HOW INDIE GAMES CAN USE SEO TO DRIVE GAME AWARENESS AND SALES

“Sometimes it’s better to ride the wave of existing interest, rather than trying to create your own wave”

INDIE VIDEO GAME MAKER USE SEO TO BOOST AWARENESS AND SALES

In 2019 over 9000 video games were released on Steam. Many of these games were indie games developed by indie game makers who put their hearts and souls into developing their game(s). However, with 9000 games being released, the lion’s share of the attention will concentrate on games with bigger video game marketing budgets. 

We’ve interviewed many indie game makers over on our blog about their distribution and marketing efforts and most of them say the same thing. Essentially, marketing and distributing video games is hard. Really hard.

The issue is that most game developers don’t have large build-in audiences. This makes creating a sustainable indie game studio a challenge. It’s hard for indie game makers to split their time between the constant demands of marketing while they are also working overtime to develop their games. It’s a near impossible task for the solo game maker.

However, game makers who train themselves in the science and art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), may find that they can uncover creative ways around having relatively unknown brands and game titles. Here’s how.

HOW TO USE SEO TO YOUR GAME’S ADVANTAGE

Virtually all games exist within a genre. Your indie game might be a space game, fantasy game, tycoon simulation game or a spelling game.

You can use your game’s genre to your advantage by optimizing content (such as your blog content or your YouTube content) to piggyback off the interest within genre based search terms.

For example, imagine you have a space game called “Intergalactic Frenzy 2”. There is probably not much search interest for that term within Google, Yahoo or Bing. Of course, you could work hard to bring attention to your game’s title on social media, but it will mostly be an uphill battle. It’s not impossible, but you will likely feel like the world’s forces are working against you.

Alternatively, you exploit the already existing search volume behind genre based keywords to try to gain your game attention by creating content for web searchers who are looking for genre based results. For instance, it’s not uncommon for web searchers to search for games in any genre using search terms like

“Games like __________”
“Games Similar to __________”
“Best __________ Games”

For example, did you know that the search term “games similar to World of Warcraft” sees roughly 230 searches / month and has relitivly low keyword competition? 

indie game seo

Or if you’ve developed a strategy game did you know the term “Strategy Games” sees over 49,500 searchers / month? 

search engine optimization for indie games

Other terms such as “open world space game” sees 590 searches / month. The term “space exploration games” sees 2900 searches / month. 

As you can see, while there may be limited search volume for your game’s title,it is nevertheless possible to ride the wave of existing search interest by finding ways to creatively tie your game into the context of those searches .

HOW CAN YOU TIE YOUR GAME INTO THE CONTEXT OF THOSE KEYWORDS?

There are various ways you to exploit existing search interest for your game’s benefit.

1: CREATE A GENRE BASED ONLINE DESTINATION: Many indie game makers work in similar genres time and time again. For those that work within the same genre for each game, it might be a good idea to create a web portal or platform where people with an interest in that genre can meet and talk about the games within that genre. Your games could then be featured through the display of prominent ads on that portal. Also, if people sign up for your forum, social network or website, you’ll get access to their email address so you can keep in contact about the development of any games you’re working on. 

Therefore, if you work in strategy games you could create a strategy game website. Remember, the search interest for “strategy games” is 49,500 searches / month. This of course doesn’t include any long tail keywords or other large terms that you could use to your advantage. In reality the search volume around “strategy games” is hundreds of thousands of searches / month. Imagine you owned the “go to” web property around this genre. It’s not an impossible task. It’s not something you’ll be able to optimize for in one month, but you’ll likely be able to make progress on ranking for your desired keywords within 6-12 months. We’ve successfully ranked websites for huge search terms within 3 to 6 months and the payout is often huge.

Owning a destination that is directly related not just to the game you’re working on now, but any future games you work on in the same niche, can provide you with a huge competitive advantage.

2. COMPILATION VIDEOS: YouTube is the second largest search engine the world. There are many niches that use compilation videos to their advantage. For example, do a YouTube search for “top 10 drummers” and you’ll see the first result clocking in over 8 million views. You’ll see the same for the science niche, education niche, art niche and virtually eveyr other niche. People love “best of” or “compilation videos”. The gaming niche is no exception. 

For example, conduct a search for “space game”. Notice we see the top result with a view could of nearly 300,000 views in only 5 months. A video from last year has earned nearly 1 million views in under 12 months.

youtube seo for indie games

Many of these videos are monetized with advertising. However, if you have a game, or game related product or service, there is nothing stopping you from mentioning that product or service within your compilation video.

However, you need to be sensible when taking this approach. If you’ve created a space game for example and you want to create a YouTube compilation of the best space games, you don’t want to do a top 10 countdown with Eve Online in the number two position, while your little indie game that nobody has ever heard of, takes the number one position. While you might believe your game is the best game in the world, it’s best to let others decide that.

How we’ve helped other indie game makers navigate this sensitive issue, is that we’ve planned space for a mention of their game in an honest way at the beginning or end of their video through one of two methods.

Honorable mentions: An honorable mention allows you to shout-out new games, indie games or games in development within the genre you’re exploring. This provides you with a more natural and honest way to shout out your game. Video viewers often like this as well since it highlights some games in the genre they might otherwise not have had the chance to learn about. 

Research based: Another approach we’ve used with our clients is to create a short intro to the compilation video that explains the reasons for the creation of the video in the first place. You, as the video creator and game maker can explain to people why you wanted to put together this compilation video. You can say something along the lines of “I’ve been working on a space game called “_______” and it got me thinking about what my favorite space games of all time are”. Again, this a natural way to slip a mention of your game in the video without being obnoxious or dishonest about it.

Compilation videos can end up going viral if they are put together well and help provide value. They often end up showing up high in Google’s organic search listings helping to give you even wider exposure.

3. “LET’S PLAY” VIDEOS OF POPULAR GAMES:  Again, another organic YouTube hack is to piggyback off the existing popularity of other games in your niche. Again many Twitch Streamers and YouTubers earn money from their “let’s play” or “game review” videos by monetizing them with ads. However, there is nothing stopping you from creating a “let’s play” video of another game and finding creative ways to mention your own game within the video.

Again, be honest about the reason for mentioning your game. If you’ve created a space game and you want to create an Eve Online “let’s play” video, simply let your audience know that you wanted to create a let’s play video to either conduct research, or draw comparisons between their game and your game.

4. LONG TAIL BLOG POST OPTIMIZATION: Another great option to help with your indie game marketing efforts is to create search engine optimized blog posts. Again, here you’ll spend a bit of time engaging in keyword research in order to discover what people are searching for in your niche. After that, you can go about creating high quality content around those topics for your blog. The nice thing about this approach is that you have a bit more space to move around in terms of genre. For example, maybe the game you’re working on now is a First Person Shooter (FPS), but your next game is a digital card game. Your blog can provide you with the opportunity to optimize pages based on different genres. This is a great approach for game makers who don’t consistently work within the same game genre. 

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR PAGES

We’ve found the best approach to content optimization is the creation of high quality content that is unique and scratches far below the surface. This is often referred to as “skyscraper content”. Online content marketing is getting more challenging each year. In order to stand out you can’t create “me too” content and hope it will have an impact. Today, average content goes largely unnoticed. Google is getting increasingly good at separating signal from noise. Therefore, you need to create content that goes above and beyond what others have created on the same topic. Search engines such as Google and YouTube are increasingly using engagement metrics to rank pages and videos. This means the better you satisfy a search query, the more likely users will be to engage with your content. The better engaged a user is with a piece of content, the more likely it will be that you’ll be ranked favorably. Therefore, above all, create content that provides as much value as possible.

FOCUS ON LOW HANGING FRUIT

Most keyword research tools allow you to find out how competitive each keyword is. They often look at the competitiveness of paid search results and they look at things like Domain Authority or Page authority of high ranking sites for each keyword. Generally speaking, the lower the Cost Per Click, and the lower the domain authority of high ranking pages, the easier the term will be to rank for. 

For this reason, I suggest you spend a half day to a day engaged in keyword research. Like game development, every minute you spend is pre-production, helps reduce production time by a factor of 10.

Plan out your content strategy by focusing first on low hanging fruit keywords. This will allow you to build up your traffic on some smaller keywords, which in turn will help you build links and other important social and engagement signals that search engines will use to rank your site. As you rank for more and more smaller terms, it will become increasingly easier to rank for mid to large size terms.

Again, this process doesn’t happen overnight, but the payoff is generally worth it. In two of the last projects we worked on, over 80% of sales came from organic search. So although there is a lot of talk about the importance of social media on game sales, we found that a well optimized SEO plan can yield much higher results. 

At first, it will feel like a lot of upfront work for little or no reward. However, if you can delay gratification for 3 to 6 months, you could find yourself with an online destination harnessing the power of traffic that other indie game developers will be jealous of. 

CONCLUSION

If you want help with search engine optimizing your games, we offer affordable indie game marketing packages (starting at $79) designed to yield results over the long run. Our focus on creating campaigns that keep driving game traffic and sales, even after your budget has run out.

That’s all I have for you today!

I hope you found this blog post helpful!

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