By Wioleta Kawecka, Principal Consultant

Getting traffic to your site is quite simple, really. You can buy advertisement, participate in an affiliate program, try to rank highly in SERPs of a search engine of choice. After all – if you build it, they will come. My question is: once they came, how do you make them stay? Or more importantly, how do you make them come back and bring a friend?

At FIRST we like to think we are in the business of creating meaningful relationships. (This is not about online dating – bear with me).  We are aware that creating a positive, engaging experience for your audience is paramount. Converting a visitor into a user or a customer means repeat visits, leads, purchases, increased time on site, increased page views. Onsite engagement validates your website and your product as useful and relevant, which in turn is one of critical factors when it comes to traffic acquisition. So if you have been wondering how to achieve all that, the answer is quite simple, really – make your website more fun.

You’ve been played


Gamification is not a new concept. The loyalty cards, Happy Hours, Air Miles, gold stars in primary school – game play mechanics were integral part of our lives long before the term “gamifacation” was coined or before anyone heard about FourSquare.


In simple terms, gamification can be defined as rewarding users for performing actions that are important to the outcome of your business. Using game mechanics (badges, points, leaderboards, levels, challenges) and game dynamics (rewards, status, competition, altruism, self expression) you can change users’ behaviour, transform menial tasks like registering an account, filling out a profile, adding and sharing content into something fun and addictive.

Here are some examples of how brands and retailers alike can use gamification at different stages of users’ life-cycle.

Motivate users to increase your subscribers base is a design-led flash sales start up with quickly growing customer base. The referrals are rewarded with spending money or free delivery, as well as a status badge.

Increase sign ups


Getting your users to register is no longer about getting their post code or email address. More and more websites are adding a social layer to their sites and utilizing social logins – Facebook Connect being most common. According to, logged in users are more likely to share, comment, and on average spend 50% more time that users that were not logged in. offers velvet rope access to special offers and discounts for registered customers.


Reward users for creating content


Incentivise your users to ask, answer and rate questions, submit reviews, write blogs. SEOmoz, Quora, Yahoo Answers, RNKD are great examples how gamification can drive your UGC foreword.

“The point system has dramatically improved engagement + contribution on Moz. We’ve grown community content 200%+ in 24 months” – Rand Fishkin, SEOMoz

Increase user engagement

Engage platform for SalesForce adds points, challenges, achievements and leaderboards to working culture; it helps improve performance monitoring and encourages competition. According to JP Rangaswami gamification is the future of the motivation and performance management in the workplace. “As the gamer generation moves into the mainstream workforce” – Les Sheldon points out, “they’re eager to apply the culture and learning techniques they bring with them from games”

RunKeeper is another good example.  It uses challenges and emails to re-engage its users – “[ I love] motivational emails when you break a personal record.  Ex: Cycled the farthest in one week. This definitely helps me feel a sense of accomplishment” – Mona Caro, RunKeeper’s avid user.

“Tack a badge on it and call it a day”

According to a recent report by Gartner by 2014, a gamified service for consumer goods marketing and customer retention will become as important as Facebook, eBay or Amazon, and more than 70 percent of Global 2000 organizations will have at least one gamified application. Seth Priebatsch, chief Ninja at claims that next decade is the decade of games. That does not mean however that every online business should immediately add point system and progress bar, and tell their users to level up. “Game mechanics can fix lots of problems and do lots of great things, but they are not a good fit for everything” adds Priebatsch.

So when considering whether gamification is a good fit for your business, chew over these few tips for designing meaningful interaction:

  • Think about your audience: different people play in different way. Men are incentivised more by status and competition, whilst women are compelled more by discounts and points towards loyalty program.
  • You need to be clear what business goal you want to reward. Will your users enjoy it and will they benefit from it?
  • Consider objectives of the game. Include progression. If we learnt one thing from real games like World of Worldcraft, is that progression keeps people engaged. Sometimes too much…
  • Measure, analyse and evaluate. Adding game layer to your service will produce an unprecedented wealth of data about your users. Analyse it, feed it back to the system and make the experience even better. And don’t be afraid to test.

If you have any questions about gamification, social media or search marketing – leave a comment or catch me on Twitter.