What Does More Regulation Mean For Affiliates?

What Does More Regulation Mean For Affiliates?

“Regulation”, “whitelist” and “licensing”. Three words that are becoming increasingly frequent in conversations with affiliates. Neil Fairweather looks at the influence exerted by growing regulation.

Published 14th December 2014

As an agency with a strong heritage within the iGaming space, Latitude are constantly being asked for advice by affiliates who have recently come up against regulatory issues in their paid and social advertising. In the last three months however, the volume of requests has increased significantly. As it is hard to find exact definitions of regulation from the likes of Google, Facebook, Bing and Twitter, this article will look to be your ‘Bible of regulation’ (at least, at the time of writing). So, how have the regulations changed?

Social media

The importance of having a social strategy for any affiliate has increased significantly over the last 12 months, with multiple examples of affiliates successfully competing closely, with the large operators in capitalising on the interest in the sports and wider iGaming market. Recently however, an increasing number of affiliates have found their paid advertising being paused. At a recent event with various industry affiliates, the increasing regulation was quoted as a significant cause for concern, with a number of affiliates seeing a significant drop in referrals through their social media channels. Many have spoken of this drop as being comparable to previous Google algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin, and they are trying to understand what the regulations are and what actions affiliates can take. Let’s look at what the regulation states, and what this means for you.

  • Twitter’s policy

For a UK affiliate, Twitter’s line is: ‘Twitter allows the promotion of gambling content in the UK subject to restrictions. Sites driving traffic to gambling operators in the UK (except lottery aggregators) such as affiliates, tips or odds sites are permitted as long as they do not require a license or other permission for their activities. These advertisers are only allowed with prior authorisation from Twitter. ’ In summary: To advertise content from an account that promotes casino, sports betting, bingo or betting tips, affiliates require a whitelisting from Twitter. This is actioned on a case-by-case basis by the platform.

  • Facebook’s policy

For a UK affiliate, Facebook’s line is: ‘As of November 1, 2014, Facebook is only accepting advertisers who are explicitly licensed or have a continuation license from the Gambling Commission in the UK. We are no longer accepting ads from clients who were previously approved with non-Gambling Commission licenses and do not currently have an explicit license or continuation license from the Gambling Commission.” In summary: Facebook’s policy means it will only work with licensed and direct advertisers. This means that affiliates can no longer (per policy) promote content/run fan generation on Facebook. The company have tight regulations around this policy, and pages that promote standard content but who have gambling content/links on their actual domains will therefore also be restricted from participating in promoted activity.

Search marketing

Social media channels are becoming increasingly aligned with search, but it is important to understand the recent changes across the platform that has notoriously been the affiliates “gold mine” (although predominantly organic SEO-based). Let’s take a look at the regulations as they pertain to affiliates today.

Google

Unlike social platforms, it’s much harder to break down Google’s policy for affiliate marketers. The first rule is to sign up as an aggregator, a licensed iGaming affiliate with Google itself. Whilst Google does base its policy on the definitions of an operator, as defined by the UK Gambling Commission, the two definitions aren’t 100% aligned. Google regulates gaming affiliates in three ways: The affiliate must be a registered aggregator with Google in the region to which the affiliate’s ads are displaying. Google also requires the usual requirements, such as ensuring ads are not targeted to an under-18 audience. The affiliate must add unique value on their own domain. Unlike Bing’s policy, Google does not allow double serving of any kind. As a result, affiliates are required to have their own domain that adds value in its own right. Any redirects or simple landing pages will fall foul of Google policy. You need to therefore ensure that your site has content of both relevance and value to the audience before linking to the licensed operator. The affiliate must clearly prove they are not taking any transactions on the site for iGaming activity. Out of all the issues we see with affiliates, this seems to be the biggest. Quite often, affiliates that extend their offering to a membership can run into issues with Google. Ultimately, affiliates need to ensure they are not receiving financial transactions on their own domain in relation to iGaming activity in order to stay clear of this issue. Regardless, if an affiliate is faced with this issue, a clear documentation of operational structure will ensure a swift resolution. Ultimately, Google have to comply with the UK Gambling Commission’s definition of an operator in the UK market. To stay safe from penalties is to ensure a unique domain, with unique content that links to a licensed operator’s site via a clear actionable link.

The final three key takeaways

1. Holistic affiliates will always win.

After years of SEO being seen as the volatile side of digital, with the recent changes in paid search and social marketing, those who have ensured a more “natural” organic growth as part of the core strategy are now starting to see envious eyes cast towards them. Rules of a successful digital campaign now resemble that of the stock market with one of the most important rules being to always hedge your portfolio. Affiliates going to conferences looking for a Google SEO update has always been the norm, but this now needs to ensure it accounts for social and paid advertising. Those that take a much more holistic view across all the channels are those that are likely to withstand the changes by ensuring they are at the forefront of affiliate/ performance related marketing.

2. Be responsible as a licensed operator.

Whilst not legally required to do so, displaying your responsible gambling credentials by placing clear links to gambling awareness charities such as GamCare can signifi cantly help your case as an affiliate. With more platforms approving affi liates on a case-by-case basis via whitelisting, proving you are a responsible affi liate could make a significant difference. With Google in particular, confirming in the footer or disclaimer at the bottom of your main landing pages that you are an affiliate which directs users to licensed operators’ sites will help any issues you may run into further down the line. Responsibility also includes your advertising practices. Ensure you refrain from;

  • Bridging to operators’ sites -

Ensure you direct users in paid search to your own unique page, offering additional value to the user. - Refrain from redirecting users automatically to an operator’s site, or just providing a landing page in-between your own site and that of the operator.

  • Impersonating licensed operators -

Ensure you have your own identity, especially when marketing through paid search. As an agency working with a leading iGaming operators, all too often we see affi liates using either the operator’s brand name or url in ad copy. Double serving means the highest Ad Rank takes precedence. I can ensure you that impersonation is not benefi cial in the long term, and could result in your affi liate account being suspended.

3. Add value.

It’s important to offer more than just a link to an operator’s site. Not only do Google proactively review sites who are advertising in the iGaming market, the search engine also looks for affiliates who merely state operators’ offers and provide immediate links away from the site. You should expect Google to increasingly focus on the value of aggregators over the next 12 months as regulation continues.

Future gazing

Given the changing nature of the SEO landscape, you would be well advised to account for the following over the next 12 months. First, adding value is an increasingly core factor in keeping on top of the progressive updates from Google (surrounding SEO/ organic performance), along with ensuring your content is relevant and valuable to the end user. One of the key changes over the last 12 months has been the importance of your content being easy to read and natural. A recent study showed keywords in areas such as page titles and URLs no longer had a negative impact when replaced with more natural copy. The best piece of advice to affi liates is to ensure your site benefits the user. One only needs to look at the leaders in the industry, such as Oddschecker, to show the value an affi liate can provide to an average user. Not everyone can be an Oddschecker (we know), so hopefully the above piece provides you with a view not only of the changes in regulation, but also the increased need to think more holistically around your advertising/marketing approach. 

“Affiliates are seeing a significant drop in referrals through their social media channels, and many have spoken of this drop as being comparable to previous Google algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin.”

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