic to your site, regardless of the player’s longevity. The publisher won’t have any motivation to discern between a serious gambler who plays three times a week for thirty years and a video game enthusiast who tries his hand at online slots a single time out of boredom. Still, CPA is widely used, and many affiliates prefer this payment model when compared to revenue share, which can take much longer to produce rewards for the affiliate.
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The revshare model is also very common for online casino affiliate programs. With the revshare model, once affiliates direct a player to a gambling site, they receive a percentage of the revenue generated by the player throughout his or her lifetime; as long as the player remains engaged on the site, the operator pays a share of the player’s losses to the affiliate. However, they may also be liable for a player’s wins, and rewards can take time to accumulate enough to be truly valuable. Still, the prospect of long-term income makes the revshare model an intriguing prospect for many affiliates and affiliate networks.
Hybrid models are a mixture of the revshare and CPA models. Affiliates receive a one-time fee when the player first signs up in addition to an ongoing commission throughout the player’s lifetime. This flexible payment scheme varies from program to program.
There are also different levels of organization for affiliate programs.
- Single-tier - Affiliates are paid for directing players to a platform.
- Two-tier - Affiliates are paid for both attracting other affiliates to a program and for directing players to a gambling platform.
- Multi-tier - Affiliates receive an additional commission for a wider number of affiliates throughout different tiers of an affiliate network, including the promotion of the affiliate program itself
Why do casinos work with affiliates?
Marketing and promotion are essential to an online gambling platform’s success. To build a solid base of loyal players, online casinos need a steady flow of incoming traffic, and affiliate marketing is one of the most effective ways to bring it in. This is especially true in markets where TV and radio advertising is restricted or prohibited, putting extra pressure on online advertising to effectively reach out to players.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing is also widely used by gaming platforms to increase their online presence and help players find them when they’re looking for an online entertainment outlet.
But there is a big difference between SEO and affiliate marketing, and that difference will crop up every time operators look at their marketing budget. Affiliate marketing is performance-based; instead of setting aside a budget for advertisements upfront and hoping the right players see them, online gambling platforms only pay for advertising strategies that have proven themselves to work. This helps online operators track, analyze, and manage their marketing strategy, measuring its effectiveness down to the dollar.
While optimizing the online platform for search is obviously necessary, affiliate marketing’s obvious advantages include not only tailoring the advertising efforts to the target market by partnering with the correct affiliates but continually assessing the strategy and making necessary adjustments.
Rewards systems, like VIP and loyalty programs, are essential for player retention, but in order to work they need players to retain in the first place. You can only bring in and retain the kind of long-term players that casinos need to thrive by bringing in high amounts of traffic to begin with.
Other marketing strategies, such as email and SMS marketing, are also widely used, but they depend on the casino having potential players’ contact details — the kind of info they acquire when a player fills in the form on a landing page they were directed to by a banner ad on an affiliate site.
Aside from driving large amounts of traffic to an online casino, advertisements on a prominent affiliate’s site will increase brand awareness and build the casino’s image. Even players who don’t follow the banner ads through to the site will at least know about the platform by having seen its advertisements. In an age where brand recognition is only growing more important — it can be a major ranking factor on search engines — it’s never a bad idea to take the opportunity to spread brand awareness.
How can operators effectively manage an affiliate program?
The first step is to choose proper affiliate networks. You should cooperate with an affiliate network or program that’s aimed at the same niche you target. Whatever product you offer — slots, poker, sports betting — your affiliates should be well-known in that particular community. If you offer several products, make sure the affiliate network you cooperate with covers all of them.
Furthermore, you should make sure that the payment model is mutually beneficial — compensation should be enough that affiliates are incentivized to drive traffic to your casino, but not so much that it’s a disproportionate part of your overall marketing budget.
Ongoing monitoring and analysis are essential to keep an affiliate program running effectively. Operators should regularly evaluate the affiliate program’s performance and make any adjustments they need to amplify reliable streams of players and cut out underperformers.
How can Slotegrator help?
Trying to keep track of the data from an affiliate program could be overwhelming for operators who already have their hands full with running their online gambling platform. To help them manage their affiliates, Slotegrator offers Partnergrator, a solution for real-time affiliate program management and analysis. With a unified protocol that processes and segments event data for tracking and managing affiliate programs, Partnergrator helps operators measure affiliates’ performance and make informed decisions about how to manage their partnership network.
Partnergrator can integrate multiple affiliate systems, manage data, develop affiliate campaigns and marketing materials, create commission models, and monitor affiliates’ performance, all from a simple, intuitive back office window. To get the tools you need to harness the power of affiliate marketing and start building a base of loyal players, contact us for a free consultation and find out how Partnergrator can help you increase traffic — and revenues.