September 11, 2013
As a rule, people are predictable creatures. Ask a crowd of people to think of a vegetable, and 90% of folks will answer “carrot.” The same is true for when asked about a popular tool (the majority of us, of course, say “hammer.”) This is known as the Prototype Theory, or a “mode of graded categorization in cognitive science, where some members of a category are more central than others,” according to Wikipedia.
What this means to your SEO strategies is simple: understand how people think, and then design and execute sites and content with your audience in mind. If you do this successfully, your customers will be like moths to a flame.
Why SEO Efforts Often Fall Short
Many companies approach the business of search engine rankings by creating websites and marketing campaigns that appeal to what they want, not the customer they are catering to. They then resort to shock and awe when their efforts don’t produce tangible results.
SEO is never ever about you, the company; it’s always about the consumer. The more you boast about your latest achievements, without actually providing a valuable service or solving a problem your customers have, the less likely you are to make a lasting connection.
Every time you post a social update, a new blog entry, or any example of SEO related content marketing, you should ask yourself – will my audience “Like” this on Facebook? Is this a piece of content I can envision being viral? Will people comment, or even post to their social media accounts? If you’re not feeling it, no one will.
Using Social Proof to Guide Your Campaigns
Social proof is a media term that essentially describes the herd mentality, this time in reference to online social habits. This is extremely relevant in the world of SEO. If you’re choosing your keywords based on the image you’d like your company to portray, they will only do heavy lifting for you if they are congruent with the language people are currently using.
Your SEO, therefore, needs to be rooted in modern times. This is where psychology becomes so critical to your business’ success, and your marketing team should be committed to monthly research studying the latest social trends in your industry.
Practical Tips on How to Stay Current With Your Audience
No matter how smart you fancy yourself to be, no matter how much you think you know your demographic, humble yourself each month and do some homework. Trends change, and depending on your industry, trends can literally flip-flop overnight. Many marketers use their intuition, or trusted hunches, to make key planning decisions. If you don’t have data to back up what your gut tells you, any efforts you launch could be a complete waste of time and money.
To that end, here are some easy and helpful ways to get inside the minds of your customers:
- Within every customer base are a handful of vocal, socially prominent users. Follow your top fans, engage with them socially, and study what common threads you see among these users.
- Read top industry blogs and news sites for you niche, and draft content marketing strategies around current key issues and ideas.
- Every time you’re ready to draft new content, Google the topics, and study not just the popularity of your chosen focus, but the exact phrases that appear most frequently. For example, people rarely write articles about “SEO that follows the rules,” but “White Hat SEO” is white hot. Choose your words carefully.
- Don’t just assume you know what your audience wants, ask them. When your company is ready to launch a new product or service, take the time to poll your loyal users and note their advice, as well as the words they use.
- Overall, remember you’re studying the baseline psychology of the demographic you are serving, and sometimes the keys to reaching them are found in unexpected places. That’s why it’s important to study the elements of your core users’ profiles. For example, if you sell chocolate through an online store, and you see a lot of your customers also support eco-friendly causes on their profiles, you now have a fabulous idea for a new chocolate bar. Let your users tell you what you should market to them, and then use your expertise to create the best of the best.
Search Engines Love Psychology, So You Should Too
In actuality, much of what constructs the algorithms search engines use to rank websites is based on human psychology. Search engines attempt to outwit those that try and fool them, so we as SEO experts must do the same with our audience. If your customers are smarter than your marketing efforts, you lose, just like algorithms against crafty black hat SEO pros.
Furthermore, Bing especially gives heavy weight to social signals in SEO results, so the more you can create a loyal active audience, the more you’ll see your rankings increase. The emphasis is on active here for a reason – people who “Like” you, and then forget you, are essentially useless. This is why you need to be witty about getting your fans to talk about you, post comments, and otherwise communicate. To search engines, this kind of viral activity is golden.
When your SEO and marketing efforts are grounded in a truthful understanding of the way your customer thinks, you provide your company with a solid foundation from which to create content and launch campaigns. By choosing any other methodology, you aren’t looking at the big picture.
How has an intimate understanding of your audience created results for you? How much do think psychology really impacts SEO?
Digital producer, game designer, Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs, Tina Courtney-Brown has been shaping online businesses since 1996. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, social networks and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and true cooking diva. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.