Branding, SEO, content and diversification—it’s all in a day’s work for Nik Zugic, administrator of Latest Casino Bonuses.

In the latest of our series of CAP video interviews installments, Nik Zugic discusses a range of topics that are important to affiliates. From the significance of a strong brand to the reasons why expansion and diversification are crucial in today’s online gaming industry, Nik explains how LatestCasinoBonuses has grown into a site with millions of page views per month.

In his conversation with Warren Jolly, the affiliate experts cover everything from the legalization of online gaming in the US and resources that affiliates can use to boost SEO ranking. It’s knowledge like this that has turned Latest Casino Bonuses into a leading franchise of gaming websites.

About Nikola Zugic

Nikola Zugic is the Administrator for Latest Casino Bonuses and resides in Belgrade, Serbia. Nik started as an online bonus hunter for blackjack and has been part of the LCB team since its conception four years ago. With his help, the LCB forum has grown into one of the biggest casino forums with over 41,000 members. 


Raw Transcript

Intro: Before we get started I’d like to introduce you to our sponsor,
Pafpartners. Pafpartners started with online gambling services in 1999
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Warren: Hey guys, I’m Warren Jolly with CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com. You’re
watching another one of our video interviews where we profile
some of the most influential people in the iGaming affiliate
industry. Today, we’re going to be speaking to Nik Zugic, the
administrator of LatestCasinoBonuses.com, one of the largest
casino affiliates and portals online today with over half a
million monthly unique visitors. Nik is in charge of anything and
everything related to the network of sites. Our topic today is
going to focus on expansion and how an affiliate takes a
business to the next few levels in terms of traffic and revenue.
Nic, it’s good to have you. Thanks for your time.

Nik: Hi, Warren. Nice to be here.

Warren: Let’s take and tell our audience a little bit about yourself
and what got you into the online casino affiliate space?

Nik: Yeah, sure. Do you want a long story or short?

Warren: Let’s do medium.

Nik: Long story short then.

Warren: All right.

Nik: I was born in Montenegro, a little coastal town called Kotor, but I
lived all my life in Belgrade, Serbia. That’s Serbia not
suburbia, Siberia but Serbia.

Warren: That’s for us Americans!

Nik: For the rest of the world I would say. Back in 2006, I was still
doing school. I was actually a law student, and I was supposed
to work with my dad. My dad is a lawyer so it was supposed to be
a family business once I graduated and passed the bar exam. But
it wasn’t for me; you had to study, right? So I decided to quit
school and try something else. Back then poker was starting to
be televised in Serbia so I said, “This is interesting.” So I
decided to become a poker player and started searching online
for some tips how to play the game only to find out that it was
tough.

By accident I ran into this casino blog that was advising
players how to play blackjack online, playing blackjack bonuses;
basically you make a deposit, take the bonus, wager it and cash
out. It was a classic bonus hunter strategy, which was doable
back then in 2006, because the wagering requirements for
blackjack were pretty low. I was like, “Okay, I’m going to give
it a go.” I had like a hundred bucks on my credit card that I
got for my birthday. If I lose money, no harm done; it’s only a
hundred bucks, right? And I never lost. My first profits were
only ten bucks or so. I feel it helped, but I was happy because
it was actually working.

It was like a revelation to me: you can make some money. I
actually made some pretty decent money for a university dropout
in a year’s time. My monthly average was two or three times more
than an average Serbian wage back then, which was pretty good
money, for me anyways. I was constantly searching for good
bonuses and that’s how I found LatestCasinoBonuses, which was
just emerging just then. LCB was founded back in December 2006,
I believe. Obviously I finally found LCB by searching for “best
blackjack bonuses,” and LCB was ranking in the top three.

I found a website and immediately fell in love. It had a small
forum back then; only five, six, seven people online so I
started posting, sharing my experience, tips. At one point,
Josh, who was the founder of LCB by the way, sent me a private
message and said, “Man, do you want to work for me and be a
moderator?” I was like, “Hell, yeah.” I actually started working
for him and was working free for a month. Yeah, those beginnings
are fine. Josh was doing all the SEO and other stuff behind the
scenes and I was in charge in forums and everything you can
basically see on the front end. Slowly, we have built one of the
biggest casino-related websites and biggest forums. We currently
have almost 42,000 members, so it’s pretty big. It took us a
while but . . .

Warren: Okay. Where is Josh based?

Nik: Josh is based in Sydney, Australia, but we have people all over the
place. In South Africa, in Chicago, in UK, in Serbia.

Warren: How many people total work on the business?

Nik: I would say we 16 full time employees and probably five or six part
time.

Warren: So between part time and full time about 20. Just real briefly,
what do those people do? What’s the makeup of the staff?
Obviously, SEO but what else does the staff do?

Nik: We have a few [content] writers. We have a bunch of moderators, which
is very important, because a big side of our business is forums,
so you must have quality people who are going to run the forums.
We have developers, designers, SEO experts the list goes on and
on.

Warren: Great. Thank you for all that background. I think it’s very
helpful. One of the key topics we wanted to chat with you about
today is expansion since I know that’s a core focus at
LatestCasinoBonuses. What areas and markets are you expanding
into and what outcomes do you expect from this expansion?

Nik: Well, we obviously started as a casino affiliate, and I think almost
three years ago we decided to expand into other markets like
poker, bingo, sports betting. Back then we only had dedicated
sections for each of those markets. We said, “Why not try and
expand build separate websites and target some of those
players?” We decided to build a little franchise; we built
LatestBingoBonuses, LatestPokerBonuses and
LatestSportsBonuses.com.

All the websites are built that way to feed each other with
traffic. Obviously, LBC is the biggest. We’re doing SEO for each
website separately so each website is referring additional
traffic to other websites so it’s just feeding each other. It’s
very tough to make a breakthrough in poker and sports betting
because it’s a very competitive market. We have some success
there as well but in bingo we are really doing well and it has
such potential especially in the UK. It’s a massive market. I
would actually recommend anyone who is interested in becoming a
bingo affiliate and target the UK, definitely.

Warren: Isn’t the UK quite saturated at the moment with bingo or do you
still think there’s room for growth?

Nik: It’s very tough to get into that market definitely but with the right
SEO it’s doable.

Warren: So you’re saying the player values in the UK for bingo . . .

Nik: It’s by far the best.

Warren: They make the investment in content and effort to get ranked
worthwhile because the player values are larger?

Nik: In the long run, definitely. If you want to make money in a few
months, it isn’t going to happen. In a year or two years time,
definitely doable.

Warren: What’s your opinion on South America for bingo? Do you think
that’s an upcoming market?

Nik: South America, right?

Warren: Argentina, Brazil.

Nik: It has potential because Spanish is the second biggest language in
the world, so it’s definitely worth making a sub domain for
Spanish page or website targeting obviously Spain and Latin
America and South America. It has potential. We don’t get as
much traffic from South America, but it’s something we are
definitely interested in doing.

Warren: Obviously, you’re moving into bingo and sports. What about
geographical regions? You mentioned UK. Are there any other
countries that you’re not in today that you’re looking at
targeting?

Nik: We’re also targeting globally. From the get go we had traffic all
over the place. Obviously the U.S. was and still is a strong
base. We always had a strong EU base, Australian base and
Canadian as well. It’s just a matter of doing more SEO and
pushing and trying to get more traffic from those markets, just
expanding. It’s something that’s not too difficult to do
actually, I would say, if you know what you’re doing definitely.

Warren: It’s a duplicatable strategy if you know what you’re doing.

Nik: Yeah.

Warren: Yeah, I understand. How many sites are currently in the network
and what is the strategy with these moving forward? I know
LatestCasinoBonuses.com is the main one but how many others are
there?

Nik: Obviously, LatestPokerBonuses, LatestBingo and SportsBonuses that’s
our four main websites. We have a bunch of other websites. We
just recently acquired bingo-revere.com and we bought it because
of the UK traffic. We have several other smaller websites and
probably hundreds of really small websites that we mostly use
for link building and other stuff. I would have to say four
major websites in our network and then a few more medium ones.

Warren: Are you going to be looking at acquiring any other sites?

Nik: Definitely. We are always looking into buying new websites. Always.
If the price is right. I think now is the time to buy websites
because the business is suffering so we can get a better price.
It’s much cheaper to buy a website now.

Warren: Sure, I agree. Tell us about your traffic. How much traffic
does the LatestCasinoBonuses receive and from which countries?

Nik: Currently, alone for LCB we have 520,000 visitors a month.

Warren: That’s unique visitors?

Nik: No, that’s total. We have almost 45% unique.

Warren: How about page views?

Nik: It’s millions a month.

Warren: It’s millions of pages a month?

Nik: Yeah.

Warren: Wow. It’s quite impressive.

Nik: It is. It is. We have probably 26,000 pages just for LCB.

Warren: Pages of content?

Nik: Of content, yeah. Obviously, forum is a big part of it but just alone
we have probably over 500 casino reviews so it is a massive
website. If you look at our whole network, I would say we have
over 600,000 visitors.

Warren: One of the things that I’ve noticed personally about
LatestCasinoBonuses is the information architecture, the way the
site has been architected in terms of content, how things are
laid out. Who was responsible for that and what was the
methodology you used if you wouldn’t mind sharing?

Nik: We pretty much had everything. LCB first started I would say as a
bonus comparison website. We wanted to list all casinos and all
bonuses. That’s how we started. Then we started improving and
adding new sections: free slots games, casino banking, cash
backs. You name it we had it. Video reviews of casinos, etc.,
etc., etc. We have people who are regularly and manually
uploading new and fresh content, as well as keeping the site up-
to-date as far as the bonuses, screenshots, banking methods,
languages. Whatever casinos have to offer, we have it on our
website. We don’t look for information at other affiliate
websites. We go directly to the source for the casino, poker or
whatever, search their website, and then put the information on
our website. So it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort
obviously, but we have people who are skillful and know what
they’re doing so in a way it’s not that difficult to have all
that information listed.

Warren: In the beginning you listed every casino and every bonus even
if you didn’t have an affiliate deal with them you still listed
them just to have the value of the content there?

Nik: No, no, no. We always list casinos that we are affiliates with.

Warren: Okay. How about marketing methods? I know SEO is a major one
from my conversations with Josh, but what else is utilized to
drive traffic to LCB?

Nik: SEO definitely. We do a bit of PPC but that’s insignificant.

Warren: It’s primarily, you would say, 90% plus SEO?

Nik: Definitely. I have three words for the viewers: SEO, SEO, SEO. And
content, content, content. You have to surround yourself with
quality people who know what they’re doing and you have to do
your research definitely and see what other websites are doing
and try to improve it on your own website.

Warren: Let’s talk about people really briefly. How do you find quality
people? As an affiliate, again, you’re in Serbia; you have
people all over the world. How do you find these people that are
actually motivated, that know what they’re doing and keep them
incentivized?

Nik: I would have to say it’s a trial and error. We had a bunch of people
in our team that just weren’t meant to do this job so it is
tricky in a way. Most of the guys that are now working for us
they’ve been here for like two, three years now. Some of the
people, some of the moderators actually, were recruited from our
forum. They were good posters. We had certain competitions for
new moderators and stuff so people would apply and we would just
do tests for a couple of weeks or a month and see if they
perform or not. Basically, you weed out all the, I wouldn’t say
“incompetent” people but people who just are not meant to do
this.

Warren: Sure. So your moderators are paid as well on forums?

Nik: Everyone is paid.

Warren: Very good. Obviously, with the site you’re targeting primarily
bonus hunters. One can only assume you consciously decided to
focus on quantity versus quality of playing by going after
players who are again just looking for bonuses. Do you feel this
is still the best move going forward for the business?

Nik: I wouldn’t agree with you 100%. Back when we first started, yes we
were, I would say, targeting bonus hunters. Obviously, with
blackjack bonuses and deposit bonuses. It’s still a big part of
our traffic: no deposit, free bonuses, free slots and similar
keywords. We definitely have much, much more to offer. We have
so many sections, whether it’s for high roller bonuses, whether
for just slot bonuses, cash backs, etc., etc. Yes, we are
getting quantity of players definitely, but for that quantity,
we get quality definitely. For instance on a single promotion
that we run for a month with a certain casino we can get over
100 new real money depositors and they’re just for a month or a
single promotion. We are famous and known by the exclusive no
deposit bonuses and that’s I would say our trademark. It’s not
something that we have invented, but we took it to another
level.

Warren: It sounds like you’ve broadened your offering so much that it
compensates for whatever lower value players that might come
just for bonuses. Is that what you’re saying?

Nik: In a way, yeah.

Warren: That makes sense.

Nik: Like I said, we target high rollers, and we have a tournament
section, jackpot finder section, etc. so we’re getting all sorts
of traffic. It’s not just low quality traffic.

Warren: Can you tell us what is the value of a player looking for
bonuses? Just a bonus hunter. If you had to say, “I think that
player value is X,” what would you guess it to be?

Nik: That’s a tough one.

Warren: Just a rough estimate. I think a lot of affiliates enter the
space via this no deposit bonus channel so what would be your
estimate?

Nik: I can tell you about conversions. We get from 3% to 18% conversion on
a no deposit bonus so it can be really high at times. It can be
3%, which is really low, but it can be up to 18%.

Warren: Average is maybe 10%?

Nik: I would say.

Warren: Okay. I think that’s helpful. In another previous interview we
did we talked with another publisher about the importance of
building a strong brand. Obviously, LatestCasinoBonuses has a
strong brand. What can affiliates do to build a strong brand in
the industry?

Nik: That’s a tough one. Obviously, it didn’t happen overnight for us. It
took us a lot of time to get where we are now, and it’s still an
ongoing process. You have to expand; you have to build your
website; you have to follow the trends because the moment you
stop, you’re just going to go under. In a way it’s tougher to
stay on the top than get to the top.

What we do, and what we did to make LCB become a brand was . . .
it’s a tricky one. When we first started, we wanted to do a nice
and clean design with a nice mascot and logo. For instance, if
you take any big companies, like Coca Cola, they have obvious
strong brands and they have their logos and everyone knows what
Coca Cola looks like, right?

So we did focus on that and web design as well. Something that
people will notice us by; when they see our mascot or logo they
know that we’re LCB. What we did was try to make a lot of
exclusive promotions to people who are going to come to our
website instead of to some other website. Now, LCB is known for
offering an abundance of exclusive bonuses. That’s also part of
our brand. We have recently introduced Site of the Month Award
that we award to a few selected casinos each month. We’re going
to do it on a yearly basis as well, so that’s also going to help
our branding. It’s not just one thing; it’s a quantity of things
and it’s a really long process.

Warren: To summarize, I think having a really good user interface, user
experience, web design is important. We agree with that
obviously. Also a unique sales proposition, something different,
something unique that users can’t get elsewhere.

Nik: Definitely. All new affiliates have to set their goals and then start
on a small scale and slowly build up their websites and try to
expand, target new keywords, add new sections to their website.
They should make one main objective for their website that’s
going to be their brand basically.

Warren: Yeah, I agree. We touched a little bit earlier on international
markets and diversification there. What are the three most
important things to incorporate into one’s affiliate strategy to
be successful in other markets outside of the primary one you’re
in? An affiliate that’s U.S. focused wanted to move to the EU,
besides the standard things like translating their content, what
are the critical things that need to happen?

Nik: I would say SEO. It all comes down to SEO, right?

Warren: How do you SEO internationally?

Nik: Link building. That’s what I would say is the key. We are doing some
translations as well. We are currently doing German translations
because we are getting a lot of traffic from Germany, and so we
want to get more traffic from Germany by offering German
versions of our websites. You have to do SEO and link building
so get links. If you want to get some traffic from the UK, get
some link building, some sites that have good PR or good back
links in the UK with a quality content as well. You can try
building your own network of websites, but that’s very
expensive, and it’s going to take you a while to achieve
something with your network. I would say just do a lot of link
building. If you want to target the UK, get some links with UK
domains. If you want to target Germany, get some German
websites, exchange links. That’s the bottom line is link
building.

Warren: Okay. Obviously as a large affiliate with a big U.S. presence,
what are your thoughts on the future of the U.S. market? Are you
betting on it becoming regulated soon or is it closed forever?

Nik: No, it’s not closed. I think things are going to get worse before
they get better definitely. After Black Friday, it’s obvious
that a lot of affiliates who had mostly U.S. traffic went under.
They should definitely try to get some traffic from other
markets, from other areas. But I wouldn’t neglect that U.S.
traffic because it will happen. The regulation is going to
happen I hope sooner rather than later because the U.S. is
losing so much money and has been losing so much money since
2006. It’s obvious that any prohibition in America and America’s
past didn’t get any results because people simply love to
gamble, and they will find a way to gamble. Casinos and
operators will find a way to offer US players a way to gamble.
It would be only a logical move for the U.S. government to
regulate it, to offer licensing, and it will also help the
industry because it will weed out all the shady operations that
we have. It will help to build up trust between players and
casinos, between affiliates and casinos. I see it happening. I’m
not sure when. I’m hoping in the next couple of years.

Warren: Do you believe that the U.S. will license the Vegas, MGM’s and
Wynn’s of the world first?

Nik: I think so. Probably.

Warren: It’s pretty logical I think.

Nik: It is.

Warren: A lot of affiliates I talk to, especially some very big ones
that are U.S. facing, their concerns are that the business model
is going to move to 5% revenue share or $25 CPA.

Nik: I heard that.

Warren: Do you believe that will be the case?

Nik: I don’t agree. I’m sure that revenue, the model for commissions is
definitely going to be different. I think there’s going to be a
lot of paid medias. I don’t think any casino would be able to
offer 45% revenue share. It’s going to be more like 25%, 30%
tops. But it’s still good because it’s going to be regulated,
and You’ll have everyone gambling so it will compensate. If
you’re getting 45% now and you’re going to get 25%, but you’re
going to get more players, you’re going to get more money.

Warren: Yeah. 45% of a hundred players is still less than 25% of a
1,000 players.

Nik: Exactly. I think it’s not going to be 5% but more like 20%, 25%.

Warren: Okay. Good.

Nik: That’s my opinion.

Warren: This will be our last question. What resources have you used to
learn and expand your skills as a professional internet
marketer? What sites, what tools, what things do you use on a
regular basis?

Nik: That’s the funny thing about me. I’m self-taught, and I just do a lot
of research. Ever since I got involved in this industry, five
years ago, it was all about doing the research, checking out
other websites, how they do things, and it was simply something
that came naturally to me. Obviously, I’m pretty good at what I
do, and I found myself in this online marketing and I think . .
. I don’t know. It just came naturally to me I guess.

Warren: But when you’re doing your research you have to be going to
some . . . whether it’s SEOmoz or it’s . . .

Nik: Definitely. SEOmoz is one of the things I use a lot.

Warren: Okay. Any others that you can think of along those lines? We
don’t want to know your secrets we just want to know the general
stuff.

Nik: SEO Rank Monitor I use a lot. What else? Those two.

Warren: What about for design for the site? Do you look at sites like
Smashing Magazine?

Nik: I don’t because we have people who are in charge of design. Everyone
is, I wouldn’t say in charge but we separate our workload so
everyone knows . . .

Warren: Delegation.

Nik: Delegation, definitely.

Warren: Okay. That’s helpful. Nic, I’m going to wrap things up. Thanks
again for your time. It was great to have you and we appreciate
all the insight. I know you gave some tidbits that were very
useful. If anyone is interested in contacting Nik at the end of
the interview, please send an email to
interviews@CasinoAffiliatePrograms.com, and we’ll be more than happy
to put you in touch, especially if you have bingo sites that are
UK facing for sale. It sounds like they’re very interested in
hearing from you.

Nik: Any sites.

Warren: Any sites. Okay. Thanks for watching and stay tuned for future
interviews with iGaming industry leaders.

Nik: Cheers, mate. Thanks for having me.

 


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