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How Izzy Nicholls’ Overland Truck Travel Blog Earns $7.5k+/Month Via SEO



How Izzy Nicholls' Overland Truck Travel Blog Earns $7.5k+/Month Via SEO

Izzy and Phil were living the good life in the UK, but they still felt something was missing. So they did what anyone would do: they sold their home and everything they owned, bought a motorhome and set off to travel Europe.

Although they originally planned on taking a “gap” year from their regular lives, the more they traveled, the happier they were. Izzy took it upon herself to document their adventures and The Gap Decaders was born.

Five years later and they’re still on the road, they’ve traveled Europe, Asia, and North Africa, they upgraded to an overland truck, and they completely changed their lives! They’re earning $7.5k+ per month and are living their dream.

Keep reading to find out:

  • Why they decided to start traveling
  • Why they decided to start a travel blog
  • How the blog did at first
  • How and why Izzy changed her strategy
  • How long it took to reach her target
  • Where their income comes from
  • Her top marketing strategy
  • Her thoughts on SEO
  • Her approach to keyword research and link building
  • How she creates content
  • Her favorite resources and tools
  • Her biggest challenge
  • Her greatest accomplishment
  • Her main mistake
  • The advice she would give other entrepreneurs

Meet Izzy and Phil

We met in the Falkland Islands over 20 years ago before moving back to the UK. Phil spent 25 years in the British Army and I worked as an Operations Director in healthcare. 

We had a shared interest in travel and property and renovated houses on the side whilst packing in as many holidays as possible. We found our forever home in 2012 and got married the same year.

Phil left the army and retrained as a building inspector and life was pretty good. We spent five years renovating our house, took regular luxury holidays, and didn’t worry about money. But, something was missing and we knew that we weren’t fulfilled.

We decided to sell our house (not so forever then!) and almost everything we owned to buy a motorhome and travel Europe for a couple of years. We knew we’d be able to walk back into jobs and thought we would use the equity from the sale to buy another house to renovate.

Five years later we’re still on the road, having graduated from a motorhome to an overland truck, started a successful business, and completely changed our lives!

Why They Created The Gap Decaders

About six months into our travels, in January 2019, I got bored. 

The weather changed, the days got shorter, and I needed something to occupy my brain. I was browsing the internet one day, looking for some information about where we were and I stumbled upon a few travel blogs. 

I had never used a travel blog as a method of research. In fact, I was not on any social media and very rarely looked at my phone, so the concept of sharing information via a blog was a new phenomenon to me.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought “I could do this!” I could write about motorhome life on a blog and it would be so amazing that millions of people would read it and I’d make a ton of money. Seriously, that’s what I thought and that’s how I sold it to Phil!

Around that time, a good friend came out to see us and over a beer laughingly called us “the gap decaders,” because by that point we knew we’d want longer than the typical gap year or two. 

The name stuck, but in hindsight, it’s probably not the best name for a blog, although at the time we felt it described us perfectly—and people don’t forget it!

And so I bought the domain (funnily enough it was available) and started a website on Wix. I was painfully aware of my lack of any technical knowledge, although I had worked in senior roles with oversight of many elements of managing a business, so had an idea about strategy, finances, and marketing.

After a few months, I realized that I needed a bit more input, so I signed up for Nomadic Matt’s Superstar Blogging course. I moved the site from Wix to WordPress and slowly started to understand the basics of my new job.

Moving across to WordPress was a whole new world of technical confusion! I had to find a host and start almost from scratch (with hindsight a great thing), but slowly, slowly I learned how the back end of WordPress works, and created my new site.

I spent way too much time worrying about how it looked, wanting every element of the visuals to be perfect. I dabbled with Elementor and various other page builders, then got hung up on speed. I tried several different themes, and each change required work to get the theme perfect.

But those millions of people didn’t materialize, and after a year, I still wasn’t making any money. 

What Happened When Covid Hit

Right around that time, the pandemic hit and I thought maybe my dream was at an end. We made it back to our bolthole in Spain just before lockdown, which we now know would keep us there for at least a year.

The house is off-grid in the mountains, with a bit of land, so whilst Phil was collecting water and firewood and tilling a veggie plot, I carried on working. To be honest, it was more because I knew I’d go stir-crazy if I didn’t keep myself occupied.

I stumbled upon Sharon Gourlay (Digital Nomad Wannabe) on Facebook and took her free SEO course, which was a game changer. 

From Nomadic Matt’s philosophy of “if you write it well, they will find it” (easy for him to say!) to Sharon’s much more aggressive, but more realistic, SEO strategies, I felt like I finally had a plan.

I moved to a simple theme—no page builders—and rebuilt the site from the ground up with an SEO-driven structure. 

I invested in a keyword research tool and rewrote everything, using an effective on and off-page SEO strategy, and did a mountain of keyword research. I added affiliate links wherever I could and pushed out 2 to 3 posts every week.

At that time, I was writing about all the stuff we’d seen and done on the road and our experience with motorhomes and as road trippers—things I’d previously not had time to focus on. I would say that for every month of travel, I gather enough content to keep me writing for at least two months, so I had a lot of content stacked up in my head!

Within a month, I could see growth, and within three months I had made £500, my original target. 

How Izzy Nicholls Overland Truck Travel Blog Earns 75kMonth Via

Ok, I thought, I’ll up that target to £5k a month and get myself into Mediavine, which I did within about 9 months. I’m sure lockdown helped me on the way, but I’ll take whatever I can get!

We made the decision to broaden the niche to include road trips, as the term motorhome is not really used outside the UK, which makes it difficult to rank in the US and Europe. 

A combination of that change, which opened up hundreds of keywords, together with pent-up demand after the pandemic and driving content creation helped us really take off. 

Within 18 months, I started a second website, Norfolk Travel Guide, which is about my home county in the UK. I took everything that had worked from The Gap Decaders and applied it from day one to my new site, which is now a whisper away from 50k sessions, the magic Mediavine number.

How Much They’re Making

In the last 12 months, both sites combined made just over £68k. It’s taken 4.5 years to get to this point. There are multiple revenue streams but, fundamentally, three headliners: ad revenue, affiliate revenue, and product sales (ebooks and itineraries).  

We occasionally do a bit of consultancy work and write bespoke itineraries, but I prefer not to do these as they’re a time suck and for the effort involved, I can earn way more elsewhere.

Phil also started a YouTube channel a year ago under The Gap Decaders brand, and that is slowly building, although the revenue per 1,000 YouTube watchers compared to 1,000 visitors to the website is small and the revenue takes much more work to achieve.

These are monthly earnings, averaged over the past 12 months. We tend to take a seasonal dip from late October to early February, when we see things start to pick up again.

Mediavine Ads 2997
Amazon Affiliates 388
Ezoic Ads 562
Digital Sales 837
Hotel Affiliates 408
Tour Affiliates 209
Ferry Affiliates 71
Insurance Affiliates 89
Tech Affiliates 91
Rental Car Affiliates 137
Kindle Publishing 88
YouTube Ads 179
Total 6055

As for traffic, in our best month of 2023 (so far) we got 158k sessions/199k page views. I anticipate at least a 20% increase on that in July and August.

1690309567 3 How Izzy Nicholls Overland Truck Travel Blog Earns 75kMonth Via
Growth chart over the last 12 months

For the first couple of years, we worked on our business 60 to 70 hours most weeks. Now it depends. If the weather is bad, we might do five days in a row, but if the sun is shining, it might be two!

Izzy’s Top Marketing Strategy

The only marketing strategy in my opinion is SEO. 

If you follow good SEO practice both on and off the page, conduct keyword gap research, and write detailed and long-form evergreen content which answers every question the reader might have, then you’re much more likely to see the post rank well and receive ongoing traffic.

Early on, I took a free training session with Ahrefs, and they talked about the traffic “spike of hope and the flatline of nope” that comes from pushing your content on social media without the backing of a solid SEO strategy, and it’s so true.

We see that with YouTube, where we share our truck life on a weekly basis, but this is not informational or transactional content which can be keyword researched, it’s our story. 

We have a spike of viewers every Sunday night which dies off until we have another spike the next week. That being said, it’s worth it from a brand perspective, and because YouTube can’t be faked, it gives you credibility in a marketplace that’s becoming saturated by AI.

The beauty of SEO-researched content is that it keeps on giving and the line becomes a steady stream of income, potentially evermore as long as you update regularly.

The Importance of SEO

It’s the number one most important thing, and I learned that the hard way!

I tend to work in clusters, so I’ll find a high search volume keyword that I can rank for and write about that as a hub post, then add spoke posts off that which may have a smaller search volume but help to support the main keyword. The hub and spoke method means all the posts interlink and create a structure for Google to understand.

I always try to find the nuggets no one else has mentioned and when I’m writing I’ll always be asking “why?” and “how?”. Why is x the best museum in x, why does x have a fascinating history, how do I get to x mountain pass, etc. 

In that way, the post becomes more informative and interesting for the reader, keeps them on the page longer, and tells Google you know more than your competitors.

Keyword Research

I use the KeySearch tool to find keywords I know I can write about. I look for high-volume/low-difficulty keywords, but they’re not always easy to find! 

It is possible to find clusters of low volume/low difficulty keywords and rank for many in the same post.

I check the competition and take a look at the top three posts currently ranking. I assess their DA and see whether I think I could outrank them. If I can, I go ahead and write the post.

Link Building

For The Gap Decaders, link building was incredibly important, but as the site has grown it has become slightly less so. We’re now so prominent in the motorhome-road trip niche that we attract natural links from high authority sites.

I’ve had success using Facebook groups to connect with other bloggers to swap links. We also have a couple of key posts which rank in the top spot in the UK about what we do and how we travel, and post-pandemic there’s been a lot of press interest. 

Media outlets have reached out and we’ve gained do-follow links through being featured by international and national news websites, like National Geographic and ITV News, and these super-high authority links really make a difference.

I’ve never tried cold emailing to create links as I just delete anything I receive like that and assume others do the same. 

With Norfolk Travel Guide, I’ve never sought nor swapped links. Because it’s such a niche site, it’s hard to find other bloggers to swap links with who are not direct competition, and links from other businesses in the region tend to come naturally.

Her Content Creation Process

The strategy is simple: content is king. I still try to publish at least once a week, but when most of your posts are 5k+ words, and you have two websites, that can be challenging.

I maintain a drafts list and I work on expanding my hub and spoke posts, usually writing about the highest search volume keyword, or keywords where I can score big with affiliate links, first.

I spend a couple of hours a week doing keyword research and adding to my drafts list. This might be about something that’s caught my eye online, in the press or on socials, or about where we’re traveling at the time.

1690309567 849 How Izzy Nicholls Overland Truck Travel Blog Earns 75kMonth Via

We might also divert somewhere so I can write about it. A couple of years ago we were traveling in Portugal and I was doing some research about the route, when I came across a fascinating place I wanted to visit, and when I keyword-researched it, it was huge! Needless to say, we went there! 

In terms of process, I write directly into WordPress, researching as I go. Once the words are done, I add images and then go through and add affiliate links. I often use a resource block which is repeated in every post, so there is some easy cut-and-paste stuff. 

I find it’s usually the affiliate links that take up the time, formatting the post so it’s on brand, adding internal links and resources information, as well as call to action blocks scattered through the post.

Her Email List

Our list is currently about 9k strong and we have an over 50% open rate with an average 15% clickthrough. 

I started with Mailchimp and moved across to Mailerlite when it became too expensive. Originally, I created lots of different sign-up forms and lead magnets, but now I used Mediavine’s GrowMe tools, which add spotlight subscribe to all my pages with no input from me at all.

That triggers an automated welcome email and I send a newsletter once a month.

Izzy’s Favorite Resources

I don’t much like social media for myself, but it’s been a fantastic learning tool for the business. I spent hours stalking the various blogging groups on Facebook, asking questions, and reading others’ views and I learned so much from that.

Phil is a much more visual person and has learned everything he knows about video editing and social media from YouTube.

If you want to take a course (and I think the two I did are no longer available) make sure it’s by a blogger who has multiple successful blogs, so you know their advice is tried and tested and they’ve not just got lucky.

Her Go-To Tools

My preferred tools are:

KeySearch: This is my go-to keyword research tool. There are lots of elements to this tool including, competitor analysis, keyword gap analysis, and keyword tracking.

Canva: This covers all the bases when creating social media posts, Pinterest pins, and YouTube thumbnails, and also provides stock images.

Google Sheets: I can track all the financial aspects of the business, giving me insights into seasonal trends, per user income, and the performance of each affiliate. This helps me plan in advance when I might offer discounts on my digital products, which affiliates are worth the effort, and what to write more of.

Her Biggest Challenge

This is definitely how to scale up. It’s still a challenge as I want to break £10k per month, but I know I need to really ramp up content creation to achieve that. 

I started 2023 with the goal of doubling my content output and tried hiring writers to support the aim, but it wasn’t a great success. I found I had to either re-write or edit heavily to get the standard of content I wanted.

So, scaling up remains a question and I’m not sure about the answer right now.

Her Most Important Accomplishment

That would be creating something of value from literally nothing, especially as I never considered myself an entrepreneur!

Working for ourselves has given us the freedom to keep traveling and has made our way of life sustainable. I’ve even been able to start paying into my pension again!

1690309567 153 How Izzy Nicholls Overland Truck Travel Blog Earns 75kMonth Via

What She Wishes She Knew When She Started

I wish I had known that it’s not easy and you’re never going to get rich quick. Nomadic Matt’s philosophy on the course was that you’ll succeed if you just keep going, because most others will give up, and I think that’s very true. 

Her Main Mistake

My mistake was trying to be like everyone else. Sure, it’s important to know your competition, but don’t try to be like them as you won’t be authentic. 

Instead, find your own voice, work out what you want to say, and carve your own path. You’ll be much happier for it.

Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs

Do something you love. I had no idea I would love all aspects of being a website owner, from the creative and writing side to the technical aspects and being my own boss. I feel like I’ve found my calling!

It’s only sustainable, and it needs to be because it can be really hard, if you have passion for what you do.

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John Thornhills Ambassador Program Review: Unleashing Digital Prosperity



In the realm of online marketing, the pursuit of high-ticket commissions has become a focal point for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Among the various programs available, the John Thornhills Ambassador Program stands out as a proven system that offers a pathway to substantial earnings. This comprehensive review will delve into the core components, benefits, and earning potential of Thornhill’s program. By the end, you will have a clear understanding of how this program can empower you to achieve digital prosperity.

Understanding the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

Designed by the seasoned digital product expert himself, John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program presents a unique opportunity to generate significant commissions. This high-end affiliate marketing initiative revolves around promoting Thornhill’s flagship programs, providing participants with the chance to earn up to $3,493 per high-ticket sale. Notably, the program also offers a 50% profit share from the sales generated by referrals, creating a two-pronged income source.

John Thornhills Ambassador Program Affiliate (credit: PR)
John Thornhills Ambassador Program Affiliate (credit: PR)

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Core Components of the Program

To fully comprehend the Ambassador Program, let’s dissect its three core components:

  1. High-Ticket Webinar Funnel: As an Ambassador, you gain access to a personalized high-ticket webinar funnel, allowing you to effectively promote Thornhill’s flagship programs.

  2. 50/50 Profit Share: Any sales generated by your referrals entitle you to a 50% profit share, further augmenting your income potential.

  3. Email List Building: Building and leveraging your email list, which you solely own, is a fundamental skill that you will acquire through this program. This skill will result in consistent monthly revenue.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Benefits of the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

The Ambassador Program offers several distinct advantages that set it apart from other online marketing programs:

  1. Earning Potential: With the Ambassador Program, your earning potential is substantial. Not only do you receive significant commissions from high-ticket sales, but you also benefit from the sales generated by your referrals, creating a dual revenue stream.

  2. Second-Tier Profits: The program provides an opportunity to earn second-tier profits through the success of your recruited ambassadors. This mutually beneficial arrangement enhances your overall income potential.

  3. Email List Building: Effective email list building is a critical aspect of online business. The Ambassador Program equips you with the skills to build and monetize your list effectively, ensuring consistent monthly revenue.

  4. Fast-Mover Bonuses: As a testament to Thornhill’s confidence in his program, he offers Fast-Mover Bonuses to those who take swift action. These bonuses typically include additional resources and tools that can jumpstart your affiliate marketing efforts.

  5. The Guarantee: Thornhill’s commitment to the success of his program is evident through his guarantee. If you don’t earn at least $2,000 within your first 60 days, he pledges to work with you until you do.

Success Stories

Numerous success stories from beginners to seasoned marketers exemplify the program’s effectiveness. These stories serve as a testament to the potential that the Ambassador Program unlocks, showcasing the real opportunities it offers. The program has empowered individuals to achieve their financial goals and build thriving online businesses.

Joining the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

Joining the Ambassador Program is a straightforward process. Once you sign up, you gain access to all essential resources, including the high-ticket webinar funnel, promotional materials, and comprehensive training modules. This all-inclusive package provides you with everything you need to start earning high-ticket commissions.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

A Deeper Look into The Ambassador Program

To truly maximize the benefits of the Ambassador Program, it is important to delve into its various aspects:

The Training

The program’s comprehensive training serves as the cornerstone of your success. It guides you through every step, from setting up your webinar funnel to driving traffic to your site, ensuring that you have the knowledge and tools necessary for success.

The Commission Model

The Ambassador Program employs a unique two-tiered commission model that allows you to earn from both your sales and the sales made by your recruited affiliates. This model enhances your income potential and provides additional revenue streams.

The Benefits of High-Ticket Commissions

Focusing on high-ticket items has the power to transform your income potential. Selling high-ticket items translates to higher commissions per sale, potentially catapulting your income to new heights.

 John Thornhills Ambassador Program Commission (credit: PR)
John Thornhills Ambassador Program Commission (credit: PR)

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Making the Most of The Ambassador Program

To truly capitalize on the Ambassador Program, you must take action and implement what you learn. While Thornhill provides the tools, resources, and knowledge, it is your commitment to applying them that will drive your success. The program offers several strategies to help you make the most of your journey:

Networking and Collaborations

The Ambassador Program is not solely about selling; it also emphasizes building valuable relationships. Networking with fellow ambassadors can lead to collaborations, idea sharing, and more commission opportunities. By fostering connections and engaging with the community, you open doors to new possibilities.

Continual Learning

In the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape, continuous learning is essential. The Ambassador Program provides consistent support and updates, ensuring that you stay ahead of the curve. By staying informed about industry trends and implementing new strategies, you can maintain a competitive edge.

The Power of Thornhill’s Proven Funnels

Leveraging Thornhill’s proven funnels is a game-changer. When you join the Ambassador Program, you gain access to his tried-and-tested strategies that have generated millions in sales. By utilizing these proven funnels, you eliminate the guesswork from your marketing efforts and increase your chances of success.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Top 10 John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program FAQs:

1. What is the John Thornhill Ambassador Program?

The John Thornhill Ambassador Program is a program designed to help individuals build a profitable online business leveraging John Thornhill’s affiliate marketing resources and strategies.

2. Who is John Thornhill?

John Thornhill is an entrepreneur and online marketer known for his expertise in affiliate marketing and digital product creation. He has built a successful online empire and aims to empower others through his programs and courses.

3. What are the benefits of joining the program?

The program offers several benefits, including:

  • Access to John Thornhill’s proven affiliate marketing strategies and resources.
  • Done-for-you marketing materials and sales funnels.
  • Community support and mentorship from experienced online entrepreneurs.
  • Free training and resources on various online marketing topics.
  • Lifetime commissions on sales generated through your affiliate link.

4. Do I need any prior experience to join?

No, the program is designed for individuals of all experience levels, even those with no prior knowledge of online marketing.

5. How much time do I need to commit to the program?

The amount of time you need to commit will depend on your individual goals and desired level of success. However, the program recommends dedicating at least 10-15 hours per week to achieve significant results.

6. What are the payment options available?

The John Thornhill Ambassador Program offers three main payment options:

  • One-Time Payment: Pay the full program fee upfront through a secure online payment system for immediate access to the program’s resources. This option offers significant savings compared to monthly plans.
  • Flexible Payment Plans: Spread the cost over several months with convenient monthly installments. The program offers various plans with different durations and pricing. Choose the one that best fits your budget and financial situation.
  • Financing Options: Partner with third-party financing providers to extend your payment term and manage your cash flow. This option allows you to access the program and start generating income while making manageable monthly payments.

7. Is there a guarantee?

There is no money-back guarantee offered by the program. However, they offer a 30-day refund policy in case you are not satisfied with the program content.

8. What makes this program different from others?

The program emphasizes John Thornhill’s proven affiliate marketing strategies and provides access to his done-for-you marketing materials, which are designed to save participants time and effort. Additionally, the program offers personalized mentorship and support from experienced online entrepreneurs.

9. Who should consider joining this program?

This program is ideal for individuals who:

  • Want to learn proven affiliate marketing strategies from a successful entrepreneur.
  • Are looking for a step-by-step system to build a profitable online business.
  • Appreciate done-for-you marketing materials and resources.
  • Desire community support and mentorship.
  • Aim to earn lifetime commissions through affiliate marketing.

10. Where can I learn more about the program?

You can learn more about the John Thornhill Ambassador Program by visiting their website. They also offer free training sessions and webinars that provide further details about the program and its benefits.


In conclusion, John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program offers a comprehensive and proven model for earning high commissions online. With its focus on high-ticket products, a two-tiered commission structure, and proven funnels, it presents a compelling opportunity for anyone seeking substantial online income. Success in the program requires dedication, hard work, and a willingness to apply what you learn. By leveraging the training, support, and mentorship provided, you can embark on a journey towards achieving digital prosperity.

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Revolutionising affiliate marketing in the era of influencers, ET BrandEquity



Revolutionising affiliate marketing in the era of influencers, ET BrandEquity

Affiliate marketing spends in India are estimated to be Rs 2500 crore in FY 2023, constituting eight percent of the overall digital marketing spend, according to the State of Digital Marketing in India report. Despite the popularity of affiliate marketing, the model presents its own challenges, such as onboarding and managing affiliates, high commission fees, and vulnerability to fraudulent and malicious practices.

During a discussion at DigiPlus Fest 2023, marketers explored the evolving landscape of affiliate marketing and strategies to optimise return on investment (RoI). The session featured Nishant Jaiswal, VP – marketing, Zupee; Sachin Vashishtha, chief marketing officer, Paisabazaar, and was chaired by Saumya Jain,

Essentially, affiliate marketing involves incentivizing affiliates with a commission or payout to drive a business action, such as a click or purchase. The practice began with blogs, websites, and email but has since expanded to include social media and e-commerce platforms.

Vashishtha observed that while affiliate marketing was one of the most profitable and RoI-positive ways for online businesses to grow, it didn’t take long for bad actors to leverage it for fraud. Affiliates with malicious intent began generating traffic for brands using any means necessary to earn a commission.

The practice started losing its appeal until the explosion of the creator economy and the rise of influencers. Additionally, improvements in technology and the emergence of attribution models like multi-touch attribution or view-through attribution started bringing transparency into the affiliate marketing model.

Jaiswal remarked that affiliate marketing in India is still nascent compared to global platforms, where many end publishers are not directly accessible to advertisers. He said, “With technology, many fraud-related concerns like click hijacking, app install hijacking, and click spam can be controlled by your mobile measurement partner (MMP) or attribution partner.”

However, despite technological advancements, brands still run the risk of being visible in an unsafe environment due to the way affiliate marketing models are structured. While advertisers primarily engage with larger affiliate networks, campaigns might be outsourced to smaller publishers, networks, and individuals, making it challenging to map where conversions are coming from. Additionally, smaller publishers or creators may create clickbait content or reach out to irrelevant audiences simply to drive traffic or act with malicious intent, harming the brand’s reputation.

Vashishtha stated, “You can go back to the affiliate network and ban the publisher, but it is still very difficult to work with the ecosystem the way it is now. We prefer to work with large publishers or content creators directly.”

By working directly with publishers or creators, brands can see how content gets created and deployed to generate conversions. Jaiswal suggested that brands could share a high volume of assets with affiliates directly to test their effectiveness and ensure that the brand positioning and messaging remain consistent.

While it is not entirely avoidable to discourage malicious activity, Jaiswal opined that assigning realistic key performance indicators (KPIs) while designing the campaign can automatically rule out any fraud from the equation. He said, “Marketers could leverage a combination of hard KPIs and soft KPIs, where soft KPIs can be click-to-conversion rate, sign-up-to-purchase rate, and hard KPIs could be cost-to-purchase or cost-to-sign-up.”

Affiliate marketing has its fair share of challenges; however, the ecosystem is continuously evolving. With new technologies like AI, affiliate marketing initiatives will become sharper and more targeted.

  • Published On Dec 9, 2023 at 05:03 PM IST

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First, AI came for Sports Illustrated. Soon, it will want to give you sports betting advice



First, AI came for Sports Illustrated. Soon, it will want to give you sports betting advice

Open this photo in gallery:

Real Sports Bar and Grill in Toronto on Nov. 24, 2016.Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

When Sports Illustrated was outed last week for its alleged use of generative AI to create online articles – and, even worse, for topping them with fake bylines and AI author headshots – readers of the legendary glossy were appalled and disappointed at how the mighty had fallen.

But there was one element of the story that largely got lost amid the outrage, and it hints at an even darker prospect of what lies ahead for sports media and fans.

The SI pieces in question were product reviews: Inoffensive rankings of say, seven brands of volleyballs, which included links to Amazon that a reader could click on if they suddenly felt the urge to take up the sport. So, not only was the editorial copy generated by fake people, it was actually fake editorial copy. It was real advertising.

The practice of peppering editorial content with commercial links – known in the business as affiliate marketing – is a mainstay of Internet advertising, from movie reviews that direct readers to online ticketing sites, to podcasters and TikTok influencers giving out discount codes for listeners or viewers to buy merch from specific retailers.

But affiliate marketing has exploded in recent years in one notorious segment of the industry – sports betting, and its gush of ad dollars that are falling on a desperate media sector like rain on a parched prairie.

Affiliate sites that funnel new customers to online gambling operators are raking in the cash because of a quirk in that segment of the business – and they’re doing it on the backs of those new bettors.

In the spring of 2021, the Canadian sports media startup Playmaker Capital went public on the TSX Venture Exchange and quickly began scooping up digital properties with large followings that the company believed could be converted to bettors. When I interviewed Playmaker’s CEO, Jordan Gnat, shortly after shares began trading, he said he wanted to be in “the fan monetization business.”

There were tens of millions to monetize. The company began by buying soccer-focused sites in Latin America such as Bolavip, which targeted fans in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Central America and the United States, then expanded into the English-language North American market with the newsletter publisher and aggregator Yardbarker. Here in Canada it bought The Nation Network, which operates the hockey fantasy site, Daily Faceoff, and the Quebec-based La Poche Bleue.

But last month, Playmaker went from the hunter to the hunted when Better Collective, an affiliate-marketing giant based in Denmark that Gnat had cited to me as an inspiration for his company, gobbled it up for about $260-million.

The flurry of activity is partly because affiliate marketers who funnel customers to sportsbooks are an entirely different beast. They’re not just making one-time commissions, as they would if they were helping to sell concert tickets or tennis racquets or fly traps. Instead, they get a percentage of the sportsbook’s net revenue made from any new bettor.

“Net revenue” is another term for “total lifetime losses by a new bettor.”

Forget the pennies that digital ads are infamous for bringing in. If a site converts a reader or listener or viewer into a regular gambler – that is, a regular loser – the payday can be hundreds of dollars or more.

Here’s where it might occur to you that the incentives for a site to give you good betting advice might clash with that same site’s incentive to get you to sign up with a sports book and then lose a lot of money.

You would not be wrong.

In the social-media industry, there’s a saying that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. In the world of affiliate marketing, you are the product – the one that’s being sold to the sportsbooks. But boy, are you paying for it.

An academic paper published in January, 2020, in International Gambling Studies titled Affiliate Marketing of Sports Betting – A Cause for Concern? points out that many sites aren’t transparent about their duelling allegiances. It also notes that “people assign greater levels of trust to expert advice during decision-making tasks involving financial risk. This may be a particular concern for those who are just beginning to gamble upon sport, as they may be more inclined to rely on expert advice on bet choice due to their lack of experience.” Newbies may be especially susceptible, given that affiliates position themselves as being on the side of the bettor, when in fact they’re being paid by the sportsbook.

Which brings us full circle back to where we started. Generative AI is notoriously bad at a lot of things, including getting facts straight. But it’s very good at sounding confident, even as it bluffs its way through life.

And it’s about to use its charms to lull you into thinking you can beat the house.

Last May, Lloyd Danzig, the managing partner at the New York-based venture-capital company Sharp Alpha Advisors, noted in a piece for Sports Business Journal that publishers doing affiliate marketing for sportsbooks, “will soon leverage generative AI to instantly create thousands of SEO-optimized articles that discuss the current day’s calendar of games, betting trends, stories to follow, and sportsbook promotions. Pregame previews, postgame summaries, and highlight reels can be created on command without the use of specialized software or manual oversight. Articles, sportsbook reviews, and odds comparison pieces can be generated for any audience, with a fraction of the effort required from human writers.”

Think we’re already swamped with sports betting content? You haven’t seen anything yet.

Après ChatGPT, le déluge.

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