For those starting out in the Casino Affiliate business it can be a lonely uphill struggle. In the beginning most affiliates will be working alone and largely in the dark, trying to figure out the best merchants to promote, which casinos convert and discovering the most profitable niches.

All casino affiliates will make mistakes in the beginning. It can take years to accumulate the knowledge needed to turn traffic into profits. However, you can limit mistakes by joining a few friendly Affiliate Forums.

I’ve found the majority of affiliates are more than happy to share information with one another. However, that’s not to say they will give you a list of there most profitable keywords! Nevertheless, they’ll help you identify rogue merchants, share SEO tips and give coding/tech advice – along with numerous other subjects and topics will can help you build your business.

Below I’ve listed a couple of the forums which helped me when I was starting out. Visit them, join and get involved in the discussions.

GPWA – Gambling Portal Webmasters Association

With over 20,000 registered members, the Gambling Portal Webmasters Association is the leading forum for casino & sports betting affiliates. Once you’ve joined you’ll also get access to the fantastic monthly magazine and forum threads which aren’t available to the public.

http://www.gpwa.org/

Affiliate Guard Dog

Casino Affiliate Programs are reviewed in complete detail, including Terms and Conditions Analysis. The forum provides a list of certified affiliate programs and rogue operators.

http://www.affiliateguarddog.com/

MOZ Q&A

The MOZ forum focuses on SEO, social media and Content issues, it can be a great place to find technical answers to your questions and members will often help direct identify site issues or make suggestions to improve SEO.

https://moz.com/community/q

What’s worse than having NO website visitors? Having TOO MANY! You might dream of getting 100,000’s of visitors but large traffic spikes can be a real problem for websites hosted on underpowered servers. In this blog post, I’ll show you how we handled 1.2 million visitors without breaking the bank.

It’s worth noting that a typical ‘off the peg’ shared hosting package from GoDaddy or Hostgator won’t withstand a sudden surge in visitor numbers. In fact, many hosting companies specifically forbid websites hogging server resources. If your site becomes popular and starts hogging CPU resources don’t be surprised if your hosting company pulls the plug on the offending website without warning. However, if you follow the tips here you’ll be able to utilise a budget hosting plan and still accommodate big visitor numbers.

So what happens when a site suddenly experiences an explosion in traffic? It’s a problem we know all too well because for the last ten years we’ve operated a horse racing portal which generates insane levels of traffic. I’m talking about 40,000+ active users on the site at any given time. To complicate matters further the traffic increase only lasts for a few days per year. Making the situation more like a classic ‘Hug Of Death‘ or ‘Slashdot‘ effect. Of course, we could spend big bucks on a server which could accommodate the traffic, but most of the time we’d only use a fraction of its power, potentially wasting thousands of pounds in hosting costs.

 

We could place the site on a cheaper server for 11 months of the year and move it to a more powerful one just before the traffic volumes increase. However, that runs the risk of something going wrong during the move and anyone who’s ever migrated a server will tell you they rarely run smoothly, plus you still have the hassle of moving the site back once the traffic levels return to normal. It goes without saying that this approach also won’t help those people with websites that suddenly become popular overnight.

So how can you make sure your website is capable of handling millions of visitors without spending a fortune?

The Problem…

Imagine your website server is acting like the automatic door at shopping mall entrance. A shopper walks up to the door and the sensor detects them approaching, in response the door swings open. If two people walk up to the door they can enter the shopping mall without any problems. However, if five hundred people attempt to enter simultaneously the doorway will become clogged and each shopper will take longer to gain access to the mall.

This is what happens when your website server becomes stressed with too many visitors. The volume of people trying to access the site will have a negative effect on the load time. Eventually, the server will crash under the stress.

By optimising your website and pushing server requests away from your hosting account you will be able to handle traffic spikes more effectively.

The Solution…

A quick word before I start… I have used this method for managing traffic spikes on many different hosting plans, ranging from $8 per month shared servers to $50 per month cloud server. I’ve never suffered from a crash or seen a negative impact on load times, even using the cheapest hosting plan.

Even if your site never suffers from the dreaded ‘Hug Of Death’, optimising it will still pay dividends. The majority of our sites run on WordPress, which is a brilliant CMS platform, but it has a reputation for causing high server CPU usage. Excessive and poorly coded WordPress plugins can exacerbate the problem further.

Before you do anything else, get rid of any unused or unnecessary plugins – do you really need that snow effect? Test your WordPress site with P3 Plugin Profiler to find out which plugins are negatively affecting load times and get rid of them!

The next step is to find a theme that loads super fast. StudioPress produce the quickest loading themes I’ve ever used and they’re also optimised for SEO which means you’ll need one less plugin (Yoast SEO). Having said that Studiopress themes can be a little basic for some people’s needs. If you want a fast loading theme with all the bells and whistles then look no further than Kriesi themes. So now you’ve addressed the basics by swapping to a fast loading theme and restricting the number of plugins to a bare minimum – what else should you do?

1. Caching

What the hell does this mean? Well, have you noticed that when you return to a website it loads quicker the second time round? That’s caching, your browser is storing elements of the website within its own memory. It’s much quicker than requesting the information again from the server – this is known as browser caching, but you can speed up this process more by adding server side caching.

Serving a copy of your web pages is much faster and uses fewer resources than requesting the original. This is especially true if you’re using WordPress because it stores information in a database and each visitor to the site will trigger a complicated database retrieval process which places a server under stress. You can drastically reduce this burden by using a WordPress caching plugin and the plugin will store copies of recently accessed pages and deliver those instead of querying the database.

Over the years we’ve used all the leading caching plugins available; W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache and QuickCache. Of that trio my personal favourite was QuickCache, mainly because until now it was the easiest to set-up. W3 Total Cache is by far the most powerful but it is also the most difficult to configure. Recently I started using WP Rocket, a plugin with the power of W3 Total Cache and the usability of QuickCache. The only downside to WP Rocket is that it costs $39 to use it on your site. However, it’s worth every cent and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Check out the video review of WPRocket below.

Before implementing the tweaks mentioned above, test the current load time of your site using Pingdom Tools or GTmetrix. Once you’ve made some changes you can retest and compare the before and after load times – you should start see a big improvement.

2. Image Optimisation

One of the quickest way to speed up a website is by reducing the image file size. No one will thank you for forcing them to render a 2meg photo! The only exception to this rule is photography websites, where the need for quality outweighs the need for speed. Everyone else should be compressing images to the bone. I usually do my image optimising in Fireworks or Photoshop before upload. However, If you don’t have access to these software programmes then try the excellent and free WP.Smush.it, a nifty little WordPress plugin which will automatically optimise images as you upload them.

3. Cloudflare

By now you should have a fast loading theme, optimised images and have WPRocket installed, the next step is to add the Cloudflare service to your site. I could try to explain the concept of Cloudflare, but It would take ages and bore you to death – so why not watch this short entertaining video which explains the benefits…

CloudFlare can be used by anyone with a website and their own domain, regardless of your choice in platform. From start to finish, setup takes most website owners less than 5 minutes. Adding your website requires only a simple change to your domain’s DNS settings. There is no hardware or software to install or maintain and you do not need to change any of your site’s existing code.

During our traffic spike, Cloudflare was able to handle 96% of requests! Only a fraction of people who viewed our website hit OUR server and the remaining 4% viewed a cached page generated by the WPRocket plugin. That means our site never came close to crashing or slowing down and we maintained a healthy 2 second load time for the duration of the spike.

So you’re probably thinking this Cloudflare service is expensive? Well, the basic features are FREE. If you want to aggressively cache everything as we did and get access to enhanced features such as page rules and real time stats then you’ll need Pro Plan ($20 a month) bargain! Nevertheless, the free plan is more than capable of handling high traffic situations.

It was my intention to detail the settings we use for Cloudflare in this post, but I eventually decided against it, mainly as it would require a lengthy explanation and this post is already too long. I will write a post which deals solely with Cloudflare settings at a later date – I will post a link here when it’s finished. However, don’t let that put you off using Cloudflare right now. The default settings will turbo charge your website like nothing else can. In my experience just adding the basic (free) plan offered by Cloudflare will cut your load time in half.

Conclusion…

I would expect all of the above tweaks to reduce an average websites load time to under 2 seconds. I’ve even managed to get some sites loading in under 1 second using this method. It might seem daunting to take on these changes but don’t be frighten by the techy stuff, the majority of these tweaks are simple to implement and easy to undo if something goes wrong. Plus you’ll glad you made those changes when the traffic spikes!

The IGB Affiliate Conference is set to return to Amsterdam in June. Nearly 4000 delegates are expected to attend the four day conference which kicks off on the 23rd June in the Dutch capital.

Regulars to IGB events will know how useful these conferences can be. I’ve attended at least six of the IGB events over the last ten years and I always come away with a new idea or two. The events are free for affiliates and I can recommend getting yourself to at least one of these a year.

The schedule for Amsterdam looks decent, with talks on: Copywriting, SEO and Big Data. I’m undecided if I will attend the Amsterdam event, if not I will almost certainly attend the London IGB get together in early 2016.

 

Building a website is the easy part of affiliate marketing, getting visitors to the site is the difficult part, but not nearly as difficult as converting those visitors into buyers! Of course you can help yourself by designing a useful website, one which is easy to navigate and gives the visitor exactly what they want. But what happens if you do all that, and they still won’t buy? Why are visitors leaving the site after 30 seconds? Why don’t visitors click on those great promotions you run? Could a different web page layout uplift sales? Unless you can stand over the shoulders of all your site visitors, you’ll never know the answers to these questions – unless you spend £1000s on usability studies and focus groups.

For small and medium sized affiliates these studies are just too expensive, until now. Crazy Egg is a new online usability tool that allows you to track visitor interaction with your website. You can use it to test a new design, test content and discover which versions work best, test placement of key elements such as ads or action buttons. See where you visitors click via heatmaps, follow the visitor journey via page paths. You can also view bounce rates on individual pages, view referring URLs and track visitor via referring URL.

So how much does this all cost? that’s the good news, it’s only $9 (£5) a month! Join for one month and cancel if you like, test multiple sites or just test your homepage. We ran Crazy Egg on a number of our websites and discovered lots of ways to improve them. So if you serious about making it in affiliate marking, give Crazy Egg a go.

It’s been a while since we last attend an affiliate conference, so we’re really looking forward to the iGaming Super Show in Dublin later in May. The conference has a great schedule of sessions and I’m Particularly hoping the talk on wordpress SEO optimisation will yield some useful information. The conference is a four day event and every day has a session I want to attend, whether that’s the talk on emerging markets or the discussion on in-play betting.

One of the best reasons to attend any iGaming event is the people you meet, we’ve always had a great time socially at these events and they’re a brilliant way to put faces to email addresses. The parties thrown by casinos & bookmakers at iGaming events are normally awesome, but I’d definitely warn affiliates about getting involved in the poker games, especially in Barcelona – as a night in a Spanish police cell is not for everyone!

If you’re heading to Dublin on the 22th of May and want to talk to us then just drop me a quick email.

One of the great things about being an Affiliate is you sometimes get some amazing free Christmas gifts from the networks and merchants you work with, last year Market Ace filled my stocking with amazing gadgets, gizmos and even a relaxing weekend break.

Unfortunately not all Affiliate networks are as generous as Market Ace, so this year I’m going to keep a running list of the gifts we get as Christmas presents. Last year was a real mix of the good, bad and ugly and then there are the Networks that just don’t bother sending anything. I’m not going to mention names but… it starts with Trade and ends in Doubler. As a rough estimate I think our sites have generated over half a million in sales at TradeDoubler over the last four years, god knows how much you need to generate to get a Christmas present outta them, and they wonder why I’d rather promote Jackpot Joy with Market Ace!

I know that it’s not good form to moan about Christmas presents you receive, but if some networks insist on playing Scrooge, then I’m playing the spoilt brat!

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me…

Chocolates From St Minver ~ Not Bad, Not Bad

Chocolates From St Minver ~ Not Bad, Not Bad

Chocolates From St. Minver:
Top marks for St Minver being the first present down the chimney! To be honest we don’t send St Minver lots of players so I wouldn’t really expect anything from them anyway! There more like a distant cousin you’ve only ever met once and then bump into on Christmas day.

To be fair to St Minver the box of chocolates look good and it’s presented like a traditional advent calendar, chocolates are always a winner in my book! The box also has a promo code on for Affiliates which is actually good marketing. St Minver are a network that promote mainly bingo sites like Butlins Bingo and Littlewoods Bingo, you can check them out here. So this year is already off to a pretty good start, lets see what tomorrow brings!

So Christmas is well and truly over and the new year is here, so what did Santa bring? Not a lot actually, apart from Paddy Power and Market Ace who sent us some lovely gifts (Thanks Guys).

It seems the credit crunch is hitting the gambling sector after all, I didn’t even get a card from most of our partners!

Football clothing merchant Kitbag informed us today that our site www.retrofootieshirts.co.uk had won their latest affiliate competition and landed a £500 cash prize! We promote Kitbags excellent range of Retro Football Shirts through our site www.retrofootieshirts.co.uk.

We’d like to thank John from Kitbag for the generous prize, Burnley fan John was dismayed to find out the money will be ‘wasted’ on tickets to watch Manchester United at Old Trafford!