Reza Shojaei, Founder of Value Marketing, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Reza Shojaei and the rest of the team of Value Marketing have a main mission – that to have happy readers and be the best independent editorial company in the iGaming industry. Before recommending the brand to their readers, Value Marketing’s researchers and writers play with that brand and do all the stringent checks – follow his story below.
How did you first get into the affiliate space? What made you take this decision? Were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I started my career in the early 2000s in the print media industry as a project manager and then later as an editor-in-chief. My role allowed me to witness first-hand how magazines used print format to convey short news, although there weren’t any significant changes in terms of the design and visual aspects. I then realised that there’s a missing component and this is why I believe design and consuming information goes hand in hand.
As a result, I had an aim on changing the old traditional magazine publications to focus more on feature articles as opposed to short news. And what I can say is, during that time most publications didn’t look at the internet as a big competitor.
This spurred me on to create two top B2B magazines, Fremtidens Byggenæring, and Samferdsel & Infrastruktur, both of which are testaments in terms of new age design products. At the time, most of our competitors weren’t focused on the design elements in their publications, and mostly had text to convey their messages to an audience thirsty for visual stimulation.
Thereafter, we took the best of our B2C magazines and implemented the same logic into our publications by using crisp imagery, slick design concepts, and feature content. Since we were big on design, we looked at the bigger picture than just merely covering the news in plain text. As the internet age became more commonplace for the average user, we noticed that readers with varied demographics started to consume a lot of information online in terms of short news. This is how we were able to captivate our audiences on a greater level with the inclusion of design elements, and as a result, our publications grew every day. Today, we are proud to say that each magazine is the biggest in Norway to this day.
Apart from design, my number one passion has always been content and it remains that way in the current. On the iGaming industry side of things, my undying passion, besides working as an editor, has always been the love of poker, casinos, and online casinos. This is why it wasn’t hard to take the step to start CasinoTopp.net, which grew to be the biggest online casino site in Norway just one year after being launched.
For us, the most important factor to succeed is that we focus on our readers, and our content is the king in combination with the design factor. Like all our sites, we’d like our readers to know which company is behind the site and we’re not shy to mention that. It is vitally important to be honest, especially on the internet, and I see a lot of casino affiliate sites that try to hide who they are, and this is something Google will not find trustworthy. In this sense, what we do is purely for our readers in the long term.
Tell us a bit more about your business model, concept, and culture.
We often encourage our employees to think more like business owners and not like employees. I often set goals for them to break, which in turn, increases their morale and of course, productivity. In the same breath, our culture is driven for the best of our readers and we all share the same passion. For several years, I have worked alongside journalists and I have written loads of content myself, which gives me insight into how to motivate our writers.
Further to this, our concept is to be as honest as possible for our readers sake, and this is why we put them in the centre of everything we do. This is much like how a lot of competitors will put the online casino in the centre to try to make them happy. For us though, our main mission is to have happy readers and be the best independent editorial company in the iGaming industry.
Tell us a bit more about your different products and sites.
We run CasinoTopp.net which focuses on 3 distinct GEOs: Norway, Sweden, and Germany. We also run Norges.Casino and our biggest site is CasinoTopp.com which caters to over 120 different markets and GEOs. Needless to say, CasinoTop.com is our main focus and we focus the majority of our time to make sure it’s absolutely stellar.
Which markets do you focus on and are you targeting any new markets? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
At the moment, we focus on a lot of different markets, namely: Norway, Canada, Japan, and Germany, to name a few. We see a lot of potential in the US market right now and thus, we aim to secure a license in the USA, which we are all very much looking forward to.
What sets you apart from other affiliates? What helps make your performance successful? What makes your traffic unique?
Well, I believe that we have invested a lot in the content and editorial side of things, and the fact that we are independent, should give us an edge. Apart from this, the majority of other affiliates sit on both sides of the fence by recommending their own casinos to unaware users. We close in on this gap by striving to be the best in operating independent editorial staff like any major news publications, and this is why our journalists are proud of their work and have nothing to hide or be ashamed of.
Do you create all the marketing material you need to promote in-house, or do you out-source it?
We have gone from focusing on freelancers to having almost all of the work done in-house. In the past, we outsourced some work before, but the culture we have in-house is fantastic and continues to grow.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
We’re focusing on the unique selling points and strengths, and that’s the content. After all, content is king, and this is why we make sure that our content is above par, giving our journalists and writers a sense of pride when looking how well their published work fares in a tough industry.
Which niches work best for your affiliate marketing, and which are the most profitable? How important is social media activity for your affiliate business? How difficult is it with Google’s constant updates?
In all honesty, we don’t focus much on Google updates. We believe that Google shares our vision to get the right answers and information to the right audience. This is why we want our readers to get the best answer to their questions and make sure our content and design stands out and that the quality is great. Apart from this, the fact that we run the sites like top major news editorial platforms also assists in us achieving our goals in creating trust.
A couple of questions about SEO: (1) How did SEO change in the last few years and what should one expect in the next year or two? (2) How can SEO experts innovate and remain ahead of the curve in such a fast-paced vertical?
- There is no magic to SEO, as long the site owners invest in truly great editorial content for the markets they operate in and do it better than their competitors, the sites will get a good ranking in the long term.
- I believe that SEO should be looked at as a long term objective and this is why SEO experts should also think about the users and work hand in hand with content writers and journalists to make sure that the quality of the site is tops in all aspects.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
I believe that passion and the right skills go hand in hand. This is what naturally motivates all of us to put our best foot forward. A major focus on great content and a team that can drive this to the next level is of utmost importance as well.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
We use the technology in all we do, if there is communication internally, meetings, or new technology that can help us or our readers consume information better, we always strive to be ahead of the rest. It makes everything flow smoothly.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2021 and beyond?
That’s really hard to say, I see some companies talk about AI and big data, but these talks aim to drive up their stock price in my opinion.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
In a digital age, it’s very important to think about the readers and not so much about Google and competitors. We have to always look at the bigger picture.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators? What can operators and affiliates increase support between themselves?
To be frank, this is tough and an area that needs attention in my opinion. I get loads of messages from new operators which just seem to grow by the day. This is why we work with a hand-picked few that we can work closely with and track. In addition, we have several steps to consider before we can take in new operators. Also, our researchers and writers will have to play at the selected casino and do all the stringent checks before we can recommend the brand to our readers.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas – which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?
Yes, I’ve had the pleasure to attend SiGMA when we started up and I would love to visit one of these events after COVID-19 is under tight control. The great thing to note here is that we have operations in all of SiGMA’s event markets, except for the USA. We are striving to obtain a license to all of the US states to kickstart the US market on CasinoTop.com
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
I’m a simple and easy going guy, and there’s not much to tell. My hobbies are walking my dog Bofflee and racing cars have always been something I have done for the last 15 years. I really don’t find time to read any books, but Who Moved My Cheese? bym Spencer Johnson was great to read. I think a lot of affiliates need to read this as it truly offers some great insights. Apart from this, I love to play poker in addition to being an avid casino and online casino player over the last 15 years.
Read more about SiGMA Affiliate Grand Slam here.