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    GPWA Daniel is offline GPWA Associate Editor
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series - Mike M.

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    (This interview was originally published in the February 2023 issue of the GPWA Times Magazine.)

    It’s been more than 10 years since we first sat down with you as part of the GPWA Affiliate Interview Series (Issue 25, June 2013). Back then you told us you launched your first poker site in 2008 and that you had over 100 websites and 400 domains. How have things have changed for you over the last decade?

    I guess I’m officially a dinosaur in the industry, since my last interview for GPWA I’ve developed and sold a few dozen websites, hundreds of domains, and consolidated our portfolio down to just a couple important websites we are working on as a very small team. Currently I have just five websites, three of which are what I’d qualify as “starter” sites, or just barely under development.

    Our main project the last few years has been BettingUSA.com, which we launched in 2014 in anticipation of the U.S. market eventually legalizing. As a team of two, with a few freelancers, we are doing our best to compete with giant media companies. I like to think that the information we present on BettingUSA.com is genuine, authentic, and less commercial than our competition.

    For example, we review every brand that legally does business in the U.S. market, whether we have an affiliate deal in place or not. The idea is to build trust with players first, and search engines second.

    The rest of our projects are currently in development, but realistically we don’t have a large enough team to handle them. A couple of years ago I merged smaller sites into a bigger one, and sold off some older projects in order to improve our focus. The U.S. market is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we are determined to become a success story for the “little guys.”

    I highly recommend that smaller affiliates focus on one or two projects versus starting dozens of new ones. It’s a lot harder to get traction compared to 10 years ago when mini-sites could penetrate the SERPs and aging was valuable.

    I’m also an active domain buyer and seller, generally focusing on premium keyword domains. I currently have over 650 gambling domains in my portfolio. I didn’t intend to become a domain seller, but I’ve exceeded six figures in sales every year since 2015 doing it, so I guess it’s become a genuine part of our business strategy.

    Why did you change your philosophy concerning the volume of sites you manage?

    We made a decision in 2020 to scale down how many websites we manage and it’s led to a greater focus on a couple of core projects. Looking back, it was a mistake to attempt to run dozens of websites with a small team – our content quality suffered, it was tough to build links, and we found that we were essentially competing with ourselves and cannibalizing our own work.

    In the gambling affiliate business, you have to be willing to change and adapt. Like many affiliates, I was set in my ways – assuming what worked 10 years ago would still work today. This is just not the case anymore. SEO is changing fast, and you have to constantly adapt and improve.

    You also told us in 2013 that, “My biggest weakness is I start too many sites and buy too many domains.” Over a decade later, do you still consider this a “weakness”?

    It’s eye opening to see that I had that level of self-recognition in 2013, but it took me seven more years to change my ways. I’m happy to report that while I still buy too many domains, I no longer start too many websites.

    When you started out in 2008, if someone told you that you would still be doing this full-time in the year 2023, what would your reaction have been?

    In 2008, I set a goal to make $2,000 a month, which I did. In 2010, I set a goal to make $10,000 a month – and the rest is history.

    Early on, we had to sacrifice to succeed, now we are pretty comfortable. I have sold our biggest projects and started over at least five times since 2008. At first, it was fairly easy to recreate our past success, but now it’s getting a lot harder. I’m constantly looking at our processes, auditing our work, and trying to learn from others.

    Networking with the smartest people in the industry has helped me stay relevant, and not being reliant on any single market has helped me absorb the variance associated with being an affiliate. I’ve always felt it is important to have dozens of income streams, big and small, in order to be comfortable. If a country closes, or a program stops working with affiliates – it can hurt, but it is never fatal for us.

    Being a U.S.-based iGaming affiliate, please tell us how your company and business strategy has changed over the last five years, especially with PASPA being abolished in 2018.

    It’s been an incredible ride being a part of the post PASPA wave of states legalizing sports betting and online gambling. I’ve learned a lot about myself – including what I’m good at, and what I am not. For the first time in 15 years as an affiliate we’ve had to stay on top of constant changes, follow fast-breaking news, and compete with publicly traded companies that employ not just dozens, but hundreds of people.

    The stress of going through the licensing process in multiple states, and ensuring compliance constantly has been both challenging and rewarding. For the first time in my 15-year affiliate career I am proud to identify what we are doing, and feel validated in my profession in personal circles.

    Years ago, when people asked me what I did for living, often the answer was “build websites” or “online marketing.” Half of my neighborhood thought I was a professional gambler, the other half though I was a bookie. Neither was accurate, but the industry still lived in the shadows here in America, and I’m glad to finally be out from under that curtain. Most people now understand what it is I do, and the companies I work with are familiar to them.

    What advice would you have for a fellow iGaming affiliate looking to break into the U.S. market?

    The simple advice I would offer to any affiliate looking to enter the U.S. space is get started now, the market is getting incredibly crowded and it will only get worse in the next few years. If the licensing process seems daunting, and it certainly can be in some states, focus on states where licensing is not required. Illinois, Ohio, New York, Massachusetts, are all very big markets that don’t require affiliates to be licensed.

    Beyond that, I would advise new affiliates in the U.S. market to laser focus on finding less competitive niches that are hyper specific, and not generic in the approach.

    What things you wish you knew 10 years ago about the industry that you know to be fact now?

    Everything changes, constantly. It’s easy to find success early on and think that income stream will always be there, or that website you built will always rank well. Always have multiple back up plans.

    Also back in 2013, you told us that your sites attracted players “from almost every country in the world.” Is this still the case or have you zeroed in your concentration on a smaller number of markets?

    This is still the case, thankfully – but we are mostly focused on the U.S. market for now, considering the scale of the opportunity in the largest gambling market in the world.

    For many years we focused on the U.K., Europe, and to a lesser extent, Asia – all while patiently waiting for our home market to open up. Now that we can promote online gambling in our home country, we are laser focused on that market. Thankfully we still have some good revenue streams that are international. This helps provide some peace of mind.

    Your company generates a large volume of content on a daily basis. How do you manage to produce that much content with a small staff?

    We experimented the last couple of years with building a bigger news team, and publishing lots of content that had short life cycles. Other companies have executed this strategy with great success and, honestly, we struggled to make it work.

    A decision was made last year to go back to focusing on high-quality, long form evergreen content – it’s what has always worked for us in the past, and continues to work now. I guess this is an example where it pays to know your weaknesses and focus on your strengths.

    Is it still true that “content is king?” What are some of the other key elements to attracting organic traffic?

    Absolutely, and I’d take it a step further “good content is king.”
    Writing an article that is already covered dozens or even hundreds of times isn’t going to get you anywhere, focus on finding topics that are helpful to people looking for answers. Answer questions in ways that others aren’t, always be on the lookout for new and emerging topics and brands.

    How much time do you specifically spend on SEO for your sites on weekly basis?

    I pretty much live and breathe SEO now, it’s something I’ve had to self-educate myself on, and I am still learning new things every day.

    SEO is constantly changing, and I frequently have to break myself of old habits and stubborn mentalities. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy the technical side of SEO, and spend several hours a day immersed in it.

    Recently, we are focusing on audits – finding and improving old content, updating and improving it as needed. A lot of times that means deleting outright, or merging with more relevant content. We are seeing success with that strategy and expect we’ll be focusing more on it, “content maintenance” is a big part of our current work load, and the process of doing it usually exposes more opportunities.

    How has SEO morphed over the last five years? What are some SEO myths that you often hear?

    SEO has changed considerably in the last few years. I regularly stay on top of news and the latest Google updates in order to stay relevant.

    One particular myth that always frustrates me relates to keyword domains. There is myth related to an old Google update that limited the bonus applied to exact match keyword domains, and now many people stubbornly think you shouldn’t use them. I’m here to tell you there is a big difference between using premium “category killer” exact match domains, and those that are what I’d call “long tail exact match” domains.

    The myth that you need to use a brandable domain, or an exact match domain, is a stubborn one. The best exact match domains can be both, I think BettingUSA.com is an example of a strong domain that is also somewhat brandable.

    How do you decide on which affiliate programs to work with?

    I always tell affiliates to pick their partners wisely, for example we’ve been working with bet365 for 15 years without a hiccup, while some of the newer programs come and go in less than a year.

    It’s inevitable that things will change, and it’s equally important that affiliates are good partners to the brands they work with, as the programs are to us. I prefer to work with operators that communicate quickly when I ask questions, solve problems efficiently when they arise, and are willing to take a look at our reviews and provide supplemental information and feedback.

    I rarely work with affiliate programs that cold call me, spam me, or bug me relentlessly for better positions. My best advice to inexperienced affiliates is to only work with the programs that you yourself would be comfortable playing at. I said this in our 2013 interview and I think it’s worth repeating again: sometimes the best programs for affiliates are the worst programs for players.

    It’s important to find the unicorns that tick both of those boxes. It’s also more important than ever to build personal relationships with as many people at the programs you work with as possible. A lot of great people work in a lot of roles in our industry, and I recommend being mindful that people do change roles and companies over time, I regularly encounter people I’ve worked with in the past.

    Speaking of relationships, you have attended a number of iGaming events and conferences over the years. What do you like best about these events and what advice would you give to a fellow affiliate about making the most of their time at an industry event?

    I love going to conferences and events, I went to SIGMA in Malta in November and came home energized and motivated. I had the opportunity to meet affiliates in person that I had formerly known “online” previously – and met some new contacts that I imagine I’ll be friends with for years to come.

    I love the energy at affiliate conferences. I find it validating to meet affiliates from around the world that are running highly organized companies with multiple departments. When I first started as an affiliate, most of us were unorganized small teams – it’s very clear to me now that the affiliate space is attracting sharp minds from around the world.

    I would advise any affiliate going to conferences for the first time to invest in networking a bit prior to the show, it can be tough going alone if you don’t know anyone. If you are a social person, just hanging out at the official hotel bar can lead to a lot of interesting conversations and new connections.

    My last piece of advice, listen closely. People at conferences will tell you very interesting things, and some of it can be very valuable.

    Do you still gamble?

    I rarely gamble any more. I still consider myself a proficient poker player, but rarely get the chance to play these days. When on vacation I enjoy hitting the blackjack tables or playing craps.

    I am the typical stereotype recreational sports bettor – meaning I just bet on my favorite teams to win without any real strategy involved. I don’t currently live in a regulated state, so my options to gamble online are limited to DFS and horse racing betting, both things I don’t particularly enjoy doing myself.

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

    I play golf a few times a week, and also am active on the local lakes. We have a wakeboard boat, and a couple of Jet Skis – so we are always out wakeboarding, wake surfing, and enjoying the water. I’m also an avid downhill skier, and regularly take trips to western U.S. states to pursue that passion.

    Living in a part of the United States that has several months a year of below freezing temperatures and severe winter conditions: I also think traveling is one of my favorite hobbies. The business we are in affords us the luxury of working from anywhere, so I travel as often as possible – especially to warmer climates during our winter months.

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

    Good question. Rather than give five specific examples, I’ll just say that I’d invite relatives and friends that are no longer living in this world. You never know when people will be gone and often times you don’t appreciate the time you have with people until it’s too late.

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

    Tough one, I’m an open book and freely express myself to people.


    1. Before becoming an affiliate, I was a contractor, specializing in sanding and finishing hardwood floors.
    2. I spent three years as a “ski bum” in Colorado, and then California (Lake Tahoe).
    3. I have two dogs. One is a Golden Retriever. We waited on a list for over a year to get from an award-winning breeder, the other is a rescue since we wanted to help.

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    bi6liotekar (6 March 2023), chaumi (1 March 2023), eenzoo (1 March 2023), GPWA Gary (2 March 2023), Strider1973 (1 March 2023), universal4 (28 February 2023)

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    Great Interview Mike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GPWA Daniel View Post
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    Is it still true that “content is king?” What are some of the other key elements to attracting organic traffic?

    Absolutely, and I’d take it a step further “good content is king.”
    Writing an article that is already covered dozens or even hundreds of times isn’t going to get you anywhere, focus on finding topics that are helpful to people looking for answers. Answer questions in ways that others aren’t, always be on the lookout for new and emerging topics and brands.
    Good point on this questions.

    Thank you for the good read.
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    Awesome interview and it's nice to finally put a face, to the name! Thanks a lot.
    Last edited by Cash Bonus; 1 March 2023 at 1:19 am.

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    wolfie is offline Private Member
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    Great interview with a lot of valid points.

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    chaumi is online now Private Member
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    Illuminating interview, Mike. Thank you.

    "Content maintenance". A huge part of the game.

    But a tricky balance (with a smallish team) to be going back and doing it effectively while also keeping the new stuff/projects on track.

    Do you do it in a controlled way? ie Spreadsheet - all URLs - sorted into related topics - prioritize targets - determine what's missing/what to combine/internal linking etc etc?

    Or is it more of an informal 'let's do this now' discussion based on experience (or one that's driven case-by-case by kw data and rankings) and you gradually work your way as a team through (ultimately) everything?

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    An interesting read, thank you!

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    Great interview Mike, around this time of year I always promise to play more golf as you do but it never happens, I just end up writing about it endlessly instead!!

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    MJM
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaumi View Post
    Illuminating interview, Mike. Thank you.

    "Content maintenance". A huge part of the game.

    But a tricky balance (with a smallish team) to be going back and doing it effectively while also keeping the new stuff/projects on track.

    Do you do it in a controlled way? ie Spreadsheet - all URLs - sorted into related topics - prioritize targets - determine what's missing/what to combine/internal linking etc etc?

    Or is it more of an informal 'let's do this now' discussion based on experience (or one that's driven case-by-case by kw data and rankings) and you gradually work your way as a team through (ultimately) everything?
    Good question, I'm not an organized or process orientated person by nature - we pretty much wing it and do our best, but admittedly we're often drowning in needed updates too. A lot of late nights is how we handle it currently, combined with a lot of coffee.

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    MJM
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    Quote Originally Posted by golfbettingsystem View Post
    Great interview Mike, around this time of year I always promise to play more golf as you do but it never happens, I just end up writing about it endlessly instead!!
    I've followed your site forever, I often ask myself why I have never put much attention into golf betting or starting a dedicated site to it, considering I pretty much live and breath the game in my personal life (I life on a golf course and have a lifetime membership to a private club, so it's something I just walk out my back door and do when there isn't snow on the ground, like right now).

    Reach out anytime to talk golf.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MJM View Post
    I've followed your site forever
    Apologies for the tips!

    it’s an interesting niche, traffic explodes around the Majors which presents a good opportunity; outside of that you’re generally preaching to the converted when it comes to FTDs. Great fun though!

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    Thank you for sharing this interview.

    I identified myself with trying to encompass too much and being set in my ways; in previous years, my business suffered as a result, but now I am learning to test and change even when it is not what I would prefer.

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    Excellent interview. Very insightful.
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    Nice read! 10+ years in the business - that is solid. I guess the main takeaway for me is that you can never rest on your laurels in the affiliate game!

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    Very interesting read, thanks for sharing!

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