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Diversify your affiliate marketing strategy in 2017

| By Joanne Christie
Whether it is AMP, VSO or content 2.0, Alexandra Bogdanova of Income Access lists the key challenges affiliates will have to be address to develop their businesses in 2017.

Whether it is accelerated mobile pages or voice search optimisation, Alexandra Bogdanova, supervisor of affiliate services at Income Access, lists the key topics affiliates will have to deal with in order to develop their businesses over the coming year.

Like Chinese New Year, the igaming affiliate year begins a few weeks after 1 January. More specifically, the London Affiliate Conference marks the unofficial start of the industry’s 2017.

As such, now is the perfect time for affiliates to update their marketing strategies for the year ahead.

In today’s mature market, it’s vitally important to maximise conversions with a strategy based on the latest digital and content marketing trends, and which also takes advantage of the promotional opportunities of new verticals and markets.

From AMP and VSO to App Store ads
A report from Hitwise last August revealed that an unprecedented 58% of Google searches took place on mobile devices. Google’s algorithm updates had already pre-empted the smartphone and tablet tipping point, with the #Mobilegeddon update of April 2015 penalising sites that weren’t mobile-friendly.

The search giant’s mobile focus can be seen elsewhere. Last February, it launched the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, allowing affiliates to develop mobile web pages that load up to 80% faster than conventional ones.

Content network specialist Akamai has revealed that 19% of consumers will abandon a web page if it takes more than three seconds to load, so it’s essential from a user perspective for affiliates to redevelop their sites with AMP-certified pages.

In addition, when the AMP ‘lightning bolt’ logo accompanies a site’s description in search results, it serves as another reason for a potential player to click through.

It also seems likely that AMP will soon play an even bigger role in the conversion funnel. Although AMP’s lead product manager Rudy Galfi has denied that AMP certification is currently a ranking factor, it seems almost certain that it will soon become one.

Savvy affiliates will therefore get ahead of the mobile search curve by obtaining AMP certification for their sites in 2017.

Also linked to the mobile shift, voice search using intelligent personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Google Voice Search will continue to rise this year.

Currently, 20% of US searches on Android devices are made verbally rather than typed, according to Google. While Google Voice Search’s speech recognition word error rate is today as low as 8%, as this improves further, users are almost certain to prefer voice to conventional search.

How will the rise of voice search impact affiliates’ organic search strategies? Verbal search enquiries are typically more detailed than typed searches due to the respective effort involved.

Effective voice search optimisation (VSO) requires answering the ‘what’, ‘who’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions that affiliates’ targeted users will ask, rather than focusing on long-tail and especially short-tail keywords.

“Siri, find me the best odds for the Queen Mother Champion Chase next month at Cheltenham” is not something a user would type, but which they would certainly ask their iPhone 7.

The very same iPhone user interested in a horse racing punt will also search for apps within the App Store. If an affiliate’s VSO and SEO strategies don’t manage to convert the potential player, their app and App Store marketing might succeed where these approaches have failed.

According to a recent Income Access survey, 10% of igaming affiliates have apps, though this will likely rise following the recent news that App Store marketing is diversifying.

In October, Apple launched Search Ads for the US App Store, allowing developers to pay to promote their apps in search results.

With the tech firm almost certain to roll out App Store advertising (ASA) in UK and European App Stores this year, regional affiliates with apps will soon have the App Store equivalent of PPC to complement their App Store Optimisation (ASO).

Get ready for content 2.0
ASA and VSO provide affiliates with new digital marketing channels to target traffic. However, shrewd affiliates will be as much focused in 2017 on their messaging as the mediums with which they communicate this.

Igaming affiliate marketing’s early days of building a site with thin content to host operators’ ads are long gone. In a recent Income Access survey, 83% of affiliates said they were more focused on content development than on promotional banners.

In keeping with this trend, forward-thinking affiliates will ensure that their sites’ content not only provides users with genuine value, but is also engaging, topical and employs a diverse range of formats (video and even audio podcasts as well as images and text).

In 2017, casino affiliates can go beyond merely writing the occasional slot and casino review to accompany their partners’ banners. They can consider filming talking-head video reviews of new casino content.

Topicality is also key, so affiliates can restyle themselves as brand journalists for their operator partners. Commentary on Guns N’ Roses’ current world tour, for instance, could provide a subtle opportunity to promote NetEnt’s branded slot and the online casinos featuring the group.

Beyond their own content, affiliates can also enrich their sites using the written and video content of the brands and software providers they promote. For higher traffic affiliates, this could include sponsored advertorials and guest posts from operator partners.

Even if an affiliate isn’t paid directly for these type of native advertising campaigns, they will still serve to complement accompanying banner ads, increasing their conversion rates.

As much as they focus on expanding their on-site content, affiliates are advised to ensure that individual content pieces are concise.

Given that a majority of site visitors will be using a mobile device, affiliates can focus on developing dense content, where the headline and opening paragraphs of a piece are packed with information and the total text doesn’t exceed 300 words.

Dense content pieces and short videos are highly supportive of social media marketing. With users scanning their Twitter and Facebook feeds, only content with really engaging headlines and meta-descriptions will ensure users click through to an affiliate’s site.

Recent social media platform developments also offer affiliates new marketing opportunities. Facebook Live, unveiled last April, and Instagram Stories, launched in August, allow affiliates to target players with live videos.

As a Premier League match progresses, a sportsbook affiliate can provide live commentary on how the game plays out.

New promotional opportunities
Of course, at the heart of affiliate marketing are the brands an affiliate is partnered with. In 2017, affiliates can increase their revenue opportunities by diversifying the verticals they promote and also targeting emerging markets.

In terms of verticals, the rise of eSports betting – wagering on competitive video gaming such as Dota 2 and League of Legends – allows sports betting affiliates to target traffic beyond their usual customer personas of traditional sports fans and dedicated punters.

With established sportsbooks like Pinnacle and standalone operators such as Unikrn offering eSports betting, affiliates have multiple opportunities to promote the vertical.

With industry researchers Eilers & Krejcik Gaming projecting eSports wagering to total $12.8 billion by 2020, the vertical has enormous growth potential.

Affiliates can also consider expanding in new markets in 2017. Latin America’s largest economy and population centre, Brazil will vote on legislation regulating igaming before April.

Ahead of possible regulation, affiliates can consider experimenting with developing sites targeting the Portuguese-speaking country of 205 million.

While Brazil poses a language barrier for many affiliates, this is not the case for Pennsylvania. Eilers & Krejcik Gaming considered it “plausible” that the US state would legalise the online casino and poker verticals last year.

However, the latest legislation is still awaiting approval by the state Senate after passing the House in October. 2017 could, however, be the year igaming expands again in the US, so affiliates which aren’t already promoting regulated New Jersey brands will likely do so this year in preparation for the Pennsylvania market going live.

Forward-looking European affiliates will look west to the US and Brazil in 2017, while considering new verticals like eSports betting that diversify their offering and allow them to target different traffic sources.

At the same time, they will also ensure their content marketing becomes more sophisticated in 2017, featuring live video and dense content, and that they leverage the new channels of app store advertising and voice search as well as AMP-certifying their web pages.

Using such tactics, they can also look east with the hope of a prosperous ‘Year of the Rooster’.

Alexandra Bogdanova is supervisor of affiliate services for Income Access. 

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