My beginnings in internet and affiliate marketing actually date back to the late 90s, although it was a few years after that before I discovered the lucrative world of gambling affiliate marketing, and realized it could be something more than just “beer money”.
Early on, I learned something very simple that has stuck with me to this very day. When I am looking at starting a new website or product, I always adhere to that mantra first when deciding whether to go this route or not. It’s a very simple lesson:
“Always provide a valuable resource first.”
Anything else comes second. First and most important is always to present a valuable resource to my potential visitor or users. This is from the very topic of the project to the presentation and structure of that, down to the content and user experience.
I started in internet marketing in 1996 by actually running a website dedicated to pro wrestling. WWE, WCW, all that fine stuff.
It was called the Pro Wrestling World and back then it had the fine URL of Geocities.com/Colosseum/Arena/9333/ Not the type of domain that is going to hit the five figure mark on NameJet.
Back then it wasn’t really about making money – it was about website visitors. Everyone was obsessed back then with “Hitbox” – a public tracker of your website visits. It had various categories and would define how “good” your website was. So while I wasn’t focused on making money at the time, I learned many things that would serve me well going forward.
For example the phrase “viral marketing” wasn’t a thing back then. However I’d do things for the website that would later on be referred to as “going viral”. WCW had a wrestler called Bill Goldberg who never cut interviews – just came out and kicked ass. It was a big deal – that he never talked. However I found a clip from a couple of years ago where he actually DID talk very briefly and you could hear his voice. I recorded that and put it up on the website and it went viral. I was always looking for things like that to come out ahead.
However there’s more to just going viral and getting traffic for a few days in a row. That’s where I learned about providing a valuable resource – topics that would keep people coming back, or would bring people to the website on a regular basis. We didn’t really have the knowledge we do now – there was no Altavista Keyword Planner, or Lycos Search Console. But I knew the audience. I knew what they were looking for. So I would provide what they were looking for such as the ability to play and download wrestlers theme music, or read up on win/loss records for wrestlers.
The biggest niche back then in the world of internet wrestling websites was wrestling newsboards. These were incredibly popular. There was literally hundreds of them and they would always be the Top 10 on Hitbox. I knew that if I was going to crack that prestigious top 10, I’d have to branch out into wrestling news.
The problem was there were so many newsboards out there that there was no point in creating another newsboards. That is unless I could turn it into a valuable resource for the readers – something to attract people again and again that they were looking for.
I came up with two ideas: the WCW hotline and independent wrestling news.
The WCW hotline was something the company ran and it cost $1.99 per minute to call where they would report news on. WCW themselves would hype it up on television and everyone was curious about it. I was able to broker a deal where I was able to get access to the WCW Hotline for free, and then write a report on exactly what was said on it. Just think – this thing that cost about $20-$30 per day to call? You were able to read all of that on my website for free.
The other thing I did was cover independent wrestling news. Everyone covered WWF, WCW and ECW. Along with them, I gave a strong focus on the hundreds of smaller, independent groups around the country. IPW, UIWA, NDW and various other random initials you can cram together that also have a “W” in there.
With these two things I was able to launch the “Pro Wrestling News Wire” and became a regular among the top websites in the Hitbox.
I also learned link building that way too. I could keep my news exclusive to my own newsboard, or I could write for other newsboards a condensed version, inviting people to come visit my own site for the full recap etc. I also learned clickbait back then too. Rather than just “visit my own newsboard” it would be “Which wrestler got involved in a bar fight that required a visit to the hospital last night? CLICK TO SEE”
I also got into e-mail marketing through this. I started a wrestling newsletter called “The Kilt Report”. There was already wrestling e-newsletters out there such as the Bagpipe Report and the Sharpshooter Newsletter (Ran by the current Podcast King Conrad Thompson). So again it was about providing a resource in a competitive field. I ended up focusing solely on independent wrestling again.
One of my favourite forms of marketing is letting people do the work for you. Sort of like this magazine and article for example. I’m doing this work for John, and yet I will end up providing him free marketing by sharing it on social media etc due to my article being in it. I’d do the same with my newsletter. I’d interview independent wrestlers who were desperate for any sort of media attention, then they would end up printing out my newsletter, sharing it with others in the locker room and their friends and family, getting me even more signups and new contacts.
I should note that all of the above? I wasn’t making any money from it. That wasn’t what it was about. It was something I simply did because I enjoyed it. However I learned so much over that course of time in regards to getting traffic etc that would set me well going forward. To be honest, I completely fell into the whole “making money” concept by sheer luck.
That’s not to say I didn’t try previously. I burnt out from the wrestling websites and moved on. I built a website called “The Lost Warehouse” which featured games that were classed as “abandonware”. Basically old video games. There was a lot of demand for something like that and again I built the traffic, getting about 30,000-50,000 visitors per day eventually.
I must admit I did some sneaky tactics back then. If there was a popular game people would want I’d tell them we needed x amount of clicks on an ad banner to add it to the site. However that taught me about incentive marketing, which is how I ended up doing internet marketing for a living.
I’ve been doing internet marketing for an actual living since about 2002, and everything I learned while doing this for free for all those years combined perfectly.
I discovered the world of online poker. This was pre-UIEGA, this was in the days of $350 CPA deals no questions asked etc. This was the grass roots movement. Chris Moneymaker had just won the WSOP. I started playing poker religiously and absolutely loved it. I had dreams of becoming a professional poker player one day.
However I was broke as shit. A combination of large debts due to a forced strike at work, a new baby and an upcoming wedding as well as various other issues meant I wasn’t able to afford $10,000 to enter the WSOP main event. However online poker rooms would offer deposit bonuses and back then they were very easy to clear. Sign up at Party Poker, deposit $100, get a $100 bonus, and it’s cleared after you play just 500 hands.
So I came up with the idea of going from poker room to poker room and clearing the bonuses. The best thing? You could do it from scratch. Like I said I had no money so I was able to get a free $10 from a couple of sites(like Royal Vegas Poker), then work that up and jump from poker room to poker room, clearing their bonus. In just a week I was able to turn that initial $10 into $1500.
At the time, I was involved in a very popular online poker community (Poker in the Rear at the Something Awful Forums). A lot of people there were in the same boat as me – wanting to get started in online poker but wary of taking the plunge, or investing money into the scary world of the internet. So I decided to create a “bankroll building guide” from my own experiences to help everyone out. I put a lot of work into it with different tiers like “If starting from $0” and “if starting with $100” etc and providing a thorough step by step guide as to how to build your poker bankroll purely from deposit bonuses.
I was doing this purely as a resource for my friends and fellow poker community members. That was it. However while I was working on this guide, I happened to notice a link at the bottom of the PokerNow.com webpage about getting paid to refer people.
I clicked on that and that’s when my eyes were opened to the world of affiliate marketing. Getting paid money to refer people to poker rooms? Hell I was going to do it for free!
Of course at the time I didn’t think this was how my life was going to turn out – as an affiliate/internet marketer. I just saw a way to help build other peoples bankrolls that much quicker. I also wanted to motivate them. So each poker room they signed up at and cleared the bonus under me, I would give them $20. Then if they signed up under me at 5 poker rooms, I’d give them a $50 bonus. All while making 2-5x that depending on the poker room in net profit.
This sort of incentive marketing may seem common place in 2019 but back in the early 2000s it was unheard of. And the people would do the work for me; they’d come to me with poker rooms they were discovering with a deposit bonus, and I’d sign up with them then give the players cash back. Then I branched out to casinos as well – sending people to casinos like InterCasino and Casino-On-Net that had +EV deposit bonuses, and reaping the CPA awards.
It was around this time that I started offering rakeback – something else which wasn’t even a thing back then. I’m not saying I am the innovator of rakeback or anything, but if sites like RakeTheRake were around then no-one had really heard of them. It was still a very unique concept.
Someone came to me asking for a cash back bonus at Sporting Bet. Sporting Bet didn’t offer CPA. All they offered was 30% revenue share. I thought about it and realized that with individual reports showing each players username, I could give them a portion of that revenue back – or give them their “rake back”. From there I ended up getting deep into that game and for the next decade I was an affiliate marketer focused on both cash back bonuses and rakeback.
One important thing however is to always grow – both as a person and an affiliate. I’d been through a lot as an online poker affiliate from the UIEGA to Black Friday. I know many affiliates who went through the same thing and now they are doing things outside the internet as they just couldn’t see the writing on the wall. Some of them are success stories, some aren’t. However you always need to learn to grow as an affiliate, take risks and branch out.
I talk to a lot of new affiliates or potential new affiliates or internet marketers and so many of them just “don’t know where to start”. Sometimes you just have to throw yourself into the deep end, and learn as you go. That’s what I did. There was no content management systems. No SEO Plugins. No search consoles. No SEO courses. No websites dedicated to search engine optimization. I just had to figure it out as I went. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the best way to learn anything. By simply doing it and learning as you go.
I still run gambling websites, although most of my ventures are outside of the world of gambling. And when I do launch new projects, I’m always looking at doing one thing: providing a valuable resource. One recent website I created for example is https://www.WhereToBet.net which is a website dedicated to telling people where to bet on various online sports.
I came up with that website one day while analyzing keywords and searches. I saw so many people searching “Where To Bet UFC 200” and “Where To Bet WWE” and “Where To Bet NHL Player Props”. Yet when I looked at the results, I realized these searches were fruitless. There were thousands of people searching for where to bet a particular sport or sporting event and the results were poor. Thin affiliate sites or random online sportsbooks topping the list.
There was no legitimate valuable resource that would tell them where to place those bets.
And I felt it was time to change that.