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

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    Age: 34
    Hometown: Madison, Wisconsin
    Living in: Madison
    Favorite Food: I'm a meat and potatoes type of guy; I love a great steak.
    Sites: We have over 100 websites and around 400 domains, most of which are related to gambling markets. Most recently we are working on OnlineBettingSites.com and BestGamblingSites.com, but they are very much under construction.

    When did you launch your sites?
    I started my first poker site in 2008, which was a VIP rakeback service that catered to valuable players by providing high levels of personal service. That was very much a person-to-person business, and I was somewhat of a players’ advocate. I was quick to pull sites that weren't treating players well, and I took my player base with me. Somewhere along the way I morphed into the SEO side of the business and branched out into almost all niches. My biggest weakness is I start too many sites and buy too many domains. In 2010, 2011 and 2012 we sold three sites that we had worked very hard on for a nice amount of money. That left us starting over and rebuilding, but with a healthy budget and some financial security.

    In late 2012 I built and purchased my first home, located on the starting tee of my country club. It's safe to say that is was a big achievement for me. I had a previous background in light construction, which helped throughout the process. In 2013 I'm really excited about emerging markets and regulation of various regions, and back to working full time on my business.

    Your newest site and main focus, OnlineBettingSites.com, covers just about all aspects and every niche of online gaming. That being the case, why did you decide to keep additional sites in your affiliate portfolio?
    I have invested in the best domains I could possibly find. Most are purchased on the private market, some at a premium price. When really strong domains are undeveloped, I like to pursue and develop them. I will note that I have promised myself I'll cut my domains down to a much more manageable number. After all, who could possibly build dozens of great sites? I think with all the changes Google has made in the last year, building a much smaller number of high-quality sites is the best way forward.

    Many of your sites share a similar design. Why did you make that choice?
    It's partially following a philosophy of mine, and partially a weakness in my business. I really struggle with design aspects of a website, including in the planning stages. Also, since I develop so many sites I always follow a strategy of building content and rankings before investing money in design. Reusing themes and modifying color schemes has helped me scale this. I might take a blue site with a left sidebar, and make it in five other colors and with a right sidebar layout as well. This also allows me to reuse an ad management plug-in that displays my basic calls to action, and saves a lot of development money in the budget that is better focused on increasing earnings.

    The reason my sites currently share a similar design is we are still in the content phase of construction. A fresh design is high on my to-do list.

    Where do most of your players come from? What do you think draws them to your sites – and what keeps them coming back?
    We get players from almost every country in the world, and that's intentional. A simple philosophy of ours is to "answer the questions players are asking," and for various reasons players from country to country can have very different circumstances and challenges. Even though we try to cater to everyone, there will always be a better localized source, but the world is a big place and technology is delivering accessibility everywhere now.

    How did you become involved in the industry? Are you an online gambler yourself?
    I entered the business as a poker player frustrated with the situation in the USA. I started playing in 2006 right before the UIGEA passed, so my entire experience has basically been dealing with the aftermath and fallout of that fateful day. Ironically, since becoming so involved in the industry, I really don't play anymore. I hope to get back to playing at least for entertainment at some point, post regulation, but for now I just play at brick-and-mortar casinos.

    Are you still a moderator at PAL?
    Yes, we are a really loosely knit group. Mostly we just help out with the large amounts of spam the site gets, but occasionally we find ourselves able to help members work out a disagreement with an operator or another affiliate. I enjoy the community aspect, and working from home I view the members as my "coworkers." I've also learned everything I know from members of that forum, and enjoy giving back and volunteering my time to help out.

    Last summer you started a thread about Lock Poker treating affiliates unethically. How hard is it to find reputable operators that accept American players these days?
    It's harder than ever before; in fact I don't promote to U.S. players because of it. I find it very frustrating that bad programs exist, because there is a lot of honest money to be made if we all just treat our partners fairly and do the right thing.

    A couple of great programs remain, but most are not very good and – speaking truly as an honest players’ advocate – sometimes the best affiliate programs are the worst for the players. I choose my partners wisely and personally focus largely on regulated markets. If one thing gets me down about this industry, it's the way affiliates are seen and treated in some circles. The market is flooded with spammers and people trying to leech money off the programs, which gives us a bad name, and it's almost understandable that good programs are losing interest in working with us. If you are a hard-working affiliate, honest and ethical, there will always be money to be made, but it will require setting yourself apart from the masses. I think it's more important than ever to build strong connections and relationships and make a name for yourself.

    How long did it take for you to start earning money as an affiliate?
    I think I literally earned money on the first day, but it took about six months before it became regular income. I went full-time in 2010, leaving another business behind to pursue this one. The road has been bumpy at times; losing well-established affiliate accounts due to seizures and bankruptcies has had an effect, but I'm thankful to have a big enough player base to have weathered most of the storms so far.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    Mostly I just want to be paid on time. It's such a huge challenge and I waste a lot of time chasing payments around, so that is first for me. Equally important is how well we communicate. I also like to keep my listings objective, which means I don't like being pushed for better placements. The best managers will work with me to find ways to highlight the things their brand is doing better than anyone else, because it's a win for everyone involved. Picking my partners wisely helps with that.

    I would also recommend that affiliates research brands from a player’s point of view to make sure they aren't promoting operators that aren't friendly to winners.

    If you had to pick five keys to success as an affiliate, what would they be, and why?

    1. Hard work.
    2. Discipline.
    3. Develop strong writing skills.
    4. Have great communication skills.
    5. Have the ability to see the future!

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
    The GPWA is the best resource for learning about the industry. I really do need to spend more time there. I first joined at the recommendation of another affiliate, and it has helped me connect with programs I didn't know existed. I've avoided some bad apples and made some deals with other GPWA members as well. If and when I have a serious issue with an operator, or a question I need a reliable answer to, the GPWA boards will be my first stop.

    What do you like about the industry?
    Profit margins can be huge, and I appreciate the freedom I have to work from home and see my young children grow up these early years. I'm grateful for it. I like setting my own hours. I also love the gambler lifestyle; it suits me well.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
    I hate seeing brands that act unethically toward affiliates or players. The money involved in gambling should be incentive enough to provide a safe and fair environment to all parties. I'll never understand the greed of those who have to steal from others, especially in an industry with so much money to be made doing business honestly.

    What surprised you most about the industry?
    I was surprised at how friendly my competition could be, and how many good friends can be made within this business. I really expected it to be more cutthroat, but it seems we all need to stick together at times.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
    I'm not sure, to be honest. I was raised in a Catholic family and it's not something we talk a lot about. I think they understand I am trying to be one of the "good guys" in the business, and we try to donate to charity with some of the profits. My friends of course think it's great. After all, who wouldn't be envious of what we are lucky enough to do for a living!

    How long do you give yourself for answering e-mail? What e-mail tips can you offer?
    I try to answer e-mail within 24 hours. I need to manage that better. I don't really have any tips except to advise setting aside time every day for replying to e-mail. For me that time is first thing in the morning as I get myself moving for the day. I also try to deal with a lot of e-mail via mobile, while out and about, as it leads to less desk time.

    How do you manage your “to-do” lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
    I have lists and more lists; I'm a habitual list maker. The whiteboard in my office is the best tool I have, as it's always in my face. Other than that, I use Basecamp to collaborate with my team and to maintain to-do lists for myself and for those who work with me. It's a very useful tool.

    How much time does it take to keep your sites updated?
    We are in a state of construction right now, so very little maintenance. I spend a few hours every day planning, editing or posting content as that's our primary objective at the moment.

    How much time do you devote to SEO and/or social networking in order to drive more traffic to your sites?
    I spend very little time on social networking. I should probably change that. SEO is something I'm constantly working on, although for me it's a hurry-up-and-wait process most of the time. At least a couple hours a day I'm either making on-page changes or going over analytics to see what we should be working on.

    If someone were visiting you, what’s the one place you’d definitely take them to see?
    I live on a golf course so we would probably go for a round of 18. The city I live in is also a great place to boat and enjoy water activities in the summer, so I'd probably do that as well.

    What’s your favorite vacation spot?
    Florida, as I really get to relax when we go there. Beach time means I am not working. I hope to travel outside the U.S. in upcoming years.

    If you could have one “superpower,” what would it be?
    Definitely the ability to see the future. Imagine all you could do for yourself and the world.

    What’s your all-time favorite movie?
    I love movies, and have many favorites. If I had to pick a favorite, I think it would be Goodfellas. I'm not sure why. The cast was superb and the story was based on true events. Plus I love Mafia movies.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
    Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, the Dalai Lama, Vladimir Putin and Bob Marley. I think it would make for an interesting evening, and I'm willing to bet we could all get along somehow and find some common ground.

    What are three things that nobody knows about you?
    If I told you, then everyone would know. Honestly I don't have an answer to this. I'm a pretty open person and don't keep any secrets.

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

    Have a lovely Xmas

  4. #3
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    sweetbet is online now Private Member
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    Managing over 100 websites is amazing. I can barely cope with one
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    "I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out all right." Billy Graham

  5. #4
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    IhreConsulting is offline Public Member
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    Thanks for a great interview MJ. I agree that there are many great things about the industry - the hours you can work, the friends you can make, the community, but I suppose we have to take the rough with the smooth and that unfortunately there are still operators out there who behave unethically.
    I too am a list maker and couldn't focus my brain if I wasn't!! Florida is also one of my favourite places to go on holiday.
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  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by GPWA Aaron View Post
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    Favorite Food: I'm a meat and potatoes type of guy; I love a great steak.
    I am too . Great interview.

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