Cipher's crystal ball: Small sportsbook affiliates stand up to the behemoths

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Cipher Sports CEO Adam Fiske talks predictive analysis in sports betting and why there's still room in the US affiliate market.

When the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban on sports betting in 2018, there was a huge rush by affiliate marketers to cash in on the huge revenue gains that were up for grabs.

Perhaps predictably, a handful of large sports content sites emerged with majority control over the market in affiliate sales. Even some five years later, the view still persists that these “super affiliates” have dominated the US sports betting market and have created an insurmountable barrier to entry for smaller affiliate sites.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. By employing the power of predictive analytics, affiliate sites of any size can carve out their share of the market. In fact, predictive analytics may be the single most valuable resource in an affiliate’s arsenal; an  indispensable tool to drive customer acquisition that will only become more critical as more US states continue to roll out legal sports betting.  

WHAT IS PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS?

Predictive analysis refers to the use of statistics and computer modeling to make predictions about future outcomes. These predictions occur when analytics programs look at historical data patterns to determine the likelihood of such patterns reemerging again. In a sports betting context, predictive analysis can make predictions on the outcomes of upcoming sporting events, the only limiting factor being how much data you can feed into the system. The more data you have, the more accurate your predictions will be.

"How can you possibly break into such a crowded and competitive market? The answer is to develop a reputation as a trustworthy provider of independent content."

Data scientists can use predictive analysis to generate accurate projections on the outcomes of more than 20,000 sporting events per year. Such capability is available to anyone that’s willing to put the time and resources into building and staffing their own data infrastructure system.

Alternatively, you can look to third-party vendors who can offer these services, something that companies from just about every business sector have done over the last few years. In fact, the interest in predictive analysis has reached such a fever pitch that the global predictive analytics market is predicted, if you'll pardon the pun, to reach $28.1bn by 2026. For small affiliate betting sites, there’s no reason to think you can’t also reap the benefits of this market boom.

 HOW DO PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS DRIVE ENGAGEMENT?

As stated, predictive analysis allows for a high degree of accuracy in predicting the outcomes of sporting events. But how does that actually drive affiliate revenue? To answer this, it helps to first understand how affiliate marketing works.

Sports content sites, whatever their size, typically have affiliate partnerships with a wide range of different sportsbooks. Any time a visitor to the content site clicks on an ad or backlink to a sportsbook and places a bet, the content site collects a commission.

Just about anyone can sign up to become an affiliate on a betting site as there are typically next to no entry requirements. All that’s left for the content site to do is to drive engagement with its site, grow its monthly audience numbers, and let the affiliate revenue roll in.

Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. As mentioned earlier, a small group of super-affiliate sites tend to attract the lion’s share of engagement from sports aficionados and regular bettors. How can you possibly break into such a crowded and competitive market? The answer is to develop a reputation as a trustworthy provider of independent content, and the way to do that is with highly accurate – and free – forecasting through predictive analysis.

 The key word here is “free.” Your site has to offer predictions at no cost to users. Your revenue will come through other means such as advertising and, of course, affiliate commissions. This free model will set you apart from other affiliate sites that charge a subscription for access to their predictive models.

"The interest in predictive analysis has reached such a fever pitch that the global predictive analytics market is predicted, if you'll pardon the pun, to reach $28.1bn by 2026."

But making your predictions freely available is only the first step. You next have to present the best odds that the various sportsbooks are offering alongside the events whose outcomes you’re predicting. For example, let’s say you’ve predicted that the Warriors will beat the Celtics by five points. Right next to that prediction, users will see the betting odds and point spread being offered by different sportsbooks, allowing them to compare and decide on which sportsbook to place a bet with.

Whatever choice they make, you’ll collect a commission. In addition, many sportsbooks allow their affiliates to offer new user promotions for users who register via the links on the site, providing even more of an incentive for users to place a bet. Another benefit of predictive analysis is that it can also boost your website traffic. By collecting data on your visitors, such as where they’re from, what their interests are, and where they spend most of their time on your site, you can design predictive models that will tell you what you should focus on to increase engagement.

For instance, perhaps you can boost your blog output if you see that your coverage brings in more visitors and, by extension, increased affiliate sale opportunities. Growing your site will also likely lead to new partnerships with media companies, who may wind up posting your content on their websites, thus helping your affiliate revenues grow even larger.

FINAL THOUGHTS       

In a betting affiliate landscape dominated by a few huge players, predictive analytics is somewhat of an equalizer. Not only does it lay the foundation for a betting site to establish itself as a trustworthy source, predictive analytics also allows a relatively small staff to grow their reach and revenue gains – in what can be a highly competitive space. 

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