This series documents my adventures in ultra low-budget, grass roots marketing attempts to drive traffic to my game portal sites, with the hopes of breaking even at $33 a month. For other articles in the series, visit the Pimp My Portal special feature page.
If you want to promote something on the cheap, you gotta get crafty.
i had launched two game portals seven months apart, and was hard at work on a third – or, rather, one of my interns was. i was actually reclining in my chair with my feet propped up on his back as he slavishly added games one-by-one to the site. The first portal, WordGameWorld.com, was averaging about 10-15 visitors a day, with most visitors reaching the site using the search query “free Flash word games oops i meant porn”.
Mmm … I’m feeling lucky?
The story over at the second portal, ZombieGameWorld.com, was even more bleak. Despite there being a wealth of zombie games and a much keener interest from the development community (at least five new zombie Flash games are released every week), the site was lurching along at a very zombie-like pace, drawing about half the traffic of WordGameWorld.com:
Shoot it! Shoot it in the head!
My Internatz pal Manuel Saint Victor (@marveloper), who carefully studies emerging social media sites, gave me a few suggestions on potentially boosting my traffic.
From where Mani stands, by the time a site is as popular as Facebook, it takes money to get noticed. Perhaps a better strategy is to catch the wave before it crests, by using social media tools before they blow up. Naturally, this takes a fair amount of predictive reasoning and dice-rolling … trails that Mani has blazed before me, so i happily decided to try to profit from his pioneering.
Section One: Handy Mani
Truly questions for the ages.
Mani’s first idea was to create a profile on the website Quora.com. Quora is almost exactly like Yahoo Answers, except it’s slower to load, it has a few more social media gimmicks, and the members seems a little more “with it” than Yahoo’s soccer moms and Ku Klux Klan members. Mani suggested that i position myself as an expert on zombie culture by answering Quora members’ zombie-related questions. Presumably, the Quora members will be so impressed by my dissertations on undead lore that they’ll click my profile link to find out who i am, increasing traffic to the portal. That, or search engine spiders will crawl Quora and mark up ZombieGameWorld.com‘s page ranking because a “respectable” site links there.
i answered a number of questions on Quora in character as Formerly Earl Peterson, ZombieGameWorld.com’s spokeszombie (who can be seen in the Twitter flipper at the top of the site):
Formerly Early Peterson, tweetin’ it up
- Is there a good and immersive MMORPG based upon the Zombie apocalypse?
- Which city in the United States is most suitable for the post-apocalypse?
- If a zombie has no lower jaw can it still bite you?
- Why has it been cool to like zombies lately?
- Why do zombies terrify us so?
- With what in our cultural consciousness do zombies resonate? Is the draw because they’re symbolic of some socio-political something-or-other?
- Why is the cause of the zombie “virus” rarely explained?
- What are the best zombie video games?
This all seemed like a fine strategy, but there’s one flaw: much like Wikipedia, Quora appears to be policed by Nazi-like admins. And by “Nazi-like”, i’m not necessarily implying that they kill Jews, but i returned to Quora to write this article only to find that all of my answers had been collapsed – hidden within some sort of “click to view answer” JSON voodoo. A message from one of the Quora gestapo explained why:
One of the rules of Quora is that everyone uses his or her real full name. Do you mind changing your name to reflect that?
If this is a mistake and you are already using your real name, just reply to this message letting us know that.
You can change your name here:
Edit Profile Name
And you can find more details here:
Do I have to use my real name on Quora? Can businesses or organizations have a user account?
Hmm. i’d be hard-pressed to convince them that “Formerly” was my given name. i had already created both an Untold Entertainment account and a Word Game World account (ghost written using the pseudonym “Anna Graham” … ME SO CLEVER!!). i replied politely and honestly, so as not to incite the admin’s nerd rage:
Hi, Admin. i was hoping that i could answer in character as Formerly Earl Peterson, spokeszombie. It’s not unlike the Dame Edna idea – i’m trying to create a rich, interesting character, rather than just breaking Quora rules by answering questions as “John Fakename” or whatever. i’m using my full, real name (Ryan Henson Creighton) on my UntoldEnt account.
I’ll update this post later to let you know how the controversy plays out. In all likelihood i’m not allowed to have multiple accounts either, and this blog article has just alerted the Quora police to my additional rule-breaking. Can i please hide in your attic?
In case the Quora admins delete my accounts before and erase my efforts from existence, here’s a sample question and answer that i wrote as Formerly Earl Peterson:
Q: Which city in the United States is most suitable for the post-apocalypse?
A: As a zombie myself, I can tell you that we prefer places with wide-open countryside, without a lot of roots to trip over or stairs to climb. When I catch zombie pals of mine discussing the next best place to apocalypize, I always suggest Saskatchewan.
– Formerly Earl Peterson
Saskatchewan: despite the low population count, it’s a bona fide zombie paradise.
note: Signing your name to an answer is also against Quora policy. And i ultimately suggested a Canadian town rather than an American one, thereby failing to adequately answer the question. What have we learned from all this? When it comes to Quora, i am a bona fide rule-breaking rebel BADASS.
Me, on Quora.
Reaping What i Sowed
Let’s take a look at the traffic bounty that Quora brought in:
The two week span from January 1 (when i first posted my Quora answers) to January 17 comprises the sum total of Quora traffic. It completely drops off from there. i’m not sure when the admins gimped my account, and how that affected traffic.
As you can see, there was a 40% bounce rate, which means that 2 people hit the site and left almost immediately. The remaining 3 people hung around and hit a couple of pages, but only stayed on the site for three minutes, so they likely didn’t play any games. My linked Adsense data tells me they didn’t click on any ads either.
Again, these numbers are so tiny that it’s not a good idea to draw too many conclusions. The only thing i can guess is that 5 people who are interested enough in zombies to post or read a zombie question on Quora, were curious enough about my site to click on the link. But when they got to the site, the content didn’t grip them.
And if there’s one thing i know about zombies, it’s that they gotta grip people if they want to be successful. At eating brains.
What Else You Got?
The next article in the series covers another of Mani’s ideas. I’m warning you ahead of time, dear readers, that Santa Claus himself may get severely injured (and/or pleasured) in that one, so try not to read it out loud to your kids.