Personalized Search Strategies & Video Games

On Sunday, Rand Fishkin posted a great heads-up piece about how personalized search, branding, and leveraging your current rankings can make for an interesting marketing strategy. His mention of the 2007 Pontiac commercial brought up a particularly interesting idea. In the commercial, the viewer is instructed to “Google” Pontiac as opposed to going to a website or calling a toll-free number.

This commercial was one of the first to demonstrate the power and universal influence of search. By having your consumer access your site through a keyword search you increase your sites traffic strength, branding, and likelihood of getting personalized search preference for all of those users that visit your site from the Google SERPs.

This strategy carries over to almost every aspect of our lives as “Googling” has become a daily activity and most consumers don’t remember URLs but rather brands and keywords.
For example, I’ve been noticing that video games hide Easter eggs that require you to search online for specific keywords that lead you to sites created by the game developers.

In the game Batman: Arkham Asylum, the PA system is blasting a message about visiting them online at or by searching arkham care. It doesn’t endorse any search engine or browser; searching for those keywords works on Google, Bing, and Yahoo! No engine specific instructions required. Other internet add-ons for the game include: and (Unfortunately, no longer working). Information on how much traffic these sites have gotten is, as of yet, unknown. But I’ve got an email in to the listed webmasters and I’ll let you know more when I find out.
According to various sources two million copies of the game were sold in the first three weeks after release on consoles. Now, let’s assume 1 in 10 of those players visit just one of the three websites. That’s 200,000 visitors and 199,999 more visitors than my site (HI MOM!). 200,000 visitors isn’t half bad.

In both Mass Effect 1 & 2, Elevator PA announcements and random advertisements to search the “Extranet” popup throughout the game. The most common occurrence I can remember (without going and playing the games for a week) is the story about Alliance soldiers who gave their lives defending Eden Prime. At the end of the stories, the announcer says, “For more information go to the “Extranet” and search keyword courage.” Unfortunately, for those thousands of us that spammed Google with “courage” in the first week of Mass Effect’s release, there was no “Extranet” site for us to visit. Instead we were greeted by Wikipedia,, and a picture of the most bad-ass penguin in known existence.


How BioWare and every other internet marketer in the world passed up this opportunity is pretty startling. Granted it’s got to be really hard to rank number one for “courage”, but a 10 ranking or a PPC listing would have had you on page one and every search by a Mass Effect player would have been another set of very curious eyes poking around your website.

The more amazing benefit is that you likely would have been the only one! The number of links and mentions your site/brand would have garnered could have likely propelled you to at least a #4 rank for a keyword with 68,200,000 competing sites. Odds are you could have gone on to create the promised “Extranet” and provided gamers with a Mass Effect search engine. But that’s just idle speculation and very likely a serious trademark issue.
The moral of the story here is that gamers are engaged. Very engaged. And they’re willing to hop on to the Internet and poke around a site if it means they get more out of their gaming experience. Creating the environment to enhance their gaming experience not only builds brand recognition, but buzz and community. Remember when you first found out you could “warp” through the entire first Super Mario Brothers game through a series of tubes? You told everyone or someone told you and you immediately ran home to try it.

So then, the challenge to the game makers isn’t just staying up to date with the games coming out, but having to make a website in a short period of time, and creating a following out of thin air based off something you have virtually no control over. But isn’t that what most of us get paid to do anyway?

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