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Psychology-driven SEO content

SEO content that builds connections

Search engine optimization can be described as the science of search, but incorporating some psychology can take it to the next level. The technical aspects of SEO – like page speed, performance, titles, and more – are vital, but to genuinely create human connections with your audience, you need to understand what influences them to search, motivates them to click, and inspires them to learn more. 

Even a basic understanding of human psychology and consumer behaviour can significantly enhance your SEO strategies and influence the type of content you create. The result is higher-quality content that connects directly with your audience.

The psychology of search queries

Every search reveals something about the person. Studies have shown generational differences in the language we use when searching

“For baby boomers, it was “favourite” (26%), while Gen Xers’ was “best” (33%). Millennials wanted to know “how to” (33%), while Gen Zers were more interested in “when” (23%)” Frontier Survey, 2022.

Let’s take a product search, for example. Some people search for the “best (product),” others for “cheapest (product)” and others for “where can I buy (product)”. 

Every search has a goal, what we call the intent. We can split search intent into four broad categories: 

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial investigation

The key to effective SEO and content is understanding how to align content with user intent and psychological needs. Search isn’t just about the keywords used, it’s about the rational, technical and emotional reasons why they’re searching, as well as recognising the generational differences in how people 

Google has become the preeminent search engine because of the quality of its results and the deep understanding it has developed for users. Copywriters and content professionals need to be able to translate search into engaging copy that answers audience questions. This is a skill that’s going to become more in demand as we increasingly see voice search and AI integrated into our lives.

Emotional connections through SEO content

The purchase process isn’t rational or technical but emotional, experts say. The desire to connect with customers’ emotions is at the heart of the current investment in brand building that some of the world’s biggest companies have committed to.

Take AirBnB. Everyone knows what the company does, so investing in awareness is pointless. Instead, the company has invested millions in building a brand that connects emotionally with current and potential customers. 

All content created by AirBnB is about influencing the emotions of consumers to influence their decision-making processes. When you want to book a holiday, price isn’t the priority – it’s about new experiences.

What can we learn from this and apply it to content?

Successful content (and copywriters) identify and exploit emotional triggers to improve content engagement. Content that engenders an emotional response is more likely to be read, understood and (vital in the social media age) shared.

We also know that content has to build an emotional connection quickly. This fascinating (and free) podcast from Gloria Mark, PhD explains why our attention spans are getting shorter. (TLDR: it’s spending so much time online and using social media.)  

Charities and charity copywriters are experts at applying pressure to our emotional triggers, but the concept can be applied to any commercial organisation’s content. The critical factor here is to understand the emotional relationship your customers or clients have with your product or service. We’re going back to marketing basics here, but the best SEO content is simple, clear and compelling. 

Establishing an emotional connection is as the core of content – and is only possible if you have a deep understanding of your audience. You can’t get this from search data or keywords – you need to invest time developing detailed customer personas that are supported by real-life insights. Yes, you have to speak to people…

Building trust and credibility through content

In a world where trust is at an all-time low, the psychological importance of trust and credibility in online interactions is more important than ever. Corporations are happy to lie to us (if it makes them a profit), and it almost always does.

Content writers should never assume anyone cares about your content, business or brand. In fact, you should believe – rightly – that they don’t trust you and that you need to earn it.

How can you achieve this through content? Content must be all these things:

  • Authoritative
  • Authentic
  • Insightful
  • Engaging
  • Fair 
  • Focused on providing answers 

Ultimately, SEO is about improving website performance. Too often, this comes at the expense of high-quality content. In a desire to game the algorithm, content writers churn out derivative copy to conform to a template provided by their customer, agency or (in the worst case) an SEO writing assistant.

Don’t do this. It will destroy trust, credibility and confidence in your brand faster than you think. In the long-term, it’ll also result in an SEO drop. (The drop will be precipitous if you use AI to create content for your site…)

One of the most powerful weapons an SEO copywriter has is leveraging the impact of social proof. Social proof comes in many forms, including reviews, testimonials, and social media engagement. Individually and collectively they establish trust and influence action. 

Why? Because our actions are directly influenced by those of others. (This may be a case of psychologists stating the obvious, but we’ll reiterate the point.)

Incorporating social proof into content is vital. This could be as transparent as incorporating a customer or client review, or in the case of articles such as this one, we back up points with links to relevant and trusted sources. 

User experience (UX) and psychological comfort

SEO experts and content writers may not be experts in psychology, but your UX team often will be. The connection between UX design and psychological comfort is clear and critical. Visitors to your site will be influenced by several factors, including ease of navigation, site speed, and mobile responsiveness. These can have a direct and dramatic impact on user satisfaction and SEO success. 

They’re also out of the hands of your average (and above average) SEO writer. 

But, SEO writers can use the principles of good UX in content. They can make content clear and accessible, with a logical flow, simple headings, the integration of media, incorporation of social proof and providing direct answers to explicit and implied questions. 

Understanding search intent and establishing an emotional connection early are also important in building trust and confidence among your audience.

Personalisation and user engagement

Personalisation remains a major buzzword for brands – and an effective tool for engagement. People will spend more with brands that personalise experiences (and content). They’re also more likely to trust them, too. 

Personalisation builds on the previous point about establishing an emotional connection. We’re talking about SEO, so personalised content is primarily web pages (including landing pages) that are shaped around an individual’s preferences, behaviours and pain points.

Of course, it’s impossible to personalise content to each individual (beyond using their first name, account details and so on), but you can use available information to support you.

The psychology behind personalised content and its effect on user engagement is complex, but you can learn a lot from data. You can (and should) use:

  • Demographic information
  • Buyer behaviour (purchases, 
  • Browsing information
  • Social media 

Of course, there are ethical considerations and privacy concerns when you get into higher levels of personalisation, but that shouldn’t deter content creators from using data to create connections. 

So, how can you do it? We’re not going through a blog on personalisation, but here’s a basic outline:

  • Use data points, buyer behaviour, browsing data and social media to create personas
  • Work with UX and digital marketing experts to create a content strategy with stages on the journey for each 
  • Create a content plan with content cadence, identifying landing pages and direct messaging
  • Define a social campaign (including PPC if required) that’s targeted at each group, with engaging content and a clear CTA to engage them directly.

This is about driving traffic, increasing shares, and boosting SEO. Personalised content is much more likely to be clicked on, read, shared and linked to – which are all strong signals to Google.

This is a really basic outline of how personalisation can be used as part of a strategic SEO campaign. It’s important to consider personalisation alongside the other strategies here. It’s a part of a targeted content campaign that incorporates all these elements to improve SEO.

Using fear and the FOMO Effect

Ever used Temu? The now ubiquitous app uses FOMO to dramatic effect in encouraging us to act to avoid missing out on their unique cut-price deals. (The platform also uses a range of other psychological techniques to encourage us to buy, like gamification, but its shareability and FOMO is arguably the strongest.)

FOMO is one of the strongest psychological triggers and it can be used to improve content. The idea is to create peril to increase engagement. 

How does this work?

Temu does this by limiting both the time deals are available for and providing details on the number of people who have bought a product. It’s the oldest sales trick in the book: “When it’s gone, it’s gone” (It’ll be on sale again next week, but naturally, they don’t mention that).

You use psychological triggers that highlight FOMO and introduce urgency into content. Content approaches can include:

  • Are you doing these 5 things to boost your content marketing?
  • Your competitors are using this crucial content channel. Are you?
  • Essential insights from (industry professional)

These are basic ideas (as we’re getting a bit tired of all the typing), but if you pay us we can come up with better ones. (That’s how the relationship works.)

Overcoming analysis paralysis

Ever wondered why you can’t find anything to watch on Netflix, even though there are thousands of films and TV series? It’s the phenomenon of analysis paralysis where you (and we!) struggle to make a decision because we’re faced with too many choices. 

If you want another example, stick a kid in a sweet shop with £1 and see what happens…

Too much online content (like this blog?) is packed full of information which presents the reader with lots of information, but little guidance. This can frustrate them, which can lead them to switch off. The impact on SEO is obvious, with bounce time a key indicator of how many visitors leave a web page without doing anything (you know all this, but we’re including this anyway).

Content writers should understand strategies for simplifying user decisions to improve website engagement and conversion rates. Content should educate readers, involving them in a conversation with a clear purpose. 

Take an education blog like this one. Readers want to feel comforted that they’re being addressed by someone who understands their problems (pain point, if we’re getting all marketing about it). They also want to know that the time they invest in the content created will deliver a value that’s greater. That could be a key insight that inspires their content creation plans or the opportunity to connect with an agency that uses sophisticated techniques to create effective SEO content.

Analysis paralysis can be simplified into one phrase: Do your readers know what you want them to do (and will they do it)?

If the answer is yes, you’ll increase engagement and boost SEO. That’s because the Google algorithm is, like your reader, searching and sifting for content that’s informative and has authority. Get that right and you’ll secure strong rankings whatever your subject matter or specialism.

Is your content connecting?

At 42group, we use all these techniques – combined with unrivalled experience and a dash of common sense – to create SEO content that builds human connections.

If you’d like to chat about an SEO content project or requirement, get in touch today.

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