Play the Game. Everybody Play the Game of SEO.

More than most people realize, SEO is a numbers game. There is a perception that SEO is all about link building and content, keyword research, and some on site optimization. Do a little research, make some changes, build some links and move on. This may be the start of the process, but there is really a lot more to it than that.

In reality, SEO is a reactionary game of analysis. Calling it a game might be a stretch - unlike chess where the two players work to eliminate one another and the end result is a sole winner, the two sides of SEO are complimentary. If the game goes as planned, both sides end up better off than they were. They are both winners. The term "game" also receives a bad rap in regards to SEO - it is usually used in reference to black hats tactics. "Gaming the system."

There are many ways SEO could be thought of as a game. This is because it's not a once and done approach to marketing. Some people like to think of it as a conversation - look at and analyze available data (listen), make some changes on the website (speak), wait for and analyze the response (listen). This cycle repeats itself continually as a never ending conversation. You will hear the term conversation marketing here and there. I think it works better to think of SEO as a game - it is more strategic than most conversations, and this lends itself to stirring up feelings of sportsmanship and a competitive nature.

card gameThe two sides - the search engine optimizer and the website visitors - are playing on the same team. They're partners, and the only way they have to communicate is through an abstract method of reacting to one another's moves. Imagine a game of cards with partners, like pinochle - the partners cannot directly communicate with one another, but they have to analyze the moves of their partner in order to understand what they need to play. At the same time, they are watching their opponents and analyzing their actions as well.

The analogy isn't perfect, but it works for me. The actual process goes something like this:

  1. The SEO analyzes the data - at first there may not be much available (maybe Analytics wasn't installed yet, what a nightmare!)
  1. The website visitor happily strolls through the website.
  1. The SEO devises a strategy based on what he saw in step 1 and implements some changes. These should benefit the current visitors and help bring in new visitors.
  1. Visitors galore! More find the website, and once there it is easier for them to do what they want to do.
  1. The SEO watches how visitor interaction changes on the website, and from whence the visitors came. He adapts his strategy and makes changes to further improve that experience.
  1. Visitors galore! More find the website, and now the experience is better than ever. They love being there!

That is a little simplistic. Somewhere in all of that is a whole lot of data crunching. SEO isn't about pretty reports and following best practices. Best practices don't win card games or chess. Strategy, reaction, and analyzing the situation. Call it conversation marketing, call it a game, call it what you will. As long as you're taking a reactionary approach to SEO and playing like a grand master then you and the website visitors will win in the end.

Photo courtesy of boing /