How to Use Game Mechanics to Improve Your SEO


Video games are a big waste of time. We all know it, but for some reason we still end up playing them for hours at a time. Why? Well, it’s because the elements within games, such as a scoreboard and action points, make them addictive.

These elements are called game mechanics. And although you probably don’t care about them, you should because you can use them to improve your search engine rankings.

Here’s how…

Scoreboards help build links

Have you seen those funny online quizzes such as what are your chances of surviving a zombie apocalypse or how long can you last chained to a bunk bed with a velociraptor?


At the end of the quiz, you’re given a badge with your score. You can then take these badges and show them off to your friends by placing them on your website.


The reason this is effective is because your friends will want to beat your score, and once they do, they’ll also take their badges (that show their scores) and place them on their websites.

This is a very effective way to build backward links and increase your rankings as long as the quiz is relevant to your website and you’re not stuffing the links with rich anchor text to manipulate search engines.

For example, created the velociraptor quiz. Now, they rank on Google for the term “bunk beds.”

Rewarding helps build content

Theoretically, the more content you have on your website, the more keywords you can rank for on search engines. So, if you reward your users on your website, you can encourage them to participate in your community.

Judy’s Book does a great job of this by featuring its most active members on its homepage. For example, Kristen H. has her picture on Judy’s Book homepage, which will encourage her to write more reviews.

judys book

In addition to showcasing its top users, Judy’s Book could also give members special badges on its profile page such as a “Pro” badge to show a loyal user. When Kristen’s friends see that she has a Pro badge, they’ll want one too and start contributing to Judy’s Book as well.

Piece elimination helps you create even more content

Comments account for 83% of the content on Quick Sprout, which is why the blog ranks for so many long tail keywords on search engines. But what you may not know is that the five most active commentators each week account for 27% of the content.

top commentors

The reason the top five commentators account for most of the content/comments on each blog post is because they are rewarded with a link on every page of Quick Sprout, which helps drive traffic to their websites.

The reason this is so effective is because it is a battle to stay in the top five. Anyone can come to Quick Sprout, comment a handful of times, and knock you out of your spot. For you to get back into the top five, you would have to come back to Quick Sprout and leave more comments than the people who are currently on the list did.

By leveraging the mechanic of piece elimination, you’re not just encouraging people to add more content to your website, but you’re encouraging them to do so on a regular basis.

Goal completion helps you influence people’s actions

LinkedIn is known for using the game mechanic of goal completion. When you log into LinkedIn, you see a status bar showing you how much of your profile you have completed.

linkedin profile

This status bar encourages users to get to 100%. And if you aren’t at 100%, it pushes you until you get there.

Now, although LinkedIn isn’t using this for SEO purposes, it could. For example, it could make users promote their resumes on their blog, Twitter, Facebook and other social sites by making it a requirement to get to 100% completeness. And although most of those social links don’t help with SEO, they still help build your traffic.

Giving people territory control helps improve your website

Wikipedia and DMOZ are two great examples of sites that are leveraging the game mechanic of territory control. Users have to participate frequently in the community to get special privileges such as becoming a senior editor of a specific section of the website.


These users are then motivated to ensure that the content on the website is high in quality, or else they will lose control over their territory.

High quality content ensures that people will find your website useful. And the more useful people find it, the more likely they will be willing to link to it.

For example, Wikipedia has over 228 million backward links according to Yahoo Site Explorer. This, in turn, helps Wikipedia get over 1.67 billion visitors a month from Google.

Closing thoughts

Although video games may seem like a waste of time, you can actually learn a lot from them. The video game industry isn’t a 10.3 billion dollar industry for no reason.

It has figured out how to get you and millions of other people addicted to its games so much so that you’ll actually stand in line overnight to get your hands on the latest gaming system.

So, take a page out of its book and start using game mechanics in your business. Not only can it help improve your SEO, but it can actually help you create a popular business. If you don’t believe me, just look at Four Square.

P.S. If you need help improving your SEO click here.


  1. Very aptly put. An activity that creates a score and then lets its users showcase that score on their websites, blogs and social networking website definitely goes viral amazingly fast.

    ~~ Sarah ~~

  2. I was wondering about what you said about your comments getting more long tail keywords but this would dilute your keywords in the post right?

    • Plumber Sydney :

      But it increases content and increases frequency of changing content. Plus you will find that often the people commenting are using the same keywords that your post is about therefore actually increasing your keyword density.

    • It drastically increases content and shows constant updating of keyword.

  3. While its easier said that done, rewarding the users does work for the most part.

    We do it by giving free products and have the users posts their reviews on our blog and forum

    • Yeah, you can do it by doing that too… start giving people points and statuses.

    • The opportunity to test a product for free is something that really works. I worked at a software company that gave the product free for three months and after the clients had the opportunity to buy or not. It really worked this way.

      • People get hooked and it works!

        • This works only if you know that your product is really competitive, because if not the client will usually find the better option during the time he is testing it.

          • What do you mean by that?

            • I mean that if you let your client to test the product for some time and during that time the client finds a better product it is certain that will not want to buy your product anymore. This is why I said that you have to be certain that there is no better offer than yours before you make this move.

  4. Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire :


    This post is genius! I think this is one reason why so many blogs with high numbers of comments get even more comments as well. People feel compelled to write something so they can be like everyone else.

    Everyone likes to keep score and the more you can reward your customers and your blog readers, the more that they will keep coming back to supply the long-tail content and they will keep bring new readers back, because you reward them with top commentor scores.

    @Hookah, I like your idea of having the users post reviews of your free products, that is a great twist on the giveaway concept.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  5. sell textbooks :

    I had no clue about the score boards. That kinda sounds fun as well as good for backlinks. Its funny you mention Linkedin because I hate the little status bar thing. I guess its cause I am not all that into it. But it does have it’s pros. Great analogy regarding the video gaming industry. It makes sense. Although we get our stuff instant on the web and don’t need to wait in line, thank goodness.

    • It compels people to wanting to finish what they got started. Getting a 100% on your status bar subconsciously gives you a feeling of completion.

      • sell textbooks :

        I guess that makes sense but…..I still think it is kinda annoying and lame. I don’t really care about badges, “we don’t need no stinking badges”
        The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

  6. This is a really original post and gets my gears turning…

    • Software Testing :

      Yaa its an original post indeed and not a copied one. Blog Commenting is the best way for me to drive huge traffic.

    • Get the those gears turning to take more action!

    • I’m glad to hear it!

      • sell textbooks :

        Well you have a way of not only making your blog interesting but you also take the time to respond and therefor are more personal than other bloggers. I have emailed you as well in the past and was incredibly surprised at your response rate. You really know how to handle your business and time. I am surprised because of the amount of stuff on your plate you are capable of being so on point. Do you have assistants or is it really all you????

  7. Hey Neil,

    So people are commenting that is great. You rank for keywords based on your content. But you are ranked on the overall content on how the entire page is related to the keyword. This is of course for onsite SEO.

    So if people are commenting and they are getting off topic then couldnt that hurt your SEO rankings because now the content is now shifting to whatever the comments are?

  8. aging creams :

    I don’t get it. I looked up some of the backlinks for and none of them show the velociraptor quiz on the site. It’s always just a linkback of “bunk beds” as the anchor text. How did they get there?

    Also, when I took the quiz, it shows that the quiz belongs to even after I finished the quiz, there is no link to What is going on?

    Finally, when I googled the term “bunk beds” why is it that is #5 in the rankings and not #1? Check out the stats: – Cached – Similar
    #5 | PR: 4 | Age: 01-2001 | Y! Links: 104,000 | Y! .edu Links: 4 | Y! .gov Links: 0 | Y! Page Links: 42,901 | Alexa: 494,574 | Trends

    where as… – Cached – Similar
    #1 | PR: 3 | Age: – | Y! Links: 798 | Y! .edu Links: 0 | Y! .gov Links: 0 | Y! Page Links: 1,120 | Alexa: 696,850 | Trends have a higher PR, better alexa, and way more backlinks than bunkbedscentral, why is it below bunkbedscentral in ranking? Doesn’t make sense….

    Please help!

  9. its a two way game, you reward your readers and customers, and they will come back.
    Again its like playing a two player game.

  10. Anand Muglikar :

    I like the way you are always upbeat about new methods and technologies for Web Design and to increase Web traffic to your site. I also admire you because you share precious knowledge that others won’t.

    Thank you! 🙂

  11. I work for a company called and we do exactly this sort of thing. We introduced just recently the ability to earn free “slots” or credits towards a next Ramenbox purchase. This has been working extremely well for getting fans involved and getting great word of mouth marketing.

    Outstanding article!

  12. Neil, as usual you have come up with a great post. You have rightly evaluated the SEO game plan of gaming industry.

  13. iPhone covers :

    Interesting stuff. I wonder though for an e-commerce site how to get games and other link bait to fit in to the content?

    • Plumber Sydney :

      You should do some research on the company – JustSayHi . They used this technique to rank fgor keywords like “online dating” and similar . That’s an industry outside of gaming.

    • You need to look into it, research and then come up with a strategy to pull the trigger.

  14. Plumber Sydney :

    Fantastic write up on some of the less conventional ways to improve SEO and backlinks. Well done.

  15. Great, Another SEO focused strategy. You are too good man!

  16. Web Design LA :

    Really good post. Blog Commenting helps in SEO. And it also helps in gaining knowledge. Social Media also helps in branding and gaining traffic.

  17. Plasterer bristol :

    I agree i see these sort of gameing things all the time, never realised you could use them is this sort of way, brillent…

  18. Brian - Exponential Loyalty :

    I really enjoyed this article because I see people play those silly little apps and then share the link through email. How many people have their own websites though? I look at the new @oldSpice youtube campaign and see a similar path to drive traffic and brand awareness though entertainment. Thanks Neil for the post.

    • I would say its different with old spice’s marketing campaigning, but nonetheless, they did an exceptional job.

  19. The Bad Blogger - Content Not For Losers :

    Although I’m not an SEO believer, but I believe your “Game Mechanics” way of saying, as I do like to beat the hell out of my friends to be the best, but how can I create such game and how can I use it on a niche such as “Online Marketing.”
    In the meantime you got me thinking something I could use as a “Game Mechanics” on my blog.

  20. Never thought about the badge idea, I will definitely have to use that method in the near future. Thanks Neil

  21. Hi Neil,
    Great post. We’re starting to see game mechanics all over the place – I wonder if we’ll see some user fatigue on game mechanics soon. But I had a couple of questions for you.

    1) How do you make the business case for a game mechanics system? One of my friends is implementing a much more elaborate game mechanics/badges system for his magazine’s website, and is working on helping execs who aren’t necessarily digital natives understand how this can help. I’d imagine pgview/visitor in program v visitor out of program, and segment loyalty, recency, depth of visit, and length of visit the same way. Any other ideas?

    2) Are you at all troubled by the anchor-text manipulation going on to get those (presumably followed) scoreboard links? (I see that one of your top 5 is “Learn WordPress.” That is a relatively uncommon name where I am from.) On my own blog I’ve always deleted comments that clearly only exist for (modestly misguided) SEO/traffic building purposes, but I’m starting to wonder if the social effects of increasing the comment count and encouraging comments might be stifled by that.

    • 1. I woud show execs how it can increase pageviews, which can increase revenue (assuming it is ad based). I would run some rough numbers for the execs and show any other publishers who are using game mechanics.

      2. I am to some extent. But I rather get the comments even if that means some will be rich in anchor text.

  22. Interesting comparison between video games and gaining an audience for your websites. I never really thought of it that way but it makes sense. Does CrazyEgg or any of your sites use games to hook people?

    • KISSmetrics has a first user experience that is similar to a game. We walk you through setting it up, step by step, similar to a game tutorial.

  23. Alex Ramadan :

    I have noticed that these game metric tactics don’t always stay fixated on the web. It has become a game now between my friends and I to try to “out Yelp” each other. We are constantly trying to get more exotic reviews on Yelp and more followers than each other. The goal of course is to become a VIP member. Whether Yelp intended on causing this type of response it sure has worked for their websites and the businesses that make up the site.

  24. Everyday What :

    Yes, you are the best Neil. I always wondering if how to increase my ranking. So I always look for information’s and best tips to do that. But all of them were just the same. When I get lose in to your site. I begun to know things, because of the information that provided was also explained when it comes to SEO. Yes, I am now ranking in google even that I am just at the second page. But it is not bad after all for a newbie right!

    Thank you always Neil..

    • Wait till you finally hit the front page!

    • Plumber Sydney :

      Keep up the good work – ongoing SEO is the key, never stop building links and you will steadily climb in the rankings.

      • Everyday What :

        Yes! I am now having a good traffic in my website and my blog to. I really thank you for your tips and information’s Neil.. You really have a nice and informative blog here.

        But I still not yet earning online. I still don’t have a way to do so. I am signing up in Adsense but until now, they not approve me….

        • Well I wouldn’t say signing up for ads is always the right thing do. Keep focusing on the natural techniques.

      • You can never stop doing SEO else your competitor will prevail.

  25. Great information on SEO power! I like some of the ideas that you have presented. Good Work!

  26. I think that Quick Sprout giving commentors the incentive to comment for frequently is a great idea. I see that you use it on your site also. I implemented it on mine about a week ago.

  27. social bookmarking :

    Oh its a very and thinkable post.I really heat game from when i start my professional carrier But think that it may be help me.Thanks mate 🙂

  28. It’s really help me to increase traffic of my site. Well described seo tips

    Thanks and waiting for another great SEO article in future from you.

    • Awesome, that’s always a pleasure to hear! You’ll definitely see some more great stuff shortly.

      • Plumber Sydney :

        That would be great – I’m sure there are many people that are benefiting from the SEO tips you have been providing. Keep up the good work.

  29. aging creams :

    Could someone please explain how the quiz links back to I don’t see any connection between the quiz and the site.

  30. Good SEO always starts with having good on-page optimization along strong authority backlinks

    • That’s usually how it begins. Yeah it’s a great way to build a site up in ranks.

      • Software Testing :

        I have a question.. How to increase PR.. With the increase in number of backlinks, I was able to get good rankings but PR remained the same. Any suggestions?

  31. Luca Massaro :

    Neil Patel = Pro Blogger.

    Not many blogs are in my tool bar and although Quicksprout isn’t updated as regular as some, your content is brilliant.

    Easy to read, great H1’s, informative, playful images, great keywords, tidy fonts and good sub-headings.

    Now the competition is really on to get me in that Top 5.

    Quick Plug:


  32. :

    I like the idea, I just find gimmicks like games and quizzes to be a waste of time, and not a good fixture for some websites.

    However I do see the ease at which they increase one’s SEO dramatically, especially when you gave several other examples further on down the article.

    • They maybe a waste of time for you, but you’d be amazed and shocked at how well it works. Just take a look at my examples above.

  33. Gift Baskets Plus :

    Hey Neil,

    I’ve followed alot of your SEO advice since you were @ ACS.

    But this post has me saying yes & no – let me explain and see if you agree.

    You can use game mechanics for specific markets. I don’t know if I can create a gift basket game and rank for my desired keywords that way for the market I’m in today.

    On the other hand if I was in the paintball market I could easily do this and a dozen other markets. My point is this can be applied for some, but not all SEO.

    Your thoughts?

    • Email Marketing Blog :

      You could always do something like a gift basket contest and make one of the requirements a shoutout on Twitter.. Making the contest go viral 🙂

    • I agree, for some markets it is going to be tough to use game mechanics. You just have to get a bit creative…

      For example, in the gift basket space you could a create a game like cake mania. In which you have to create and serve gift baskets. Just put a retail spin on the game.

  34. Victor Nicollet :

    Listing the top comment authors will only have an impact if you already have a critical mass of readers. Who will bother being in the top 5 on a website with a mere 100 daily page views?

    The latest gadget in goal completion is badges/awards/achievements/flair. Steam games have it. Newgrounds games have it. Achievement Unlocked is a flash game that’s practically built around it. Stack Exchange (not a game) relies on it, and so does foursquare. It’s not exactly clear whether it started on the video game side, or if it was added there later on.

    • Email Marketing Blog :

      The earliest I can think back to achievements would be the Quake series, although those achievements for the most frags weren’t carried over to the next game.

      Its a very good idea and keeps some players addicted.

    • Plumber Sydney :

      People who would want sitewide backlinks from sites with the top commentator plugins wouldn’t exactly care too much whether there is a large number of daily page views or not. It helps with your rankings for SEO more so than it does for attracting clicks for being in the list.

    • It’s not the video game per say, it’s more of the fact that there are game mechanics involved.

  35. Daniel - How To Make A Website :

    Applying scoreboards and rewards to SEO makes a lot of sense indeed. If you can influence people’s mind it will be much easier to get a link from them!

    • Yes… and the best part is that they’ll start to naturally be created and will automatically continue to grow.

  36. Very nicely put and has given me an insight to leverage the unexplored areas to make my website popular

  37. One thing that’s interesting about which you mentioned is that they 302 redirected the dinosaur cartoon page at to their homepage, theoretically to transfer the link strength of that page to the homepage (it’s got 250+ separate domains linking to it).

    However, doing it as a 302 redirects just the human and doesn’t transfer any of this link strength (in a nutshell…I’ll spare your readers technical mumbo jumbo although you know that stuff).


  38. Black Media Properties :

    i’ve noticed that giving rewards works the best for me…since I’m not a programmer or anything its kind of hard to create games..but small rewards here and there…gets the job done…

    • Web Design LA :

      Rewards are really important for employees for their encouragement. Not only in professional front but everywhere. That helps a lot.

    • People are motivated by a combination of pain and pleasure. Using it effectively will allow you to get more engagement.

    • Rewards are something that motivates people to work harder. If they get rewarded they will work harder form then on in order to be rewarded again.

  39. Loving the Top Commentors section you have with Dofollow. Is that a WordPress plugin that automatically tallys the most comments?

  40. Wilson Usman :

    This is true, and its something I’ve overlooked. How could I’ve missed this. Thanks Neil I’m going to apply this to some of my sites.

  41. latest gadgets :

    Everytime I land on this website, I learn something or the other which is so very innovative and new. Amazing idea of using game mechanics to improve SEO.

  42. Yeah That True , But Google still Playing with genuine sometimes I observed that Google Do Some types of nonsense specially while the competition is very tough and conversion rate is high

  43. Another great post Neil. I am amazed to see how you can relate almost every domain to doing business and making money 😀 This is how every entrepreneur should think.

  44. Motorcycle trader :

    Its a ultra awesome post. I’m a webmaster and doing SEO for my blog. It can be very serious idea to get good SEO results.

  45. Net Age | Web Design :

    I liked your DMOZ editor bit. One piece of advise I’ll never forget was when it was matter-of-factly stated by several commenters talking from first hand experience that the easiest way to get onto DMOZ was to simply bribe an editor. I’m racking my brain but can not remember where I saw this, LOL!

  46. Joe @ Making Money Ideas :

    Great post Neil and I found it through the more recent post you wrote on getting to page one of google without buying text links. I read through some of the guff you recieved on that post and saw you link to this one. For certain a more creative and even long term approach is more plausible for getting on and staying on top, but I have to agree with you on the idea that the first post is more usable. More folks would read and implement the ideas you shared in you post written recently and I think that is what makes it useful. I’ve heard Matt talk about the widgets and their value to a highly succesful SEO campain as long as they are relevant. I recently had a company wanting to work out a deal to place a widget on one of my sites home page for $600 per quarter which didn’t sound bad. When I started to install the widget I noticed it had like 14 links all do-follow…. WOW.. I got back in touch and informed them I couldn’t do that. The thing is though the widget WAS useful for my traffic, if it had had a few links I would have done it, likely.

    Do you know of an affordable person or comany who would design a widget?

    Thought I’d Ask.


    J. Crawford

  47. Chetan Patel :

    just read about you neil, trying to become like you. i’m also from internet marketing field so like your post on SEO power.

  48. “Top commentator” is really useful to increase comments and it is also big contest

  49. Hi Neil,
    I love reading your blog and although my twitter tool is a little bit different, there are a lot of useful tip and other business ideas that I’ve tried to put in place.
    Thanks a lot

  50. Venetian Mirrors :’s so true! People are suckers for games that encourages them to beat other peoples scores. In the last couple of years, things like “achievements” and “trophies”, have been popping up in almost every game out there. I had heard some pretty crazy stories about people playing Xbox games for 10 hours a day, just to get some silly achievement. These banner mini games are almost everywhere now, and they often play on curiosity. I don’t think I’m the only one, who has been itching to click one of those “Travian” banners with the large-breasted women, begging you to “save the kingdom” :-=)

  51. Best Ski Resorts :

    The game mechanics of web-based service that can connect to any site or application. We are interested in tweet on the use of game mechanics here, and you can also see a short video of me on this.

  52. Murcia web design :

    Time to think about developping some idea about game mechanics to improve my results.

  53. This is a very interesting post and one of such blog posts you want to print and read all over again. i am simply gonna have this printed for reference. What an intelligent post.

  54. search marketing agency :

    I have a theory that the pages of useless description in some books and the long grind of monster slaying in some RPGs serve essentially the same purpose. For both, the idea is to use something mildly fun to space out the really fun stuff, when you get a hit of pleasure from learning about a plot point. The process of enculturation is pretty similar for these two things as well. At first, everyone is bored by the descriptions in Moby Dick and the random battles in Final Fantasy, but after doing it enough, the player gets addicted to the grind because it’s so integrally bound up with the core pleasure of learning about plot.

  55. First time got an secret of using linkedIn previous i use to just login and do something blankly this time would like to try out to make some credits on it

  56. i used to answer to quizzes where might be promotion has been done for some of my sites. but i could nt able to understand the process of the that.

  57. Naser @ Best Tips For Blogging :

    Game mechanics are really a good way to promote websites. Leaving game mechanics, we can also participate or organize contests with cash prizes for improvement in SEO.

  58. Peter Langone :

    If you don’t mind i think some of my readers would enjoy this post, I’m gonna past your url around some

  59. Another great post, Neil. I do sometimes really get addicted to playing games, but I would have never thought it could also be profitable. It’s amazing and remarkable how you discover all these opportunities. I think you’d be able to even get blood from a stone.

  60. As a video game lover, player and blogger, I resent the fact that video games are a waste of time! Haha 🙂 (but seriously, I could talk the back legs off a donkey when it comes to telling why they’re actually rather helpful.)

    But I digress – two things I’ve learnt from video games are that
    1.) You don’t even have to be the best at what you do. Brian and Sonia from copyblogger say it best when they talk about ‘cookie content’. Obviously it’s ideal that everything you do is up to scratch and can hold its own, but if you can’t manage that, just create enough social intrigue that people will stand out in the cold at midnight just to hear what you’re saying.

    2.) It’s all about knowing your niche. The biggest video game franchise of all time (Call of Duty) was practically a field of its own when it first starting garnering attention, its closest rival was Medal of Honor, a franchise that had been gathering dust in the shelf for years. But thanks to an intense knowledge of the 18-35 male demographic that makes up /most/ gamers, the publisher (Activision) was able to monopolise on this. It’s less important that it fits with your overall strategy and more important that it patches up a wound that your demographic has. They’ll be like flies to crap if what you’re producing is helpful to them.

  61. Oh wow! great thoughts in fact creative thoughts. i think game mechanics logic will definitely work. it’s a best article.



  62. This post is genius! I think this is one reason why so many blogs with high numbers of comments get even more comments as well. People feel compelled to write something so they can be like everyone else.

  63. Thanks for finally talking about >How to Use Game
    Mechanics to Improve Your SEO <Liked it!

  64. Bristol Plasterers :

    As with most great SEO methods thinking outside the box is the way forward:-)

    Nice post

    • I agree. I think finding new and innovative ways to reach your target audience is always the best strategy. Thanks for reading and feel free to share any tips you’ve learned along the way!

  65. beats by dre headphones :

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  66. fast friday night dinner ideas :

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  67. I’ve really been enjoying quicksprouts articles, great content, thanks.

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