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

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    Age: 37
    Hometown: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
    Living in: Tennessee
    Favorite Food: Filet Mignon cooked to perfection on my own grill
    Must Read Book: So many to choose from, but being the son of a Baptist Minister, I’m going to have to go with the Bible here.

    Sites:
    nodepositbonus.com
    poker-strategy.org
    masteringholdem.com
    pokerskills.org

    When did you launch your sites?
    October 2003 was the launch of our first site, poker-strategy.org. The other sites we launched within a couple of years, but none have been nearly as successful. We bought nodepositbonus.com from its original owner in 2007, and it is now the mainstay of our business.

    With the exception of the “No Deposit Casino Bonuses” section of your No Deposit Bonus site, all four of your sites are totally devoted – in one way or another – to poker. Explain how you decided to go this route.
    I became interested in playing poker in late 2002 and stumbled upon a couple of $10 no deposit bonuses from Lucky Nugget Poker and Royal Vegas Poker. This was back when Lou Krieger was the celeb promoter at Royal Vegas. Neither site is active now.

    I had to buy strategy books to improve my game because I had a tough time finding good poker strategy sites to learn from. PokerTips.Org was really the only good poker strategy site that I could find before the first poker boom.

    As I turned my $10 no deposit into hundreds of dollars, I saw an opportunity to share my experience with a poker strategy site of my own. That’s how Poker-Strategy.Org came about. I was lucky enough to have a gaming friend, Bryan Metzger (BMETZ on the forums), who had the technical expertise to build websites, and so after an evening discussion, a partnership of sorts was born.

    Interestingly enough, casino earnings make up the bulk of our monthly nut now. We did great with poker, being probably the first site to really promote no deposit poker bonuses, and having the first public rakeback deal (Absolute Poker 10 percent rake rebate, baby!). But with Black Friday and the fading popularity of rakeback, we saw the writing on the wall and started focusing on casino.

    You used to teach high-school history but tell us that you gradually morphed into a “poker player, promoter and online gaming marketer.” How did this happen, and how did you become involved in the industry?
    I got into poker in college, while working on my degree in History/Secondary Education. My earnings at Royal Vegas Poker helped pay my college bills as I finished my degree. We launched Poker-Strategy.Org during my last semester of college.

    Within a year and before I could even land my first full-time teaching position, I was making more money with poker marketing than I could have made teaching. It was a pretty easy decision to just plunge full time into poker marketing at that point.

    How long did it take for you to start earning money? Which site is now the most profitable?
    We launched Poker-Strategy.Org in October 2003. We earned our first $1,000 from Fortune Affiliates and got paid in January 2004. Not shabby for someone still living on pizza and ramen noodles purchased with student loans!

    Our main site now is www.nodepositbonus.com. Sadly, practically every other site we have is incredibly dusty and in need of major updating or outright relaunch. We’ll get to them eventually.

    No deposit bonuses are tough for affiliates because players looking for these types of deals aren't usually looking to make a deposit. Have you been able to find players with value through your no-deposit site?
    Being successful in the no deposit casino niche is all about volume. Player value tends to be below average, but if you can send enough “below average” players, you can certainly make an “above average” income. We do see some larger players frequently and a whale every now and then.

    Success also depends on how seriously the casinos are taking our traffic. Some work hard to convert our leads. Focal Click stands out. Their ability to convert, retain and pull multiple deposits from our traffic is excellent. Some programs just look at no deposit traffic as garbage traffic, and so they don’t do much to convert it, and their results from no deposit campaigns match their efforts.

    No deposit poker is a bit of a different animal. With this, you are looking to set players up with a “bankroll” and give them strategies, tips and tools to become better players. Better players put in more volume and rake and have a much longer life cycle. My own example is proof. I went from a $10 no deposit bonus in 2003 to eventual Iron Man status at Full Tilt before Black Friday.

    Our most successful no deposit bonus poker player was World Series of Poker winner Daniel Kelly. When he joined us, we had no idea he was 14 or 15, and we gave him a $25 free account at Absolute Poker. Within weeks, he had built it to thousands of dollars and was playing at the highest limit tables against the likes of Mark Seif and other pros there at Absolute. He borrowed the account of another one of our members who was "of age." He played as "SpiritSlayer" and had a picture of Shrek as his avatar. It was just amazing watching him splash around the big chips with professional players. They would have been floored had they known that the kid on the other end was too young to grow facial hair.

    At any rate, he outgrew our "no deposit" bonuses pretty quickly, and moved on to become one of our better rakeback players at Full Tilt before he started playing more or less full time at PokerStars. He went on to win a WSOP bracelet in 2010, and has had quite a run this year, too. Dan Kelly is, by far, the biggest success story of someone getting into online poker via no deposit bonuses and free bankrolls.

    Anyway, to sum up, no deposit casino is about volume and a casino that will work just as hard on their end to convert the leads. No deposit poker is more about the affiliate’s ability to connect with the players and groom as many as possible into “good players” who move up in limits as their skills increase.

    What do your strategy sites do to differentiate themselves from other sites offering poker tips and strategies?
    Our strategy sites are woefully out of date, as we have spent fewer resources on them after April 2011. When our strategy community was active, one of our biggest draws was the fact that we welcomed newbies who had “dumb” questions. Our articles and forums were geared toward players who knew absolutely nothing about the game, and we provided a safe place for them to learn and discuss.

    A lot of players and strategy site owners forget that there was a time when they didn’t know the difference between a flush and a straight draw. New customers are the lifeblood of any industry, and we provided an open door for thousands of individuals, fresh off watching Moneymaker take down Sammy, to walk through and start their own poker story.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    Affiliate Manager:
    1. Responsive. If you can’t handle the e-mail volume, hire an assistant.
    2. Open to promotion ideas, and not just endlessly pushing promotions that I can assure them will NOT work in the no deposit bonus niche.
    3. Willingness to stick with a no deposit campaign long term. These things tend to lose money up front, but over the long haul we see great results with programs that work hard to convert our traffic and pull multiple deposits from them.

    Affiliate Program:
    Flexibility. The program needs to allow their affiliate managers to tweak campaigns and promotions to make the no deposit niche work for them.

    What advice can you offer people who are just starting up in the industry?
    A good number of my poker contacts that I introduced to rakeback and strategy eventually moved on to do affiliate work. Jonathan Wanchalk is a good example of someone who went from being a rakeback poker player to eventually seeing great success as an affiliate in gaming and beyond.

    What advice can you offer people who are just starting up in the industry?
    Work hard. Don’t expect overnight success. Join affiliate communities like the GPWA and make connections. One of the best ways to connect is to offer a service like article writing. It helps earn some money that you can then invest in your own site and business. Wanchalk started out writing poker strategy articles, for example, and had an incredible drive to be successful.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
    This is actually kind of humorous. We had someone bashing our site on GPWA because we encouraged players to delete cookies before signing up for one of our rakeback deals. They felt like we were “stealing” players. I came on to defend our business and explain that these were not “taken” players, but were players who had not yet decided which promotion they wanted. If they decided to take ours, we wanted to make dead sure that they tracked correctly, and not to an affiliate who happened to stuff a cookie into their browser three months ago.

    The GPWA has been incredibly beneficial in terms of holding the feet to the fire of programs that have become unresponsive to e-mail when it comes to making payments that are owed. Besides that, the ideas and industry information gleaned by reading the discussion threads have been a big help.

    Many of your posts on the GPWA forums have to do with problems receiving payment from affiliate programs. How often do you run into problems when it comes to getting paid? What strategies seem to work best for you when you are trying to resolve problems in this area?
    “Getting Paid” could be a job unto itself. We are USA based, and even though we have a bank account outside the USA, it can still be a bear to collect all of the payments owed. It’s really the nature of the no deposit niche, again. Smaller brands and new brands are more flexible and willing to run no deposit campaigns. Unfortunately, some of those brands have also been shoestring operations that had a tough time paying their bills and affiliate payments.

    We have made some great contacts and friends in the gaming industry over the years, so our first step is to try to work through those channels to resolve payment issues. That usually gets the problems resolved. However, we have had to call some programs out publicly for lack of response and payments, and doing so on an affiliate board like the GPWA usually proves effective, because programs know that they will not attract the best affiliates if their reputation is sullied.

    What do you like about the industry?
    Opportunity. Even though we are already a decade past the original “poker boom,” much of the world is still just waking up to online casino, poker, etc. There are areas of the world that are just now developing widespread broadband service, or smartphone usage, and as their economies strengthen and their populations have more disposable income, that can be a perfect recipe for success for gaming companies and affiliates.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
    The flow of payments for USA affiliates is just ridiculous. Our current setup is working, but we are still talking about at least three hoops to jump through before many of our affiliate earnings are in our business account, ready to be dispersed as payroll. We have been booted from two different banks because of relationships with online gaming companies that did not even serve USA customers.

    Several U.S. states are either regulating online gambling or talking about doing so. We haven't heard much from Tennessee, though. Any thoughts on what might be coming down the road for the Volunteer State in that regard?
    It took a huge fight in our state just to vote in the lottery. I truly hope that any legislative breakthroughs force states to have to “opt out” or be automatically included. If states have to “opt in,” I believe it will be quite a long time before we see Tennessee residents at the online poker tables.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
    As noted before, my father is a minister. It took a good year before I told him what I was doing for a living. Most of my family knows my occupation, and most are fine with it, and some have even tried to follow my footsteps into the industry. Only my closest friends know how I make my paychecks. Most people just know we have an office in town and we work with websites and Internet marketing.

    Do you gamble online? If so, what do you play?
    I used to play a lot of poker. Now, if I gamble online, it’s either craps, horse betting or sports during college football/NFL seasons. I know the odds, obviously, and I know that poker is the only “money making” game, but to be honest, when I gamble online I’m looking to relax and enjoy, not grind out a couple big bets per hour. There is no stress playing something like craps. You watch the dice roll and if you win, you smile, and if you lose . . . well, crap. Roll again.

    How long do you give yourself for answering e-mail? What e-mail tips can you offer?
    I work a typical Monday-Friday schedule, with a lot of flexibility tossed in, of course. Most e-mail gets answered same day or within 24 hours, except on weekends. My tip? Just start at the bottom of the inbox and resist the urge to read > mark as unread > read the next > mark as unread, etc. The best way to plow through your e-mail is just to start with the oldest, and move up. Don’t “camp” your inbox. Once you have cleaned it out, leave it alone until the next day, unless you see something very important pop through. Otherwise you will spend your entire day e-mailing back and forth.

    How do you manage your “to-do” lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
    I use a simple notepad document. I have one to-do list that has a number of projects listed that can be done over the next few weeks or even months. I have another notepad list of things “To Do ASAP.” I usually start my morning by jotting down the things that I 100 percent need to accomplish this day, and then check them off as I finish them throughout the day. Once done, and if time permits, I work on the long-term list.

    How much time do you devote to SEO and/or social networking in order to drive more traffic to your sites?
    We have just started developing our Facebook presence (https://www.facebook.com/no.deposit.bonus.site). It’s very active there, compared to most affiliates’ Facebook presence, in my opinion, and is starting to pay off in terms of giving our business more of a “community” feel. My first site was successful in part because I was able to build a community around things like “building a poker bankroll from scratch” or “rakeback.” I’m trying to duplicate that now on nodepositbonus.com

    The jury is still out, and I just really started making a concerted effort this year, but I believe our Facebook community efforts will eventually drive a good bit of traffic to our site and e-mail list.

    What’s the most difficult thing about running your site?
    Trying not to get overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that need to be done, both short term and long term. The second most difficult thing is dealing with Google search fluctuations. (Hence the reason I am trying to build more traffic sources than organic search!)

    What’s the best thing about running your site?
    It’s hard to beat being your own boss and knowing that every dollar earned is adding to your yearly income, and not just padding the pockets of some fat cat at a corporate office somewhere.

    If someone were visiting you, what’s the one place you’d definitely take them to see?
    Nashville, downtown, music scene, etc. I live a half hour or so away, and it’s just amazing walking down Broadway on the way to a concert or event at Bridgestone Arena and hearing the music and laughter coming from open door after open door of bars and restaurants as you pass. It’s one of the safest and friendliest cities you will come across.

    When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?
    I enjoy renting a cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. There are cabins so deep in the woods that if you meet a car coming the opposite way on the narrow dirt or gravel road, one of you has to back up. In some of those places you are lucky to have cell phone service, much less Internet service.

    What’s your favorite vacation spot?
    I love road tripping. The destination does not matter, really. We have road tripped, as a family, to Niagara Falls, Canada, and to Disney World, Orlando, Florida. The destination is always fun, but I enjoy the trip even more. We actively look for oddball, off-the-beaten-path places to visit.

    I enjoy history and people, so road trips bring me into contact with a lot of both.

    What’s your all-time favorite movie?
    Bad Boys (with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence). Perfect combination of action and humor.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
    My grandpa on my dad’s side: He was an entrepreneur. He died when I was pretty young, and I think we probably have a lot in common. Bill Frist: I would make him sit on the floor and watch us eat, for his part in passing UIGEA. Jesus Christ, after doing a LOT of house cleaning: He would need to be there to help me not be more inhospitable to Mr. Frist. My wife: She deserves a seat after providing moral support for our business for the last 10 years. My dad: Despite not agreeing with what I do, he is proud of our success, and still loves his kid. Besides, he wouldn’t want to miss a chance to sit at the table with Jesus, you know?

    If you were one of the last two people on the planet, who would you want the other person to be?
    Easy one here. My wife (she reads these things, you know . . .).

    What are three things that nobody knows about you?

    1. I used to be in good shape and was a decent basketball player.
    2. I own my seven-year-old in PlayStation 3 racing games and enjoy it.
    3. I enjoy #2 because I know the time will come, all too soon, when I won’t be able to beat him in anything except wisdom and gray hair count ...

  2. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to GPWA Aaron For This Useful Post:

    louie.wilson (23 January 2014), Planet Mark (22 January 2014), sweetbet (27 January 2014)

  3. #2
    Maria F is offline Former AM
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    Hi Keith,
    Nice interview!

    I love the way you talk about your wife

  4. #3
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    louie.wilson is offline Former AM
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    Nice one Keith

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    sweetbet's Avatar
    sweetbet is online now Private Member
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    Great interview. btw you have an awesome website. It's funny how we all remember our very first check. My first check was from Rewards Affiliates back in January 2001.
    Sweet Bet - Reviews of reputable online casinos, poker sites, sportsbooks & bingo halls
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