If you'll forgive the geeky subject matter, I'd like to propose the concept of treating search engine optimization as a game. Similar to World of Warcraft, SEO can be just as engaging and exciting as a massively multiplayer online role playing game. Unlike video games though, there's real money to be made! Let's nerd out this metaphor a bit further, shall we?
The Plucky Young AdventurerWhen you first start down the road of SEO you will be an optimistic and naive young traveler on the internet road to glory, striving to discover yourself and your potential. The grand world of SEO is still mostly closed to you and you don't yet know what kind of power you have the ability to wield.
With time and training though, you will be able to ascend to a level of comprehension that you previously considered unthinkable.
The Mentors and GuardiansNo young SEO adventurer should head into battle without at least a modicum of training. Who you get that information from will strongly influence your ethical path -- white, black or even gray hat optimization. Who are the SEO bloggers you follow quite closely?
My mentors (whether they like it or not), are Court Tuttle, Michael Graywolf and our very own Ruud Hein. These are the power users that are out there giving away their secrets, helping others reach higher income levels. If your goal is fame and not income, then this is not the game for you.
Henchmen and Boss BattlesWhat kind of game would this be if there wasn't any conflict? Your key competitors will be other SEO-savvy websites, usually veterans with low to mid-level PageRank, no higher than 4.
I realize that increasingly these days PageRank is being cast aside as a metric not worth tracking. For the purposes of SEO though, it provides a quick and easy way of measuring the trust that Google has assigned for any given page. Since Google drives over 80% of the search engine traffic, shouldn't this number be given a modicum of consideration?
If I find a potential niche to try to break into, I'm much more likely to target it if the top site in that field has a PageRank of 1, as compared to a 5. Separate the henchmen from the boss battles before starting down a path -- at the very least you'll know what you're getting yourself into.
Potential as an Application?
I would love to see a site build out the "SEO as a game" concept further, rewarding new optimizers with badges to display and instruct them on how to better their pages' presence within the SERPs. Perhaps I just want to hear a Legend of Zelda ta-da every time I publish a new article.