Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Gamification in SEO

"Gamification" is the process of taking a service that may initially seem tedious or dull and increasing the incentive to use it by making it fun. A prime example of this is the GPS locator service 'FourSquare'. Frequently signing in and updating your location seems like something that people would find tedious, not to mention the obvious privacy intrusion issues that some may have with it. Yet by turning it into a social platform on which users share location-based posts, earn badges and compete to become "mayor" of specific buildings and locations, FourSquare has successfully increased traffic and boosted its SEO through gamification. They are not the only ones however, 'Google News' is the latest company to jump on the gamification bandwagon with their new "News Badges" feature. Despite the success story of sites like 'FourSquare', there is an ongoing debate of whether gamification is in fact a good practice or a waste of time.
There is a strong belief amongst some experts that social media has incorporated gaming attributes since the beginning. 'Twitter' uses followers like a gaming highscore, 'Facebook' "Likes" and friends function similarly and websites like Klout are based entirely around tracking your social progress and comparing your score against friends. Gamification is all about creating an experience for your customers. If you can find a way to make the user experience more fun, through whatever method, they will be encouraged to return to your site. It's been predicted that this practice will continue to rise as well; the 'Gartner' group ran some research and predicted that, by 2015, 70% of the 2000 largest companies in the world will be using gamification in their Internet marketing strategy. With this in mind, SEO is the ultimate game: the game for overall global search rankings. If you're winning at your SMO "game", the increased traffic this generates will help boost your search engine rankings.
Some critics, however, voice their concerns with using "fun" tactics and gamification. If users are being persuaded to repeatedly engage with the site, more than they ever would usually, by the time they have earned all of the possible badges they may have fatigued the site and, like any game, once the main quest has been completed the desire to stay on the platform is lost and the player moves on. To combat this, an online marketing company should consider mixing things up and "changing the game" to ensure continued user interest. Not only this, but many experts also believe that simply throwing badges and other rewards at users isn't enough to entice them, they argue that gamification needs to directly tie into the sales or services of the company to function well.
So in short, there's sufficient evidence that gamification can give a company the SEO and SMO boost that it needs. Yet, there's also enough out there to warn people about the risk of spending time on it and not gaining anything in return. If you can crack gamification, it can work wonders for your Internet marketing strategy.

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