27 Jul Is There a Connection Between Pokémon Go and SEO?
So the Pokémon Go craze has reached pandemic levels, surpassing Tinder’s 50+ million users, and I, too, am among the afflicted. I’m a bit too old to have played it on the Gameboy, but that doesn’t seem to have impeded my performance in its current incarnation, outside of confusing a Slowpoke with a Snorlax – and being ruthlessly chastised because of it by my co-workers.
But I also work in SEO, and the popularity gets me wondering about how Pokémon Go and SEO will work together (if they’ll work together at all), specifically, it gets me asking the All-Important SEO Question: Will this affect my search rankings?
Let me back up a moment – if you’re not familiar with the game (and if you are, scroll down to the next paragraph), Pokémon Go is a free-to-play mobile game for iOS and Android in which you catch little monsters and make them fight each other – similar to cockfighting or bear baiting before PETA. You do so by visiting real-world locations that appear in the game’s interface as “Gyms” and tapping your screen a bunch of times, at which point the game will inform you that you lost the fight. Similarly, you collect the monsters by trapping them in Pokéballs, which you toss by moving your finger from the Pokéball to the monster, releasing your finger, and cursing violently as the ball flies off the screen in any direction except the one you intended. Occasionally you can actually trap them. Now you have a limited stock of Pokéballs, but you can get more by visiting PokéStops, which, like the Gyms, are also based on real-world locations.
So you have your PokéStops and your Gyms – both of which are based on and identified in the game as real-world businesses and landmarks, which means that you now have a sudden surge of brand awareness from a new group of people due to these locations being PokéStops and Gyms.
Which makes me wonder if one would see a similar, sudden surge in organic, branded traffic to these locations. If we had access to the Google Analytics accounts of every business in Chicago, we could easily check this, but, of course, we don’t. But suppose we did, or at least had access to the GA account of one such business that was also a PokéStop or Gym: Most superficially, we could just look at the organic branded traffic of the last few months and see if there was, indeed, a surge in July (when the game was released in the US). That wouldn’t prove my theory, but it could support it – especially if the traffic came from new visitors.
Going a bit deeper, we could look at the search terms that led the new visitors to the site – if they were the location name qualified with “Pokémon,” “PokéStop,” “Gym,” or something related to the game, I think it would be safe to say my theory’s confirmed. Likewise, landmarks within businesses can also be PokéStops – so a sudden surge in search terms referring to that landmark would likewise support the theory.
But it would also be worth checking out if the language and phrasing of the search terms were identical or very similar to the language and phrasing used to identify the location in the game. For example, say you have a business legally identified as “Adam Fitko’s Family Fitness.” Its regular patrons refer to it as “Fitko’s,” but Pokémon Go identifies it as “Fitko’s Family Fitness.” Now say that, prior to July 2016, you would regularly have “Adam Fitko’s Family Fitness,” – the legal name — and “Fitko’s” – the popular name — show up among the branded terms, but, come July 2016, you now have a bunch of search terms for “Fitko’s Family Fitness” – the name used in the game – show up: that would be another good indicator that that business is drawing new visitors as a result of it being a PokéStop or Gym.
So say my theory is correct, what would the implications be? And what would it do to my search rankings?
If there were a lot of branded search terms with a Pokémon-Go-specific qualifier, Google would start relating the two – and it may even add that qualifier as an autofill in the search bar, at which point you would likely see even more searches for that brand. Even further, I would suspect that suburban PokéStops and Gyms would see a more significant surge relative to PokéStops and Gyms located in a city. The reason is pretty simple: There are more businesses and landmarks per square mile in cities than there are in suburban areas, so the few that do exist in the suburbs have less competition; all things being equal, people are more likely to seek out and gather around suburban PokéStops and Gyms whereas in the city they need only walk a few hundred meters.
In a broader marketing sense (because, hey, the goal of SEO is to bring in people) this is an opportunity suburban businesses should take advantage of. As far as I know, a business can’t make itself a PokéStop or Gym yet, but that will probably not be the case in the future, but even if it isn’t fortunate enough to be one, it can be just as advantageous to be near one — and one can always look online to see if there’s any rare Pokémon nearby and capitalize on that. Already, businesses are offering special deals to Pokémon Go players, and if they are fortunate enough to be a PokéStop or Gym, they can purchase an item within the game (for real-world cash, of course) to lure Pokémon to their location – which in turn lures players.
So is there a connection between Pokémon Go and SEO? Maybe, and I’d be really interested to hear from any business that’s also a PokéStop or Gym. As silly as this sounds, and for all the criticism the game has been taking – some of it even sillier – you can’t deny that this game has a massive following and offers a lot of offbeat marketing opportunities – and it wouldn’t be unwise to catch ‘em all.