To Win at the SEO Game, You Have to Think Like a Poker Player 

by | Jan 10, 2023

 In my youth, I experimented with gambling, but from a purely mathematical perspective. I fancied myself as someone smart enough to be able to beat casino games. I, of course, was a fool, but after some winnings, one of my employers took me aside after hearing of it. The company I worked for had two owners, and this particular owner was the financial man. Just one conversation with him and you knew that all there was of money and math thundered in his head.


He was also a very successful craps player at the casinos. It was just a hobby for him, and needless to say, he gave me an education about casino math and how the house takes a percentage of every bet in every hand, of every game. But every game has a different percentage, and craps has the lowest percentage. In order to imply smart strategy, one must be playing the odds.


In fact, his conversation persuaded me to utilize my mathematical skills to place them where they were far better suited. Combined with the fact that I was raised to believe that gambling will take you down a destructive path, I followed his advice.


Years later, I was introduced to the game of poker. Poker fascinated me because the house was not involved; you’re only playing against the other players. Unlike other forms of gambling, knowing the math and the odds is not enough. Strategy, timing, and even deception. Poker is much more than a game, and I excelled at every aspect of it. I read books and listened to podcasts, applied my mathematical skills, and quickly found myself winning large sums of money.


Then Bam! The US government shut down PokerStars and Full Tilt, which were basically operating outside the US. After it became fully legal in the States, I had long since lost interest in the game. I was clearly on the path to becoming a professional online player. I could play multiple tables, but I didn’t want to spend my life depending on my money that way. But the experience was invaluable.


Poker is unparalleled, and it’s a metaphor for strategy, warfare, and business. I recommend everyone learn how to play just for the basic skill sets that can be acquired. Much like being a good chess player, being a good strategic thinker, and No you don’t have to be a poker pro or know all the casino games but you understand the concept of casinos having many tables of various price levels to gamble.


There are only two games that we will use as a reference, poker and blackjack, but if you know other games, you’ll find yourself being able to think about the mathematics in a similar way when you apply them to various SEO scenarios and strategies. Now, if you don’t have any familiarity with any poker games, don’t worry because the concept of the casino is more important and the concepts that I will reference in the games are recognizable and easy to understand.


The casino


The search results of search engines, are like casino tables. The first page of results is the big table; the second page is a smaller bedding level table, the third page, smaller, and so on and so forth. But with one key difference, you’re playing many tables from the top to the bottom. There are many big money tables for first page results.


You can either buy keyword ads or use your time as money to create the content you need. Volume of content is king. It's the poker chips that you have to play with. But your chips are manipulable, allowing you to try to change the odds in your favor. And if you don’t have a lot of content, you’re not going to be able to win big. 


Just like in a casino, you have to spread out. Even in the game of craps, players attempt to position their chips where they believe the highest probability of the bald landing will be. You’re able to combine different concepts from different games into your thinking.


Search engine updates


Google and other search engines have major algorithm updates, and they generally occur once every three months, but a real SEO individual or firm knows these updates occur every few days. And that’s because the content will get stale. Many use blogs as their primary focus for SEO. 


There are currently estimated to be 1.7 billion websites, so it’s not hard to imagine that there are probably several trillion webpages. That’s a lot of content to be crawling, and everyone is competing for top spots, but just like the game of blackjack, the 6 to 8 decks that are being played, eventually run out. The dealer must gather the cards and re-shuffle. And the game starts again. That’s because their game is to generate keyword ads and bidding. This is how Google makes its money. To survive these updates, it requires a lot of content, combined with good updating and other SEO strategies.


Stay under the radar


Just like casinos, Google doesn’t like card counters. Don’t try to win everything in one place. Spread out and play all the tables with diversity and the volume of content. If you utilize different approaches (speaking purely from a markup perspective in pages), you will find that when a major algorithm changes or resets and a re-shuffles occurs, you will find yourself winning on tables, where you were not doing well before.


And we all have seen that after a major algorithm update, a very low scoring competitor at the bottom of our top 20 competitors is suddenly dominating, but it never lasts. It is an attempt to cause the algorithm to upgrade low scoring players to stimulate keyword bidding. And of course, it causes confusion in your analysis, causing you to make more SEO mistakes. 


Strategy and timing


We already know that major algorithm updates occur every three months, so prepare your content and other strategies at that time to match the timing. It’s always a good time to make some minor updates to your content and be ready to launch new content. 


You don’t have to be a casino player or a mathematical genius, you already have the most important skill, SEO, and understand it in the landscape in which you compete, but when you combine the simple concepts and principles into your thinking, you will find yourself looking at your SEO in an entirely different perspective.


When you realize that Google is just the house, the casino in which you play, and that everything they do is to stimulate their keyword bidding, you will gain a different perspective on how to approach things. There are SEO experts that can penetrate any market, like myself, but they generally don’t last long because when something looks irregular, it draws attention to itself. You can’t suddenly have 10,000 tiered back links pointing at your site overnight either. I’ve seen some people achieve some pretty spectacular results only to see it all penalized and in biblical proportion.


Don’t draw attention to yourself, and build up your portfolio of tables to play gradually and consistently. The more you have, the better you will do. And of course, the quality of contact and presentation matters. Search engines really can’t read, so they don’t know if your contact is good, and I’ve seen more than one SCO pro on YouTube demonstrate they can get results with meaningless Latin text, but you also want visitors returning for the right reason. That your content is quality and having those metrics of those visitors applied to your sites and webpages matters. You need to blend in. Card counters get escorted out of the casino.


Google needs players


Just like a casino, those that buy into the keyword ad system, have to compete with someone. If there was no competition and results were easy to achieve, there wouldn’t be any value in purchasing keyword ads. And when you purchase these ads, you are now competing on a different level. Because you’re also competing with those who run ads, and this drives up the bidding or betting just like a casino game.


Casinos don’t make money off of poker because the house doesn’t play. They have to make money by drawing attention to the other games, but people come to play against the best. Be the player that Google needs to stimulate its competition. 


Know the players you play against


Analyzing your competitors is always important, but don’t just look at their SEO approaches. Analyze the landscape. Understand the reasons for their ranking and presence. Analyze all the other aspects of their ranking, their backlinks, and any other factors that influence that particular segment or table that you’re playing on. 


When you start to develop a visual representation or understanding of the metrics that make others successful in your landscape of competition, you will know how to fight your battle strategically and position yourself better. Like watching all of the games being played in the casino on a monitor system where you have a camera on every table.


Using good data tracking tools like Ahrefs or Semrush is really critical to your analysis and understanding the nature of SEO. If you wanna beat the house, you have to understand the house, you have to think like the house, and you have to outplay the house.


Knowledge is power!