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  1. #1
    GPWA Dan is offline Former Staff Member
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series - Rob Cook – (FictionNet)

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    Name: Rob Cook
    Age: 37
    Hometown: Birmingham, U.K.
    City currently residing in: Herefordshire, U.K.
    Favorite food: Not sure I have a favorite but I've been called a stupidly fussy eater. There's loads of stuff I've never tried.
    One book everyone must read: Come Together, by Josie Lloyd & Emlyn Rees

    Tell us how you came up with your screen name. Isn’t “Fact” better than “Fiction”?!

    My first Web sites were literary-focused, including, a site for unpublished authors. Everything I did was under the name Fiction-Net and for some reason, it's stuck. The Fiction-Net Web site has been somewhat neglected over recent years and it's actually due for a relaunch later this year so I guess the name will be a bit more relevant again.

    You began managing the Fiction-Net network way back in 1999, when it had nothing to do with online gambling. What did the Fiction-Net network do then? What did you do then? When did the Robert Cook Company replace Fiction-net? How much of what you do is online gaming vs “other stuff”? And what is the “other stuff”?

    1999 was when I first toyed with affiliate marketing, selling books for Amazon via the literary Web sites. Over the next couple years I started to launch loads of different sites of very varying content. There were free stuff sites, directories, music sites and a banner exchange and they all made up the Fiction-Net Network. I got into the casino side of things in 2001 and it quickly became the bulk of my income and as a result, the rest of the stuff got far less attention and I guess that's stayed the case ever since. I do still operate a number of non-gaming sites but I've always had a passion for gambling and it's the part of the business I enjoy most.

    What does Free Cash Casino offer that can’t already be found on Casino Beacon? When was each site launched, and what was the rationale for each one?

    Whereas is very much for the U.K. market, is more global. I picked up the domain in 2005 but I never actually got started on it for three years so it's less than two years old. It's not really a major player – in fact it's a bit rubbish – but I intend to develop it a lot more this year. Watch this space.

    One of your sites, Casino Beacon, prides itself on its hard-hitting evaluations – casinos are “reviewed, rated and generally pulled to bits in . . . brutally honest” detail. What kind of feedback do your reviews elicit from players, and also from the casinos? How important have the reviews been in the success of your site?

    Yeah, I'm really proud of the reviews. I've always been a bit narked by the crappiness of some online casino Web sites out there and I honestly can't think of many Web sites that provide honest reviews of online casinos – there are plenty of one-sided reviews and there's very little mention of where the casino could do better. I don't get a huge amount of feedback from players but I don't think that's a bad thing. I used to get plenty of negative feedback if I linked to a less-than-perfect casino and something went wrong. Now that visitors have an honest review to read, they know what they're getting. I do sometimes get feedback from the casinos themselves, and on more than one occasion they've made big changes to improve something mentioned in a review. That's a great result.

    You became an online gambling affiliate and joined the GPWA in 2001. That makes you a true veteran of the industry. Besides the UIGEA, how has the industry changed from when you started to where it is today?

    Many of the basics haven't changed all that much. Technology has improved and there's more competition now, but we're still left with how we started – guys and gals making Web sites that try to convince visitors that we've found a trustworthy place for them to risk their money.

    Everything is that much bigger. The games are better and the casinos – for the most part – are more trustworthy both in terms of the affiliate getting paid and the player getting a fair deal. The social scene has exploded. In the old days we had ICE once a year in London and now we've got a bazillion huge parties all over the world four times a month.

    What things have changed for the better (since 2001)? And what things have changed for the worse (since 2001)?

    Security for players is definitely better now. A number of casinos popped up and disappeared owing players and affiliates money. That can still happen now but there's far more protection. Of course, the same applies to all industries and not just online gambling.

    Our communities are much bigger now and that has to be a good thing. GPWA, CAP and all the others mean that we all talk to each other and share information far more. We've also got the great work done by APCW and AGD. I feel safer knowing they're watching the scene – compared to 2001, a casino can't so easily get away with anything too shady without it getting out into the open and that's got to be a great thing.

    We have better casinos, better affiliate managers, more reliable payments and happier players than we had back in 2001. Things are by no means perfect but we've all moved forward.

    For the worse, one of the biggest changes is in the search engine marketing. SEO was a real passion of mine and it was fascinating to learn how to optimize for so many different engines: Hotbot, AV, Yahoo!, Excite, UKMax and SO many others that I can't recall right now. I didn't even really bother with Google very much back then. These days, if you're screwed by Google then you're fighting with one hand tied behind your back. It was probably more fun when there were more players in the market, so I really hope Bing is a massive success for Microsoft. I'd also love to see Yahoo! play a big part again or a new search engine capture some decent market share.

    What do you know now that you wish you had known when you started?

    I'd have got into the PPC side of things at an earlier date. I kind of missed the boat with PPC and I missed out on a lot of money whilst other people struck it rich. I never really got into PPC until it became prohibitively expensive and I still don't do any now.

    I think I also ran before I could walk and launched far too many Web sites in too short a space of time. I didn't outsource enough work and that's something that's still true today. It's better to operate five quality, regularly updated Web sites than 25 sites that don't get enough attention.

    How has the GPWA helped you grow as an affiliate?

    GPWA was the first place I visited after deciding to get into the casino affiliate game. I posted at SEF (Search Engine Forums) for some pointers on where to start and Rick (nascar1) got in touch with some useful stuff and a link to GPWA. Back then it was just an ezboard forum! It's helped loads in so many ways. I've found programs to promote, information, somewhere to rant and I've made genuine friends here.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be? And why? Spam.

    I feckin' hate spam and most of you who know me have had to endure a rant about it at some point. It makes our industry look like crap and I've had ten years of people asking me if I'm “the one who sends me all the e-mails” when I explain what I do for a living. It makes our industry look shady and puts millions of people off the idea of trusting online casinos. I'd like to see more spammers end up in jail. And then set on fire.

    You recently posted in the GPWA forums that whenever you attend a conference you have to hide from the forums for at least three months afterwards. Please explain.

    Ah... do I have to? Let's just say I have a tendency to arrive at a conference and spend the next few days propping up various bars with certain affiliate managers. It can only lead to trouble. I remember spending two hours in the wrong conference with Tim (Wagershare) because we'd hit the bar first. I also remember sitting down next to Bryan Bailey (Casinomeister) and asking him if he was in the casino industry too. Bad times.

    How much time does it take to keep your site updated? Do you use a content management system to manage your site?

    I don't have a content management system but I fully realize the idiocy of that. I welcome any suggestions on a good system to use.

    I'm inconsistent and I've spent periods not doing enough work, followed by months of 14+ hour days, seven days a week. Right now I'm probably working far too many hours day and night to update the Web sites, but I'm playing catch-up. Some of them need bringing back up to speed so I'm hoping to settle down to no more than 10 hours a day, once I've caught up!

    Time management is one of the biggest issues facing affiliates. As a veteran affiliate, what time management tips can you offer your fellow webmasters?

    Probably the best time management tip I can offer is to watch how I do it and then do the exact opposite. In fact, I need tips from anyone who's nailed it. It'd be good to read an article about this in a future GPWA magazine with tips from other affiliates and casino staff.

    What do your friends and family think of your work as an affiliate?

    Much of this will be familiar to many of you. My family and friends don't think I work particularly hard and think I make money by playing on my laptop. They seem to think I've got the easiest job in the world. and they don't really understand what I do except it's “something to do with casinos.” Some of them think it's something “really dodgy.” I've kinda given up trying to explain it now.

    What advice can you offer people who are just starting up in the industry?

    Find an angle. This industry is fiercely competitive and it's going to take work and time and lots of energy if you're going to stick around. Don't make another casino directory site that recommends a few casinos and bonuses and expect anyone to find it. Specialize in something and you'll be better at it.

    I recommend trying to build your site gradually. I've often made the mistake of starting a new project before I've finished an old one, and this can lead to a Web site never feeling quite finished.

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

    Promote good merchants. It's better to promote a good merchant at 25% than a bad one at 50%. Your players will be more likely to return and you are more likely to get fully paid.

    Update your site. Now do it again. Search engines like regularly updated content. Being fresh and relevant is also important for visitors. Many people don't trust online payments and even more people don't trust online casinos. Having a “recent news” headline from 2005 on your homepage isn't going to convince your visitors to grab their credit card.

    Check your bonuses. Are you still listing the casino's current bonus? Telling the visitor they can get a £500 bonus only for them to find out it's now £100 isn't a great way to convert the sale.

    Work in the industry you enjoy. Are you passionate about gambling? If not, find something else to promote. You'll be better at it, you'll enjoy it more and you'll make more money.

    Go to a conference. You don't need to go to them all but do make the effort to get to one. It'll help.

    How long did it take before you started earning money?

    Pretty much straightaway but I think I hit the ground running. The money wasn't huge but it was regular. I think I got lucky and if I was starting out now, I'd expect a period of at least a few months without generating much in the way of income.

    What’s your favorite vacation spot, and why?

    Vegas. Vegas. Vegas. I adore the place. It's just...awesome.

    What’s your favorite movie?

    Ooh, so many. “Goodfellas” and “Casino” would have to be up there. Most things by Tarantino are awesome (except “Kill Bill,” which sucked big time).

    If you could have one “super power,” what would it be, and why?

    The power to read other online poker players’ hole cards. That would be absolutely awesome.

    If you were able to sit down to dinner with any five people, living or dead, who would they be, and why?

    Richard Branson because he seems to do things differently and there'd be much to learn. Freddie Mercury because he was such a huge character. Gordon Ramsay because he could cook the dinner and he's possibly the only human on Earth who says “fuck” as much as I do. Kylie Minogue because she's hot and I'd try to get her drunk. My daughter, Kimberley – I don't spend enough time with her.

    What are three things that nobody knows about you?

    Hmm. Don't think there's much that nobody knows about me. Nothing I'm going to share here, anyway!

  2. The Following 4 Users Say Thank You to GPWA Dan For This Useful Post:

    bookmakers2u (20 June 2010), Daera (17 June 2010), FictionNet (25 December 2010), Simmo! (16 June 2010)

  3. #2
    webmacho's Avatar
    webmacho is offline Private Member
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    Great funny guy, like it!

  4. #3
    buyonaut's Avatar
    buyonaut is offline Private Member
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  5. #4
    Daera's Avatar
    Daera is offline Private Member
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    Hey Rob,

    I really enjoyed reading your interview. I learned a few things..

    Nice job!

  6. #5
    sloto's Avatar
    sloto is offline Non-sponsor Affiliate Program
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    Hi Rob,

    Great interview!

    Deckmedia Affiliate Team

  7. #6
    Carlo is offline New Member
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    Cool interview Rob. I read it out loud pretending I was Timothy Spall in "Auf Wiedersehen Pet" once I saw that you were from Brum

    As for a CMS, to keep things really simple, might I suggest WordPress. Then use it for PAGES and not POSTS. is in soft launch using WordPress and the blog is already incorporated it it outside the shell of pages.

    What's more, if you do decide to use it, you can ask me ANY questions about that platform because I consider myself an expert

  8. The Following User Says Thank You to Carlo For This Useful Post:

    FictionNet (25 December 2010)

  9. #7
    jarvi is offline Private Member
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    Rob, I can't believe it has taken this long for me to know what the story was behind the user name.

  10. #8
    Renee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digo View Post
    Gordon Ramsay because he could cook the dinner and he's possibly the only human on Earth who says “fuck” as much as I do.
    I'm glad I'm not the only one who has a mouth like a trucker.

    Good interview mate!
    Looking forward to finally meeting you one of these days..
    Renee, Affiliate Program Manager
    Affiliate Program for
    Best Affiliate Manager - CAP Awards 2008
    Best Casino Affiliate Manager - CAP Awards 2009
    Best Casino Affiliate Manager - iGB Affiliate Awards 2010

  11. #9
    FictionNet is offline Closed by Request
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    Only just spotted this thread - thx for the comments

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