10 Ways Internet Marketing is Like World of Warcraft

Ian Lurie

Meet Dappa. He’s my World of Warcraft (WoW) character.
He’s sadly neglected these days, but I’ve played World of Warcraft a fair bit, and notice some startling similarities to internet marketing:

It’s very hard to walk away

I’m not one of those guys who has to wear adult diapers because I spent 12 hours welded to my computer, but WoW is definitely addictive. Internet marketing is pretty hard to leave alone, too, and it’ll suck you in.

The quests are never-ending

Part of my love-hate relationship with World of Warcraft is the fact that you’re never, ever, ever, done. Just when you finish a quest for some whiny gnome, his boss comes up with 10 more things for you to do. I think the WoW creators stole that from internet marketing. Ever had a site 100% perfectly optimized for search? Didn’t think so.

Thar be doo-doo heads

Walk around in the World of Warcraft long enough, and you meet someone who tries to steal from you, backstab you, fling you off a cliff or otherwise ruin your day. The internet seems to be a training ground for those folks. Let it go. Or hit him with your +44 Stick of Ruination.

The basic rules don’t change

WoW is based on a long-standing tradition of role playing, video games and humanity’s never-ending obsession with blowing stuff up. But the basics are still the same: Get stuff. Sell stuff. Use gold to buy better weapons, so you can kill more bad (or good) guys and get more stuff, so you can sell more stuff… You get the idea.
Add an ‘internet’ in front of ‘marketing’ and it’s still marketing. The rules have. not. changed. No matter how hard you try to argue it. It’s still about a refined message that brings you the right customers just when they need what you’re providing.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

If you want to make tons of money in WoW, you can always go pay someone real-world dollars. Then they’ll send you 40,000 gold pieces in WoW, and you can go on a shopping spree. Woo hoo! Of course, that person will likely then steal your personal information and sell it to the highest bidder. Then you’ll have to explain why 10 charges from Lucille’s Happy Adult Boutique.
You can also pay someone to create 50,000 links to your web site, thereby gaining a temporary SEO advantage. But those links will probably be from sites like Lucille’s Happy Adult Boutique. And eventually, that’ll catch up with you in the rankings.
Exercise some judgment.

There’s always someone better

Just when you think you’re the toughest warlock in the game, you get bitten in half by a horrific monster summoned by the other toughest warlock in the game.
Humility is a good idea in WoW, and in internet marketing. There’s always someone better. It pays to be ready to learn.

Organizations are fickle

WoW has all sorts of clans, factions, guilds and such. You can get friendly with them and they’ll provide you goodies. You can also make them really, really angry at you, to the point where they’ll pincushion you with arrows on sight.
But they’re downright consistent compared to the clients, vendors and influencers who drive internet marketing. Look at me – I’ve got at least 4-5 voices in my head at any one time. You’re going to get fired, hired, respected, maligned, ranked #1, then banned, etc. ad nauseum. Get used to the ride.

Knowing your limits is good

When I was around 40th level, I decided to try to gain levels faster by pursuing quests that were 4-5 levels higher. One of them was hunting this gorilla guy, King Mukla. I found him on an island. He looked like a cute little gorilla. I did the natural thing and tried to light him on fire.
Then I realized he looked little because he was about 400 yards away. He pancaked me, did a jig on my internal organs, and then left.
That’s just a game. As an internet marketer you’re dealing with real people, real businesses and real money. Don’t get in over your head. Understand your limitations and don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”.

Don’t just conquer: Explore

Part of what keeps me playing World of Warcraft is the joy of finding new places. Yes, the hacking and slaying is fun. But exploration keeps things interesting, and rounds out your experience.
You may master, say, pay-per-click marketing for real estate agents. Keep exploring internet marketing. Find the new stuff. I’ve got a list of sites where I learn a lot, every day. Make your own.

Breaks are good

Going back to #1: Unless you really like your butt slowly growing to match the shape of your favorite video gaming chair, I suggest balancing your WoW career with things like exercise and socializing with real people. Bathing is also good.
When I started out in internet marketing, I dedicated 100% of my professional time to the internet. I quickly learned I was getting tunnel vision. Spending some time learning about traditional marketing and (gasp) refining my writing skills was far more helpful. So were things like taking a few minutes to play hide-and-seek with my kids, or go for a walk, or shoot my employees with Nerf guns.

Now my employees try to shoot me with the same guns, but they always seem to miss. Right, Evan?

There you have it. I could find another 100 ways they match but I’ll spare you. Coming soon: Internet Marketing Machinima.

Related/recent posts

10 ways internet marketing is like a ruptured disc
9 twitter myths that make me unfollow
Think for yourself: A geek’s guide to problem solving
SyFy? Sigh Fie? Cy Figh? ‘Branding’ Gone Wrong

Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at LinkedIn.com/in/ianlurie.

Start call to action

See how Portent can help you own your piece of the web.

End call to action


  1. Well said Ian, and I echo with every point. I too have a WoW character(s) and was hooked for the longest time. Finally had to break free for a bit to focus on other things, and I can go back whenever I feel like it, but WoW has something that no other game has. Seems like you found it as well. 😉
    If everyone could copy and learn from WoW, the world would be a better place… forget the gnomes though, they’re still flying to Darnassus after being punted… ;P

  2. Give us a break guys and get a life Dappa meet the Dape, behave and prosper. Gamesters try going to bed early getting up early going to the gym before you start work.

  3. I have friends who play WoW and indeed what you say is so true! Especially “Humility is a good idea in WoW, and in internet marketing. There’s always someone better. It pays to be ready to learn.”
    Shared with me network, thanks!

  4. You give good point. Maybe I could add this “Train yourself before going to bigger battle.” In Internet marketing sometimes we learning by doing but don’t do to far and watch our step carefully before get trap in penalty.

  5. As a woman, I can so totally NOT relate to the WoW analogy, LOL. I never made it past *Myst* and *Monkey Island* — and even those were played under duress, with a six-year-old boy on my lap telling me what to do. (*Monkey Island* was pretty funny, though, even though I sucked at Insult Swordfighting.)
    However, despite my inability to relate to the manly joys of hacking monsters into raw bloody pieces, I do get your points about Internet Marketing. And agree. 😉

  6. @diane WoW is a very gender-neutral game – lots of women (or at least people pretending to be women) on there.
    Insult Swordfighting sounds like something that’d be right up my alley…

  7. “People pretending to be women”–LOL. I think a few “people pretending to be men” buy sports bras from the site I write for, but let’s not go there! 😉
    OK, here’s everything you ever wanted to know (or not) about Monkey Island and Insult Swordfighting:
    P.S. BTW, I’m a former Civ widow…currently an Age of Empires widow. I think we actually might have WoW hanging around the house somewhere, but my husband prefers those pseudo-historical strategy games.

  8. @diane, rule #1 of the internet, always assume someone is male until proven otherwise. but anyways, thanks for the tips Ian.

Comments are closed.

Close search overlay