29 March 2017, 8:54 am
Affiliate Interview Series - Cat
Hometown: Seeshaupt, Germany
Living In: Seeshaupt, Germany
Favorite Food: Seafood
Must-Read Book: The Music of Chance, by Paul Auster
…and about 25 others.
(This interview was originally published in the February 2017 issue of the GPWA Times Magazine.)
When did you launch your first site? How long did it take for it to start producing revenue?
I started my first gambling portal in 2001 with the name cyberspacegambling.com. "Online gambling" was not available anymore, so I chose "cyberspace gambling." At that time people were talking more about surfing cyberspace – that word was more common. That was the first page and I've been working on it since, so for 15 years now. It took about one year before I received my first commission check.
You run a number of sites. Which ones came first? How did you decide what to focus on? Which sites get the most traffic?
The first websites were cyberspacegambling.com and cyberspacecasinos.com. My first German portal came a few years later. Onlineflashcasinos.com has the most traffic. I focused on casino games before poker and sports betting.
How did you get into iGaming affiliate marketing? What did you do before?
I didn't want to study, so I decided to become a car mechanic. I finished the 3½ years of training, but after another half year I quit the job to go back to school. That was in 1999. The Internet came up. One academy offered web design classes. I went there for nine months and did a two-month internship at a web design company. Then I founded my own business and have worked for myself full-time since.
For iGaming specifically, I came across an online casino on the Internet, clicked on the affiliate link, read the terms and conditions, and found that it could be something for me. So I signed up and started building pages.
How has the iGaming industry changed since you started?
Not a lot has changed, but it has become bigger, with more iGaming companies and more affiliates. There's more advertising on other media than the Internet, like on TV and magazines. There is celebrity poker, and sports pros who are sponsored by iGaming enterprises. In Germany, you can see more TV ads, especially for online sportsbooks on the sports channels.
My work has not changed too much in the basics like on-page SEO, links to your websites and good content.
How do you decide which casinos to promote?
I have been affiliated with most of the casinos I promote for several years. I've met the affiliate manager of almost every program on my site in person. I am looking for different casino softwares on my pages – I don't want to advertise too many casinos using the same software. I don't want to have like 20 Microgaming casinos on my homepage, or Playtech, or Netent. I like to have a good mixture.
You currently have sites in English and German. Do you have plans to add additional languages at any point?
Onlineflashcasinos.com is my only page where the front page is translated into multiple languages. I don't plan on adding more sites in other languages, since it is becoming too much. I believe I can be more successful with websites in a country where I speak the languages than in one where I don't understand a word and have translated websites. I had French in school for a few years, but I don't speak it very often, so I have forgotten most of it.
Tell us about the German-speaking online gaming market. What types of games or marketing appeal to them?
Germans like to play the classic casino games as well as online poker and sports betting. Most advertising is focused on poker. There was a big poker boom; online poker became big in the media and celebrities started playing poker. They had poker tournaments on TV – but at this time, ads for sportsbooks are all over the place. On the sports channels there is a lot of sports betting advertising; they sponsor soccer teams. You can see those everywhere. And there's the first online casino that actually has a license in Germany, one that's not just licensed in Malta or somewhere else in the European Union, but has a German license. There's only one.
Germany's online gaming laws have changed a lot in the past few years, and some of them were deemed unconstitutional by the EU earlier this year. Has the legal landscape of online gaming in Germany impacted your business? If so, how?
As far as I know it is still not legal to host a gambling website in Germany. Impacted? Not really. I make the same websites looking at the legal landscape in Germany or the EU laws.
Well, the German law says that an online casino that is advertised in Germany needs to be licensed in Germany. This was all before online casinos came up and before we had the European Union. Now the European Union overrules that law. So it hasn't changed, I mean, first I was thinking that I needed to hide so that my websites are hosted outside of Germany and that I need an address in the U.K. But, yes, nowadays I don't have to feel that anymore. They still don't have a law which says in particular what is OK and what is not. The EU is taking care of all that, and I think it's a good idea.
What are some of your sites' unique selling points? How do you stand out from the crowd?
My sites are written in informative language – not in an aggressive advertorial way, like "This is the best; play here and win big." It's more informative, which I think is the best way to reach players and to get them to play for money. Everybody knows that it's gambling. I try to tell people anything that has to do with the casinos and the games, so they want to come back to my websites and they remember that it's a good one. I write about game rules and strategies and the history of the games. I also offer browser games that are free to try. I have one page that has some good luck sayings and some quotes and stuff like that.
Do you have employees, or is your affiliate business a solo operation?
It's solo. I don't have employees, but I hire other companies and freelancers. I do most of the SEO myself, but I used a writer, a web designer and a hosting company to help me produce the best possible product.
I found out that I wasn't satisfied with the results, so nowadays I'm pretty much by myself again. In the good days, I was busy counting money – but I'm not that busy now!
Do you gamble yourself? Online or in brick-and-mortar casinos?
When I was living in Las Vegas from 2009 until 2014 I played the machines and video poker in the bars for a little money. I used to play online poker when it first came up. I don't gamble any more. Not online, and not in real casinos. I was never a gambler, really – I played the games to learn them so as to to know what I'm talking about.
How often do you get to see and interact with other people in the industry? Have you attended any conferences? If so, which ones?
I haven't been to a conference in maybe two or three years. I've been to G2E in Las Vegas and to iGB in London, Barcelona and Amsterdam. Conferences are great places to get to know people in the industry and to see cities you haven't been to before.
What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
An affiliate manager needs to be responsive to e-mails. Even if the question sounds easy, I think I have the right to receive a response. That shows that somebody cares. I don't like it when a manager keeps you guessing on your questions and concerns.
A program should have a generous revenue share and possibly no negative carryover. Graphics and banners are good to have, but I don't need a lot. Free games are a good idea.
What's your preferred method of communication with affiliate managers?
I like e-mail, and most managers respond on the same day, or at least within three business days. With the time differences, they are all over the place, so it's good to write an e-mail and check on it the next day to see if there's a response.
What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
I was looking for other webmasters to link exchange and for people to share experiences with and to learn from each other, and to possibly meet. It helps improve your websites; it's a great place to learn from each other. That's where I found out that there are conferences where you can meet other webmasters and affiliate managers from the online casinos.
What do you like about the industry?
Being an affiliate gives me the chance to work for who I want to work for. I like the freedom of making a website so it looks how I want it, and where I can use my own creativity and designs. If I create a website for other people, they ask, "Can you make me No. 1 for this keyword, or that keyword?," and how much would it cost, and that's very difficult to answer. You cannot make guarantees on the position of a webpage on Google.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
Link buying, although I think this happens all over the Internet, not only the gaming industry. What I don't like is this link buying by bigger companies, though I used to sell links when this practice came up. The websites of casinos and affiliates appear in the top rankings for the most competitive keywords. When Google finds out, they disappear again. Google once said that everybody has a chance to appear in the top rankings without spending money. That seems to be wishful thinking. I still try to rank websites for online casino, but my traffic comes from less competitive keywords. I can't buy links for $100,000. So I think it makes life unfair.
What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
They like it. Some go on my pages. They have an idea of what I do, but they don't know how difficult and time-consuming it is to rank a website for the keywords that people are searching. But I mean, they don't have a problem with online gambling or gaming websites.
How do you manage your to-do lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
I don't write a to-do list or use any software. I plan the week in my head on Monday, planning what should be done by Friday. In the morning I know what I want to have done by the evening. I give myself more time than I used to and don't put myself under pressure anymore. There is always another day and another week.
How much time do you devote social networking for your sites?
I don't spend any time anymore, actually. I'm not on Twitter and I don't use Facebook at all, anymore. I used to use the social network sites a lot, especially Facebook. I spent money to get more likes for my pages. I once had 2,000 likes, but Facebook eventually started to suspend pages because I needed prior permission from them to advertise gambling, which I didn't have. I tried to get permission, but got no reply. Isn't it funny that Facebook took the money for promoting my page and it wasn't a problem that my website had to do with gambling?
What's the most difficult thing about running your sites?
The hardest thing is to keep track of everything. It's time-consuming. It's become difficult to maintain and keep them all up to date. Some of my sites are bigger and some consist of a few pages only, but there was a time when I had about 50 gambling websites. That was too much and I lost track of it. It was especially difficult when the U.S. made it illegal to play online. You needed to take so many pages away and find other ways to make money. It was very time-consuming.
What do you do to stay in shape – both physically and mentally?
I like sports like cycling and running, which I do three, four, maybe five times a week. I also lift some weights in the basement. I like playing auto racing games on my Xbox.
What do you do with your spare time?
Sports and video games. I like music. I was trying to get into music more, but I did not really find the time to make songs. I used to DJ, but I don't have the time to do that anymore.
What did you dream of doing, both professionally and personally, when you were a kid?
My first dream job was being a truck driver. I wanted to drive all across Europe and experience adventures. We had a series on TV that was about these two guys, back in the '70s, and they were driving all over the place, going everywhere in their trucks and having all kinds of adventures. I think that's the reason I wanted to be a truck driver.
If someone from out of town were visiting you, what’s the one place you’d definitely take them to see?
The lake where I live is beautiful, especially in the summer. So a trip around the lake to see the sights is what we would do. I'm living here in a small town on the lake, it's really pretty – nice old houses, restaurants, swimming in summer, surfing, boating, ice skating in winter. There's always something to do and the nature is beautiful.
When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?
I still like my work, even though I've been doing this for 20 years. But there are some days when I keep the computer turned off. Or I just leave the house and go running or cycling or for a walk, or something.
What's your all-time favorite movie?
I think that's Rocky.
If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
That would be Britney Spears, Rihanna, Angelina Jolie, Pele, Muhammad Ali.
Name three things that people reading this magazine don't know about you.
Three things that are interesting for readers, but not too embarrassing for me?
1. I used to be a DJ, had a hip-hop band and made a CD. I was a club DJ and I was with these two Americans. They were on an Army base not far from my hometown, and they were rapping in the club. One was from California and the other was from Florida. So we came together and had some gigs, did some parties. I think we spent three or four years together, and we made a CD later on. We didn't sell too many copies – 200 or 300. We broke up, sad to say. This was when I was a teenager. My parents said, "Hermann, you have to get a real job." So, I became a car mechanic. I don't know if I thought I was going to be a musician or an audio engineer or something else like that.
2. I spent 5 years in Las Vegas.
3. I support a hobby soccer team, and they wear my website name on their shirts.
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