I've loved games since I was a kid. I grew up with 20-sided dice and Donkey Kong. I'm not the only one. People are hardwired to enjoy games, which is why game concepts are popping up in places you wouldn't expect.

"Gamification" is the use of game mechanics in nongame settings to encourage specific behaviors. By taking advantage of our psychological predisposition to enjoying games, gamification encourages people to perform necessary tasks—such as measuring and tracking statistics—that many people find boring.

So instead of calling it "tracking stats," let's call it "watching the scoreboard," which sounds much more fun.

Scoreboards are everywhere. Below are a few we like to use and tips on how to use them to drive behavior and results.

(Note: The following are separate from the measurements in Google Analytics. This isn't about traffic. This is about tracking activity that drives traffic.)

Social Media

The social media channel was born to be gamified. Twitter has been game-like from the beginning, with the main score being the number of followers. Foursquare, with its hundreds of badges to win, is basically a game. Foursquare isn't used; it's played.

Here are a few ways you can keep score on social media.

  1. Use Twitter Counter, and have fun tracking follower growth for free. Sprout Social has compelling charts, and offers a 30-day free trial with a chance to upgrade to either a $9 or $49 per month membership.
  2. Facebook "likes" are easy to count, and Facebook Insights offers charts that are easy to read with green (up) and red (down) arrows to measure progress at a glance.
  3. Klout provides a general score of social media influence. It has great badges (250+ unique retweets!), and nice charts. Klout is almost too compelling; beware of obsession!

Ready to play? Tweet, post, converse, follow, retweet, comment, like, share and connect.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

The SEO game has the ultimate scoreboard: rankings. However, measurement of SEO activity lacks the simple tools with pretty charts offered by social channels. SEO tracking is important, but harder to "play." It requires skill and determination—recommended for age 12 and older.

Here are three ways to measure SEO.

  1. Inbound links. Use Open Site Explorer to see which sites are linking to your website. It's free. Go for volume, and get lots of links from as many sites as possible, as long as they're somewhat relevant to your site.
  2. Domain authority. Use Open Site Explorer again, but this time use it for quality. Try to get inbound links from sites with high domain authority. Promote your site with popular and important sites.
  3. Google PageRank. Quirk SearchStatus is a free browser plug-in that allows you to monitor Google's 1-10 scale of authority for any website. But don't expect the number to change too often; six or seven is the practical limit for many sites. The tool displays information on a small toolbar.

Ready to play? Write, submit, research, submit, update, submit.

Email Marketing

Gaining subscribers provides a great feeling of progress, and watching the statistics come in after clicking send is a compulsive pastime. Refresh! Refresh! But be careful: This email marketing game has penalties. Getting a spam report is like getting a yellow flag on the field. It stings.

Here are three ways to keep score:

  1. Subscribers. Use a database or customer relationship management (CRM) tool that lets subscribers easily opt in and out. This score is important, but hard to watch because it lacks a chart to monitor growth.
  2. Open rate. Your email service provider (ESP) can provide open-rate data, and most have fancy charts that help measure responses. Pay attention to bounce and opt-out rates. The quality of your list greatly affects your open rates. Also, change the timing and subject lines of your messages to see which ones perform better.
  3. Click-through rate (CTR). This score is the most important because it measures traffic to your site. To boost your CTR, provide as much valuable content as possible, build your credibility, and stay on a consistent schedule. Track which features and topics are clicked on most often, and continue to offer related content.

Ready to play? Invite, write, post, send, measure, repeat.

But, Seriously...

Yes, games are fun, but the real measure of success is the number of leads and sales you gain. Those are the "goals" set up in Google Analytics; they're the real results.

So, start watching the scoreboards listed above. Think of it as a game: Start playing, and you might be able to trick yourself into getting busy. Pick a few metrics, and check them daily. Make it fun!

Obsess as though it were fantasy football, a stock portfolio, or your daughter's four-year-and-under soccer team. You might suddenly become more of a dedicated Web marketer—and get real results.

After all, you can't win if you don't play!

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Keeping Score: Make Tracking Stats Fun With Gamification

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image of Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina is a co-founder of Orbit Media, an award-winning digital agency in Chicago. He's provided digital marketing advice to 1,000+ businesses, written 500+ articles, and authored Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.