Should gamedevs go after easy to rank for keywords or the hard ones?
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For years I did not care about SEO. I let things happen as they may, didn’t make any effort to build up sites with searchable content (and instead mostly only focused on making games). And mostly relied on direct traffic over organic. Now I’m trying to make a change with that, and to begin to compete to get organic traffic for my niche. And you should too!
After reading about SEO for a few weeks, I feel like I didn’t learn much that I did not already know. That is — backlinks are important, making sticky content is important, and user experience in general matters too. I did learn some useful things though, and found some useful tools, which I’ll discuss over time so that other game developers can learn more quickly without the bs and I can solidify my learning. You will probably feel like you are not learning much genuinely useful things either. Most of this is “common sense” and is in the implementation more than the idea.
Competition exists already and is strong. It will get harder in the future for some terms, but there will always be a chance to rank well for new terms that may suddenly be popular.
Trying to rank for a competitive keyword is like punching a concrete wall with your fists. Punch all you want, you’re not going to make progress (unless you’re a super hero). Without the right effort (and tools) making progress on hard keywords will seem like you’re not making any progress at all even while you’re making a ton of effort constantly.
The first thing to know and accept is that overall search rankings do not change constantly. Google and Bing shuffle things around every so often, not every day. They may index pages today and they may be searchable within the hour of posting them, but that doesn’t mean they will show up on the pages you want them to. Effort you do today could have more of an impact in 3 months as things change and the feather finally drops to turn the scales in your favor.
Ranking for competitive keywords requires several prerequisites. First is getting links from other sites. This is hard, and extremely important. Another is making content which genuinely satisfies the
You’ve made an action RPG. How are you supposed to make content with keywords to begin to rank? Sure, it’s easy to rank for the name of your game, but what about the other things people search for that could bring you leads for people to play/buy your game?
You need to think broad. Big picture. Beyond the scope of your game. Once you start to build up content, you will see in Google Search Console that your pages begin to get impressions for search terms that are likely to be surprising. Something you said in passing in an article could get that article hundreds of impressions by the next day! These can give you an inkling on what to work on. What questions can you answer? Not just about for your games, but about the genre as a whole, which would naturally draw people first to your site to get their needs met and then into your game. Do people ask questions about a competitor’s game that your competitor doesn’t answer? You can answer that question, and potentially get a new fan in the process. This requires making a general area of your site, which is totally doable! And if you are making a certain kind of game surely you must be a fan of it, so you probably have valuable information to share that only a true fan like you would know. Doing this work is all about making long term investments which will make long terms results as you help people decades into the future.
Once you have content up, you will want to link it together in smart ways over time. When you release a new game, add some links to it on any pages relevant. This will tell search engines that your game’s page is important and that it related to keywords.
As long as it is genuinely high quality, as often as you can. There is no harm in putting things out there so long as you continue to focus on your games and keep them going forward without burning out.
Much of this is planting seeds for the future. You don’t know what content you publish that could blow up, or over time be linked to over and over again thanks to it being so useful.
There are still people playing and searching for terms related to Diablo 2 years and years after release. While it might not be a good idea to write guides for Diablo 2, it’s an example of the long tail of search. Games released today could be searched for for years.
If you play a game and have questions about something in it why not figure it out yourself and then write a guide for it? That’s the kind of thing you should make a habit if you want to follow these kinds of content strategies. Help people who are playing games in your genre → search engines reward you → you make new fans of your own products in the genre.
It’s no secret that I want our site to rank for Solitaire. Every time someone links to our site with that term it could be the final feather that tips the search engines to begin ranking us. So please give us a link!
The solitaire keyword is hard. Very hard. People like to play solitaire, and the top sites like displaying ads to those people. Displaying ads isn’t even in our business model so we don’t even have that incentive!
Realistically it will likely take at least 3 years of effort to become competitive for the term, and that’s just beginning to become competitive. Meanwhile competitors can still do more to give them an edge (though success can lead to complacency). Naturally this struggle is something every website faces. I know we have a chance, and I know it will be worth it.
Besides “solitaire” I’m going for several other very hard terms, each will take its own special care to get a chance to rank for, and I have no guarantee we’ll even rank for any of them. Still it’s worth it!
And of course we are building up a long term brand. Solitaire.io will become known as the #1 solitaire site in the world. If anyone has a thought about playing solitaire, our site will be where they want to go. 😇
Beyond the hard terms I am going for many shorter, easier, less competitive terms. It all adds up. And eventually it will build up brand awareness. This is something I feel our competitors are a bit weak on, they have generic sort of spammy pages, but they do not have broad, genuinely high quality resources. I still cannot really be critical of their efforts — they rank, that’s what matters! But there is so much easier opportunity out there which I do intend to go after!
That doesn’t mean my focus on the harder terms is any less. Solitaire, we’re coming for you!
I am not a SEO pro. I do not pay for any of the fancy SEO tools (and do not recommend you do so either, especially when you are just beginning to learn and build content). I am only documenting my learning and trying to share. Be smart and consistent! And make more games! New games will likely always be your #1 source for getting new links and direct traffic.
I do hope if you are a gamedev reading this you think about broadening your sites to get more organic traffic. Especially if you are a developer with games on Steam. Wouldn’t it be nice to be a little less at the mercy of Valve’s discovery changes for your games, to be able to drive reliable traffic to your games month to month above what you get naturally on Steam? I feel this is the sort of long term path that is necessary for us, and might be right for you too.
Get a good .com and start writing good content for it meant to help others. You’ll get better as a writer and slowly build up a site. Eventually you can use this site to help promote the products you make as you get older. Don’t think it’s ever too late! And throw us a link or two as thanks. 😉
Webgame developer? Read this guide I wrote just for you!
P.S. Is a correction required in this text? Tell me in our Discord!
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