15 Ways to Integrate Gamification Features into Your SEO Strategy

On Thursday I presented on Gamification with Jeff Coughlan from Matmi.com at SAScon in Manchester. Jeff’s presentation (which I hope gets published online) was fantastic and really gave the audience a core understanding of what Gamification is, and is not. It was an honour to be in the presence of a games coder with 20+ years in the field. After Jeff spoke, I covered Gamification from the perspective of an SEO.



Read this Book

Before I get started, I’ll point out that you should definitely read Gabe Zichermann’s “Gamification by Design“, co-authored with Christopher Cunningham. It’s an excellent introductory read to the concept of Game Mechanics and gives a solid background on the historic roots of Gamification principles.

Here’s an excellent introductory video, and you can check out previous posts on the topic on SEOgadget, here and here.


If You Have a Crappy Product, Gamification is Unlikely to Help

It’s a fair point. If you’re selling crap on the internet, points, badges and leaderboards are never going to sell you more crap on the internet. There are (unfortunate) exceptions to this, but they tend to be examples of terrible games with brilliant game mechanics wrapped around them.

You either have to build very small Gamified features (which we’ll cover in this post) or devise a beautiful, unique experience with Gamification elements engineered in at the core, just like my favourite designer’s showcase and textbook Gamification example, Dribbble.com:


Here are 15 ways to add Gamification into your SEO strategy.

#1 Award Points for Participation

Rule 101 of Game Mechanics: award points for participation. SEOmoz have led in this field for as long as I remember, with points awarded for QA and commenting. A self regulating mechanism exists where other users can thumbs down, should a comment be poor, spammy or plainly in conflict with the community guidleines.



#2 Integrate a Leaderboard to Rank Your Heavy Users

If you’re collecting participation data about your users, let’s say, experience points, then why not rank those users based on the most active? I had an interesting conversation with Dan Sodergreen after the session and we mutually agreed that integrating other metrics, such as Klout score would be a really interesting addition to an otherwise internally focused leaderboard. Having a leaderboard encourages competition, provided the incentive to do so is appropriate. That incentive could be as simple as recognition and status in and outside of the gamified system.



#3 Create a Virtual Currency to Apply Reward Discounts on your Retail Site

Fab.com has a clever customer referral scheme. Introduce friends, and Fab.com will reward you with currency to spend in their store. Note the simplicity of the “invite more people” section with integration with Gmail and GMX.



#4 Allow Your Users to Earn Status

People desire status. Look at “Top Contributors” in the Google forums. Those guys get flown out to Google to take part in the Top Contributor Summits. You have to participate heavily (and to some extent compete) for this level of status, and people do! Meetups for VIP’s, your heaviest users and biggest brand advocates are easy to organise and execute.



#5 Create Tangible Rewards for Your Users Who Participate, like Stickers

Entertainment check-ins grew by 800% in 2011 for GetGlue.com, reaching a record high of 11.5 million check-ins in August last year. Tangible rewards don’t have to be financial incentives, they can be small things, like sweets, stickers, cakes (thanks Neeru) even handwritten thank you notes.



#6 Incentivise Profile Completeness

Profile completeness indicators are pretty standard, but LinkedIn.com’s profile completeness incentive is quite interesting. They visually communicate levels thair users need to complete with a promised reward at the end. In my case; 12 times the potential career opportunities. Thanks Linkedin, but I think I’m OK for those for now.


#7 Reward Your Users for Creating Content or Ideas

Every SEO I know is involved with the creation of content, be it via a content team, outsourcing or by themselves. Why not get your users to submit the content for you? We’ve just completed an exciting Gamification project with a recipe startup – needless to say their raw material is recipe submissions, so we’re helping them incentivise users who do so. Let’s not forget Youmoz and SEOmoz QA, excellent examples of community content contribution and participation.

I love using TheFunTheory.com as an example of user generated assisted link bait via creative competition entries.



#8 Incentivise Content Creation with Financial Reward

Actually pay people for their hard work? Ok. Via Minted.com you can submit a greetings card design, the community votes and the retail site sells the winning designs. The winning contributors receive prize money and ongoing commission for their sales.



#9 Motivate Your Visitors to Register

I love how Cheezeburger use loss aversion to encourage new visitors to register, or previously registered users to login. As a visitor, you participate (rating memes, clicking links) and a pop up appears awarding a badge. To keep the badge, you have to login!



#10 Motivate Your Users to Refer a Friend by Giving Away a Little of What You Offer

Dropbox incentives to refer a friend exist on almost every channel imaginable and they reward their users for learning more about the product, following them on Twitter, giving feedback. It’s a simple, gamified system with a clear and appropriate reward for carrying out the actions most important to the growth of their business. I suppose that’s why they’ve grown so well with very low marketing budgets. PS: follow this link if you’re thinking of signing up for Dropbox…



#11 Motivate Your Users to Link to You

In the Dropbox example, I just linked out because I’ll get something for it. While some SEO’s argue the case against this practice, I think it’s ok most of the time. I use dropbox, I’m a happy customer and I would vouch for their service with our without the extra space awarded via referral. There are heaps of different ways to incentivise users to send traffic to you via referral link (affiliate programs aside), and the reward doesn’t necessarily have to be anything more than a simple value-add to your target site – embeddable objects can look great, users gain by improving the quality of their content.

SEOmoz have a refer a friend program that uses a 302 redirect on the referrer link, to play it totally safe, while Google encourage you to link to them in exchange for authorship snippets in the search results:



#12 Implement a QA System for Long Tail and User Votes

Last year we helped a small car finance operation called carfinance247 develop their long tail traffic via a QA system. We learned, through keyword research that users tend to ask a lot of questions about finance, for example: “how can I get approved for a car loan with a CCJ?”. We implemented a simple system that took off and grew very quickly. This is SEO traffic to their QA section since launch:


It’s extremely simple, where users can rate responses according to usefulness, and reply if they choose. We discussed running internal competitions for in-house staff to compete for prizes based on the number of thumbs-up they get from visitors.



#13 Create Badges that Evidence Expertise (and add to your user profile pages)

I really don’t like the way badges get plastered on almost everything in the name of gamification. Users earn badges for hard work, participation, fun, learning – and when they’re a valued commodity, you’ll get a community seeking ways to earn more. Codeacademy displays the badeges you’ve earned on your profile page. This partial nod to self expression (along with the ability to upload your own photo) might encourage more people to link to their profiles from say, their Google+ pages. I do:



#14 Award Points and Badges for Comments

If you want an out-of-the-box community management tool for WordPress, Disqus would be a great place to start. Their (upgraded) comments plugin creates a community leader-board for your site to rank most frequent commenters. Be warned that while Disqus is a free plugin, their ranks functionality starts at $299 a month.



#15 Focus Social Activity on a Shared Outcome

Back in September 2011, Innocent gave away veg pot offers and numerous discounts in a twitter campaign called Tweet and Eat. The campaign gave consumers a discount depending on the number of people that tweeted its hashtag #tweetandeat. Based on the volume reached, you could opt to recieve a DM with notification of the next discount code available. Very smart and as Hannah puts it, one of the brands that really “get it”.

This post made possible with thanks to Joanna Lord, Lindsay Wassell, Hannah Smith, Gianluca Fiorelli, Fabian Alvares and Stephanie Chang.


 Image Credit: wnd.andreas

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9 thoughts on “15 Ways to Integrate Gamification Features into Your SEO Strategy

  1. Great post on gamification. I’m currently working with Big Door to replace my current gamification platform (CubePoints + custom scripting on a WordPress site.)

    I think I caught wind of that company from one of your past presentations about gamification.

    Keep pumping out the good reads.

  2. Hey Richard,
    Thanks for this really useful post, sounds like it was a very successful presentation! I’m in the process of thinking about how the principles of gamification can be applied to websites in the charity sector, where I think there is loads of potential for this. I may write a blog post referencing yours at some point :)

  3. Thanks for the great post, Richard!

    Gamification is a nice way too keep your audience engaged! But does an older target group also respond to this?

    Best wishes.

  4. Anyone watching GSummit 2012 online? gsummit.fora.tv

  5. JDIZM says:

    some great examples of creative ways to build quality links, traffic and repeat business. nice one!

  6. Great article! This is great information, that can be used for just about any service or product site, to keep it’s clientele interested in them. Several of the ideas I’m sure many people haven’t thought about, like the #tweetandeat campaign ran by Innocent. Just goes to show there is more to marketing than just your typical Google SEO.

  7. Jame Mallow says:

    Awesome! Thanks for this really useful post, sounds like it was a very successful presentation. And I think I caught wind of that company from one of your past presentations about gamification. Thank you.

  8. I do think I caught wind of that company from one of your past presentations about gamification.too and to keep it’s clientele interested in them

  9. Justin Stein says:


    I enjoyed this post but I failed to see the direct connection of how Gamification will help your SEO Strategy. Nothing that you listed actually seems to help your search rankings.

    Admittedly an argument could be made that increased engagement ratings will prevent panda hits, but I don’t see how this is integrating, it just seems to be running alongside.

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