Carlo Marafioti, Co-founder of Infadawork OÜ, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Carlo Marafioti, speaks about their portfolio, including MachineSlotOnline.it and slots-777.com, about SEO and how to ensure high rankings – follow his story below.
How did your affiliate business take off?
My business partner and I were already working in the industry. I was focused on operations, whilst Michael was onto lead generation and affiliation. We connected through a friend in common and it just seemed very natural to start a business venture together. We understood opportunities arising from licensed casinos offer in Italy, starting back in July 2011, so we launched MachineSlotOnline.it. That was the right time to launch our first site, so far it has been a heck of a journey, 11 years counting and 4 sites in our portfolio. Also worth of note we launched our international site in 2014, slots-777.com.
What sets you apart from other affiliates? What makes your sites unique?
A lot has changed since our first website, just to say, mobile traffic was non-existent back then. Most affiliates started small, many with little budget, learning how to be a developer and a content creator at the same time. It wasn’t necessary to have big overheads to start generating valuable leads. However, only the ones who adapted and embraced the change over the last decade have thrived. We have seen many fellow affiliates falling short of leads when things changed. It ought to be resilient to overcome negative spells, as these can take place also in successful business ventures.
In 2022, Business has to come together with operations and technology. Nowadays UX has changed, so UI has to follow. Our industry looks like mobile gaming and is evolving towards social gaming. Probably our best features are resumed by the word’s adaptation, research, understanding and fine tuning.
What importance do you give to SEO?
There has been a time where SEO was important, but not as crucial as today. We were not facing fierce competition from the very same casinos we partner with. We had many leverages for getting qualified traffic. Over the last 5 years, SEO has become exponentially challenging, options are limited. It’s therefore an area which requires daily attention in order to achieve those results our partners expect from us. I would definitely say it’s extremely important, and without a proper SEO team, an affiliate business doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
How do you ensure high search engine rankings?
Focusing on quality in every single aspect is what really matters. I would rather say it’s a puzzle, where each piece has to fall in the right place. Content is key, as it has always been. What really changed is how engagement influences rankings, it’s literally users who define success or failure. There is no set formula, it’s important to intercept what they really want and shape your site accordingly.
What helps make your performance successful?
Maintaining a steady approach made of good analytics, well-thought strategies, and top-notch operations. Evaluating feedback and starting over again. It might seem obvious, but I can reassure you it’s especially difficult aligning priorities and what to focus on next. It’s such a hectic business that if you look away for a few months, you might lose ground easily.
A key factor is how you see your users. Providing valuable content to them, providing a service and letting them choose how they want to interact with your site without interference. Avoiding thinking of them like cash cows is a big leap forward, in the end it must be their choice if and when they want to play for real money. Pushy pop-ups can only make them leave and never come back on your site.
What incremental value do you provide?
We have always been looking for long-term partners, generating a mutual benefit which could last for years. You can’t do that focusing on predatory campaigns or being eager to make a quick buck. Understanding the right offer for your users, based on conversion rates and retention rates, is what keeps your value increasing over time. On our side we strive to send the best quality customers to the very best casino providers, where they can enjoy the best range of slots, and get to grab the best promotions according to their profile.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We own 3 websites on the Italian market and 1 international site ranking in the US, UK, CA, AU, and NZ. At the moment we can still define United States as an emerging market, as only 4 states have so far legalised online gambling. At some point, a few years ago, we were expecting this to broaden at a federal level much quicker. Canada is interesting and is on the verge of legalising, but again, it might follow the same model as the US. So far only Ontario seems to be moving forward with concrete steps.
Looking at LatAm, we believe Brazil can be an exciting opportunity. We already have prepared the ground in São Paulo and waiting for final legal details from Brazilian Government before setting off. Mexico, Colombia, and Chile have been on the list of emerging markets for the last 10 years, but for one reason or another don’t really seem to have picked up enough pace to justify investments from an affiliation point of view.
What importance do you give to responsible gaming?
Players need to understand how playing with real money is fun and exciting, but requires some caution in order to remain just entertainment and not causing financial troubles. We have been creating content on how to set your own pace, and there is no such “one size fits all” gambling. Therefore, managing player bankroll is something affiliates should vouch for by default, along with maintaining an objective posture and not incentivising reckless bets. We must recognise a lot of progress has been achieved in this specific area, also with the help of legal regulation about the “wrong way” to promote gambling. We also recognise how casino partners are strict about compliance and vetting affiliate content, increasing industry safety overall.
Can you foresee any growth for the affiliate business industry?
In my view we have already peaked out, and the market is entering a stage in which we will see an uptrend in mergers and acquisitions. I don’t see much space for new players in the market, as I do expect a consolidation like the one that has been happening for the last 20 years in the automotive sector. With time, investment requirements to remain competitive are increasing, and large media groups with big capital expenditure will always have the upper hand.
I don’t want to sound pessimistic, but I think challenging times are ahead. We can’t pretend to ignore that economic outlook is quicky worsening around the world, and we are going through a rapid increase in cost for the average household as it has not been the case for the last 40 years. In the entertainment industry, we recently saw Netflix losing subscriptions for the first time in 10 years, and I believe a reduction of disposable income will inevitably affect the gaming industry. If this will be a temporary shock or something more persistent in time depends also on how the Ukrainian conflict evolves. Even if it’s not what I hope for, I do think Pandemic and War can reshape priorities and the future of this industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a very curious person; I like to read a lot and learn a bit about everything. I can be very assertive at times, and not afraid of constructive criticism. I’ve always been attracted by the financial services industry, in 2007 I got qualified as a Security Broker in the UK. I never worked in the industry though as life chose a different path for my career. I like to exercise daily, keeping a training routine boosts mental and physical health. “Fortune favours the bold” is definitely my favourite quote.
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