This episode I chat with Simon Jones from Investing Reviews where he shares his experience as an affiliate marketer. He also shares what affiliates need to be mindful of in terms of compliance in managing a finance related site. 

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Welcome to the affiliate interview series by StatsDrone. Today, we're chatting with Simon Jones of investingreviews.co.uk. And let me just say this is not investing advice. So let's get to it!

Welcome to the affiliate interview series. Our next guest today is Simon Jones. Simon runs investingreviews.co.uk. And I'm gonna pass it over to Simon to give us a proper intro. 

Thanks John. This has been a long time coming, isn't it? This interview we've tried on numerous occasions, but we're here now. Thanks for having me on.

Investing reviews. Wow. We started this website about three years ago. It was just usually one of those ideas that you get at the back of a gaming conference and kind of wants to diversify and say, “oh, we need to do something different”. The model is the same, to be fair. It could be a casino affiliate site, but it's a site for investment platforms. 

So we started reviewing all the major investment platforms in the UK. We wrote detailed reviews, it could have been bet365 casino, but we reviewed interactive investor. We have a formulate structure and we review the products, the fees, the customer service... Anybody listening to this has probably seen the same format and has the same on their own affiliate site, so it's not that much different. But it has gained a lot of traction over the last sort of 12, 18 months. 

For me it was actually a bit of a part time gig. Just one of those, back bedroom hobby things you do on the evening. And it's now turned into my full time gig. So it's kind of full steam ahead. Rock and roll. 

Awesome. How would you compare finance affiliate programs in relation to igaming? I'm assuming the revenues are similar, but there's obviously a couple of things that are different and laws and compliance are one of them. 

Yeah, laws and compliance is probably the big one. I mean, it is illegal to offer a continuous revenue incentive to affiliates to promote a product. You can only do it on a CPA basis on a first time customer or first depositing customers basis. 

The revenues are different. The CPAs can be slightly higher. Obviously Forex and CFD trading triggers higher accounts because it's people spending a lot of money. I won't say losing a lot of money, but they're spending a lot of money as opposed to somebody opening a new pension account and transferring a pension, for example, the revenues of the CPAs are a lot lower on that. 

So we have a mix and it is similar, there just isn't a lifetime revenue model on the investing affiliate programs, which is a shame. 

Does that mean you also have to state like on every article or every social media post that this is an investing advice or maybe it is? 

No, we never give investing advice. I'm not a financial advisor, but we have financial advisors on the team. So the website, as you've probably seen, has got more disclaimers on there that I'd like to mention, but we're not giving advice, we don't recommend, make your own choices, this is what we see, this is what we can see is good for a beginner or good for this type of customer, make your own choices, not financial advice. 

If you listen to our podcast, I've got a regular co-host, Charlie Archer, and we play podcast Bingo, which is probably going to lead into the next question. So, podcast Bingo is how many times we can say not financial advice in each episode. So there you go. 

That makes a good podcast name. This is not financial advice. 

Oh God, I could change it. I like that.

So, when I look at a lot of these different types of financial sites, like insurance offers, credit cards, things like that, I'm starting to see a lot of stuff in the igaming side. Kind of almost creep in where terms and conditions are now being paired with the offer. Do you see igaming kind of catching up in terms of going… Ok, you've got on one side, this is not investment advice, but on the other side we're kind of dealing with almost a similar product in terms of money risk management. 

Yeah. If you see on the… all the CFD brokers and the forex brokers will have very large risk warnings on their sites and the risk warnings tend to go something like  X percentage of people investing in this broker will lose their money and the percentages are very high. Some can be as high as 80 plus percent, some can be as low as 60 plus percent. But it's because of the Financial Conduct authority, not the gambling commission, the financial Conduct authority is very strict on this. The risk warnings have to be particularly phrased and they have to be present wherever there is a call to action or an offer on that product that you're promoting. 

Ok. I'm gonna go down a rabbit hole and you can let me know if we should talk about this or skip the next question. Let's talk about… in online gambling, we have a lot of offshore sites, cryptocurrency ones. Do we have something similar in the financial space? And the obvious one that maybe not everyone wants to talk about is binary options. 

Yeah, I don't wanna talk about binary options either. To be able to offer a product to a UK customer, you have to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. It's the same as in the States with the gambling companies over there. They are a gray hat and the black hat, there are… people know how to use VPNs, they know how to get around the systems. We will say on our site if this particular broker is accepting UK customers, it's as simple as that. 

Those that do have to have FCA regulation, and then they will have that in the foot of their site, and that's how we started. Actually, we started with FCA regulated, some overseas companies they're not into the tax havens but they are in other jurisdictions. It's not as… I want to say the word seedy but I think that's probably not fair. It's not as as gray or black, I think, as gambling, but there are certainly… I think there is one of our competitor sites has actually got a Forex or  a CFD broker a black list of these “do not spend any money with these guys because they are dodgy AF, so don't go anywhere near that.”

We thought it was actually quite a good, like a blacklist effectively, which I'm sure a lot of other gambling affiliates have got those as well. Don't go here because they don't pay enough commission!”

Yeah. One thing I've noticed about a lot of uh some of these scam operators is that I think some of their marketing unfortunately is a little smart. Which is… they'll create videos like is this place safe? Or is this a scam? And then of course, they're ranking for those videos right before they launch their operation. We're kind of going down this rabbit hole of scam, so what's your thoughts on these marketing tactics and how prevalent it might be? 

It depends on the product. I know some of the more complex brokers… they will create a product, a retail investment product where the retail investor, the armchair investor, you and I can download an app and buy shares in Tesla, Apple, whatever you want. Not advice, not financial advice. And what that allows them to do is then advertise that product to UK audiences usually on the tube, on the buses, on the metro, or wherever. And then once they've got, they've got them on board, then they can start promoting the more complex finance products, the contracts for difference, the Forex options, binary, etcetera. 

Those that are doing it underhand will usually get shut down pretty quick by the FCA. But how do they… how do the police tiktok these fin talkers or these money talkers I think they call them? I mean, I've just downloaded an app today called Zed and I had no idea what it was. It's just, I'm just watching videos of people talking about derivatives and options and I'm like, what the hell? So I'm a little bit, I'm in my age, I'm thinking… you know, I had a really cheeky birthday card of my niece a couple of years ago, she said “you're so old, you think Snapchat is a card game” and she's not wrong. 

It could be.

It used to be when I was a kid but now Snapchat, I don't, I don't get it, I just don't get it. And tiktok, I'm actually scared of downloading the app. I don't know what to do, but I know there's a lot of financial influences or influencers on there. 

Same with YouTube and YouTube will shut people down a lot quicker than TikTok will. But we were mentioning just a fair before we started recording. I think the BBC are launching on the iPlayer this weekend a report into some underhand dealings with sponsors of some of the premiership football clubs and one of them was a Forex or a binary trading options business. That has emptied a few wallets around the UK and the world. So that I'm, I'm looking forward to watching that and, you know, with behind. 

It's kind of a shocking how some of these sponsors can kind of come out of nowhere and they just end up, you know, we're talking like, whether it's even uh binary options or even igaming sites as operators it's kind of shocking how they get and you're like, wasn't there, there should have been oversight. 

Right. Yeah. Well, money talks louder than a lot of things, isn't it? 

Yeah, we didn't see anything. 

What are you on about? 

So, talking on the same theme about, you know, fraud and internet scams, how they're kind of everywhere. It's almost like it's normalized. Why do you think people keep falling for these bad scams? And, you know, just to talk about, uh Charlie Munger said recently that the stock market speculation is like heroin addiction. It's like on one side, you've got a site that's dedicated towards educating people that want to actually, you know, invest and do it wisely and then there's always this one click, you know, you're gonna get rich quick sooner. I mean, is this just like human nature that we can't stop falling for these things? 

I think it's also the kind of the decentralization of retail investment. And I think cryptocurrencies had a big part to play in that, I think you could buy Cryptocurrency a lot easier than you could buy shares in, I don't know, British Airways, for example, not stock advice. But since the decentralization of the, I think the original sort of like, the big player in the States was the Robin Hood app, which failed in its attempt to get a UK license. But we actually wrote a report on this and one of the FCA findings was from a survey they did, it was a lot of these apps are creating a gaming experience to actually buy and sell shares or even share that link with a friend. So I could share with you John a link on an investment app and you know, you get 50 quid, I get 50 quid or we get a free share that's worth up to £300 and you got “bloody hell, let's share that with John”. And then when it comes through boom, confetti, everything's fantastic. And I was like “no, you've got to stop doing that. You're gamifying investing.” And we also interviewed a lot of people and that's the simple question, “are you investing or are you trading?” And a lot of them say “I'm investing.” Well, how's that then? So you bought Tesla shares last week and you sold them today. That's trading that si not investing, investing is saving. They're like, “oh my God, I didn't know that.” So education plays a big part in this and I think a lot of the big operators have a responsibility to start educating people on, you know, stop. 

People are checking their apps every 15-20-30 minutes when they have shares on. It's addictive and yeah, and a lot of these retail platforms are playing on that. 

I guess it's maybe worse than betting on sports where it's a single event and over here you can do it over, and over, and over again. 

I think the big difference between sport betting and buying shares is you can lose all your money if you bet on Leeds United going out of the Premier League. Or I could buy £100 worth of Tesla shares, they might rise, they might fall, not investing advice for the third time, but I won't lose all my money, with a bet on sports betting you're gonna lose all of it potentially. 

Yeah. If, if you're willing to take a massive risk and literally bet your entire bank roll on it. Not exactly financial advice either. 

Yes. 3-1. 

All right. So, bingo, what made you get into online bingo? 

I was forced into it by Phil Fraser, he winked me. This is on camera. This is live. Uh, no, I, um, this is crazy. I've worked in digital marketing for 20 odd years. So I've worked for gambling clients. I've worked for finance clients and I didn't really understand what affiliate marketing was. I just thought it was that stuff that kids do in the bedroom and then along comes compare the market and money, supermarket and money saving expert. And you go, oh, that's affiliate marketing. That's smart. But they're huge, right? 

So I get a phone call from a recruiter saying you need to go and see Phil Fraser. He's a lovely guy. And there was a book that he says, but he runs a Bingo affiliate website and I just went Oh, really? No, Bingo. No, grannies play Bingo. Surely. Granny's play Bingo. Anyway, I bit, the bullet went to meet for, we had a couple of coffees and a chat and I think one of the resounding, memories I've got, or one of the lasting memories I've got from him at that initial interview was that it's not about the bingo, we could be selling shoes, socks, ties, anything. This is just affiliate marketing for bingo websites. 

So we built a team and we focused 100% on becoming the biggest bingo affiliate in the UK by everything that we did and it was super successful, like some media bought it. So I was kind of Hoodwinked. I was told it wasn't about the bingo, which in the end we kind of said, look, bingo players will play slots, and slots players will play casinos. 

So we kind of ramped it up, we did sort of 70% bingo, 20% slots, 10% casino. And that worked, I've got fond memories of working with Phil. We do still keep in touch and have a be an hour again. And it was a baptism of fire getting into gambling affiliation because another thing Phil said to me, he said, “what you like at socializing?” I said “well, I'm not saying I'm the center of the party. But I do like a drink like we all do”. And he said “good because you're going to these conferences”. And I thought “brilliant, how many are they?” He says “oh, there's only three or four a year.” Oh, my God. After my first year, I just had to go to bed. You know what they're like, right? You go to Berlin, you go to Barcelona, you go to Amsterdam, you do the London one and there's all these people in this industry you think “wow! I just didn't, never knew this existed.” 

It was so exciting and overwhelming at the same time and it kind of came to my head when my mother in law colored me. I think it was 2018-2017 when the Guardian reporters went down to Excel and filmed all the pole dancers from that Russian gambling site. She said “were you there? Were you witnessing that?” “No, I didn't see any of that at all. It's shocking behavior.”

Never seen it before. 

No, never seen it before, but exciting all the same. The events were very exciting, not the dancing girls. 

Yeah. The the events I still find them fun but I find it really tough to stay out late and the parties. It's kind of like we all kind of joke. It's like “early night? Yes!”

Yeah. I was kind of glad it came to an end for me. I did six years with Phil at which Bingo before it was sold, and I had a good 12-18 months off. I still worked in the industry, still did some consulting, but I didn't attend as many of those conferences as previously, thankfully. 

Well, given your experience on the Bingo and running your current site now, if you had to rebuild your site or start from scratch, what would you do differently in becoming an affiliate given what you know? 

Oh, that's a good question. It's a great website from a guy I can't remember, I apologize if you're listening. Nice, nice pursues dot com. I got my teeth in that one. I'd love to be niching down. I'd love to be fine tuning that niche. I mean, the gambling affiliation, bingo right up to casino, we've got finance where we started on investment platforms in the UK and we've gone to crypto, we've gone to pensions, we've gone to Forex, we’ve got to see it. We've pretty much covered, but we're trying to cover all those topics and clusters and if I was to do it again? I don't know, Is there going to be a bull run on crypto? It probably is, maybe go on that side of things, I don't know. 

It's a tough one because this has been front and center for us for the last three years and we've done nothing but this. I mean, we did have a supplements website as well, so we were reviewing supplements, fat burners for men and testosterone supplements and all that kind of stuff. And that's actually quite a profitable niche. And I did notice that the affiliate meetup in Berlin were starting to introduce supplements companies, finance companies as well as gaming companies. So they're kind of like the three biggest niches. I mean, just go and watch Matt Diggity on YouTube, he'll tell you which niches to get into because he's in all of them. 

Yes, he's got a pretty good following again and a lot of different companies. 

Yeah. I mean, I thought I spoke quickly but crikey he speaks very very quickly. 

Yeah. So this is not financial advice, but it's gonna be affiliate advice. What are your affiliate tips for 2023? 

Get to know your affiliate managers, get to meet them face to face as often as you can, especially your bigger partners. Obviously the overseas one’s going to be difficult. But if you're, if you UK, well, but we're UK based, I'm two hours from London, I've got a few clients, I can go and meet down in London, we have lunch every sort of other, every quarter maybe, and just catch up and, you know, on the odd occasion, they drop a hint or an idea and you're like, “oh, crack, we've got some content to write for that.” It's just so worth it. 

Emails are one thing, Skype's another, all the different channels of communication but you can't beat face to face. Get to meet them, get to meet them and get to know who they are as people. One of my core clients, all we talk about is dog training. I've got a puppy dog, he's got a puppy dog and we're not interested in finance, we're just interested in how to stop the dog fully. But then he drops in a little hint and says, “oh yeah, we're thinking about doing that. Could you do that? Bingo. Oh, not bingo. 

But I was trying to find out how we're gonna introduce the word bingo one last time (laughs). But thank you. Right, Simon, thank you so much. How can people get a hold of you? And just let them know about your website again. 

Yeah, investingreviews.co.uk. We got all the social links on there. People can email me Simon at investingreviews.co.uk. We're on Twitter, we're on LinkedIn. I think we're on Facebook and YouTube, but I've got somebody managing that for me. But yeah, check the website out. There's a lot going on and it's early days, three years in, let's see what happens in the next three years. I might be interviewing you John next.

Maybe. Awesome. Thank you so much. 

Cheers John, thank you. 

Thank you for listening. And if you could do me a massive favor, which is to leave a comment or rating wherever you listen to your podcast that would help me manipulate all those ranking algorithms. Thank you so much.