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  1. #1
    GPWA Daniel is offline Associate Editor
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series - Matteo G.

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    (This interview was originally published in the November 2021 issue of the GPWA Times Magazine.)

    We interviewed you in the GPWA Times Magazine back in 2010 and at that point you were fairly new to the industry. Here we are more than a decade later and you’re still grinding away as an iGaming affiliate. Did you think back then that this would be a long-time career for you?

    I am really excited to be in the game after more than 10 years for another interview with GPWA. Honestly, I'm surprised to be still in the business after a decade. iGaming is the most competitive niche I've ever worked in, there are so many talented people and very big companies to compete against. No, I didn't expect a long career for me and my partners in this business and I didn't expect still having fun after such a long period.

    How long have you considered yourself a full-time affiliate?

    If you remember my first interview back in 2010, I started creating websites to protect players from scams created by unethical affiliates earning easy money from their losses. After a few months, my current partners, Salvatore and Stefano, joined me and Casino2K has been our full-time job since 2011.

    After 10 years, we still manage most of the work ourselves with some freelancers, but a couple of years ago we decided to hire three employees for most critical tasks: web design, development and content writing. It's weird and somehow funny comparing our company with others having dozens (or hundreds) of employees and being able to compete with them.

    The industry has changed so much over the last 10 years. How have you managed to survive and prosper?

    The iGaming industry has changed a lot, but the biggest challenge has been surviving gambling regulation, advertising bans and Google algorithm updates.

    Regulation introduced in July 2011 in the Italian market has been the key for our success, even if we had to clean up our websites from offshore casinos and wait almost one year before promoting regulated brands. At the beginning, we had very few competitors, making new players every day was an easy task. We were able to build a consistent database of active players.

    Then we had to face big competitors entering the Italian market with new technologies and a large amount of very good websites. In 2018, the Italian government introduced the so called "Decreto dignità," an advertising ban that was partially lifted after some months, allowing affiliates comparing casino operators in a responsible manner. Casino2K was the first website that was 100% compliant with government guidelines for safe advertising.

    What do your family and friends think about your career as an iGaming affiliate?

    I don't talk with family or friends about my career because gambling is still a taboo in Italy, even if it's one of the countries with the highest percentage of gamblers. I talk about my company and my business only with close friends and family members able to understand I do my job in an ethical way.

    What are a few things you know now that you wish you knew when you started in the industry back in 2008?

    Honestly, I'm proud of how me and my partners grew over the last 13 years as people and professionals. If we knew SEO would become so difficult and so unpredictable, we would have left our business. So I'm really happy we didn't know many things about the future.

    On the other hand, I'd like to know how SEO will be in 2025. That would save me from losing more hair.

    If a 25-year-old friend of yours told you he or she was going to try and become a full-time iGaming affiliate, what would your reaction and advice be?

    I would ask him: Would you put all your money in a single bet at roulette? Right now affiliate marketing in Italy is completely based on SEO, and SEO is totally unpredictable.

    What's your approach to SEO and drawing traffic to your sites?

    SEO has changed very much. We struggle every day finding a way to beat the competition. Old SEO was finding the right keywords to target and the best links to buy. Now Artificial Intelligence used by search engines is very smart (sometimes too stupid), it's not a matter of finding the right trick to cheat the algorithm.

    You must be credible and trusted by Google and by your audience in order to build your own brand and to develop your long-term strategy.

    What are some of the biggest myths about SEO?

    1. Content is king
    2. Artificial Intelligence is able to fully understand user intent
    3. Link building is dead
    4. White Hat SEO always wins against Black Hat SEO

    What do you think the iGaming affiliate industry will look like in five years from now?

    I think it will be almost the same. Big companies will try to use new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, but it won't work very much because AI is not as good as humans in understanding players' needs and emotions.

    What have you learned over the years about picking and choosing the right affiliate programs for your sites?

    Thirteen years ago, the GPWA was our only source of information about affiliate programs and helped me a lot in choosing which partner to trust. With regulation, only trusted operators enter the Italian market, there isn't much to choose from.

    You told us back in 2010, “I like gambling; it’s easy to develop and write about something you like.” How much of your success as an affiliate can be attributed to the fact that you are working in an industry you genuinely enjoy?

    I still gamble just to try new games and to understand if an operator offers a good or poor user experience. I used to go with my partners to real casinos, but the pandemic stopped live gaming. I don’t think you can understand player needs if you don't know what they are talking about. Being a gambler makes a big difference between a web affiliate and a casino affiliate.

    On the home page of your site, it says, “Winning takes culture, luck and support. We give you the culture and support, but luck, on the other hand, you have to meet in the game.” Please tell us more about this and how you provide your visitors “culture and support.”

    For culture, we write content to drive players to responsible gambling, to avoid stupid strategies, and to control their feelings. It's not easy, you must be honest with them and with yourself too.

    For support, we help people solve their problems with operators when their customer service is not able to explain how to do something, which documents to provide for identity verification, how to unlock blocked game sessions with money stuck inside a game, withdraw money deposited through someone else's credit card. That's the kind of real support they need to have a safe and fun gambling experience.

    Your site also has an active forum. What’s it like managing and running a forum? Does having that kind of engagement with your visitors help convert them to FTDs?

    Nowadays, public discussion boards have almost disappeared. People prefer using social media, but it's a very different type of engagement. They don't really interact and they don't build relationships. In a forum, you meet people and discuss things with them. You are interested in finding interesting people.

    Right now, our forum is mostly an additional customer care for operators. It's time consuming, but we are good at making people happy by solving their real problems, including withdrawing their own money (€500,000 saved so far). This does not drive directly to conversion of traffic into FTDs, but it helps us improve our brand trustworthiness.

    How has COVID-19 affected you personally and professionally?

    We have always worked remotely. COVID-19 hasn't changed much regarding our operations. The biggest thing I miss are the conferences, where you can see old friends and meet new ones, find new ideas for new projects, drink lot of (free) beers and have A LOT of fun at parties.

    What are your hobbies? What do you do when you are not working?

    Ten years ago I used to go fishing, now I love other outdoor activities like climbing, hiking and running on mountains. 2021 is my second youth. I attended 10 trail running races and ran for almost 1,500 kilometers.

    If someone were visiting you for 24 hours and had never been to Milan, where would you bring them and why?

    I would bring them to the Alps and we would sleep in a camping tent. Being alone in the mountains lets you think about old ages where there was no technology helping you to survive.

    If you are 3 hours and 20 kilometers far from your car, you must understand the environment you are in and you must hear your body and your feelings, otherwise you'll get lost. If we survive, I'd bring them to a real casino in Italy or Switzerland to play some roulette, blackjack or Caribbean poker.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

    I'd like to invite Nicole Kidman to see if she's as beautiful as she was in our previous interview (I guess after couple of drinks she will be even more attractive); Alex Zanardi, the strongest man I can think about; John Mueller, I'd let him drink a couple of bottles of the best Italian wine to let him reveal some secrets about Google algorithm; Michael Corfman, I am a GPWA member for more than 10 years, but I never had the chance for a serious talk with him; Silvio Berlusconi, to attend the biggest secret party you can even imagine.

    Name three things that people reading this magazine don't know about you.

    1. I work 10 hours per day (as opposed to "I never wake up before 11.30 a.m. of the previous interview. OOPS... something went wrong).
    2. I still watch the same Italian soap opera. Don't tell anyone, please!
    3. I can't tell you this one, it's really top secret!

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  3. #2
    chaumi is offline Private Member
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    "We give you the culture and support, but luck, on the other hand, you have to meet in the game.”

    Great wording. Congratulations on your longevity and success, Matteo. And thanks for sharing the 'myths' and other SEO insights gained from your own experiences. That's the perfect 'follow up' interview.

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  5. #3
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    Great interview. I liked your style, like a bit or too much of an irony.

    Also Italian market is one of the best to penntrate in, previously a lot of grey bookies, now it is too regulated

    About Alps and Milano - great mountain and amazing city

    Mister Berlusconi, maybe the moovie " Eyes completely shut" was shot inspired by those parties

    It is good to have such interesting and fresh memebers in the forum ( for decades )

    BTW - in Bulgaria we have as well amazing wines, let's get Michael here and all the members who can come and make a meeting in Varna this year on the seaside.
    Seven times fall, eight times stand.

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  7. #4
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    Really interesting read thankyou. I think its always refreshing to read anther persons takes / point of views for this type of work ...loved to 10 year comparisons too!

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  9. #5
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    Thank you GPWA for the opportunity to show the way we work and to give some hints to younger affiliates.
    And thank you everybody for your feedback and your kind words.

    I tried to share this interview to my friends/colleagues/competitors but unfortunately GPWA.org has been blocked at DNS level by Italian Government (ADM). When too much regulations seems like censorship...
    Matteo » Casino2K

  10. #6
    SlotVibe Partners's Avatar
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    Great interview and great to share such insightful industry knowledge.

    Well done and to another 10 years?!

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  12. #7
    BCGame Affiliates's Avatar
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    Great read! Thank you for sharing
    Kind Regards,
    Jen

    https://bc.game/
    Email: marketing@partnerbcgame.com
    Skype ID: live:.cid.b3ebaacec67326e2

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