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  1. #1
    GPWA Aaron is offline Former Staff Member
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series: Dan | DanHorvat

    Name:  AIS_DanHorvat.jpg
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    Age: 31
    Hometown: Zagreb
    Living in: Zagreb
    Favorite Food: Chocolate
    Must Read Book: Ulysses, by James Joyce
    Sites:
    Oklade.net
    OddsNavigator.eu
    Superbet.info

    When did you launch your sites?
    Oklade.net was launched in 2007 and went through many redesigns and upgrades until I finally realized I'd reached the limit. Most affiliate sites, including mine, are just a mixture of different widgets, feeds and links, designed better or worse, and most of those sites look alike and offer very little original content. I call such sites fan sites, as they don't deliver the core product at all but instead rely on other services to do that. Embedding a live score widget someone else coded just doesn't cut it. There's no substance there. I chose to develop an odds comparison site. OddsNavigator kicked off on January 1, 2012 and exited beta stage on June 1. Superbet.info is coming up; it will be an English version of Oklade.net.

    Your sites are focused only on sports betting. Which site takes up more of your time on a day-to-day basis, and which site currently is bringing in more revenue?
    OddsNavigator is much more demanding as I'm writing PHP/MySQL code for it myself, and Oklade.net is in Joomla so it's easier to add stuff. I'm more involved with the odds comparison website as it's a much more serious contender, and in terms of revenue it has already caught up with the other site, which is a good thing as it's only a couple of months old.

    Any plans to launch additional sites or move into other gaming verticals (casino, poker, etc.)?
    I always have new ideas but they won't include a new site anytime soon, other than the international version of my Croatian site, which will basically be just a translation on a different domain. I've reached a stage where my time is better spent on promoting and developing existing sites than on starting from scratch with a new product, as it's easier to get another thousand monthly visitors on an existing site than it is to get the first thousand on a new one. For example, I'm currently developing a module with a live streaming schedule and I'll use it on all my sites, but it probably won't spin off into a stand-alone site. In the future, I'd like to design a site about roulette, horse racing or forex, as I've heard sports betting is the least profitable of all gaming products, but still, it's my thing and I'll stick with it.

    How did you become involved in the industry?
    I started out around 2003 as a tipster – and a very good one if I may say so. For example, in 2007 I picked Golden State to knock out Dallas in the NBA playoffs. Everyone was laughing at me until “Nellie ball” actually made it happen. After some time my reputation was such that several companies contacted me first when they were spreading their business into Croatia. One thing led to another, and here I am.

    You used to be on the operator side of the business as a marketing manager for Unibet. What did you learn during your time working on the operator side that has helped you succeed as an affiliate?
    I first got introduced to this business on the operator side, and only then did I find out that there's money to be made as an affiliate. I'd learned a lot about the game and made a lot of contacts, so I already had all the information before I became an affiliate myself. I already knew how it all works for other affiliates, so it was just a matter of reproducing the same business model with my own site and adding something new.

    How long did it take for your sites to start earning money?
    I earned some money pretty quickly, but it took quite some time for me to realize all this could be a profession instead of a side activity. That's when I redesigned my site and started thinking big. The sporadic payments became steady income when I reached some 300 signups at the same bookmaker on a revenue share deal, though the biggest challenge I faced was stabilizing that income. On revenue share sports betting deals, you can earn nice money for three months and then earn absolutely nothing for the next three. The key is to mix CPA and revenue share deals. CPA is the base of my business; revenue share is the free lunch. I don't want to depend on Wigan beating Manchester United, but if they do, I'm getting some extra money.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    Flexibility, in both cases. Affiliate programs should have a lot of good banners in many different sizes, XML feeds, and should allow me to point to a specific page on their site or even a specific match. Affiliate managers should be here – and fortunately most are – to help with that entire process, to help me connect the two websites properly, instead of just trying to persuade me to place a 468x60 banner on the top of the page. I can do that on my own.

    If you had to pick five keys to success as an affiliate, what would they be?
    It's very hard being your own boss and navigating through such a wide market with so many opportunities and distractions. Basically, you need to be both a good leader and the best worker a leader may hire. Being your own boss is not as easy as it sounds, as there's no one to rely on except for yourself. When things go wrong, you can't blame the boss or the worker, you can only blame yourself. That scares the life out of most people. So, all five keys to success are inside you. You’ve got to have the courage to set sail to uncharted waters, the vision to create something new, a set of business skills to be able to communicate with partners for maximum benefit, an understanding of finances to make the best decisions for your business – and computer skills (programming, design, SEO) don't hurt either. Sounds difficult, but creating a CMS website offers a low barrier to entry so you may start from there almost for free, learn as you go and leave your job to be a full-time affiliate only when you feel the time is right.

    How important is current content to a sports betting portal?
    People visit sports betting websites to get information about bookmakers, deposit options and betting in general. For current content, they'll rely on news sites, and you can't really match the quality of those sites unless you have good journalists with good connections. It's better not to do it unless you can do it well. You see, the first time when some news portal publishes a story about Messi scoring four goals and you don't, you've lost. Current content in sports betting is a Pandora's Box. If you decide to be up-to-date on everything, the work never ends and you'll burn out sooner or later, and people will still get most of their information from professional news websites that have journalists, connections, insiders and opinion makers. Many websites delegate content production to tipsters, though that usually spells low quality. Picks are also a double-edged sword; your reputation may rise if you're good, but you can ruin your entire website if you have a bad month. Current content in sports betting is something which needs to be thoroughly thought through before you begin. Creating news is a whole different ball game, though there is a golden middle. You need to focus on a specific sport or league, and write good articles about that. Don't bite off more than you can chew, or you'll regret it.

    How successful were you in finding customers to buy content related to Euro 2012?
    Very successful. We had almost more customers than we could handle. Since my team and I are also publishing a local sports betting magazine, we already had all the in-depth information about the tournament. It made writing unique articles for each client much easier. I believe the articles were good enough to be popular despite competing with hundreds of professional sites telling the same story, including the official Euro 2012 site.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
    I'd noticed a badge on one of the other sites in Croatia and wanted to have it. Sites looked more trustworthy with that badge than I looked without it. GPWA is just what this industry needs and what the affiliates need: an association which says certain sites are trustworthy and that they respect copyrights. The influence of this association can't be measured in financial terms, but I think GPWA is part of the glue which holds the entire industry together. Since trustworthiness and respect are the basis of GPWA, and I'm always looking for an honest way to do something, I feel like I've always been a member. Just had to sign up to make it official.

    You first signed up for a GPWA account in 2008, but it was three years before you made your first post. You have been much more active in recent months. What prompted you to start posting in the forums on a more regular basis?
    I had a different username when I signed up and later had it changed to this one, so some posts must have gone unnoticed, but you're right, I wasn’t very active in the beginning. I guess I didn't really have that much to say until I entered the international market with my odds comparison site. My site was running fine, no problems whatsoever, and I didn't yet have the experience to give advice to other members. So I was just quiet, but I was reading the forum when my schedule allowed me to. You can compare me to a child who didn't speak until the age of 10, and when the parents asked him why, the boy said, “I had no objections.”

    What do you like about the industry?
    Freedom. I can manage my time according to current priorities in life and I don't need to worry about getting fired if I don't show up for work. I can wake up early or work all night. I don't need to make excuses. I can even spend my time traveling around the world in a yacht if I have a laptop connected to the Internet. To do: Earn money, buy a yacht.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
    I wouldn't change anything about this industry. What I do dislike about the Internet in general, though, is that it's based on poor code. For example, there is a way to use JAR to compress all website images into a single small file, and, upon image request, extract only the requested image(s) from it. The speed improvements are amazing. However, this doesn't work across all browsers, so we're stuck with the current options, which aren't good enough. I also very much dislike CSS and the difficulties of cross-browser development. The whole thing could be easy if certain people were smarter.

    What surprised you most about the industry?
    Nothing. I don't get surprised. You'd have to levitate if you want me to raise an eyebrow. Everything in life is normal; it's just a question of whether you've seen it before or not.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
    My family and I are very close and we've seen some hard times during and after the war, so we know how crazy life is and how important it is to be supportive of each other. We're all in the same boat here, and that's how it should be. Friends are supportive and benevolent although they don't really understand what I'm doing. People in the neighborhood are very confused, though. They must think I'm unemployed because I'm always around – I never go to work and never come back from work.

    How long do you give yourself for answering e-mail? What e-mail tips can you offer?
    Important mail gets answered as soon as I read it. My advice would be to use Thunderbird or something to automatically sort the incoming mail into appropriate folders. It facilitates everything. But in the end there's no easy way; if you get 30 important e-mails you have to answer all of them. The best thing to do is to never procrastinate. When you see something worth doing, do it right away and do it well.

    How do you manage your “to-do” lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
    There's a trick I developed while rushing to meet newspaper deadlines. Put all tasks on paper, and attach a realistic expected time of execution to each task. As you move down the list, write down the actual time it took you to complete each task. This makes you work fast as you're trying to beat the clock, which in turn also keeps you fully focused.

    How much time does it take to keep your sites updated?
    Not much. Content is either produced automatically or by the visitors, so I have time to focus on code development and promotion. And that's a different kettle of fish. It's a never-ending story and I always need more time.

    You offered the opinion recently that all “unlimited” hosting plans aren't any good because the server is being shared with hundreds of other people who also have “unlimited” plans. What’s a better way to go?
    Most affiliate websites are designed with CMS systems, which are notoriously slow because they're poorly coded and rely heavily on MySQL databases. And it's a race to catch the visitor: you have a maximum of two or three seconds of his patience, with anything above 0.7 seconds not being perceived as an instant response. A reduction of loading speed by one second can improve your conversion rate by 10 percent, or even more than that, and Google also gives a better rank to fast sites. You can achieve speed by improving your code, but in most cases the server is the bottleneck, and the “unlimited” ones are very slow. Get yourself a dedicated server if you mean business. We're not hosting blogs about goldfish here, we're making money, so most of us can afford a more expensive server.

    How much time do you devote to SEO and/or social networking in order to drive more traffic to your site?
    At this point, SEO is my main focus so I'm spending a lot of time on that. I believe organic traffic is king. It's free, and the visitor is already motivated, though the key thing here is to actually give the visitor what he searched for, otherwise the visitor stats may be misleading and you'll be suffering from a low conversion rate. My goal is to have quality content and rank high with it on search engines; it's a winning combination. Both of my websites have Facebook pages. I see SEO and social networking as ways to constantly be getting a lot of visitors – in the case of social networking, returning visitors – as opposed to paid advertising where you pay for each click and you're not sure if the customer motivated or not. It's money thrown down the drain unless you know why you're doing it.

    How does Bing fit into your SEO strategy?
    It does not. I had plans to focus on Bing as the competition is softer there, but I quickly realized why that is the case. Bing isn't a good search engine, and isn't clever enough to index dynamic sites. Google made some strategic mistakes recently, such as wanting to influence your search results by your friends' interests, which is obvious nonsense, so Bing had a chance to come out on top, but they missed the opportunity. Yahoo might be an option for SEO, though.

    You posted recently that “people tend to panic about SEO whenever possible” and that they should spend more time working to make their sites better rather than asking, “What code can I change to trick Google?” Please elaborate on your views for our readers.
    Everyone’s already heard that you should design your site for humans, not for Google bots, and this is even more true in our industry. We're asking our visitors to take their wallets out and make a deposit, but they'll do that only if they trust you. First-time depositors are very cautious as they're not sure what will happen next – Will someone steal their money or not? – and in this industry we're rewarded financially for bringing in new members, not existing members who make another deposit. So, we're targeting people who probably haven't done it before, and therefore it's much more important to develop a trustworthy brand profile than it is to rank high on Google with a banner farm. SEO is important, but it must not be the focus of your business. If you rank high with a poor product, it only means a lot of people will know you suck.

    If someone were visiting you in Zagreb, what’s the one place you’d definitely take them to see?
    From my perspective, there's nothing to see here, though actually there's “nothing to see” in, say, Venice either. People enjoy the architecture of the old part of Zagreb and the overall atmosphere. So I'd take my guest for a stroll downtown. We'd visit several landmarks, and then we'd head for Upper Town to get a panoramic view of Zagreb.

    What’s your favorite vacation spot?
    One camp in Istria, it's a piece of heaven. My stepfather and I went there last summer as we had some business to do in the region regarding the U19 football tournament, and ended up having a free five-day vacation. You seldom get a chance to create something as strong as a childhood memory at an adult age, and this was it.

    If you could have one “superpower,” what would it be?
    I'd like to master CSS. There must be a superpower for that, as it's not humanly possible.

    You play electric guitar. Any plans to upgrade from that $50 Stratocaster knockoff you picked up at a shopping mall?
    I hear people complain about their guitars, and then they buy new ones only to try to find that perfect one (remember Wayne's World?), and by that time they're already in the highest price range. It's very hard to find the perfect guitar, and I've found one for $50. This one's a gem. People who are fortunate enough to have one refuse to sell it for any price, as it doesn't have any of the usual problems guitars often develop, and it's very versatile. It can even produce a heavy Gibson-like sound, which is usually next to impossible on Strats.

    What’s your all-time favorite movie?
    It must be one of the movies I enjoyed when I was a kid, as that's a time when nothing is routine and everything is new, so all the experiences have a stronger taste. The Karate Kid was my favorite movie back then, and now it has an added value as a childhood memory, so whenever it's on TV it will catch my attention.

    If you were casting a movie with yourself in the leading role, who would play your romantic interest?
    In any parallel universe, my romantic interest would always go to my wife. We'd meet each other somehow. I'd find her.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
    Richard Matthew Stallman, the creator of GNU. He's the real deal. A modern freedom fighter. The remaining spots would go to Iron Maiden band members, and since there are six of them I'd leave Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson out as a practical joke.

    What are three things that nobody knows about you?
    Let's focus on the one that's most interesting. An episode of Malcolm in the Middle, where Hal (Bryan Cranston) finds a CB radio and starts “spreading the truth,” inspired me to do the same, but with a blog. It got me hired as the editor-in-chief of a newspaper. I fought corruption and eventually met Ivo Josipovic, the president of Croatia. In the city where I worked I found and brought back to Zagreb the two loves of my life, my wife, Snježana, and our dog, Zara.

  2. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to GPWA Aaron For This Useful Post:

    FictionNet (27 December 2012), justbookies (26 December 2012)

  3. #2
    Hermski is offline Private Member
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    Great insights and an eye opener, especially if you haven't been involved much in the sports betting affiliation business i.e. don't attempt outsmarting yourself writing up top notch sports news, if you aren't really up to it - or burn out trying sooner or later Would have enjoyed to hear about a few inside SEO tips, as a lot of the generic SEO stuff around seems watered down. There's not too much to take from if you aren't a Pro yourself. Great interview, gives you a motivational boost too.
    Last edited by universal4; 18 January 2014 at 7:25 pm. Reason: remove link by request

  4. #3
    Anthony's Avatar
    Anthony is offline Forum Administrator
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    Thank you for sharing your story. Great interview.
    Affiliates - Become involved in GPWA to truly make the association your own:
    Apply for Private Membership | Apply for the GPWA Seal | Partner with a GPWA Sponsor | Volunteer as a Moderator


  5. #4
    DanHorvat's Avatar
    DanHorvat is offline Private Member
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    Thanks guys.

  6. #5
    ocreditor's Avatar
    ocreditor is offline Private Member
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    this should go on the newbies room too, as there are good lessons here for beginner affiliates

  7. #6
    Maria F is offline Former AM
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    Great interview, thank you for sharing.

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