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Sep 24th, 2013
With today’s launch of EA Sports’ FIFA 14 in the US and Friday’s launch in Europe, I thought it would be particularly relevant to analyse how building your ‘Ultimate Team’ on FIFA can actually draw a lot of comparisons with creating a successful Digital Marketing Strategy.
On a personal note, I love football. I love playing football, I love watching football, I love talking about football and I especially love playing FIFA videogames. I don’t know what it is about it, maybe it’s because I’m British and the sport is part of our heritage, or perhaps because I played and watched the game from an early age, but whatever the reason it’s certainly a central theme in mine and millions of people’s lives around the world.
What I like about the videogame in particular is how it’s always challenging, especially when playing in ‘Ultimate Team’ mode. The premise of this is that you are given a set of low quality players to begin with and in order to purchase player ‘packs’ and obtain higher quality players (i.e. build an ‘ultimate team’), you need to hone your skills and win against the opposition to earn coins.
I can see a lot of parallels between this and creating a website which you want to rank in Google – particularly the fact that you have to start small and build your profile over time to get results. In the game you also need to have balance and synchronicity between players in order to improve team chemistry, in the same way that it’s important to have a well-balanced marketing strategy.
The better your team gets and the more games you win, the more challenging your opponent i.e. the higher you want your target keywords to rank, the harder it becomes. This is also tricky when your opponents have been playing the game a lot longer than you – older sites are likely to have more associated trust, along with a higher number of relevant links and will generally rank higher. With the right strategy though, it’s definitely possible to rank highly and defeat more established rivals, like when Greece beat Portugal in the final of the European Championships in 2004.
It’s the competitive element of FIFA that I particularly enjoy though: winning a match against your friends or random opponents over the internet is a great feeling and I try to replicate that feeling of winning as often as I can, which also applies to my online marketing work: our goal at Smart Traffic is to help our clients beat their competition through providing them with the best SEO techniques available.
Below I have outlined the most important digital marketing ‘players’ for your site to compete in Google search.
The Referee – Google
Google is the referee in the sense that they control the game and enforce the rules of fair play. The referee’s role is to be aware of what’s going on at all times in the same way that Google is always aware of information on the internet through crawling sites. If you break the rules in football then you will be punished, in the same way that if you use techniques outside of webmaster guidelines (also known as link schemes), then your site can be penalised and your keyword rankings will drop. If this does happen, then here is my handy account of removing an unnatural links penalty.
The referee often influences the outcome of matches depending on the decisions that they make, in the same way that Google will decide whether or not your site deserves to rank higher than your competitors.
Goalkeeper – Onsite Factors
The bread and butter of any marketing strategy has to be the site itself. In the same way that your team will be hindered by a slow, error-prone goalkeeper, if your site is slow to load, has a poor display or makes lots of 404 errors, then you won’t stand a chance against your rivals. You should focus on making your site reliable and trustworthy, as well as trying to make it leap above the competition – you need it to be fast, visually strong and responsive in order to achieve success.
Defence – Content
A winning team is always built from a solid defence, in the same way a high ranking site will be built on strong content. If your defenders are small and weak, then it’s likely that the other teams will find it easier to score against you. In the same light, having thin and weak content will hinder your site’s chances of ranking in Google. In order to rank well you need to have strong, authoritative content that people can depend upon as a source of information. Content is the backbone of any strategy and makes a significant difference between yours and others’ sites.
Producing fresh, relevant content is also very important. In the same way that you should substitute players that are tired or injured, you need to focus on making new, original content that keeps pace with the industry. One way to do that is to have a blog embedded into your site, with up to date articles that will excite your audience, or you could even create innovative infographics as an alternative way to display data and increase the probability of being linked to organically.
Midfield – Links
Midfielders are the most influential players on the team; midfielders will use the ball the most and have to both attack and defend in every game. If we look at how football used to be played, it was typical for teams to position most of their players in midfield and attack. From Wikipedia: “In the first international game, Scotland against England on 30 November 1872, England played with seven or eight forwards in a 1–1–8 or 1–2–7 formation, and Scotland with six, in a 2–2–6 formation.”
Funnily enough the game ended without either team scoring! However I think a lot of comparisons can be drawn between these formations and the early days of SEO, where whoever had the most anchor text links and most keyword-rich, over-optimised site usually ranked position 1 in Google.
Evidently link building has changed a lot since then, as has football. More importance is now placed on having high quality midfielders that can control the game, rather than putting all of your players in midfield. Likewise in SEO, there is less importance placed on having the most links compared to having the best quality links on far-reaching sites with high relevancy and high authority.
Attack – Social Media
It’s very difficult to win games without a good forward line. Forwards are often the most loved by the crowd for scoring goals and providing a great deal of entertainment. In the same light, it’s important to be engaging and entertaining on social media in order to draw a larger following. You can have great content but if you can’t get people to read it, then the overall effect of your work is greatly diminished.
With that in mind it is imperative that you try to reach as many people as you can through optimising your social media profiles, as well as producing content or updates that people are likely to share. Here’s a great article on Moz for advice on gaining and managing your Twitter followers. As highlighted in the Moz article, it’s also important to sound like a person rather than a company trying to sell something.
In the same way that football players engage with the fans through goal celebrations and signing autographs, you should also engage with your followers across all social media platforms, rather than just focusing solely on Facebook or Twitter. There is also evidence to suggest that Google+ is influential as a ranking factor, although the jury is still out on that. In order to increase engagement you can do things like provide short term incentives or competitions, follow people back, interact with influential accounts in your industry, upload humourous or thought provoking images and so on.
What I’d like people to take from this article is that the focus should be spread across all marketing methods. Everything is important and so don’t neglect any part of your strategy; as is the case in FIFA, if you have weak parts of your team then your opponents will look to gain an advantage over you in that area.
So if you’ve done all of the above and have your digital marketing players in good shape, then you’re ready to take to the virtual field against anyone. If you feel that your players could use more training to get in peak physical condition though, then feel free to get in touch with our strategic experts that know exactly how to get your team playing to its full potential.
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