Developers have a passion for games that most cannot beat, they engross themselves within virtual worlds of fantasy and fiction. I’d challenge anyone to match the levels of excitement felt by an indie developer beginning the journey to transform a once distant pipe dream into a gaming reality. Unfortunately, persuading players of the world to become diehard fans of a game pre-release isn’t such an easy task, it requires a great deal of persistence, diligence and precision.
One effective game marketing method used to produce dedicated followers, is to create a game development blog. Building an online community is a necessary and valuable tool to generate high levels of awareness, anticipation and create genuine feedback for your game before it is released into the real world. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and a developer should never take such a tool lightly. A dev game blog is the main life line between a growing game and its audience, one mistake could sever that tie forever.
Establishing Your Fan Base
During initial stages of game production, many things will be uncertain and decisions that have already been made, may alter as development progresses. Identifying USP’s (unique selling points) might be difficult, but one thing that should remain crystal clear from the word go, is the type of player that your game will aim to target. To reach out to your chosen audience demographic, you should begin by searching for their hiding places.
For arguments sake let’s say we have a rough idea to develop a first player RPG, set within the shell-shocked scenes of World War 2. By typing something as simple as “World War 2 game” into Google, the search engine will provide games of this genre that are frequently mentioned on the web. Once we know what our target audience are currently playing, an old school marketing trick of searching for particular game forums will easily unveil which virtual watering holes our potential players are hanging out in.
Once you have hunted down prospective players, delicacy is key when attempting to persuade them into a following for your developing game. By joining already affiliated blogs and forums, you can gently intrigue its members by coaxing them into giving honest feedback from playing your trial demos. Providing you don’t infuriate communities by spamming discussions, adding little comments and questions will quickly get your target audience to notice your new and upcoming project.
Getting involved with other online communities will not only boost players awareness of you, it will also increase your knowledge of the gaming genre. You will become wise to emerging trends concerning popular topics of conversation, eventually getting to know your intended players like the back of your hand, accurately predicting what they would like to talk and read more about. Using the knowledge already possessed and recently acquired, as well as researching other popular sites such as reddit and competitors blogs, you can now talk authoritatively, creating interesting discussions within your own game development blog.
Optimising Your Development Blog
Although infiltrating other game forums and blogs can be a very successful way to start the ball rolling, you cannot rely on this sneaky marketing tactic to independently drive large numbers of traffic to your website. Once your blog is established and you have a continuous flow of content ideas, you need to work on its organic search performance, or in other words, how high your site sits in Google’s search listings. We all know that internet users hate to scroll through reams of pages, often only clicking on the top 4 or 5 links. On average the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all clicks and results 6 to 10 account for only 3.73% (source). This means that by increasing your organic search position, you will also increase the amount of traffic driving through your page.
In order to boost the ranking of your game development blog, you will need to recognize what keywords and phrases players are being used to reach it. Google Adwords is a great tool, helping to identify which words produce the highest search volumes,taking other site’s ranking into consideration and judging your ability to win the bidding war against them. One beginner’s trick is to select long-tailed words that generate both high search amounts and low competition rates, allowing you to fight off any contenders you may face for the top spot.
To unleash the potential of your selected keywords, embed them within your pages, each page having a particular theme with carefully placed semantic key phrases within the text. Pay particular attention to your homepage, as this holds the highest authority over the search engine. It is essential to include your most relevant keyword within the title of your homepage and slot a select few semantic phrases into the description, however you must remain conscious of what you’re writing. Stay clear from stuffing your pages with key search words to avoid being penalised by Google and branded as a spammer by your readers. Yoast is one of the more intuitive SEO plugins for wordpress which will assist you with onsite SEO tactics .
As a games developer you may want your website to be a visual whirlwind filled with representations of your creative talents, and even though images are very pleasing for your readers, you may also want to consider how search engines view your page. Unfortunately Google struggles to understand images, and although alt text can give a vague account, nothing will give a more quality description of your site than that of the written text.
On top of having to carefully construct content and imagery, you should also consider the structure of your game website, as this also affects the way in which Google perceives your page. 6 or 7 tabs plus an extra 4 to 5 sub pages for each of those headings are more than enough to create stacks of valuable content to entice your prospective players. However, adding tonnes of pages will not negatively affect your rank position as long as the content is relevant. You should always avoid having unnecessary pages linked through the main navigation to create a better user experience . If you would like to top the charts with multiple organic search phrases and words, you could neatly tuck these into various sub-pages with anchor text, expanding on each topic. As a developer, you may also love to see the world from a coding point a view, take a look at Pagespeed Insights and find out how you can get Google to trawl through your website with ease.
Once again, be careful not to stuff your website with keywords, everything you add into your game development website must contribute to the user experience. If your web page doesn’t connect with them in a way that grips and excites, you are likely to have lost their custom forever. By this point you have probably spent days, weeks, maybe even months, researching and persuading your future players into a following for your game, and although it is important to make your website readable by Google, you mustn’t lose sight of your goal. You are trying to charge your fan base, hype them up to a point of uncontrollable impatience for the release of your game. Balance your website accordingly by writing user friendly content for your intended players, and then optimise it for search engines by embedding keywords in only very appropriate areas of your blog site.
Reinforce Your Gaming Presence
Now your game development blog is at the point of perfection for on-site organic search performance, and more importantly your intended players, you can use already acquired old school marketing tricks to let your website flourish. Plant seeds in popular gaming networks by creating articles and guest posts that increase your gaming presence and conveniently link to your game’s blog site. According to Search Metrics, referrals and link backs are two of the most influential factors that determine a page’s rank, and will push your site into supporting itself. Linking has always been one of the prevailing factors within the Google Algorithm, building quality links from authoritative sites will work wonders for your sites position within the search results. By cementing links with other authoritative gaming sites, you could theoretically turn Google dependency into a thing of the past, floods of dedicated readers will stream through your website, eagerly awaiting the release of your upcoming game.
A game development blog bridges the gap between you and your potential players. If executed and maintained in the correct way, it can not only provide effective advertising for your game pre-release, but can also contribute towards the production of your game. By getting in and amongst your targeted players, you can get inside their heads, figuring out what they would like to see from your virtual world, whilst creating attention for you blog, increasing its popularity and ranking.
You have been given the keys to unlock the potential powers of a game development blog. Be sure to use them wisely by creating an intricate balance between producing content for your users and optimising it for search engines. Be persistent with your efforts. When release day finally arrives you will have a cohort of followers, waiting with bated breath to play the game you have worked so hard to create.
Continue your learning, discover how to build those all important links that will kick start your organic rankings: http://www.