Gamification: Today's Hottest SEO Technique
What does scoring points have to do with scoring a page one listing on a search engine results page?
Only a half a dozen or so years ago, the savviest publishers were just beginning to use video on their sites. They did so uncertainly, experimentally, and in many cases unsure of why, exactly, they were doing it. And there were many reasons to do so; but a huge one, perhaps the biggest, was for SEO purposes. A page that included a video clip, it was found, was 50 times more likely to show up on page one of a Google search result than a similar page that didn't include video.
Today publishers stand poised at a similar entry point—the entry point to the gamification of their sites. The word 'gamification' is not synonymous with gaming. To 'gamify' a site means to use the mechanics and techniques that make gaming so engaging, and through these mechanics to create engagement and incentivize certain activities.
What are those particular mechanics? Some can be traced to behaviorism, and all can be traced to psychology. The behaviorism piece tracks back to B.F. Skinner's theory of Operant Conditioning and a related principle, one we used to call, back in my dolphin-training days, Random Interrupted Reinforcement (RIR). The principle of RIR is that you reward certain behaviors—but not every time. There are particular rewards associated with particular behaviors, but those rewards are doled out on an intermittent basis. The random burst of reward becomes addictive in a way that a regular payment schedule cannot—it's been compared to the difference between making $100 by spending a day at a slot machine, as opposed to spending a day pulling a lever in a factory and making the same $100.
Points, scores, and irregularly-achieved rewards, then, are some of the elements used to motivate audience actions on a site. These mechanics are structured to achieve certain desired results—engagement in the site through content consumption, comments, reviews, shares, time spent on site. Whether you call it engagement mechanics, focus mechanics, or gamification, the intended result is the same—more time spent on the site, more engagement with the site content, more repeat visits, more shares, greater audience loyalty.
Which brings us back to SEO, where those very elements lead to higher ranking on search engine result pages and increased traffic to the site.
Score one for gamification.
Linda Ruth, as president of PSCS Consulting (www.PSCSConsulting.com), offers communication companies worldwide the keys to magazine launches, search engine optimization and audience development online and at retail. She is a pioneer in the fields of Online Audience Optimization (OAO) and gamification for content publishers. Her books, "Internet Marketing for Magazine Publishers" ; "How to Market your Newsstand Magazine"; and "Secrets of SEO for Publishers" can be found on Amazon. Find her online at Google Plus, Magazine Dojo, LinkedIn, and Twitter @Linda_Ruth.