Affiliate profile: Alan Young, Mobile Casino Man
How and when did you first come to enter the gambling affiliate space?
Alan Young: I originally got into the gambling industry in 2010 when I started working for Genting, looking after its websites. When I left Genting in 2014 I set myself up as a consultant specialising in my core subjects of sites, SEO, paid search, email marketing and conversion optimisation. Since then I have also come to set up my first casino affiliate sites, the first of which, mobilecasinoman.com (MCM), was launched in early 2016, and the second site, mobileslotsman.com (MSM), was only recently launched following the success of MCM.
Was there a particular point or event at which you realised you could now give up the day job and devote yourself full time to affiliation?
AY: I have been self-sufficient really in terms of affiliation since I set up my consultancy in 2014 as I have been consulting for a number of firms in the gambling space and running traffic for them, much of the time on an affiliate model. From working at Genting and seeing how many of the affiliates operated, I knew at that point that I wanted to move into the space.
The addition this year of my own SEO sites is going really well and with the MSM site now launched I expect this site portfolio to grow pretty rapidly over the next couple of years.
Can you tell us more about how the business is structured (i.e. names, number and types of portals, country markets, offices/locations, number of employees and specialisms)?
AY: It’s a very simple structure at this stage. I have an office in the West Midlands where I work with around five staff, currently doing various things like content/ design/data analysis. I also have quite a number of freelancers in my network who I use when I need ad hoc work delivered that will really add value to the business.
Google told the world two years ago that mobile search traffic had overtaken desktop search and this trend is only set to continue
What do you see as the most significant changes in the wider online casino space since you started your affiliate business, and what have been the major impacts of these?
AY: I really started running traffic on an affiliate basis on email and that space has changed a lot in the last couple of years, with email filters improving very quickly.
On the SEO front the big algorithm changes from Google in recent times have actually meant that many of the previously powerful casino affiliates had to make major changes to their link profiles/site design/structure in order to keep rankings.
When did you take the step to specialise in mobile, and which specific factors or developments at the time drove this decision?
AY: The Google vision of the future mentioned above was actually the main reason I set up the MCM site in the first place. I saw it as a good opportunity to launch a specialist site for mobile that both added value for the customer but fitted with what I think the world will look like in the next year or two.
At the end of the day Google told the world two years ago that mobile search traffic had overtaken desktop search and this trend is only set to continue. No one really uses a laptop outside of the office environment anymore and I think that most casino players probably don’t spend their days at work signing up new accounts and having a punt!
The effects of “Mobilegeddon” fell well short of the hype. Do you anticipate greater impact from Google’s recently announced mobile-first indexing, and how do you see this affecting webmasters in the igaming affiliate space?
AY: I think we have already seen a lot of the impact for SEO affiliates in 2016 with many of the large affiliates relaunching a brand new shiny mobile-friendly version of their site. Ultimately, desktop search traffic will continue to diminish to a pretty low level over the next few years, which will of course mean that everyone in the space will be focused more and more or delivering a site that is great for players and really functional on a mobile device.
Do you now build your websites mobile-first and what advice would you give to other affiliates considering going down this route?
AY: 100% yes. As you can see, Mobile Casino Man isn’t the best-looking site in the world on desktop, however, if you use it on a mobile device then it becomes very easy to use and navigate with the amount of page content being right for mobile users and loads of elements of the site are swipeable as well, making it super easy to use. My advice for other affiliates looking to go down this route is don’t, I could do without the competition!
Another primary focus for Google of late has been on elevating the importance of quality content in ranking. Do you have to tailor your content on mobile to gain better recognition and ranking by Google (and if so, how) or are the algorithms not yet sophisticated enough to differentiate on that level?
AY: I think what Google wants to see is original content that is useful for the user of the website. It is a search engine, and so for Google the ultimate goal, aside from making bucketloads of money, is to make sure the results it serves people give them the best experience.
Only Google knows 100% what’s in their algorithm but I do think that having endless content on a page to get a load of keywords in there isn’t a great way to go in future as mobile is now king and no one wants to read loads of content on a mobile device.
One big danger for affiliates is what we have seen with the main desktop terms such as ‘online casino’ in recent years, where basically no affiliate can get on to page one of Google now
Putting rev share and deals to one side, which are the leading operators when it comes to mobile and supporting mobile affiliates, and why (i.e. conversion, site response time, best tools, support etc.)?
AY: I think that there are some fantastic mobile casinos on the market now, thankfully gone are the days where the game selection of a mobile casino was a tenth of that on desktop. The leading players for me are bgo, LeoVegas, Casumo and Mr Green. All of these brands are very much mobile first and understand what the mobile conversion funnel should look like, which ends up with some great results.
Leading on from this, what initial steps should currently under-performing operators on this front be taking to improve their performance?
AY: The number one issue for operators on mobile is, surprisingly in this day and age, mobile landing pages and registration process optimisation. These two things aren’t really that complicated to sort out but it is still really surprising that quite a few big, well-known brands still don’t have landing pages that clearly display the offer and are easy to use.
In terms of reg page I understand that in many cases it’s not their fault, that their software supplier has a poor mobile reg process, but they really ought to put more pressure on for them to resolve that.
Which three things do you wish you had known before embarking on a career as an affiliate that would have allowed you to have reached your goals more quickly?
AY: I wish I had bought onlinecasino.com 15 years ago, and knew what I know now about where the internet world would be in 2016!
What do you see as the biggest immediate challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector?
AY: I think one big danger for affiliates is what we have seen with the main desktop terms such as ‘online casino’ in recent years, where basically no affiliate can get on to page one of Google now. It is likely that Google will continue this trend on mobile terms as well, and it will therefore be much harder for affiliates to pick up significant traffic from those terms, it will become a long tail game.