What happened back in 2018 with PASPA opened the floodgates for sports betting in the US. A sports-mad country that loves to gamble, it seemed like the perfect opportunity as an affiliate to try and crack the market.
My company, Apps4 Web Media was set up in 2017. After a year’s absence due to a non-compete, we re-entered the market in the UK, but things were a lot different than they were in the years prior. Competition had increased, Google had gotten a lot smarter, and operators were beginning to tighten down on who they were working with. When we heard the US was opening up, it seemed like an ideal time to get into the US betting market.
We were fortunate that we managed to get into the US market at an early stage at the start of 2019 when the competition was a lot less fierce than it is now. We launched our Gamble USA site in New Jersey initially, then Indiana and the following states as and when they went live. Looking back, we made the right move to launch so quickly and have been involved in the US now for almost 4 years and have seen the market get more and more competitive. But should that really put affiliates off that are contemplating a move into the US markets? Absolutely not.
Over the last 12 months, I have seen a lot of articles, podcasts, LinkedIn posts, and tweets about affiliates giving up on the US, most of the time before they have even tried. I am not saying it is easy. Far from the case, but it is one of the most exciting markets that an affiliate could get into, not to mention that it is growing yearly with more and more states moving to legalise online gambling.
A quick look in the SERPs on Google and you’ll see the same familiar sites popping up for the majority of the major sports betting and casino search terms. It’ll come as no surprise to learn that these are owned and run by the biggest affiliate companies around the world. Not only are the SERPs full of these large affiliate sites, but they are now also jam-packed with big news sites that have agreed partnerships with these large affiliates. It’s a win-win for them. If its site isn’t ranking for a given search term, then there will be a major news site with its affiliate links embedded.
“The smaller affiliate is more agile and able to collect the smaller and lucrative crumbs that the big boys aren’t going after”
With all that in mind, it certainly seems hard for the smaller affiliate to make headway in the market when you analyse these search results. But like any market, the smaller affiliate is more agile and always able to collect the smaller, and often lucrative, crumbs that the big boys aren’t going after. Even if you take an established market like the UK which is similar in terms of competition, we still see new affiliates entering the market all the time with varying levels of success. However, there have been multiple success stories in recent years of small affiliates taking traffic and players from the powerhouse affiliates so there is no reason this can’t be done in the US with a good strategy.
The US has a population of over 330 million. To put that into perspective, the UK has a population of 67 million. At the time of writing, there are over 30 states with legal sports betting, and over 15 of these are available to affiliates. However, the 3 biggest states in the US are yet to legalise online betting. If Florida, Texas, and California do eventually legalise online betting, there is the potential for millions of new customers to become available to affiliates.
But what about the costs? Well, if you are looking to go after terms like ‘online sports betting’ or ‘best sportsbook’ then you’re going to need to have extremely deep pockets. Affiliates could spend tens of thousands on links, content and PR and still not even make a dent in the SERPs. To do well in the US, it’s all about finding a niche.
It’s no secret that Americans are sports-mad. Major sports like American football and basketball are like a religion to them. The fans are so passionate and involved, which is an ideal opportunity for operators and affiliates. One thing I would say is that if you are looking to get started in the US, look at going niche. Trying to start a site that covers every sport in every state won’t provide any wins in the short term and you’ll probably quit before you see any.
“If you are looking to go after terms like ‘online sports betting’ or ‘best sportsbook’ then you’re going to need to have extremely deep pockets”
Alternatively, find a sport and identify what potential players are looking for before building a site tailored to your target audience. Sports betting is still a very new concept to most citizens, and they don’t know where to start when it comes to joining an operator, let alone odds, deposits, and everything else in between.
DFS & socials
If you look at the popularity of daily fantasy sports (DFS), you can see the huge desire for sports betting in the United States. DraftKings and FanDuel had huge player bases before they even went into sports betting, but DFS numbers are not dwindling despite legalisation in a lot of states. This shows the huge potential that is still out there for affiliates willing to work hard in the industry.
Of course, being an affiliate isn’t all about running a website. Social media still plays a huge role for affiliates. Platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Telegram can all provide affiliates with a free way to reach an audience. This is one area where an affiliate really can bring its own personality and creativity to the forefront which more people tend to resonate with on a personal level compared to the larger companies.
“[Social media] is where an affiliate really can bring its personality and creativity to the forefront”
Can a small affiliate really ever compete with these huge sites? Well, maybe not in terms of traffic and revenue, but smaller affiliates have a big advantage over the larger operators in that they are dynamic, agile, and not tied down to the constraints of the larger corporate process.
So far, we have only talked about sports betting in the US. We haven’t even touched on the possibility of igaming as a whole opening up. There are currently six states, with only five available to affiliates, where online casinos are legal. There is talk of a lot of the big states opening up to online gaming, and if this does happen, it will give affiliates access to millions of potential players.
So, looking at the bigger picture, should affiliates give the US a wide birth and look at other, less competitive markets? I would say not and give the US a real go. Turn on the TV and watch some US sports this weekend. Sports betting is now everywhere, on commercials, billboards, and sponsorships, the market is only going to grow and keep growing.
Competitive? You bet. But the American dream is still there for the taking.