How SEO Mirrors Competitive Gaming

It’s a Zero Sum Game

A game tournament can only have one winner. In SEO, there can only be a single #1 result. Companies are targeting the exact same existing demand within their industry. Your loss is someone else’s gain and vice versa. A smart player in either realm will research and study the competition to determine the best way to counter their moves and surpass them. At the end of the day, SEO like any video game tournament, is a zero sum game. Below are the many different parallels I've noticed between my experiences as a competitive gamer and marketer.

Making The Transition From Video Games to Internet Marketing

In my early 20's I played games competitively to the point where I would fly out to compete at tournaments across the country. My game of choice was Gears of War - a fast paced, bloody, team based sport for the XBOX 360. It was through this period of my life that I learned many of the skills that have translated over to the battlefield of internet marketing.

My team with me at the 2014 Austin PPC Hero Conference / Me with my MLG Team

Multiple Disciplines

Doing just SEO is no longer enough.

Just like a competitive gaming team would be encompass multiple roles, a digital marketing team has a diverse team performing different functions. One person may be the PPC expert, and another would be the designated support player on the game side. It's important that each discipline learn to compliment and understand the others. In many games, our designated sniper would die and another player would pick up the weapon and help win the round. One day the PPC person could be sick and a client needs an ad to come down immediately for legal reasons. The team should know how to pause the offending ad and save the day.

Competition is Fierce

Both competitive gaming and digital marketing are growing at incredible rates. 72% of PPC Marketers plan to increase budgets in 2014. How much more competition is that? A simple search for 'running shoes' blasts you with two large sections of paid ads. Most businesses have also noticed a rise in CPC's year to year with more businesses entering their auctions. In competitive gaming, the competition would intensify as prize money and popularity of the game rose. The only way to offset this was to practice more, strategize, and innovate. Constantly optimizing your client's campaigns is no different.

Marketing Conference / Competitive Gaming Tournament

Shifting Landscape

Each year, Google changes its search algorithm around 500–600 times.

In both professional gaming and internet marketing, adaptability is key. There are always new factors that affect the way the competition is approached. Games change, new rules are set in place, and there are constant updates. In the internet marketing world, search engines grow and change as well. SEO rules get revised often and algorithm updates are common. To succeed, you have to be on top of your game.When I first began my career in digital marketing, it was the golden era where everyone could rank anyone for anything rather cheaply. Spinning articles was the order of the day and it allowed companies to charge hundreds of dollars for articles that were written once and then recycled hundreds of times for free, bringing their cost to almost nothing. These types of tactics are outdated and are actually harming those who utilized them.

Getting top rankings - the right way - is now harder than ever.

Experimentation Is a Strategy

Sometimes the most effective way to find a solution is experimenting with different methods to see what works best. Gamers might switch up their strategy depending on who the opponent is. When they progress to higher levels with different challenges, experimenting can unlock the keys to beating the opponent.

With ever-changing search engine algorithms, internet marketers may experiment with different SEO tactics to see what brings the best results to their client. Some strategies work better for certain websites depending on their competitors.


Want to know the difference between the best teams in both gaming and marketing? Consistency. The top gaming teams consistently practice and use proven strategies. Just like pros who practice non stop and develop muscle memory, an astute internet marketing company practices processes and techniques that make results consistent. Firm dedication and practice lead to professionals who can quickly brainstorm ideas and face challenges head on.

Pro Counterstrike players will break up the map into different names to quickly communicate enemy positions.

Ethics Count

Cheating can get you disqualified from a gaming tournament (or at the very least, earn you a bad reputation) and similarly, using unethical SEO strategies can penalize your site and negatively affect its traffic. Some companies will use “black hat” techniques that may get your site some temporary benefits, but often they end up hurting you more in the long run. In both worlds, doing things the ethical way might not always be the easiest or quickest, but it’s the only way to do things if you truly want to be the best.

Fostering A Competitive Culture

Competition breeds excellence, encouraging each person to push themselves. Team based environment to rally for one another and our clients. Everyone loves an underdog in e-sports, and many times you and your team will find yourself competing a space dominated by big brands, with much bigger budgets. View it as an opportunity to grow and test your skills!


Teammates matter - especially good ones. In my experience gaming, the best teammates were the ones that would simply step up and do what was best for the team. Fights would often break out over who would be the sniper on the team, etc. In marketing, there are a lot of not so glorious roles like placing tracking codes or chasing down incorrect citations, but these tasks are incredibly important and contribute tremendously to the overall campaign. I also witnessed first hand how egos would destroy team after team. Teammates/coworkers should be people that you respect, have fun with, and step up to help as their goals are yours as well.There are actually gaming houses where teams live and train together all the time in preparation for tournaments. In digital marketing, it's actually worse. Don't believe me? Most people will put in 91,000 hours at work or 10 1/2 years according to this infographic from EXEC. That's a lot of time spent with coworkers who often times become like family.

Competitive Intelligence

Before top teams play one another, they study footage of each other playing to get a sense of the opponents tactics and strategies. Digital marketing is absolutely no different. This is why there are tools like SEMrush to analyze a competitors list of PPC keywords that they are bidding on. Studying the competition will allow you to better assess your own strategies and make sure you are ready to one up the competition.

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