As an SEO, you play a number of different roles straight from the world of Game of Thrones, all critical to the success of your organization.
You are the Master to your house, advising leadership on marketing best practices and how to avoid disastrous pitfalls. You are a high priest/priestess preaching the importance of organic marketing. You are a knight ready to do battle against other houses to conquer the SERP. Most importantly, you are a leader, ensuring that your house is always prepared for winter (a.k.a. the next big algorithm update).
Given these and many other similarities, let’s take a look at some lessons from Game of Thrones that apply to an even more important game… the Game of SEO.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! (Not for Season 8 though… I’m not a monster. Looking at you, Zombified Gregor Clegane.)
Understand Your Audience
It’s important to understand who you are speaking to in order to ensure that your information is relevant to them.
Petyr Baelish was a master at knowing his audience. He knew exactly how to manipulate Lysa Arryn into giving him power at the Vale; and he manipulated her son too, who deferred all major decisions to him upon Lysa’s unfortunate exit through the moon door.
Ser Davos Seaworth has that same ability. He knew that Lyanna Mormont had the maturity of an adult, so he spoke to her in such a fashion to convey the White Walker threat.
With SEO, it’s important to know both how and why your audience is searching so that you can provide the most helpful experience possible. This will ensure that folks stay on your site, you earn authority and links over time, and you have good fortune in the wars to come.
The Greyjoys excel at building fast and powerful ships. While their army is small and tends to fare poorly on land, their ships enable them to rule the high seas.
So both Queen Daenerys and Queen Cersei have entered into agreements with various Greyjoy factions in order to secure their ships and ability to navigate the waters. They understand that traveling on land takes a great deal of time and they need Greyjoy ships to move troops quickly from place to place.
The same goes for site speed. Much like Greyjoy ships have grown in importance over the past few years, so has the speed of your site. A fast experience on both desktop and mobile is no longer just a nice thing to have – it’s critical to both your SERP ranking and your user experience overall.
If you need help convincing your tech team to do the work to speed up your website, just channel Euron Greyjoy’s speech at the Kingsmoot. They’ll understand in no time.
Keep a Very Close Eye on Your Competition
Lord Varys is one of the most powerful people in Westeros because of the competitive information he possesses. He always knows exactly what is going on next door, in the next kingdom, and halfway across the world, and this knowledge of external affairs empowers rulers to make important decisions and plan wisely for the future.
Varys’s role was so important that Cersei had to act quickly to replace him when he passed on, enlisting Qyburn to rapidly rebuild his network of “little birds” to serve as informants within King’s Landing.
Knowing what is happening around you ensures that you are not living in a walled garden, isolated from critical information that can help you better allocate resources and prioritize initiatives. In SEO, tracking your competitors’ organic marketing gives you the ability to learn what is working from them, change strategies on the fly, and identify potential competitors before they become a threat.
Don’t forget to track indirect competitors as well – you should keep your gaze on anyone who is competing with you for eyeballs, no matter how unlikely. It’s a task that never ends… as the Night’s Watch says, “And so my watch begins.”
Read and Acquire as Much Information as Possible
It’s hard not to love Samwell Tarly. Not only is he genuinely kind and always looking to help others, but he also happens to be the only bookworm in the entire show. Thanks to Samwell’s constant thirst for knowledge, he’s discovered everything from how to cure greyscale to how to defeat the White Walkers to the revelation that Jon Snow isn’t Ned Stark’s bastard son after all (oops – I did say “SPOILER ALERT”).
As an SEO, a similar drive to stay updated on search trends can arm you with the power of multiple Valyrian Steel swords. Resources like the Conductor Spotlight blog, the 30|30 webinar series, the Search on Tap podcast, and industry conferences like C3 can keep you up to date on the latest trends and prepare you for major shifts in the industry before they happen.
Knowledge is power. It’s what kept folks like Petyr Baelish in high places for so long, and it can be your key to winning position 1 for many high MSV terms – the SEO equivalent of taking the Iron Throne.
Capture the Hearts and Minds of Your Audience
Stannis was the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, but he still had a great deal of trouble getting people to follow him. Meanwhile, his own brother, Renly Baratheon, was able to rally the entirety of the Stormlands behind him because he understood the people and his cause resonated with them. (Poor Renly… even his King’s Guard member Brienne couldn’t save him).
In SEO, it’s important to always optimize for your customer and not for Google’s algorithm. That’s how you win the hearts of your audience and build brand affinity and loyalty that can outlast the whims of search engine fate.
Never forget the words of Tyrion Lannister: “The day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth.” You’ll feel that way if you only optimize for the algorithm and then an algorithm change destroys your site traffic overnight – and your organic revenue along with it.
Google is constantly trying to improve to provide the best user experience possible, and so should you.
I’d love to hear what SEO lessons you’ve learned from Game of Thrones. You can reach me on Twitter @HowieNYC.
Wishing you good fortune in the SEO wars to come…