People are predictable.
They have a set of observable behaviors that can be analyzed and assessed in a scientific manner.
And when you get right down to it, marketing is all about psychology.
Understanding what makes consumers tick and what compels them to buy is your ticket to maximizing your ROI.
And it’s no different with SEM.
Get inside the heads of search users, and you can mount an effective strategy that can not only bring in leads but also get a sizable portion of them to convert.
In this post, I’d like to go over 17 specific facts about search psychology that will shape your campaign.
1. Search queries reflect user intent
Okay, so this may not be exactly a groundbreaking statement.
Of course, search queries reflect a person’s intent.
But allow me to elaborate.
The majority of consumers are in one of the four phases of the buying funnel: awareness, research, decision, and purchase.
Basing your keywords and content around one of these four phases should enable you to be more effective and hit your mark.
2. People have inherently selfish motives
Let’s be totally honest.
We’re all selfish to at least some extent.
Now, I’m not suggesting all search engine users are terrible people, but at the end of the day, they want to know what’s in it for them.
The only reason they’ll click on and explore your content is if it provides genuine value and gives them what they need.
Make sure you don’t make it about your brand but, rather, about your audience.
Having this mindset will help guide you when deciding what type of content to create and your overall approach.
3. Long-tail is the most common search method
Using long-tail keywords is one of the older SEO strategies.
Arguably, it’s one of the few practices still relevant today.
I’m sure you’ve heard that long-tail keywords account for roughly 70% of all searches.
But why am I telling you something you probably already know?
It’s because most people perform natural-sounding, longer search queries rather than shorter, disjointed ones.
Not only does this strategy decrease your competition level for keywords, you can better satisfy search engine users.
This brings us to our next point.
4. Most people use conversational search queries
Remember Google’s Hummingbird update a few years ago?
Its main emphasis was to tweak Google’s algorithm to make search results better match user intent.
This was the first solid piece of evidence that Google was evolving and becoming more “intent-centric,” attempting to understand the underlying meaning behind keywords.
This, combined with an increase in mobile voice searches (20% of mobile queries were voice searches in 2016), means one thing.
More and more search users are using a conversational tone.
And this trend is only going to continue with digital assistants becoming more and more popular.
Here’s an example.
Rather than searching for “oil change Portland,” a person would be more likely to search for “where can I find an oil change in Portland.”
This is an important thing to keep in mind when structuring your keywords.
Using long-tail, conversational keywords “scratches the itch” of many search users.
5. Readers love “sociolinguistics”
the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations and context, on the way language is used, and the effects of languages use on society.
In layman’s terms, this simply means writing while using words and phrases you would use in everyday life.
It’s a technique I’ve based most of my blog writing on.
I approach it as if I’m having a conversation rather than being a journalist.
And it’s totally worked.
Using sociolinguistics is a proven way to establish trust and get people to like you.
This keeps readers happy, which keeps search engines happy, creating a virtuous cycle.
6. Visitors want every page to be a landing page
There’s an article from Search Engine Land I really like.
It’s about devising a psychology-based SEO strategy.
There’s one section in particular that really resonated with me. Here’s a screenshot:
I think this is an interesting way to look at it.
We typically reserve a single section of our website as a designated landing page.
But part of sound search psychology is addressing visitors’ pain points at nearly every stage of the buying journey.
This means the content you create should always be highly relevant to what the anticipated pain points would be for a particular keyword.
Answering the three questions posed by Search Engine Land will help guide your content creation and ensure you’re consistently hitting your target.
7. Screw clicks—focus on sales
Traffic is great.
Of course, you want to reach the highest possible ranking and crush it.
But the results are going to be only marginal if you’re getting clicks but barely any sales.
Here’s a screenshot of another quote from that same Search Engine Land article:
Many marketers get so wrapped up in getting a massive amount of traffic that they fail to see the big picture: getting actual sales.
That’s why I suggest putting a lot of emphasis on conversion optimization rather than strictly focusing on increasing the rankings.
8. More content is generally viewed as better content
If you’ve read my posts on either Quick Sprout or NeilPatel.com, you’ve noticed I like to stick with the long-form format.
Well, for starters, there’s an undeniable correlation between a higher word count and higher ranking.
In fact, a recent article from Backlinko found that “the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”
And longer content also gets more shares.
I think there’s a general perception that longer, more robust, and image-centric content is of higher quality.
And here’s the deal.
I doubt many of you read my posts word for word.
If I think about it too long, that makes me sad. Ha-ha!
But I’m not offended. Most readers simply scan. It’s just how people read on the web.
With longer content that requires people to scroll down, the readers’ brains subconsciously think, “Wow, this must be great content.”
This translates into more shares, more backlinks, and ultimately improved SEO.
You don’t necessarily need to be the biggest expert or even the most original, but as long as you can go more in-depth, you can usually create the perception of quality.
That’s why I’m such a fan of the skyscraper technique.
9. Most people value fresh content (and so does Google)
Let me ask you a question.
If you’re a content marketer searching for content marketing statistics, would you be more likely to click on an article that was written in 2017 or 2005?
Odds are it would be the former.
I certainly give preference to more recent content.
And in the Internet world, five years ago might as well be 25 years ago.
Of course, there’s a place for evergreen content, but what I’m trying to say is that freshness is definitely a factor in SEO.
Consistently creating high-quality, engaging content plays a huge role in getting website visitors, inbound links, leads, and indexed pages.
Here’s a specific stat from Brightseed that shows the power of consistently creating fresh content:
10. Headlines heavily impact buying decisions
I think we can all agree headlines are important.
According to direct response copywriter Ted Nicholas, “73% of the buying decision is made at the point of the headline.”
If you can nail the headline, you’ll bring in leads.
11. People tend to prefer headlines with odd numbers
I found this phenomenon pretty interesting.
You might think most people prefer headlines with nice even numbers like “The Top 10…”
But this isn’t the case.
According to Backlinko,
a study of 150,000 headlines revealed that odd-numbered headlines have a 20 percent better CTR than headlines with even numbers.
If you noticed, the headline for this post is “17 Facts about Search Psychology You Should Know.”
Not “10 Facts.”
The simple little hack can help your content stand out and perform better in search engines.
12. People prefer short URLs
I’m sure you already know about the importance of optimizing your URLs for SEO.
You’re always better off using a descriptive URL, like yoursite.com/epic-article instead of yoursite.com/39403043034993234.
But here’s an interesting stat:
Marketing Sherpa found that short URLs are 2.5x more likely to attract a click.
I myself tend to gravitate to short, succinct URLs rather than longer, uglier ones.
Try to condense your URLs as much as possible so that they capture the essence of your content in the fewest words possible for more clicks.
13. People share content that supports a cause
Getting readers to share your content drives more traffic to your site and can directly impact how your content ranks in search engines.
But what motivates readers to share?
Are they more inclined to share certain types of content over others?
Well, a survey from The New York Times Customer Insight Group found the following:
As you can see, the number one reason why people share content is because it supports a cause.
While this may not be necessarily relevant to your brand, this data gives us a good idea of the types of content that people value, and it can help guide your efforts.
14. Images make it easier to process information
Okay, so we had to touch on the topic of visuals at some point.
So, here we go.
I’m not going to blab on about the importance of incorporating visuals into your content.
Instead, let me provide you with some key stats from The Next Web:
The bottom line is that using images makes it much easier for readers to process information and helps your content resonate with them.
Visuals also make it easier to explain the benefits of your product or service, which can be a factor in building stronger rapport with your audience.
This can ultimately translate into more shares and better rankings.
15. Pro images get more shares than semi-professional images
Allow me to piggyback on my last point.
Images are important.
But you don’t want to use just any type of images.
According to a study from Marketing Sherpa,
pro images received 45% more Facebook shares than semi-professional photos.
In other words, using those cheesy stock photos probably isn’t a good idea and is going to negate the impact of your posts.
Although the study from Marketing Sherpa analyzed Facebook shares, I think it’s safe to say that this phenomenon can be applied across the board.
That’s why I try to maintain fairly rigorous quality standards with the images I use in my content.
16. Search users crave a great UX
An article from Vizual Archive states that today, an overlap between design/usability and SEO is much bigger than it was in the 90s and early 2000s.
I believe this to be true.
By following correct SEO fundamentals, like including rich meta descriptions and title tags and organizing content in a logical manner, you’re improving the UX and SEO at the same time.
17. Personalized CTAs outperform generic ones
Last but not least, let’s talk about CTAs.
Let’s say someone landed on one of your blog posts through Google, read through your content, and now has some level of interest in your product.
According to some fairly exhaustive research from HubSpot, personalized CTAs convert 42% better than generic CTAs.
Rather than saying something like “click here” or “share this post,” aim for a more specific, targeted CTA like “share these content marketing tips.”
Crushing it at search is largely about putting yourself in the shoes of your audience.
Understanding their behaviors and patterns is the key to creating content that resonates with users while satisfying search algorithms.
This should make it easier to build trust and rapport with human readers, which should translate into a ton of good things like more shares, backlinks, etc. that will improve your SEO.
Can you think of any other psychological concepts that affect SEO?