Get Your Game (and Dev Blog) Discovered with SEO

Emmy Jonassen, creator of Indie Game Girl, shares DIY marketing advice for indpendent game developers. In the second part of this ongoing series, she offers tips for optimizing your development blog. 

As an independent video game developer with limited budget, ensuring marketing investments produce impactful ROI is a must. However, not all effective marketing costs money. In fact, some of the best strategies are completely free—most notably, search engine optimization. Why? With 89 percent of online adults using search engines to make purchase decisions, and 33 percent of their clicks going to the first search result listing, slapping together a development blog and hoping you get ranked isn’t enough. To capture this enormous opportunity for discovery, you must rely on science, not hope, and harness the power that is SEO.

What is SEO and why is it important to indies?

SEO’s official definition is “a process of affecting the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s natural or unpaid (organic) search results.” But it’s more than that. SEO is a science. It’s based on algorithms and keywords that the leading search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use every day. And because it’s a science, it works, which is why so many marketers use it to increase their content’s search results ranking and get discovered by prospective clients. Indies can do the same for their games via their development blogs. Let’s take a look at a fictional example.

SEO is Rad Studios is developing a tower defense game called Zombie Battle, where players defend against hordes of zombies. From the keyword research it conducted on Google Keyword Planner, SEO is Rad learned that “zombie tower defense games” is a common search term among tower defense players. This keyword is perfect. Not only does it describe Zombie Battle accurately, but has low competition (i.e., SEO is Rad would have a better chance ranking in first page results) and gets a good amount of monthly searches (390).

Having read last month’s post, SEO is Rad has a development blog ready to go and writes an optimized post around the keyword “zombie tower defense games.” In three months (this can take less or way more time depending on your pagerank), SEO is Rad’s post appears as the first listing on the “zombie tower defense games” search results page. And with 33 percent of that search term’s clicks going to SEO is Rad, Zombie Battle is being discovered by 130 new people each month.

Depending on your own game’s traffic statistics, the SEO is Rad example may or may not be impressive. However, one cannot deny the discoverability power SEO takes on when one starts ranking on multiple keywords. For example, imagine if SEO is Rad ranked on 100 keywords just like “zombie tower defense games.” Zombie Battle would attract 13,000 new pairs of eyeballs every month and 156,000 every year. Not too shabby for a marketing technique that may take some time, but costs $0.

How to optimize a page or post using SEO?

Now that you understand how SEO can help with discoverability, the next step is learning how to use it to optimize your content for first-page search results ranking. Below are the key elements of an optimized page or post. (You’ll notice the SEO is Rad example used above, is carried through this section).

  1. Page Title
    This is what you name your page or title your blog post. Keep titles to 70 characters or less and move your keyword as close to the front of the title as possible (e.g., “Zombie Tower Defense Games to Die For”).

  2. URL
    The URL is the address at which your page or post lives. Your keyword should appear somewhere in this URL (e.g., www.seoisradstudios.com/zombie-tower-defense-games).

  3. Sub Headings
    For those unfamiliar with sub headings, they are denoted with an h tag in code (e.g., <h1>Sub Heading Text Goes Here</h1>). When they are displayed on a web page, they look as one might expect: a larger, bolder font than the rest of the text on the page.

    While sub headings may not be as influential in ranking as your page title or URL, they still help with SEO, as well as readability. Try to place your keyword in at least one sub heading (e.g., <h1>Killer Zombie Tower Defense Games</h1>)
  1. Word Count
    In order for a search engine to consider your page or post worthy of ranking, it needs to be at least 300 words.
  1. Keyword Density
    Your keyword density is the percentage of keywords to total words in your page or post. Optimized posts should have no less than a one percent keyword density (e.g., if your post is 300 words, the keyword should appear at least three times).
  1. First Paragraph
    When search engines crawl the text in your page or post, they read it like a human would: from top to bottom. Placing your keyword somewhere in the first sentence of the first paragraph helps tremendously.
  1. Images
    Images contribute to an entire post’s ranking, but can also rank on their own. Sometimes an image can rank in a first-place position on an image search and pass quite a bit of visitors to a site. Make sure to include at least one image in your content that contains your keyword in its alt tag. (e.g., <alt>zombie tower defense games</alt>).
  1. Outbound Links
    Most search engines weigh linked text heavier than non-linked text, but view too much linked text as spam. Include one outbound link for every 125 words of text for a healthy ratio.
  1. Keyword Duplication
    Avoid optimizing two or more pages/posts with the same keyword. Keyword duplication of this kind won’t harm your ranking directly, but could end up cannibalizing one of your pages for another, affecting the original page’s position. That said, it is OK to use parts of one page’s keyword in another page’s text (e.g., if “Zombie Tower Defense Games” is the keyword you used to rank in one post, using “Tower Defense Games” or “Fun Zombie Games” in another is just fine).


    The form of duplication that will harm your ranking directly is content duplication (i.e., having two or more pages or posts with the exact same content). Content duplication is viewed negatively by search engine algorithms and could harm your ranking.

What about SEO tools that can help with optimization?

While the steps above outline the key elements for optimizing a page or post, nothing can beat a tool that guides you in real time, and the Web is filled with them. Such SEO tools range in price (some costing thousands of dollars per month) and functionality. However, I recommend the same two tools for studios working on an indie budget, and even use them myself.

  1. Inbound Writer
    This nifty web app enables you to optimize your content as you write. Start by selecting your optimization strategy: organic search, search popularity, or search ranking. Input your keyword and start writing. As you type, you’ll receive a grade and suggestions to improve your score.

    If you’re looking to optimize on pages/posts per week, or four per month, the app is completely free. If you wish to write more, Inbound Writer moves to a monthly subscription of $19.95 for unlimited documents. Visit the app here.

  2. WordPress SEO by Yoast
    For those of you using WordPress blogs (I’m a WordPress fanatic), SEO by Yoast is an excellent, and free, plugin. Like Inbound Writer, this plugin will grade your content as you write and offer suggestions for improvements. Visit the plugin here

RELATED: Play on Words: The First Step to Marketing Your Indie Game

 

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