The marketing world is abuzz with the sound of the Metaverse, leaving brands and developers to wonder if they should be investing in the Metaverse, and where it fits in with their marketing campaigns. In this article we’ll explain the Metaverse and the potential SEO opportunities it provides, and why SEO agencies, developers and producers need to at least have the Metaverse on their radars.
What is the Metaverse?
First things first, what exactly is the Metaverse?
Many of us may have only heard the term ‘Metaverse’ recently, concerning Facebook changing its name to ‘Meta’ in October 2021. You may be surprised to learn then that the term goes back to a novel called “Snow Crash” written by Neal Stephenson and published in 1992.
In 2011 American author Ernest Cline reimagined the term in his debut novel Ready Player One. The story came to greater prominence when it was adapted into a 2018 film directed by Steven Spielberg. In Cline’s incarnation, the Metaverse is an oasis, a seamless blend of real life and virtual life, achieving a kind of utopia.
This is the idea behind the Metaverses that have begun to spring up over the last couple of years. Using headsets and cryptocurrencies, ‘players’ can inhabit a virtual world, interacting, shopping, or taking part in games in real-time, all from the comfort of their own homes.
SEO and the Metaverse
Speaking to Forbes magazine in May 2022, Kristi Woolsey, an associate director at BCG Platinion, said:
“The term Metaverse is used to describe a combination of the virtual reality and mixed reality worlds accessed through a browser or headset, which allows people to have real-time interactions and experiences across distance.”
Woolsey also made the point that the Metaverse is not one entity, but a ‘series of disconnected Metaverses’.
In SEO terms, the Metaverse could present the future of search marketing. SEO has always been about creating content most likely to get your product or services seen by those searching for answers. SEOs anticipate and study search intent to try to provide those answers in the best possible format.
The Metaverse presents a different format, but the process still boils down to being ‘found’ first and then retaining the visitor until they hopefully make a purchase.
With Meta (formerly Facebook) committing to the Metaverse, all eyes are on fellow digital juggernauts such as Google, Bing, and Microsoft to see which – if any – becomes the next to buy into the Metaverse in a big way.
Just as TikTok has become one of the biggest search engines, the personalisation of AR and VR in the Metaverse makes it ripe for search engine optimisation. TikTok has replaced Google Search as the main search engine for many of Generation Z (those born from 1997-2012) who are aged 10-25 at the time of writing.
Since this age group is almost identical to those using the Metaverse, it makes sense for marketers targeting this age group to start to allocate resources to the Metaverse.
The Metaverse will run on algorithms, so just as with TikTok or any other search engine SEO is about offering your consumers the best possible result for their queries.
In the meantime, SEOs who are ahead of the curve have already begun to adapt their processes, with Mark Zuckerberg already showcasing tactile experiments in the Metaverse on Instagram.
With the blurring of the real world and virtual spaces, SEO will need to adapt and become more sensory.
Alt texts and audio video descriptions are already essential components in any SEO campaign worth its salt. In the Metaverse, an emphasis will likely be placed on voice search and visual search results.
It is on-page SEO that will likely play a key part in the Metaverse – content based on search intention and user experience. While it’s unlikely this will involve much-written content – at least not long-form pieces – it may present as products becoming available to a ‘player’ in the Metaverse based on their actions or spoken intentions. Just as Neo asks for guns in The Matrix only to be presented with a smorgasbord of weapons, a player may say the ingredient they are lacking for a particular recipe or the shoes needed for a sport within the Metaverse.
AR/VR headsets and other technology such as haptic gloves that ‘displace’ your skin will allow those in the Metaverse to clearly see and even touch virtual objects. Brands will need to develop campaigns with this in mind. In the same way, as ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’, a virtual object is a much more powerful representation of a product than any review or written description.
A recent study in Thermopylae Science and Technology found that the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is also visual. MIT reported similar results. This science can be used to optimise the customer’s journey at every step, from brand awareness to making a purchase.
With Non-Fungible Tokens (unique tokens which can be spent but not exchanged for other coins) these kinds of virtual products are likely to grow in popularity. A virtual product can either be purchased for use in the Metaverse or be used as a tool to represent a real-world product.
In the same way, you can ‘try on’ clothes in virtual changing rooms that some clothing companies have begun to offer, you may be able to ‘try out’ other products in the Metaverse before buying them for real-world use.
You Still Need Keywords!
Just because searches are likely to be voice-activated doesn’t mean you can forget about keywords. You still need the consumer to find your product first and keywords are still the best way. For example, a player may shout ‘black trainers’ and you need to differentiate and promote your brand for increased ‘findability’. The same goes for visual and sensory searching where products will need to have keyword-based alt text describing what you are looking at or touching.
What are the Advantages of the Metaverse?
The Metaverse offers several advantages to both brands and consumers, including:
- Real-time engagement
- The convenience of returning to a virtual world, wherever, whenever
- Being able to communicate better across long distances
- Strengthening the Blockchain
- Branding opportunities
- Developing a virtual economy
What are the Disadvantages of the Metaverse?
However, there are also issues with the Metaverse that are worth noting, such as:
- Reliance on advanced digital technologies means it’s not yet accessible to all
- There are legitimate privacy and security concerns inside a virtual world, including data collection
- Blurring the real and virtual worlds has the potential to lead to an addiction to the virtual and a withdrawal from the real world
- People may also start to lose a sense of ‘what’s real’ and become desensitized
Brands in the Metaverse
For marketers, the Metaverse is another potential medium in which to engage their consumers for improved feedback and better brand loyalty.
Just as new social media and content platforms have created new opportunities for SEO, the worlds of augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence provide ever more opportunities for tech-savvy marketers.
If your target audience is 15-30, you should consider embracing the Metaverse because chances are, that’s where your consumer base is ‘hanging out’.
A survey by Newzoo carried out on 2,358 Metaverse players and 3,163 video gamers found that the highest percentage of Metaverse players (38%) was found in the 10-20 age bracket, closely followed by 21-35-year-olds with 36% saying they had played a Metaverse game in the preceding six months.
Statista research also found that the 36-50 age bracket saw a steep decline at 22%, while only 4% of participants aged 51 and over had played a Metaverse game in that period.
Examples from Industry
Big brands including Nike, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Disney, Louis Vuitton and Gucci have joined the Metaverse.
Some high-end fashion designers have successfully collaborated with Metaverse platforms such as Roblox (Gucci), while Louis Vuitton took a more direct route. To celebrate its 200th birthday, Louis Vuitton joined the Metaverse and created its own game. Louis the Game gave players the chance to follow a map of six virtual worlds, collecting 200 birthday candles while learning the story of the company’s origins. Players could also collect and purchase 30 NFTs as they play.
Microsoft has invested $70 billion into the Metaverse by purchasing Activision Blizzard, the company behind Metaverse-friendly franchises including World of Warcraft, Candy Crush, Guitar Hero and Call of Duty. Microsoft has also experimented with Metaverse products such as Microsoft Mesh Platform, a VR platform connected to Microsoft Teams.
So what is attracting such huge names to the Metaverse?
Newzoo’s annual game market trends report reported that the global gaming market reached $175.8 billion in 2021. That number is likely to expand exponentially over the next couple of years as the Metaverse grows and becomes more mainstream.
It’s important to allocate your marketing resources where they will have the most impact. If your client base is older or more traditionally-minded, you probably don’t need to invest too much time in the Metaverse. At least, not yet.
As ever, it’s about knowing your customers and planning your campaigns accordingly, adjusting as you test new ideas and gain more feedback. As long as you can reach your customers and talk to them on their level, your campaigns should work, in or outside of the Metaverse.
However, you do need to be aware of the Metaverse and Meta SEO. You should keep up to date with what big brands and your immediate competitors are doing. As industry leaders embrace the Metaverse, the rest of us will follow.
The Metaverse may change how we play, shop, and even date, but it won’t change the need for consumers to be acknowledged and treated as valuable. As always, we must put the customer’s wants and needs first and try to gauge their intention from their behaviour and searches.
SEO in the Metaverse has the same goals as SEO in the real world, but we need to embrace new techniques such as sensory searching and tactile brand awareness to make it a success.