(Flappy) Bird is the (Key)word: Lessons from its Virality

Flappy Bird Examiner

Image from: Flappy Bird / Examiner.com

If you’re an iPhone owner, chances are you’ve heard of a  maddeningly frustrating game called Flappy Bird. If you’re not an iPhone owner, chances are you’ve still heard of it – the simple, yet unnecessarily difficult application flapped to viral success, but took the application world by surprise when creator Dong Nguyen abruptly took the game down. 

As an affectionate friend to many iPhone owners, the flap heard ‘round the world certainly made it onto my radar. So, like any good Compete PRO user, I took it upon myself to see how the game’s popularity affected the interwebs.

Search referral tracking for “flappy bird” put two sites at the top of the list. Kongregate.com and Plonga.com, both web gaming sites, took in most of the “flappy bird” search traffic. But how each site was affected was radically different!

Kongregate is the larger of the two sites, taking in around 4M UVs for the month of January. Plonga took in nearly 70K. What’s interesting is that while Kongregate was losing 9.04% UVs MoM, Plonga flapped its way through a rising trend with a 111.74% MoM increase.

And what search referral keywords brought this traffic in?

“Flappy Bird” and several of its variants, of course.

Daily Search Referrals Plonga 2014

What I found remarkable was the impact the keyword had on the smaller site. If you take a closer look, the website’s name doesn’t register as a top keyword until after six iterations of “flappy bird” and one keyword for an insanely popular pandemic game.  The rest of the top ten search referrals flaps back to the same theme.

Now that we can see how the keyword affects Plonga’s traffic, let’s look back at how it stacks up to Kongregate.

Monthly UVs Kongregate and Plonga

The difference between Kongregate and Plonga is quite considerable — even if currently in a downward trend, Kongregate outperforms Plonga by a large margin. But in the last couple of months, Plonga’s UV increases began to visually register. It still has a long way to go to meet Kongregate’s numbers — but virality is key to expanding.

This is particularly relevant for less-established websites in other industry categories. As such, here are a few actions I want to stress, as they’ll help you compete and get digital marketing right.


…the news – literally and conceptually. Producing your own content isn’t enough – as your consumers and visitors look for the latest and greatest, you should too. It proves that you’re attentive and in-the-loop for what goes viral. The news doesn’t have to be about politics or natural disasters! As you can see, frustrating smartphone games will do.


…to the news. Curate or create content that unites your brand purpose and daily life. Or, if your company or industry has nothing to do with the latest news, you still present your brand as conscious and active. There’s nothing worse than inactive social accounts or websites that have been collecting dust bunnies.

Be Heard

…by taking SEO by the reins. SEO is a buzzword for a reason! Bigger sites have the advantage in that their names are established and are keywords in themselves. If your brand is lesser known, make a name for it by proving your relevance in industry circles. The easiest ways to start doing this is by tagging current content and pointedly increasing your brand’s presence in search engines. There are tools aplenty to help you with this; like this awesome list compiled by Search Engine Watch. Then, keep in mind that virality helps reach audiences beyond your industry — I’m not an iPhone owner but still heard all about the frustrating flapping.

To see the Compete PRO data used in this article, check us out at compete.com!

About Johanna Gunawan:
A Political Science/International Affairs sophomore at Northeastern University, Johanna joins Millward Brown Digital as the spring '14 Digital Marketing Co-op. Apart from her interest in digital infrastructure and her majors; Johanna enjoys absurd quantities of imported coffee, haggling for cheap flights, and constantly editing her website. Find her on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.