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  1. #1
    CityGuard's Avatar
    CityGuard is offline Former GPWA Program Manager
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    Default Portal Webmaster Interview Series: Charlie Hyde ("ChalkOutline")

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    GPWA veteran chalks it up to experience.


    Current Hometown: Sheffield, England
    Age: 28
    Favourite food: I like trying food from all over the world but my favourite would be Mexican food. Fajitas, quesadillas, burritos -- I can't get enough of them!
    One book everyone must read: I would have to choose Bill Bryson's book 'A Short History of Nearly Everything'. Bill Bryson is best known for his string of travel books. This book takes you through the history of the world from the dawn of time, through all of the biggest discoveries, gradually bringing you all the way up to modern times. Bryson does an excellent job of simplifying the complexities and telling you the interesting stories of the people involved. It’s an excellent read and it really does give you a better understanding of the big wide world out there.
    Favorite Sites:
    News.BBC.co.uk - One of the best sources of up-to-date news from around the world. This is always the first site I check in the morning.
    IMDB.com - I am a big movie fan and there is no better resource than the IMDB.

    You're a true veteran of the online gaming industry. How and when did you get started?
    I put together my first gambling portal website back in late 2001. I had just finished University and had been doing freelance web design and development work for several years. I was looking for a project to hone some new skills and decided to set up a casino portal (casinotoday.co.uk). It seemed like the perfect type of business. The market was growing rapidly and there was no need to worry about mailing out products, storing stock and taking credit card payments. I was very naive and expected hordes of people to arrive overnight. Unfortunately the 'if you build it, they will come' phrase doesn't work for websites! I joined a number of small gambling webmaster forums, eventually finding my way to the GPWA. I haven't looked back since. I’ve learned an awful lot from my years as a GPWA member. When I first started out in this business I had no idea that I would still be working on the sites today. I am very happy to be able to do so.

    Both your screen name and your consulting firm are named ChalkOutline. How did you come up with the name?
    In 1999 I was doing web design work for a number of different clients and I felt that I needed a memorable title under which to market my services. It needed to be something a little bit different and also for a reasonable domain to still be available (even then it was hard to find a good domain name!). ChalkOutline Web Design had a ring to it and a natural logo to go with it. The name has just stuck with me over the years. It sounds a little sinister, but everybody knows what a chalk outline is.

    Whose chalk outline is the logo?
    The chalk outline logo is actually the outline of a good friend of mine. When I needed a suitable body outline he was happy enough to act as the model. The outline has been touched up and styled a little over the years, but it is still just about recognisable as the outline of my friend.

    What lessons from your consulting firm have you been able to apply to your work as an affiliate? And what lessons from your affiliate work have you been able to apply to your consulting work?
    The web consulting work that I have done has been in a wide variety of different areas of marketing, such as healthcare, engineering products and jewellery. Each of these marketing areas needed a different approach. When I first started out I guessed that what worked for one business would surely work for any other business. This is obviously not the case. Learning how to work in these different business areas has been an excellent experience and a real help in figuring out how to market to different demographics in the affiliate business.

    I have learned a great deal from my casino affiliate work over the years. The casino affiliate business is certainly the most competitive type of marketing that I have done. There are so many factors that need to be considered and so many other websites vying for the same traffic. It is an incredibly tough business to succeed in, but this has forced me to learn things that can be applied to my non-gambling-related work.

    How has the industry changed from when you started to now?
    The number of people online has increased dramatically, so the appetite for online gambling has also grown along with that increase. The last five years have seen web users become a lot more trusting of the Internet; people are much happier spending money online than they were. The market has diversified from revolving around online casino games to include online poker, bingo, backgammon and various other forms of online gaming. There are games out there to suit every taste. Online gambling appeals to many more people now than it did half a decade ago. Unfortunately, the huge growth of the industry has also served to bring it into the political arena. What was once a niche area is now very much in the public eye. The online gambling industry has taken quite a battering over the last few years as a result.

    You’ve seen affiliates and affiliate programs come and go. What are the keys to success for both? How important is the working relationship you have with affiliate programs? And how do you go about building a successful one?
    Five years ago there was room for everybody in this industry. New affiliate programs sprang up overnight and the affiliates followed. The best affiliate programs realised that the key to success was to work closely with their affiliates. Offering solid player tracking, quality marketing materials, good reporting, player retention and strong affiliate relationships are all important. If a program fails to perform in any of these areas then affiliate trust will be lost. There are many affiliate programs out there and it’s easy for affiliates to move elsewhere. A good number of affiliate programs have disappeared for failing in these core areas.

    I feel that affiliates have to be able to react quickly to changes in this business. There is a wealth of choice of partners and being able to move rapidly between them allows you to stay in control. An affiliate program must earn your loyalty and if they don't perform then you need to be able to move on to better-performing programs. The market changes quickly and being able to keep up is half the battle.

    What are the most difficult challenges for you as an affiliate? And how do you handle them?
    Keeping up with the changes in this business is very tough. Each and every day something else changes. Search engine marketing, Pay Per Click, new affiliate programs arriving, older programs disappearing, content changes, new web technologies -- the list is endless! I am sure that any affiliate will agree that staying on top of all of these things is the hardest thing to do. I find that I need to consider and prioritise what I do very carefully. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done (or is that just me?).

    What is currently the most difficult part of your work? And why?
    I think that I find the organic search engine optimisation work in affiliate marketing to be the hardest thing. There is so much conflicting information circulating on the web all the time that it is very tough to know what you should be doing. It was easier in the past to know what basic things you needed to do to get your sites ranked highly; it is far harder to know these days. The slightest change to your sites can have far-reaching impact, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Staying on top of the latest developments in SEO is hard work.

    How did you grow your business?
    I started out specifically targeting online casino players and stuck to that area for the first few years. In 2002 and 2003 the online casino business was really taking off and online poker had not yet really arrived on the scene. I did my best to source traffic from a number of places, both organic and paid methods. Early on I built a content management system to handle the content on the sites. This really has saved an incredible amount of my time. I built up a network of six casino portal sites targeting different demographics. Some of the sites target the global audience, some of them target UK players and some aim to target other groups like high rollers and first-time players. In hindsight I think I was behind in setting up my first poker review sites, but I now do quite well from the poker side of the business. My UK-targeted poker site, UK Online Poker (ukonlinepoker.com), is one of the favourite sites in my network. I am proud of each of the sites that I run and I am very fortunate that they continue to do well for me.

    How has the GPWA helped you as an affiliate?
    To be honest I don't think I would still be a gambling affiliate today without the GPWA's help. I had limited marketing experience before I started my first portal. I had good experience with the design and development of sites, but I hadn't done any active marketing-type work. I was expecting that all to be fairly obvious stuff. I had cut my teeth at other affiliate forums, but when I stumbled upon the GPWA I was unaware of the wealth of information that it offered. Back when I first joined the GPWA, the core part of the forums was all hidden away from non-members. I had no real idea how many people were posting and what the community was like. When I submitted my application I had to answer a number of questions, which all seemed a little excessive just to join a forum! When I was approved as a member I realised how much excellent information and guidance were there in the private forums. The other members were so helpful in answering my questions. I spent a long time reading up on the guidance in the forums and then set up a totally new portal based around the information from the other members. Only after I launched this new site did I start to make any real money from my sites. There have been many changes to the world of casino affiliate marketing over the years and my membership at the GPWA has always allowed me to stay on top of things.

    What advice can you offer people who are just starting up in the industry?
    The best advice I can give is to give it a try, but to remember that you have to stick with it. Getting into this area of affiliate marketing is unfortunately more difficult now than it has ever been. It takes a lot of work before you start to see results, but it is still worth it. It is very easy to set up a banner farm website and put it online, but this won't work for long. Creating a website with plenty of good, unique and fresh content for your visitors is the key. Spend time writing articles, news, reviews and adding them to your site. Make sure that you add good keywords into the text as you go. Try to think of different things that you can include in your site; game rules and flash games are on every site these days. The search engines put more emphasis on the content of sites these days than ever before. If you keep your website fresh, add good content and optimise your site, then you should begin to rise up the search result rankings.

    How long did it take for you to start earning money?
    It was probably 3 or 4 months before the first payment. I expected it to pour in straight away and I was disheartened when it didn't. As I modified my sites, added content and learned where to advertise, the money started to arrive in dribs and drabs. You never forget the feeling you get when that first cheque arrives! It was enough to keep me pushing along with the development of my sites.

    What was your favourite subject in school? And why was it your favourite subject?
    I always enjoyed Geography when I was at school. I found it interesting to learn about how the planet has ended up like it has. The world has been shaped over many millions of years and humankind has only been here for a very brief part of that. It is nice to have a bit of an understanding of how the places you visit came to look like they do. We visited Morocco as part of the course. The country has a beautiful coast, with the Atlas mountains and parts of the Sahara desert all in very close proximity to each other. Finding out how that happened intrigued me.

    If you weren't working in online gaming right now, what would you be doing?
    I think I would still be doing something Internet-related. I love the fact that it is possible to create something that people will see and use. Publishing on the Internet is similar to publishing a book or acting in a film. Web design is a great mix of technical stuff and creative work, and I enjoy both aspects. I still do some freelance web development for a number of long-term clients and I guess I would spend a lot more time doing that. Working face to face with clients requires some different skills. In the affiliate marketing business you don't necessarily need to have direct contact with your customers. When you’re doing consulting and development work you’re responsible for keeping your customers happy, meeting with them, producing the exact things that they want. I enjoy being involved in projects from start to finish, and seeing a happy client is always rewarding.

    Do you gamble online? If so, what's your favourite game and why?
    I would have to say that playing Texas Hold'em online would be my favourite. Casino games are fun, but they lack the feel of playing with real people. Playing poker online is very different from playing poker face to face; you lose an element of being able to read your opponents. I think that online poker rooms are still great fun when you can't get a bunch of friends together for a poker night. Being able to get a game online whenever you have a spare hour is very handy.

    What are your favourite hobbies?
    I love watching movies and going to the cinema. I usually go to the cinema with friends once a week. I go to the gym and work out three or four times a week. There is nothing better after a hard day in work mode than going to the gym and letting the stresses of everyday life fade away. I love to ski and always look forward to the next time I can get out on the slopes. The fresh mountain air, incredible scenery and thrill of the slopes make for a very special experience. Unlike in the USA and mainland Europe, it is not really possible to go for a day of skiing in the mountains here in England. I usually go for a week of skiing around Easter time each year. I have skied for about the last 15 years, mostly in the French Alps. With a bit of luck I will be off to Lake Tahoe for an extended ski trip sometime early next year. I can't wait!

    Which football team do you root for in the EPL?
    This is a slightly sore point at the moment! Sheffield United (a.k.a. The Blades), my local team, was relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season. The team had succeeded in being promoted at the start of the last season, but the season was a tough battle for the team. The city is keeping its fingers crossed for another bite at the premiership apple sometime soon. Go Blades!

    What's your favourite World Cup moment?
    In last year's competition it was nice to see some of the underdog teams unsettling the tournament favourites. Some of the smaller teams that were expected to get knocked out early on actually did surprisingly well. For a while it looked like the tournament could take a totally unexpected turn.

    If you could pick any animal to be for one day, which one would it be? And why?
    Hmmm, an unusual question! I think I would be a meerkat. They work well as a team, with one meerkat always looking out for the rest of the pack. When one pops its head down, another one pops straight up to keep an eye out for predators. They are incredibly agile and at the merest hint of danger they scoot out of the way. I think it’s pretty cool that they work so well together.
    I have left the industry and earned a law degree at Indiana University Bloomington, Maurer School of Law. Here are ways to stay in touch with me:
    > Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StevenCorfman
    > LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevencorfman
    > Skype: StevenCorfman
    > Phone: +1 617 785 9324

    Inquiries intended for an administrator or staff member can be directed to Anthony Telesca through the forum (username Anthony) or to the general contact address manager AT gpwa DOT org.

  2. #2
    mojo's Avatar
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    Nice job Chaz. I enjoyed reading this very much. You have certainly seen alot of changes.

  3. #3
    chill's Avatar
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    Which football team do you root for in the EPL?
    This is a slightly sore point at the moment! Sheffield United (a.k.a. The Blades), my local team, was relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season. The team had succeeded in being promoted at the start of the last season, but the season was a tough battle for the team. The city is keeping its fingers crossed for another bite at the premiership apple sometime soon. Go Blades!
    Being a yorkshire lad myself I won't even tell you how I feel about my beloved LUFC , but I do believe well meet again, already next season


    Nice interview
    ___________
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    I dare not tell almighty Google anything, it ALWAYS does the opposite of what I request
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    Paul

  4. #4
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    Hi Chalk,

    Nice interview

    Cheers



    Dave
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    A world of casino slot games at Spin City Slots
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    Do the right thing, even when no one is looking. It's called integrity.
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  5. #5
    Chris-AffiliateClub's Avatar
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    Good interview - I had the pleasure of studying in Sheffielf for 3 years and I enjoyed it up there!

    BTW, the Blades were robbed last season!
    Chris@AffiliateClub.com
    Acquisition & Affiliate Manager

  6. #6
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    There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done (or is that just me?).
    No no chalk , it's not only you, rest assured that it's what I say to my wife everyday... 8h-10h of work per day is the strict minimum - as you said with Internet and obviously with the gaming sector, it's very hard to keep on top of everything!
    Gambling Pro - www.Gambling-Pro.com
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  7. #7
    Carlo is offline New Member
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    Nice interview. I used to rip over to Sheffield all the time when I was a kid to hit up the Leadmill and hang out with all my nutjob mates from Sheff. I also used to go there a lot to play basketball.

    I didn't know you were from there. Any chance you can send me some pies to Canada?

  8. #8
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    i like the interview, nice job...and ure right...nowadays its harder, much more competitive, but its worth it

  9. #9
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    Very Nice Chalk!

    only disappointment is to hear the logo for chalk outline isn't a cheating aff program lol.

    very nice..... very sincere. I wish I had a better relationship with you but truth is .... I have little to offer to what you know and it'd be one-sided so I guess i'll have to settle for you're just putting up with me
    Almost Here! How would you like to be able to get not just one sign up from your player, or even a couple, but every single casino they join from here on? I've a plan that can make that happen and it will likely also tell you every time the player is active within the casino.

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  10. #10
    Superior is offline Non-sponsor Affiliate Program
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    Hey Chalk,
    Long time no talk. I haven't spoken or chatted with you since my days at SciFi and Breakaway, and the conference at Mohegan Sun. Find me and we can catch up. PM me for my contact info. We also have a forum in the bronze section.
    J

  11. #11
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    Thanks everybody, I am pleased to hear that I didn't drone on too much in the longer version of the interview (the one above!).

    It is also nice to see so many connections to Sheffield amongst the membership here. Feel free to drop me a line whenever anyone hits town in the future. It is always great to meet fellow members and affiliate managers.

    @max: It is indeed very easy to get drawn into working long hours. I think it is a kind of guilt that you could always be doing just another few things. You have to keep an eye on it or it can get out of hand. Make sure your wife keeps an eye on you!

    @bb1: Nope, not a cheating affiliate program, but its a nice thought. I would be happy to work more closely with you. Just let me know how I can be of assistance. Putting up with you is not too tough!

    @Superior: It has been a while hasn't it! The original GPWA retreat feels like a long time ago now, but I have very good memories of it. I didn't realise that you were still in this business area. I'll send you a PM in a sec.

    Thanks again for the feedback!

  12. #12
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    It is also nice to see so many connections to Sheffield amongst the membership here.
    I missed that point - Me and my wife are travelling from time to time to Sheffield as we discovered this great city while she was studying English at the University of Sheffield for one year... We had a lot of fun visiting Sheffield and other towns such as York.

    If one day we travel to sheffield I will send you a PM so that we can have a beer and discuss business!
    Gambling Pro - www.Gambling-Pro.com
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