“You Know Nothing, SEO” – How Game of Thrones Can Serve as an Excellent Reminder of SEO Principles

“You Know Nothing, SEO” – How Game of Thrones Can Serve as an Excellent Reminder of SEO Principles

31/08/17 | Alex Stockton


WARNING: The following post contains major spoilers for the latest series of Game of Thrones.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’re probably aware that Game of Thrones has just been on TV. It’s also been on Google, on billboards, in magazines, and has taken over a number of social media accounts. Seriously, if you didn’t know it’s been on, then how did you find our post?

As with all great books, television shows, and films, there are a number of parallels shared between George R. R. Martin’s Westeros and real life. Plenty of people have speculated that the White Walkers (the story’s main villains) are a metaphor for climate change, for example. What fewer people will have picked up on, however, is that there are some clear parallels between some of Martin’s characters and the world of SEO. Yep, you read that right. It’s the theory that no-one’s picked up on yet: the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire is actually based on the principles of the SEO world.

Okay, so that’s not true, but it’s not as bizarre as it might initially sound. Here, the team at Active Internet Marketing (UK) have put together a list of five characters from Westeros who can teach us a thing or two about digital marketing.

Jon Snow – Website Quality

Jon Snow

He might know nothing, but it turns out Jon Snow’s a pretty big deal. Even if you don’t follow Game of Thrones, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of the King of the North (I mean, who didn’t know he came back to life at the beginning of series six)? One of the big reveals in the show’s latest episode, however, cast him even more clearly as the most important figure in the Seven Kingdoms. He’s a true Targaryen, and actually has a better claim to the throne than Daenerys.

He also understands the importance of taking on the Night King’s army, and has successfully convinced a great number of others to follow him. Finally, it seems, we might have our “main character”. If Jon’s the main player in Game of Thrones, then who’s the Jon (or Aegon Targaryen, as we should now refer to him) of the SEO world? Undoubtedly, it has to be website quality.

While there is a multitude of factors that all contribute to your website’s SERPs performance, if the site’s lacking in quality, then it won’t reach its potential. It’s easy to lose sight of this crucial consideration sometimes, just as it’s easy to become distracted from what Jon’s up to. Website quality should be at the centre of your thoughts as much as possible, though. Without it, you could make as many tweaks as you like and see very little in terms of results.

Let’s consider for a moment what could happen if Jon Snow were to die (again, but for real this time). The Night King’s chances would increase significantly, and either he or Cersei Lannister would almost certainly end up winning somehow. Moreover, the show would probably lose popularity, and that’s exactly the fate that would befall your website should its quality fall.


Walder Frey – The Algorithm Updates

Walder Frey

*Image taken from Screener

What character better embodies everything we love to hate about Game of Thrones? Walder Frey’s weathered look and gruff voice acted as the backing track to (probably) the most shocking scene the story has yet to produce: the red wedding. As Robb and Catelyn Stark were murdered at the hands of the Freys, everything we thought we knew was immediately revoked. Our hero lay dead on the floor, as the scheming Lannisters took another step towards the Iron Throne.

In terms of SEO parallels, there’s an easy link to be made. Think of an algorithm update. Now ask yourself, “did that algorithm update change everything I thought I knew about SEO”? If the answer is “yes”, then we’ve proven our point. Google’s Algorithm updates are sometimes more than just plot twists; they’re killing off Ned Stark, Robb Stark, and Viserion (no, I’m still not actually over that one) all at once.

The key to surviving such immediate changes in direction lie in the way we react. Sure, we could have taken the rest of the week off when the Night King’s spear reduced Daenerys’ dragon count to two, but we didn’t. We stayed strong, and let the internet’s whacky theories give us a glimmer of hope. It’s the same with the algorithm; a big change in the way Google ranks your website shouldn’t spell the end of your SEO strategy, but merely change its direction a little.

There will always be a way to effectively optimise a website, and we shouldn’t let Google’s plot twists get in the way of that. Robb died, and now we’re rooting for Jon; Possum came along, and we had to adapt accordingly.

Tyrion Lannister – Links


Tyrion Lannister has been through a lot. The “black sheep” of the Lannister family, he’s fought for almost every side, come close to death on a number of occasions, and even managed to pet a dragon somewhere along the line. What’s kept him going through it all hasn’t been his quick wit, though, but his ability to make the most of his links. Tyrion escaped King’s Landing because he had friends in the right places: his brother, Jaime, and everyone’s favourite mystery man, Varys. Had he not, that would have been the end of him.

As it is, he’s now Hand of the Queen to Daenerys Targaryen, and has even managed to tidy up his beard a bit. Much in the same way, it’s essential that your website has powerful, effective links in the right places. Their importance cannot be underestimated. Linking to, and receiving links from, sites with high domain authority from the right anchor text allows Google to see that your overall website quality is high. If you don’t have any reputable links, then you’re on your own in the middle of the great game that is the world of SEO; when has that ever ended well for anyone?

Littlefinger – Blackhat SEO


Fittingly, we now come to a character who also enjoyed making the most of links. Unlike Tyrion, however, Littlefinger’s tactics were a little more underhand. He’s spent seven series creeping down corridors, whispering in the ears of people with power, and disappearing into the shadows when he’s needed to. Finally, it’s caught up with him.

In what was, undoubtedly, a hugely satisfying scene, Sansa, Arya, and Bran Stark trapped him. There was no way out for Lord Baelish, as he underestimated the children of the man he betrayed in series one. As with Littlefinger’s scheming, the use of blackhat SEO techniques will eventually have its ramifications. While it might seem tempting to buy links, stuff your site with keywords, or duplicate content, the Penguin Algorithm will eventually catch up with you.

To be quite honest, you’d do very well to last as long as Petyr Baelish using these techniques; Google will pick up on what you’re doing immediately and your rankings will plummet. This analogy is a relatively straightforward one; Littlefinger relied on underhand, treacherous rouses to get what he wanted, so do black hat SEOs. No-one liked Littlefinger, no-one likes black hat techniques.

The White Walkers – HTTPS

White walkers

“There is only one war that matters: the great war, and it is here”.

The people of Westeros (with the exception of Jon, go Jon) have been ignoring the imminent arrival of the White Walkers for quite some time now. It might be too late. In a desperate attempt to convince Cersei Lannister to join their fight, Jon and Daenerys headed to King’s Landing, but the Night King is here. With the help of his new frost-breathing dragon, he’s destroyed the wall and his forces are bound for the South.

In much the same way, Google’s decided to label any websites not with a ‘HTTPS’ tag as insecure, as of October. That’s not something that anyone with a website wants, but it’s started. Viserion (nope, still not over it) has blown down the wall, and Google’s started penalising anything with a contact form. Just as the people of the Seven Kingdoms have to unite if they’re going to defeat the Night King, the SEO community are going to need to turn their attention to this issue as soon as possible.

It’s something that could have significant ramifications should we fail to give it the due attention, but is also an issue that we can resolve provided we focus on it. It’s maybe slightly unfair to compare Google’s latest initiative with Game of Thrones’ terrifying, evil master villains, but there’s enough of a parallel here based on significance alone. Just like the White Walkers, the HTTPS issue will catch up with anyone who turns a blind eye.

Active Internet Marketing (UK)

Here at Active Internet Marketing, we think about SEO in a slightly different way (if you hadn’t already figured that out). Rather than take uniform strategies and try to apply them to every situation for all of our clients, we use our in-depth knowledge and creativity to devise a tailored, bespoke plan for you. If you’re seeking an effective SEO and digital marketing strategy for your company, then get in touch! You can reach us on 0800 772 0650, or by filling out one of our online contact forms. Being a Game of Thrones fan is not a prerequisite, but it might help …    *Image of Walder Frey taken from Screener, available at: http://screenertv.com/television/game-of-thrones-david-bradley-walder-frey-return/