Gamification. It’s what makes the world go around. Or at least it’s what makes Call of Duty sell.
For the uninitiated, gamification is the application of game-design elements—rewards levels, rules—into non-game contexts. It’s the way that businesses, social media and yes, even Call of Duty, hack into our brains to exploit our natural inclinations towards simplicity, achievement and competition.
And it’s more ubiquitous than you think. Popular study application Quizlet utilizes game-based learning methods to attract more than 20 million students monthly. Enterprise giants like Cisco and FedEx along with virtually every airline deploy simulation programs in order to train employees. Weight loss and fitness companies have been utilizing point based structures for years. The Weight Watchers program is still firmly rooted in its SmartPoints based system. TV’s “The Biggest Loser” … well, it was a thing for a while. And, in a chillingly dystopian move, China recently announced plans to introduce gamification elements into a “social credit” system. Under this proposed structure, citizens would be ranked by their trustworthiness, credit history, personal taste and social connections. Essentially creating a national leader board, but instead of fantasy football, it scores the lives and fates of 1.3 billion people.
Come to think of it, nearly every way that we engage online integrates elements of gamification. Log in to LinkedIn or Facebook and you’ll be confronted with tasks to complete such as adding contacts or completing your profile. Sidebars allow you to track your progress on likes, shares, friends, and connections. Notifications nuzzle your mammalian brain with artificial red urgency, prompting you to click and get a small surge of dopamine (Yes, there’s a reason every social media site is blue, it makes you feel safe and defended).
The reason gamification works is its roots in cognitive psychology and behaviorism. It makes users feel in control. It stimulates our objective-oriented brains with challenge and rewards. Perhaps we’re more wired into the Darwinian notion of “survival of the fittest” than we thought. It is, after all, the oldest game in biology.
Gamification inserts itself especially well in marketing and sales, where the competitive aspects can encourage a rising tide that lifts all boats. But one of its biggest strengths arises from the ways that it can bring about intuitive, simplification of actions. For example, by automating performance data and offering it in an easily digestible format, all teams, from marketing and sales to administration, have the same level of visibility and understanding. This can cut down on internal email usage and knowledge gaps between departments.
In the world of SEO, leading companies have introduced gamification elements to their applications and websites to simplify and improve their customers’ abilities to successfully optimize for search.
Moz Pro, for example, turns website crawling and SEO research into a task-driven game that, as you make progress, charts your positioning with simple graphs, notifying you of positive and negative changes. By providing you with “objectives” to fulfill in order to rank higher, MOZ has successfully integrated gamification elements that simplify SEO for users and encourage high levels of engagement.
Another helpful tool for SEO that incorporates gamification elements is the Yoast plug in available on WordPress. Enough has been said about the value of this plug in, but for those unfamiliar, the quick run-down is this: Yoast is the most comprehensive plug in available for simplifying and improving SEO on your WordPress site. It allows you to establish title and meta data templates as well as quickly mark pages as no-index, all from the same, easily navigable dashboard. Yoast incorporates gamification elements whereby you can enter keywords you’d like to optimize for and then get graded per page. The intuitive dashboard shows exactly how well you’ve optimized for a keyword, and even offers tips and tricks to improve your overall grade.
Woorank is another company that binds gamification elements with SEO to create a simple program that encourages users to optimize their website. Similar to HubSpot’s Website Grader Tool, WooRank evaluates the site based on 50 criteria ranging from crawlability and site speed to backlinks and metadata. Depending on which tier membership option you choose, you can re-crawl your site while making adjustments according to Woorank’s recommendations. For example, to compress certain image sizes, whether to use block or in-line, or what keywords should be used and where. By completing recommendations, users are able to see their overall website score go up.
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