Mike Essex

Why SEO is like a Videogame

13th Aug 2010 News, Koozai News 5 minutes to read

We take a look at the rules and elements that make the world of search just one giant videogame. Including an analysis of the bosses, enemies and levels that make up the world and the SEO versions of XP, Health, Parties, and attack power. Want to play a game?

The videogame Epic Win takes everyday tasks and lets you allocate a score to them. So you get points for activities as mundane as taking out rubbish or washing up. The idea being that the score and improvements you see to your on screen character encourage you to do more of those tasks. A great concept and one that turns the mundane in to a fun meta game.

Which got me thinking about SEO and how so many aspects of what we do run in parallel to a videogame structure. Sam touched on this with her Pay Per Click Campaign Checklist and by distilling the core component of that activity down to a manageable checklist she created a similar structure. Complete all the tasks and your adverts will improve. You see this reflected in better performance and the reward is directly tied in to fulfilling this checklist.

So moving back to SEO and taking a same viewpoint it is easy to see that many of the core aspects of videogames can be replicated in such a format. In fact the game already exists and millions of us are playing it every day. There’s no need for a meta game such as Epic Win because a reward structure already exists.

So here’s a quick breakdown of how each videogame component translates in to the world of search:

What is the SEO Videogame?

Levels: Every game needs a level or arena for you to complete your goals. In the SEO Videogame this exists as the search engines themselves. Google, Yahoo and Bing all present a landscape for us to explore as we complete our SEO quest. These levels are constantly updated and evolved by their manufacturers and so present a constant challenge to the player.

Goals: But what is out goal? In games this could be saving a princess, avenging your father or even falling in love. For search the goals are less tied in to human emotions and revolve around improving our rankings. They could also include spreading brand awareness or good PR. The success of these goals is constantly fed back to us through the search engines or our tracking tools and there always appears to be more to do, encouraging the players to continue and become experts at the game.

Experience Points (XP): To work our way through these goals a lot of games require you to gain Experience Points. These are often referred to as ‘grinding’ and at times can feel like the repeated completion of a single action to make your character stronger. In SEO this can be likened to link building which has a similar process of repeating a (sometimes complex) process to improve your link profile. Whilst the methods may change, link building is the grind that makes our sites more experienced.

Party / Team: Videogames are working towards more team based games, including co-operative games and a resurgence of the classic RPG format of having you control multiple characters. In SEO our party, or team, is the people we employ or trust with our SEO. Whether this is your SEO Agency or in house team of specialists, you have to ensure all members of the team are contributing to the whole and are capable of winning the battle.

Enemies: No videogame would be complete without enemies or a rival to play against. Whether we play against our friends, evil monkeys or washing machines the goal is the same – to beat your opponents. In search our enemies are those ranking above us and as with a videogame we must study their moves and learn how to beat them. Occasionally bosses appear who are harder to defeat, or who we cannot defeat until we have good health and XP.

Health: It is important our character (website) is in good health as a weak character is prone to attack from enemies and will not fare as well on each level. Our health is built up by performing SEO checks such as removing duplicates content and web errors. Often this is referred to as an SEO Health Check.

LIVE SEARCH evolved in to BING

Attack Power: Good health protects us from attack, and by having a strong attack power we can then go after our enemies. I see content as the attack power, the more relevant content we have the better position we will be in to win a battle. As with videogame battles, we will perform better in areas we have expertise and accept that some areas will be weaker. So if we attack with an article on a topic unrelated to our site, it won’t fare as well as an attack targeted to our visitors and marketplace.

Guides: When you’re stuck on a videogame you turn to a guide, either in print or through a site such as GameFAQs. In search we have our own resource of guides, like Sam’s earlier PPC checklist or industry views from SEO Blogs. When we need to find out how to take it to the next level, this is where we can turn.

Cheats: Whilst our cheats are a little harder than ‘Left, Right, Up, Down, A+Start together’ they are still used to skip through levels and defeat enemies. Black Hat SEO is the method of using these cheats to manipulate your way through a level. But like the way Microsoft bans Xbox live cheats, the search engines fight back and anyone caught using cheats will find their character’s progress deleted.

So there you have it, SEO is already a videogame. It has winners and losers, and like an online game such as Warcraft, it is constantly evolving and finding new ways to beat its players. It’s a challenge and requires  players to think creatively to win, whilst there are elements of grinding, on the sites who obey all the rules above will win.


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