Our annual affiliate survey, which results from outreach to our network of affiliates, always provides an array of revealing insights regarding the shifts taking place in the industry. Our questions endeavour to seek opinion on both the current state of the igaming industry and future trends.
Now in its third year, our survey provides a valuable source of thoughtprovoking insights on the industry in general and helps us to appreciate the evolution that is taking place on an individual affiliate level. All this helps shape our strategy and thinking as a trusted business partner. Below are some of the key highlights from this year’s survey.
Earnings and experience
First of all, looking at the experience profile of our respondents, 78% of them have been working in the industry for more than two years. That number has never fallen below 75% in the survey’s three years, providing a level of consistency with regards to industry knowledge and practice.
Our respondents also vary in terms of monthly traffic to their affiliate site(s). For example, 19% have an average of at least 50,000 unique visitors a month, while just under 10% have at least one million unique visitors a month. Of the respondents, 31% said they attract between 1,000 and 5,000 unique visitors a month, while the same percentage again sees fewer than 1,000 unique visitors a month.
This traffic performance is a likely contributor to the equally diverse range of monthly earnings, beginning with an all-time high 53% of respondents who said they earn less than $1,000 a month from their affiliate business. The $1,000- $5,000 range is the most consistent over the course of the last three years as 2016 (19%), 2017 (27%) and 2018 (25%) are within 8% of each other.
From a marketing perspective, it’s essential to stay mindful of what tools and tactics affiliates are using in their promotional strategies. This is an area in which affiliate respondents have remained relatively consistent since 2016, as the same strategies have occupied the top four spots each year: banner adverts with sign-up offers, site content (for example, online casino and poker site reviews), Twitter account(s) with trackable links and Facebook account(s) with trackable links.
In 2016 and 2017, site content ranked as the top selection followed by banner adverts. However, in this year’s survey the rankings reversed with banner adverts (69%) edging out site content (63%) for the first time. 2018 also saw the best results for the following social media accounts with trackable links: Twitter (47%), Facebook (44%), YouTube (28%) and Instagram (25%).
Finally, using guest blog posts on-site has become an increasingly popular marketing strategy among our respondents, rising from being the least popular choice in 2016 (10%) to the middle of the pack in 2017 (19%). The guest blog strategy finished in a similar position this year but its popularity rocketed to 34%.
For the third straight year, casino (56%) and sportsbook (47%) finished as the two most popular verticals where affiliates are currently focusing their promotional efforts. In previous surveys, those two verticals also topped the list for verticals that affiliates were considering promoting in the future. However, in one of the more telling results from our 2018 survey, esports emerged as the most popular selection for future promotional consideration, earning 34% compared to 31% for sportsbook.
Sue Dawson, head of content at bestnewbingosites.co.uk is one affiliate currently evaluating the potential of esports. Asked about its rising popularity, Dawson outlined one reason behind the market’s overall growth. “I think it’s people like my teenage son and his friends, who are massively into some of those games and, because of loot boxes, are already comfortable with the idea of gambling and wanting to gamble on esports instead of traditional sports or in casinos,” she said. “Therein lies one of the major problems with promoting gambling on esports — the social responsibility issue of appeal to minors.”
The US ilottery market has also enjoyed a landmark year, with the launch of affiliate programmes for state lotteries in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, our survey saw the number of respondents interested in future promotional efforts drop from 21% in 2017 to 9% this year. Bingo saw a similar decrease, going from 27% in 2017 to 9%.
As an experienced bingo affiliate with an interest in lottery, Dawson provided a possible explanation for at least part of the drop. “The potential player values are certainly greater in casino and sportsbook, and in casino there are many more operators to promote than in bingo or lottery. I also believe that it is far harder to get the tone of the content right in bingo and lottery, because in both cases many of the players don’t consider themselves to be gamblers,” she said.
The repeal of PASPA has brought with it added enthusiasm for the impact that it will have across areas with which it is connected. We asked affiliates what their most immediate area of interest is post-PASPA. Changing legal frameworks and technological developments each received 23%, while mergers and acquisitions had 17% and buy-in/ endorsement of professional sports leagues finished with 10%.
Indicative of the newness of this environment are the 27% of affiliates who replied that they do not currently have any post-PASPA interests. That number is supported by the 33% of respondents who also said they have no plans to develop a post-PASPA strategy. Another 33% responded “Yes” to that question, while 37% said “Maybe”.
As the igaming industry continues to evolve at a relentless pace, there is a reasonable expectation that the fluctuations we have seen between 2017 and 2018 will give way to even more change in both the short and long term. Whether that pertains to promotional strategies, more post-PASPA initiatives or emerging verticals and geo-regions, the best way to keep abreast of forthcoming change is to maintain a regular dialogue with industry stakeholders at every level.