Richard Moffat, CEO of OLBG, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Richard Moffat’s OLBG, founded 18 years ago, has empowered a community to share their knowledge and made it easy for people to consume that knowledge – follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off?
OLBG was founded in 2002 as an Online Betting Guide: helping users to navigate the new world of online betting. The free to enter tipster competitions with generous cash prizes attracted many to the site, and the friendly forums helped sports bettors to make friends and find a home to discuss their interest. From there the OLBG community has kept on growing.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I personally came from a financial services background and was working as a financial adviser which was fundamentally an affiliate business on a 1-1 basis. My passion was sports betting, specifically horse racing and that is why I found OLBG and became one of the first members of the community.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
A large development arm makes up almost half of the team with customer services, content, marketing and support the other half. This, I think, differs somewhat from many other affiliate businesses and is what has helped us to navigate many of the changes we have faced over the past 18 years. Our development team is hugely talented which has always put us ahead of the game whether that has been developing apps, growing user generated content, moving to mobile first, GEO targeting, or ensuring that we are looking after all the important areas of technical SEO and user experience.
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
Quite simply, understand all the benefits that these marketing partnerships can bring. The term affiliates often restricts operators into treating partners as pure acquisition channels, measuring only what is tracked through links and applying this as the full ROI from the channel and the individual relationships. That is a big mistake. What is measured through those tracking links is only a small part of what a good partnership can deliver. An affiliate will drive many more acquisitions that aren’t tracked than those which are. With mobile and app this is even more so today. Many affiliate acquisitions are probably attributed to direct or brand. In addition to acquisitions, the affiliate channel drives huge benefits across brand awareness, brand education, retention, reactivation, SEO, and more.
Some operators do work with us more like a media or a marketing partner and the relationship we have with those is far superior. We have discussions about how we can support all of the brands marketing activities. So my overall advice would be to drop the affiliate label and think about all partners as marketing partners and how they can contribute across all areas of the marketing mix.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
Leading on from the last point, marketing partners can position themselves to deliver far more than just those tracked acquisition numbers. Think about each operator they work with and understand how they can bring the biggest benefits to each relationship. Then demonstrate that. And don’t give up. I’ve been talking with operators for over a decade and a half about this and things are changing. Many operators are now looking to understand how exposure on some sites can contribute to sales further down the funnel, understand the benefits of looking at every bet as a sale, and understand that there are many types of traffic that they themselves can’t get access to without working with partners.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
With a strong .com built up over 18 years we attract traffic from around the world. Whilst the UK remains our largest market, we have localised our content for other GEOs and of course have our eyes firmly on the US. We are on target to be active in 10 US states by the end of 2020 which will give us exposure in excess of that which we have in the UK, in terms of the adult population we can reach.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
Every one of our customer support and content team are sports bettors who have worked in other roles within the sports betting industry before joining OLBG. Further to that, all of us were members of OLBG before we worked for OLBG.
We also have a community of thousands of members and we make sure that we listen to our community every single day. They don’t just tell us the best bets and why, they tell us which betting sites they like & don’t like, how they are treated, what frustrates them, and what they would change. When I look at other sites that are doing well in our industry, they often have communities attached and have built their brands around these.
Whilst building a community isn’t unique, within the sports betting sector there aren’t any other brands who have also empowered a community to share their knowledge like we have and then made it easy for people to consume that knowledge.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
I’m hugely passionate about user generated content and the benefits it can bring to helping consumers as well as the benefits it holds as a business model. Each month, OLBG members add the equivalent volume of content which would take more than 300 freelance content writers to produce.
What freelance content writers won’t give you at scale, 24 hours a day, is what genuine sports bettors actually betting on the events will. As opposed to someone being paid to write xxx words on something to try and rank for a keyword, we get the real insights into real users experiences and the knowledge of thousands of people. Just as so many of us value the use brands like TripAdvisor before booking a restaurant or holiday, or review sites before making a purchase, so do many people value consulting the opinions at OLBG before placing a bet or choosing a new betting site.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
We have very clear plans for the continued growth of OLBG over the next couple of years, with the team and funding in place in order to achieve this. So we have no immediate need to consider M&A.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
The early waive of acquisitions saw sites being bought to build scale. Many of these sites were content sites with good rankings but not much depth. They did the job of building scale but it seems few of these have managed to deliver any growth, in terms of search rankings anyway.
Those who have bought in the past are in very different situations now, some very cash rich, some with large debts, so we may see some consolidation amongst the larger affiliate networks.
When I look at how the affiliate space has matured in other industries, I see that big brands focused on the consumer have become the winners. So it surprises me that the larger companies haven’t set about building a brand in our space. But pleases me at the same time as I believe OLBG is positioned perfectly as our industry matures.