Mikhael Danshin, CMO at Betting Insider, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam.
Mikhael Danshin and his team at Betting Insider not only focus on performance but also on conveying the brand’s values. They are building a community of people for whom betting is a hobby and where inappropriate traffic is excluded – follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?
There was no X day: at Sports.ru we have always understood that sports and ardor are inseparable, and have always created products for such players: fantasy, daily fantasy, a prediction tournament, and a blogging platform for bettors. And then this traffic was monetized with targeted offers.
Betting began to grow in Sports.ru’s revenue structure five years ago, and even then it was understood that bettors needed a separate product – and this is how the Betting Insider idea came about.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We have several products, the sports news site Sports.ru is tailored for CIS traffic. Tribuna.com, the app network for football fans, has 10+ apps in 6 languages with users from over 100 countries. Setting up the work of affiliate networks in such a product is a real challenge, because rarely do any partners operate in as many GEOs as we do.
Betting Insider, a social network for betting players, was originally launched in the CIS, but here we have been cramped for a long time, and we have been working on an English version of the product for quite some time. The main direction in it will be the United States, or rather the states that have already allowed online betting, in particular, New Jersey.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique? Is there something you can offer that others cannot?
We are trying to move away from traditional lead generation and be focused not only on performance, but also on conveying your brand values to the target audience. It’s not a secret that affiliates in pursuit of leads are not interested in long-term work – they are interested in converting an advertising click into registration and deposit right now and earn CPA, and what happens next is not important.
We are building a community of people for whom betting is a hobby, not a source of income. Here, firstly, inappropriate traffic is excluded – if the user is not interested in bets, then the Betting Insider application is simply useless for him. Secondly, all of our advertising is closely tied to the product: did you make a virtual bet, are you sure about it? Here’s a free bet for you, try playing for real money.
What key information about your traffic would you like to share with SiGMA subscribers? What do you focus on when looking for traffic? SEO? PPC?
SEO is an important story for us, in which we invest a lot. At a distance, this will allow you to get off the needle of paid traffic and not depend on platforms. But this is a long game, our domain has been gaining link weight from scratch, while our competitors have been working on SEO for 5-7-10 years.
We play with caution in PPC, as the monetization of bookmakers allows them to buy traffic at higher rates. But we are actively working with sources where sports betting is allowed, but social betting is not. In particular, these are Android applications and traffic from Google AdWords.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or have you ever contemplated selling the business?
No, but in turn we are constantly looking for options for M&A. So, if you have a cool sports product or at least an MVP – write to us!
What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
Everything is standard here – transparent statistics, a minimum of paperwork. For some, quick payments are important, but for us it is not significant.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
What is important here is a combination of engagement and perseverance on the one hand, and strategic vision and thinking outside of the box on the other.
Many know how to get traffic, but the ability to predict global trends, which source is burning out, and which source is the future is less common.
Which GEOs are you already working on and what new territories do you plan to open in the next couple of years?
The main source of revenue for us is still the CIS, but all our new products (Betting Insider, Tribuna.com) are initially globally positioned. If we take only one GEO, then I really believe in the USA.
What is the Asian online gambling market for you?
Asia is perhaps the only region in which we have practically no expertise. We went to North America and South America – there are incredibly engaged users. We tried Africa, many GEOs there, in particular Nigeria shows good results. And we almost never entered Asia – unless, of course, we take into account the ex-USSR countries.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
Do not go to Russia, but immediately start with an international product – there is high competition, really cool products, and there is not much money compared to Western Europe and the USA. In Russia, as a whole, there is very strong IT – look, the conventional Revolut cannot even enter here, because there is nothing to do with their revolutionary product for a European.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
In Russia, the legislative pendulum went in the opposite direction – bets on sporting events were banned, taxes and deductions for sports, on the contrary, increased. Under such conditions, the illegal market may grow again.
If we talk about global trends, I am sure that the CPA/RS model at a distance of 3-5 years will completely outlive itself. Affiliates will pay for user reactivation, maybe for bets made, targeted clicks. Already, leads to Western European traffic, to Britain, for example, cost some unrealistic money. The market in the UK has formed, the flow of new players is consistently small – arbitrage teams are not interested in playing such a GEO. The same will happen to Russia in a few years.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
Despite the fact that communication between people is increasingly going online, the value of face-to-face meetings cannot be overstated, especially in our industry. Publicity facilitates many processes, and conferences are one of the sources of this publicity, brand awareness.
An important story is onboarding for beginners, for those who attend conferences for the first time. Conventionally, you add to the application information about your project, goals, whom you are looking for – and here’s a shortlist of 5 people for a meeting, which you can score directly from the app.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Malta or SiGMA Manila Sao Paulo at some point?
Yes, the Betting Insider team attended Malta last year. Plans for 2021 are difficult to build due to the pandemic, but of course B2B conferences are important for Betting Insider.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all, business is done with people, not just companies!
Sport has always been my main hobby, and I quickly decided to connect it with work – I was hired by Sports.ru this while I was studying at the Financial University and several years before Yura Dudya was recognized on the street.
Sports.ru is the most flexible company, so my roles, like many in the team, change (though they have always been associated with betting) – I started with SMM, then I started with affiliates, then Betting Insider appeared.
Betting Insider doesn’t have such a big team yet to say “I only do this, but this is someone else’s area of responsibility”. Therefore, in the framework of hypothesis testing, I have to do some new things for me – take interviews for YouTube, for example. Or start a B2B Telegram channel about the gambling industry – it’s generally a wild challenge, which convinced me that I absolutely can’t write texts.
Cyprus in winter. Nothing happens, moderately warm – in general, a complete counterbalance to Moscow.
Favourite book? What’s on your list to read in the future? I’m so consistent that my favorite book changes every two weeks when you finish one and start a new one. Now I am reading “The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness” by Eric Jorgenson. He founded AngelList, which later acquired Product Hunt. In fact, this is not even a book, but a structured collection of his posts, podcasts, and even tweets about entrepreneurship, trends, and investments.
Which country would you like to move with your family to if you had a choice? What matters is not a specific country, but how you can adapt to the local community, build a new environment. Therefore, the list is limited to English-speaking countries and the CIS.
Favourite quote? I do not like quotes, but in our team the phrase of Sergey Portnov from one of the interviews often pops up – “betting is a long game”. We play for a long time; we build a product for a long time.
Favorite sport and your childhood idol? Football, although it became interested in it late enough. And as a child, for some reason I loved Formula 1 and all sorts of garbage teams like “Minardi” – they could not score points at all for a couple of seasons and just drove for fun. This is a story about being in the right place at the right time – waiting for a bunch of cars to crash or break down. Or there was a case when 15 cars withdrew from the race due to some conflict with Michelin, and they finished fifth – stupidly, because there was no one else.