One of the best ways to boost traffic to your casino site and skyrocket your revenue is to have an affiliate program. Affiliate marketing is a phenomenal way to raise brand awareness, generate leads and increase your profits, with less risk compared to traditional marketing channels, such as advertising.
What is affiliate marketing? In short, it is a reward-based system that pays affiliates (companies or individuals who promote your casino brand on their site via banner ads, reviews with text based links, etc.) a commission for sending traffic to your site, particularly traffic that results in the referred site visitors converting into real money players.
If you are interested in launching a white label casino, your brand will likely be part of an affiliate network that is already in place by the iGaming software supplier who sells you the white label solution. However, as an independent or turnkey online casino operator, you can be a part of an affiliate network that is fully operated by a third-party partner, you can launch your own independent program or do a bit of both.
This iGaming affiliate marketing guide has been created to provide you with the fundamental information that you need to consider if you’re interested in launching your own iGaming Affiliate Program from scratch with the help of iGaming-specific affiliate software.
The Fundamentals – Choose the Appropriate Affiliate Platform
The first step to deciding on an iGaming affiliate program is to choose the platform that is the most appropriate for your business, is affordable and will provide you with a reliable solution that gives you the necessary analytics and commission calculation tools which are part and parcel to running this type of reward-based system technology.
If you don’t plan on lunching an independent affiliate program, the best option is to choose an iGaming affiliate network, which essentially provides you with everything that you need and manages the program for you.
That said, when you are running your own affiliate program, you have the option to either build your platform and operate it entirely in-house, or you can design your own program with the help of software from providers of affiliate program management and performance marketing software platforms and solutions (e.g. EveryMatrix, Income Access, EGASS, etc.).
These and other iGaming affiliate-focused companies already have the necessary tools that can be integrated into your platform to help you design a front end or, more importantly, a powerful back office with all the necessary analytics and tools that you require to easily track, manage, and get the most out of your affiliate marketing efforts.
All that said, here’s what you need to consider:
To start, you need to choose the appropriate platform for your niche. While all affiliate programs may be reward-based marketing systems, do not make the mistake of thinking that all platforms are created equal or will be the right choice for your business needs.
For instance, many companies that offer affiliate software solutions that you can use to build your program from scratch, have been designed for ecommerce purposes (e.g. selling products and services online). As an online gambling operator, what you need is a platform that makes sense to your iGaming business, which isn’t about selling products or services, but legally acquiring and retaining customers who deposit real money into your casino.
Therefore, you need a platform designed to deliver on your iGaming business goals, regulations, preferences and needs. Therefore, if you don’t have the expertise of building your own licensed software in-house, the goal is to choose an affiliate software platform designed specifically for iGaming sites and by experts who understand the intricacies of the ever-evolving online gambling industry.
For instance, an example of an iGaming software company that provides a fully stand-alone affiliate marketing solution is EveryMatrix via their solution called PartnerMatrix. This fully licensed affiliate and agent system makes it easy for operators to easily manage affiliate marketing. The unified system tracks everything without the need for additional plugins, extensions or integrations.
In essence, in terms of compatibility, it is vital that you choose affiliate software that is the most practical for your operation(s). With that said, keep these questions in mind when searching for a compatible affiliate platform provider:
- Will your iGaming business operate in multiple territories or expand into new markets? If so, it will be useful to choose a platform that allows you to view stats and creative tools by currency, language, region, etc.
- Are you an operation with more than one brand? If so, you will benefit from a platform that allows you to track each brand independently to compare and contrast performance.
- Does your business operate both on and offline? If so, a platform that allows you to easily track performance online and at land-based gambling establishments is ideal.
- Do you want full control over the affiliate platform? If so, you need to choose flexible software that provides you with the basics but that lets you independently make all the decisions, create campaigns, manage affiliates, acquire affiliates, etc. This means control of not only the front end but the back office of the platform as well.
- Do you need a web host for your affiliate site? If so, it’s important that you select a company that can provide you with both the affiliate software you require and the web hosting services you need.
The basic functionality of an affiliate platform is to create campaigns, calculate commission, track referrals, acquire affiliates, manage affiliates, and provide analytics on affiliate performance, all in one place.
Your objective is to select a platform that not only has the features you want, but that also provides you with the best reach in the iGaming industry and your targeted jurisdictions.
Some functionality features to watch out for include:
- Dedicated affiliate dashboard
- Multi lingual and multicurrency (if your reach is in more than one region)
- Full integration of plugins (if not an all-in-one system)
- Easy campaign creation
- Easy management of promotional resources (e.g. banners, creatives, images, promotional information, etc.)
- CRM and communication tools
- Cross-platform compatibility including both desktop and mobile
Although affiliate marketing is one of the lowest cost marketing strategies to promote your casino, this doesn’t mean that it is cheap. There are both startup and ongoing costs to consider, with startup costs varying anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the choices you make.
Initially, the size of the budget you’ll need will depend on your intended operation. For instance:
- Will you build and run your program in-house?
- Will you use an affiliate network?
- Will you use both in-house and network services?
- Will you manage the program in-house?
- Will you outsource management?
Once you decide how you will establish, operate and manage your program, there are three main cost categories to take into account:
- Platform – The cost of building or purchasing the platform and ongoing program management costs.
- Creative inventory – Costs associated with materials needed to promote your brand (e.g. text links, banners, videos, etc.)
- Affiliate program management – Fees associated with:
– Recruiting and activating affiliates
– Creating and maintaining your programs policies and rules
– Creating and managing marketing campaigns
– Support – Communicating with your affiliates
– Optimizing your program so it is operating according to industry standards, adjusting to keep up with trends, and keeping on top of affiliate performance reports and requirements
For all the above, in-house will almost always cost more to start than joining an affiliate network or obtaining third-party software. However, over the long-term, once everything is up and running, in-house typically has lower long-term expenses compared to networks and outsourced operations.
To break this down further, you can expect affiliate program costs to reach hundreds of dollars monthly, not including the costs associated with managing the program. Moreover, keep in mind that if you choose an affiliate network, these programs can charge an average override of about 30%. This means that for each $100 you may pay in commissions to your affiliates, you will pay $30 to the affiliate network. That said, remember that just like affiliate commissions, these network costs are performance-based. Therefore, if you must pay the network fee, on the plus side, this means you are recruiting players and turning a profit.
To obtain a better understanding of the costs involved so that you can figure out the size of the budget you’ll need, inquire directly about startup and ongoing fees with the company you choose to provide you with whatever platform, software or services you may need to build and/or manage and/or operate your iGaming affiliate program.
Powerful and reliable real-time reporting tools are a must for an efficient and cost-effective affiliate program. Reporting and analytic tools are what help you to track how well your program is preforming. Reporting allows you to view all aspects of your program so you can see where you are doing well and where you can improve.
When selecting a back office for reporting, it’s a good idea to choose one that provides you with these benefits:
- Total transparency and in-depth analytics – Real-time reports on important performance indicators of your marketing campaigns, including everything from first-impressions through to each player’s lifetime transactional data.
- View the volume and value of your customer – Whether you have one or multiple brands, reporting tools should help you easily track customer volume and value by marketing channel, creative, campaign, product, affiliate and by individual player.
- Customization – Reporting tools should be fully customizable so that they meet the needs of your business and your viewing preference.
Potential and existing affiliates will need a way to get in touch with you should they have questions or should issues arise. You need to decide:
- Who will provide customer service to your affiliates? Will this be handled in-house or will you outsource and hire a third party to mange your affiliates for you?
- What communication channels will be available to affiliates? Email, telephone, live chat, messenger services, etc.
Likewise, make sure if you choose an affiliate network or plan to have a software company provide you with an affiliate platform or services that you can easily get in touch with their support as well.
While this guide is meant to help you launch your own iGaming affiliate marketing program, if this is your first experience with an iGaming affiliate program, it may be in your best interest to consider joining an affiliate network before you run an independent operation. The main reasons are that you will spend less and get faster results with less hassle.
Once you gain a better understanding of affiliate marketing through your experience with the affiliate network, you will be able to better compare the results and costs and decide whether you want to continue with the network, build your own program or enjoy the best of both worlds. Check out TCS software reviews to easily learn about the top iGaming software providers and available affiliate networks.
The Plan – Develop Your Affiliate Marketing Strategy
Once you know the basics of the affiliate platform you want, it is time to think about your affiliate marketing strategy. In other words, what will the structure of your program be and how will you use this program to attract affiliates and best promote your brand.
Consider the following when creating an Affiliate program structure:
You need promotional materials that you can provide to your affiliates to help them direct traffic to your brand(s). Promotional materials can include:
- Campaigns – Special/exclusive promotions or offers
The primary goal of the marketing tools that you employ is to reach the right audience at the right time and bring in high-quality traffic to your site. This can be achieved with the appropriate digital and flexible campaign management tools that not only allow you to track and report on any type of creative asset, but also allow you to custom size and optimize your campaigns and creatives for:
- Content search parameters
- Date ranges
- Time of day
- Day of the week
- Referring URL characteristics
Additionally, another marketing strategy is to group your affiliates by different segments to allow them access to different promotional banners and content.
Commissions and Payments
You need to decide what type of commission model you will use to compensate your affiliates.
Operators use different commission types that are best suited to their affiliate campaign and positioning within the online gambling industry as casino rates tend to vary depending on the iGaming operation you are running.
For instance, some factors that can play a role in selecting the ideal commission type may include:
- If you are running a casino or sportsbook
That being said, these are the common types of commission models used for iGaming affiliate programs:
- Flat or tiered revenue share – Tiered revenue share that is based on net gaming revenue or first-time deposit
- Cost per lead (CPL) – You pay your affiliates for every user they refer to your site
- Cost per install (CPI) – You pay your affiliates for every user that installs your app (ideal for mobile)
- Cost per acquisition (CPA) –You pay your affiliates (either a flat or tiered rate) for every user they refer who takes the additional step of registering and depositing into your casino
You can also create a commission scheme based on a hybrid of these options, such as a Tiered Hybrid that is a combination of both CPA and a revenue share model, among other options. Moreover, beyond the standard commission program you create, you can further incentivize your affiliates to work harder by offering bonus commissions or implementing a special commission structure for individual affiliates.
If you do decide on a revenue share model, offering no negative carryover is appealing to affiliates as it means that the stats of their affiliate account will be reset to zero at the start of a new month. In other words, a negative balance is not carried over to the next month.
Ultimately, no matter the commission type you use, the aim is to keep your affiliates feeling valued and staying loyal to your program. Therefore, offering the lowest commission rates isn’t always the best strategy. Offering affiliates the highest rate that you can afford can motivative them to stick with you and, in the end, this can make a significant difference to your sales.
With that in mind, always remember that its imperative to have a firm handle on your budget so you don’t wind up committing to commission rates that you either cannot afford or that result in you missing out on recruiting higher quality affiliates because you didn’t realize that you could afford to pay them more.
Therefore, before deciding on the type and size of commission you want to offer, calculate your profit margin as well as account for your business costs and expenses. If your calculations reveal that a certain commission rate would cut into your profit, it is likely too high. If you need help deciding on which commission model makes the most sense to your gambling business, the best course of action is to consult with an iGaming affiliate marketing expert.
Decide what payment structure you will implement to pay your affiliates their commissions. This includes:
- The methods of payment you will make available to pay your affiliates – Credit cards, eWallets (PayPal, Skrill, Neteller), Bitcoin etc.
- How frequently you will pay them their commission – Once a month? Longer?
The more frequently you pay and the more popular the payment methods you use to make these payments, the more appealing your program will be to affiliates.
Terms and Conditions
What are the terms of your program? You need to determine what the fundamental agreement will be between you and your affiliates. This does not only mean providing them with information on payment, but what they can and cannot do.
For instance, you might not want your affiliates to use the same marketing efforts you use to promote your brand or target the same customers, or you may have stipulations on where or how they can use their special affiliate link, etc.
It may also be prudent to inform affiliates about what industry language they can and cannot use when promoting your brand and offers to consumers from certain jurisdictions. For instance, if your brand is being promoted to UK customers, the proper transparent language and terms should be used that are required by a brand holding a valid UK Gambling Commission license when it comes to advertising promotions. Certain wording such as “18+”, “T&Cs apply”, “gambling can be addictive please play responsibly”, “BeGambleAware”, etc. is often necessary for legal and responsible gaming purposes.
With that said, your terms and conditions should include details like:
- Commission – What they can expect in return for their efforts and how the program works
- Available payment methods and frequency of payouts
- What methods they are permitted to use when promoting your casino
- What methods they are not allowed to use when promoting your casino
- The correct industry language for promoting your brand to customers from certain jurisdictions
- What they can expect if they break the terms
Make your terms and conditions as clear and concise as possible with simple language that cannot be easily misinterpreted. Good affiliates respect transparency, sensible policies and regulations. Convoluted terms or heavy restrictions can be a deal breaker for some affiliates.
Also, remember that the terms and conditions you create are the rules that your program lives by. Failure to uphold them will hurt the reputation of your program. Be sure to continually update your terms and conditions as necessary to ensure appropriate changes are made when necessary.
Cookies are used to track which affiliates referred which customers, making them an integral part of your affiliate marketing program. Without cookies, you would not know who receives the correct attribution.
Prior to launching your affiliate program, you will need to determine for how long cookies are valid. The standard length of time is 30 days. This means that an affiliate’s referrals will be tracked and credited for up to a month after the initial referral. However, since there is more than one type of business model, cookies may have shorter or longer durations, so it is something you need to think about carefully.
Whether it is 3 days, 14 days, 30 days or longer, it is important to choose a cookie duration that makes the most sense to your business model and affiliates. That said, keep in mind that cookies with shorter durations can also be deal breakers for affiliates.
The Action – Operate, Recruit and Manage Your Program
With your program’s platform, marketing strategy and structure figured out, the next step is to launch your iGaming affiliate program into operation, start recruiting affiliates, promote like crazy and dedicate your efforts to the continual monitoring, evaluating and improving of the affiliate marketing system that you’ve created.
Once your program is live, here is what to keep in mind:
Once you have launched, obviously you need affiliates to run an affiliate marketing program. Of course, you need to identify the best people for the job. Not every potential affiliate is a good fit for promoting iGaming and not every person who wants to be an affiliate is someone you want on your team.
It is important to identify the people in your industry niche who are familiar with the type of online gambling entertainment you are selling and who have experience working with your target audience. These individuals are essential to your program’s success because they have a much higher chance of taking a personal interest in your brand and tend to produce the highest conversion rates.
So, how do you find these affiliates and attract them to your program? The most effective way to recruit affiliates is through different marketing channels, such as:
- Social media marketing – Find affiliates online who would be keen to promote your program. One of the best places to look for iGaming is via LinkedIn. You can also advertise your program via your own social media channels using relevant hastags.
- Digital marketing – Beyond having SEO-based content on your site, writing helpful blog posts, creating newsletters and building an email list can also be useful for attracting affiliates.
- Find relevant communities – The iGaming industry has many affiliate communities (e.g. Catena Media, AffiliateINSIDER, Bojoko, Bannerflow, etc.), numerous forums, groups on social media and so on. Do your research and reach out to the communities that are of interest to you.
- Visit conferences and events – The iGaming industry is also not short on affiliate-focused conferences and events that occur annually around the world, especially in Europe. Depending on your market you can choose to attend the one best suited to your business. Examples of some of the more well-known conferences include London Affiliate Conference, iGB Affiliate Amsterdam, and Kyiv Affiliate Conference.
What do Affiliates want?
Additionally, it pays to do a little research to find out what factors affiliates consider when selecting an affiliate program and what they find attractive. The following is a list of what tend to be the top driving factors:
- Commission amount
- Website ease of usability, leaks, etc.
- Brand reputation
- Conversion rate
- Tracking/reporting platform used
- Cookie life
- Marketing saturation
- Commission recurrence
- Management and approachability
- Terms and conditions
- Reversal rate
At the end of the day, it’s your call whether you think you need more affiliates or fewer affiliates of a higher quality. That said, since the goal is to have the right people working for you to generate momentum for your affiliate program, at first, you may find it will work to your benefit to be more selective with your “starting team” instead of greenlighting everyone to take part. The reason is that this can help to keep spam at bay.
The bottom line is that the more active you are in your relevant community and industry, the greater reach you will have and the greater your chances of piquing the interest of individuals and organizations who are best suited to your program.
Monitor, evaluate and improve
Your work does not end after you have launched your program and recruited an army of affiliates to promote your brand. Once everything has been set up, your program needs to be maintained over the long-term. This includes:
- Supporting affiliates with questions or problems – If an affiliate is having issues with a tracking code of their affiliate link is not working properly, these issues need to be resolved quickly or you could lose them. Think of your affiliates like your players. You need to work hard to keep them happy so that they will be loyal and continue to draw quality traffic to your site.
- Continually monitor and evaluate your program – Track your affiliates progress and their referrals to identify trends (good or bad) so that you can make the necessary changes to improve the volume and value of players. This is where your platform’s built-in analytics reports can hep you review all aspects of your program, so you can figure out where improvements can be made to help maximize its effectiveness to ensure the highest return on your affiliate marketing efforts.
- Recognizing that there is always room for improvement – The online gambling industry is constantly evolving, as are the needs and demands of affiliates and players. If you want to recruit and maintain the best affiliates who will bring high-quality traffic to your site, you need to make sure that your program always remains up-to-date and worth while.
Part of running a successful program is never losing sight of the fact that you are one fish in a large ocean. Between new online gambling brands constantly launching and the most popular and powerful operators expanding their reach, competition in the iGaming industry is ever-high. If affiliates don’t like what you have to offer, there are many other options available to them.
The greater your understanding of the iGaming industry and knowing what players and affiliates want, the greater your chances of finding long-term success with your affiliate marketing strategies and program.
Launching your own iGaming affiliate program is no small feat and will require plenty of work on your part. However, staying organized, proactive and persistent will pay off. That said, prepare for your program not to be an immediate success. Patience is key when starting your operation. Remain diligent in your efforts, remain positive, observant and be willing to make adjustments when necessary to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your affiliates.
Keep in mind, successful affiliate marketing strategies boil down to:
- A structured affiliate program that allows your affiliates to be successful.
- Not relying only on affiliate marketing. Your brand’s reputation helps your affiliates to succeed.
- Establishing a solid and trusting relationship with your affiliates. Keep them engaged, support them when needed, offer them fair commissions and pay them on time.
- Protect your affiliates with a fair and responsible environment by staying on top of reporting analytics. Make sure your good affiliates are being given the credit they deserve and weed out the bad apples.
Finally, remember if you are a newbie to the world of online casinos and iGaming affiliate programs, starting off by joining an affiliate network is a quick and cost-effective way to learn the ropes of this type of marketing, how it can benefit your brand and whether or not you think it is worth it to launch your own program independently.