Search Engine Marketing is PVP

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EVE Online (or Spreadsheets in Space as it is also known) is a MMORPG with strong PVP gameplay. There are a large number of other ways to play EVE Online, from the market through to PVE, but it is PVP that stands out in the game. It has been called a ganking game, which is a fair comment, as there is a real risk of loss of gear and skills (comparable to levels in other games). Loss of gear and skills creates behaviours aimed at minimising this risk while maximising rewards. In other MMORPGs with little or no chance of loss, PVP activity tends to be restricted to the market.

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Winning at PVP in EVE Online

Wining at Spreadsheets in Space

PVP in EVE Online is not fair. In fact the challenge in PVP in EVE Online is in setting up these unfair encounters. In most MMORPGs, the actual act of combat consists of a few mouse clicks and some waiting. EVE Online is no different. It is the risk of losing stuff that makes players focus on everything before the actual combat a lot more. It is taking the right mix of ships, avoiding being out-numbered and cornered by a superior foe and acting before the opponent even knows they are in a fight where player skill starts to make a real difference.

Why SEM is like EVE Online PVP

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) in very similar to PVP. It is a zero-sum environment where operators compete for a resource through actions governed by a set of rules and environmental factors generated through user behaviour. There are a few principles that carry over from EVE Online PVP to SEM.

  • Situational awareness is king
    • Know how the advertising network works
    • Understand competitive activity
    • Understand how the market behaves
  • Observe, act and assess
    • Analysis without an accompanying action is useless
    • Assess the effectiveness of activity & reassess decision making model
    • And repeat…
  • Know where you can compete and where you can’t
    • Don’t waste time & resources competing directly with advertisers intent on outspending you
    • Find alternative ways of reaching potential customers.

Information is the key. Understanding how the query space works, having good situational awareness, and knowing where in the sales funnel certain terms are is valuable. It won’t save you from the SEM equivalent of a gate camp (high margin and ‘branding’ campaigns with large budgets), but it is essential for remaining competitive without burning through your budget.

3 responses to “Search Engine Marketing is PVP”

  1. Jeff Polley says:

    An interesting analogy!
    I tend to think as PVP as an offender/defender situation, often where the defender is caught unawares – perhaps marketing is more a case of know thy enemy.
    As a student of aikido though, I would say that the defender is not necessarily at a disadvantage. Learn to take the attacker’s strength, and turn it against them.
    Observe, act & assess translates to measure, test, measure, which is surely at the very heart of marketing. Again, a good analogy.
    Thanks for the piece.

    • admin says:

      I am glad that you liked it.

      The interesting thing I have seen with SEM is that competition is not always obvious. Impressions and clicks at the campaign or even keyword level may not reveal geographical or specific query based competition that may be targeting productive traffic.

      Measure, test, measure is pretty much vital. With a lot of SEM, the decisions people make are often based on a model and a collection of assumptions. It is as important to assess these as it is the specific tactics that are used. This is especially true in a market like Adwords, where the tools available to the advertisers change frequently.

      The defender in SEM should actually have the advantage, assuming that they have been paying attention to the data that they collect. It is the advertiser entering the market that has to accept a higher level of risk as they start to build a picture of the query space.

      Again, thanks for the comment, it was pretty interesting.

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