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Favorite Food: Pizza
Must Read Book: Honestly, I don’t read books. I believe in reading everything on the Web you can find to help with SEO online marketing.

When did you launch your site?
PlayersJet was launched in January 2005.

What makes PlayersJet different from other sites that act as guides for gamblers who are looking for places to play?
Early in 2004, I discovered that online gambling existed and immediately saw an opportunity to build a business marketing for these websites. Not being familiar with the industry, and not being a gambler myself, it was amazing to discover out how easy it was for a player to fund an online account and play for real money in an online casino, poker room or sportsbook.

It seemed curious that none of the major Las Vegas brands were offering real-money online gambling, yet there were hundreds, maybe thousands of websites out there willing to take your bets. This led to the core question that drives PlayersJet: How do you know whom to trust with your money?

PlayersJet is built around a TrustRank algorithm that reviews and ranks websites based on multiple observable criteria to assign a relative confidence score to help players determine which sites they can trust most.

How do you determine the "Trust Rank" that you give online gambling sites?
In a quest to answer the question of trust, I spent a couple of months visiting hundreds of online gambling sites, determining who the leaders in the industry were and then understanding why they were doing well. A picture started to emerge for those operators who were leading the industry and those who felt more fly-by-night.

At that time PricewaterhouseCoopers was providing audits for several online casinos, and there were other third-party resources like eCOGRA that were providing their stamp of approval. Clearly an operator who was willing to be audited by a third party had to have a higher level of trust than an operator who did not.

In total, over 30 unique observable factors were identified that helped determine if one website should be trusted over another. This led to the development of an algorithm that weights each of these factors and creates a TrustRank score based on a 100-point scale. Each of the online gambling sites in our database is assigned a TrustRank based on this algorithm and is ranked throughout PlayersJet.

You’ve said that you were an Internet consultant for around 10 years before deciding to get into the online gaming industry. Looking back, do you feel you made the right decision?
This was definitely the right decision. I'm still an Internet consultant today and the online marketing skills I've learned from marketing PlayersJet have been applied to my consulting clients.

It took a long time to develop PlayersJet. Would you advise new webmasters to take a long time developing their sites? If you could go back and do it again, would do the same thing or would you launch first and learn on the fly?
It took close to 10 months to launch PlayersJet from inception to launch. Coming from the Internet consulting industry, I approached this methodically, by first researching the industry, developing the TrustRank algorithm and then determining a marketing strategy, which took close to four months. The next six months were spent on execution: HTML development, programming and entering over 1,000 websites into the database. It takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to enter a new site into the database, so hours upon hours went into that task alone.

For a webmaster looking to start out in this industry, you can get up-and-running much faster than we did. There are many more tools that can be utilized today, like using WordPress as a platform, so development time can be much quicker. The key to success is understanding how you are marketing yourself to players on the Web, what they will respond to and how you will build traffic.

I certainly would not launch first and ask questions later; that's what gets most webmasters in trouble. Figure out your niche first, then build around that. Your website doesn't have to be a completely finished product, but it needs to appear finished to a visitor to the site. PlayersJet has gone through several enhancements in the years since launching but has always appeared as a finished product, and I believe that has served us well.

How long did it take for your site to start earning money?
We launched with a strictly affiliate-based revenue model and made money in the first month we launched – a whopping 25¢. It took three months to start seeing consistent revenue from the website, and things continued to build from there.

How much time do you devote to SEO – including link-building – and/or social networking in order to drive more traffic to your site?
Not nearly enough time. Ideally, I would be spending 20 to 30 hours a week on SEO, social and other traffic-building efforts. As it is now, I'm only able to manage 5 to 10 hours a week on these tasks.

You've said that January is "by far the best month every year" in terms of revenue. Why do you think that is the case?
For us it has to do with seasonality in sports betting. We market to casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks with a similar number of signups across each group, but sportsbooks have a much higher retention rate than casinos and a higher rate of income than poker. The base of existing players we have built with sportsbook programs means that we generally do the best in months where sports betting is most active, and that means the NFL playoffs.

What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
I've taken a little different approach to this business than most affiliates in that I first review the online gambling sites to determine their TrustRank, then I only work with the programs that score well. The sites that don't score well remain in our database, but we don't work with most of those affiliate programs. What we have found is that the sites that score well with TrustRank generally have good affiliate programs behind them. It's not 100 percent accurate, but we have avoided many of the affiliate programs that have gone rogue in the past and credit that to knowing whom to trust first.

If you had to pick five keys to success as an affiliate, what would they be?
  1. Start with a good idea. No one wants to see another cookie-cutter website offering a random set of banners and links with no real information behind them (and neither does Google).
  2. Do your research and participate in the industry as much as you can. You will learn valuable information including how to avoid making mistakes from others who have already done this.
  3. Build a website that converts. If you aren't providing information in a clear and concise manner, you will miss a lot of opportunities with your website traffic. Track your traffic and test new things on your website. We did this and increased our conversion rate over 20 percent.
  4. Invest most of your time into building traffic. Traffic is the lifeblood of an affiliate website, so you should be building content, building links, building likes and building shares as much as possible once your website is up-and-running.
  5. Don't stop improving. This industry is constantly evolving and your website should evolve with it.

What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?
For me, I didn't know that much about the industry in the early days, so it was extremely beneficial to interact with other affiliate marketers to understand how this industry works. The forums on GPWA are an invaluable resource for helping you build your business, from the information that other affiliates will share to the business relationships you can foster though the community.

What do you like about the industry?
I'm not much of a gambler myself, which probably keeps me out of trouble from burning up the profits, but the industry itself is full of energy and constantly evolving. While it can be challenging, changes to the overall industry always provide new opportunities to build your affiliate business further.

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
The utter reliance on Google's organic search results. It's nice that social has become a big component of the Web, but organic search traffic still delivers the lion's share of converting traffic to affiliate websites. With the changes that Google constantly makes to its algorithm, you are at their mercy when they decide they don't like something you have been doing. Personally, I would rather just pay them for traffic; it would save tons of hours.

What surprised you most about the industry?
The biggest surprise was actually being paid every month from affiliate programs. The whole affiliate scheme seemed too good to be true at first (lifetime revenue share), and with some lesser programs it has been too good to be true, but the bulk of programs have lived up to their end of the bargain. We even have programs that we haven't delivered new players to in years still generating revenue.

What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
While I don't go into a great amount of detail with family and friends, they are all in support of it, and several of them play online themselves. This can be one of the more shady industries on the Web, but reasonable people don't really see gambling as a big issue and my family and friends are no different.

How long do you give yourself for answering e-mail? What e-mail tips can you offer?
I try to answer e-mail immediately if possible. If I'm buried in a project, it can take a little time to get back to people, but I'll respond to most e-mail right away. Once you get into this industry, you will be inundated with e-mail from people searching for link partners (yeah, they still exist), wanting to buy or sell links, overzealous affiliate managers, random spammers, etc. It just goes with the territory. That type of e-mail finds its way to the trash pretty quickly.

When interacting with other people over e-mail, always remember to stay professional and courteous. Everyone has their own style, but if you treat other people respectfully then you will get more accomplished in this industry.

How do you manage your “to-do” lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
I have several checklists that I use. Some are written down on scratch paper, others in a text editor and others in my calendar on Thunderbird. Mostly, it's important to write down all of the tasks that need to be completed with a small square next to each one so you can check them off as they are completed. The feeling of progress and checking off tasks is a great motivator for moving ahead to the next task and feeling like you are accomplishing something.

How much time does it take to keep your site updated?
More time than I can devote, unfortunately, as most time goes toward marketing. I could probably spend 20 to 30 hours a week simply updating my website, but it's hard to do that. PlayersJet is a bit unique in that way, though. You could easily set up a website that only needs to be updated once a month or once a quarter to make sure that links aren't dead and that information is current.

What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere warm in the winter is my favorite vacation spot. I live in a cold climate, so breaking up the winter is a must, and thankfully with this sort of business you can pretty much work from anywhere as long as there is an Internet connection.

If you could have one “superpower,” what would it be?
Time travel. How amazing would it be to check out ancient civilizations, find answers to where the pyramids came from and then see where civilization is going in the future? Plus it would be pretty nice to know what's coming around the corner in business so you can prepare for it today. Of course if I could really time travel I would probably just pull a Biff Tannen from Back to the Future, and place bets on the outcome of sporting events and the stock market to make myself rich. That would give me more time for researching ancient history and exploring the future.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
Growing up it was Star Wars. I had all of the action figures, vehicles and play sets, and the special effects at the time were second to none. Today I would say that Lord of the Rings is my favorite movie(s). The way Peter Jackson was able to bring the story to life was truly amazing, a great use of today's special-effects technology applied to one of the best works of fiction ever written.

If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams to discuss how their original vision for the U.S. Constitution applies to the issues of today. Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking to discuss life, the universe and everything, and to see if their great minds can come up with solutions to today's scientific challenges. Barack Obama, just to hang out and talk about whatever – how cool would it be to hang with the leader of the free world?