Neuroscientists describe the amygdala as “the one of the four basal ganglia in each cerebral hemisphere that is part of the limbic system and consists of an almond-shaped mass of gray matter in the anterior extremity of the temporal lobe.” Depicted below in stripes, it’s the part of the brain involved with experiencing emotions and motivations.
Where SEO strategy is concerned, however, the amygdala is significant for another reason: it’s the part that causes consumers to choose one brand’s content over another.
It’s true—there is an inherent link between human emotions and the way that people connect with and research brands on the internet. As such, those emotions must influence the way that marketers optimize online content for Google SEO. But speaking from experience, integrating human psychology with SEO strategy is easier said than done.
As a content specialist, I’m often heads down in data, conducting keyword research, interpreting the meaning behind this month’s bounce rate, etc. As a result, it’s easy for me to forget that I need to think like a consumer. Recently, it dawned on me that in order to create a strategy that will connect with my audience on a real, human level, I need to be thinking like both a content marketer and a consumer. And that dual mind-set needs to start at the foundation of my efforts—search.
According to Joost de Valk, CEO and founder of Yoast, “Every bit of research shows, again and again, that after direct traffic, search is the biggest traffic driver to websites. Not investing in organic search is therefore not an option. People get very excited about social, because it’s ‘hip,’ but search drives the majority of traffic and sales.” In other words, if you’re not thinking like a consumer from the outset with your SEO strategy, you’ll lose them. Or worse: you’ll never get your content in front of them at all. (And when it comes time to explain why your content’s not ranking on search engine results pages, that’ll be a tough one to justify.)
Usually when people are actively seeking out information on the internet they fire off informal, sometimes grammatically incorrect queries into their search bars, then choose the results that resonate with them the most. At least, that’s how I search as a consumer.
What’s more, thanks to Siri and other intelligent personal assistants (IPAs), consumers are becoming more conversational with their searches. In other words, people are quite literally having conversations with search engines by way of mobile devices. As one of today’s top marketing influencers, Neil Patel, wrote: “It’s all about natural language and the intended meaning behind the searcher’s query, rather than the query itself.”
Patel suggested that marketers ought to rely less on clunky keywords and more on using organic language to appeal to search engines, and thereby consumers. He continued, “By now, I hope that you know that keywords have started taking a backseat, even in search engines. Google now serves relevant answers instantly to the searcher, using its knowledge graph.” He also offered up a variety of solutions that today’s data-reliant marketers can implement in their Google SEO strategies in order to account for this shift in search behavior and medium (i.e., tablet, mobile device, IPA). Specifically, he recommended including questions in your content and leveraging the wealth of organic conversation that occurs on digital forums such as Reddit.
With this in mind, let’s explore four other ways that marketers can integrate aspects of neuroscience into their SEO strategies to engage and excite their audiences.
More marketing influencers are researching and writing about neuromarketing, which, put simply, is the psychology of marketing. Neuromarketing is based around the idea that by understanding how the brain works, marketers can become more effective at connecting with customers. By diving into the inner workings of your reader’s mind, you can optimize your content to be digested (and connected to) in a way that fits their natural mental processes—and ultimately drive sales.
For example: in a post about the secrets of the human brain, Ann Handley advised marketers to aim for a gut reaction—that is, lend more attention to fields of your content your audience will see first or will recognize quickly while scanning an article. Because the amygdala controls our reactions and emotions, we experience gut reactions much faster than rational thoughts. Therefore, it’s important that marketers inject emotion and natural language into their content in order to appeal to human instincts.
Give your ideal consumers names, motivations, fears, and personality traits. When you map out the various personalities, challenges, and needs of your audience, you can better determine the kind of content they most desire. From there, you can tell more informed stories that speak to their needs, whether they’re looking to discover, research, decide, or purchase. What’s more, detailed, humanized buyer personas are more likely to incite empathy and a sense of connection between the marketers driving the campaigns and the audience that is seeking out the content.
Social listening tools (such as Sysomos) can help marketers glean insights from real conversations their target audiences are having online. With tools like these, marketers can not only see what their core audience is talking about, but how they are talking about it. After all, motivation and emotions drive people to post reviews and discuss their issues on social media and digital forums. Social listening enables marketers to pick up on the emotional nature of their audience’s conversations as well as pinpoint the motivation behind the discussions.
After you’ve garnered some helpful insights from social listening tools, use your audience’s conversations to create long-tail keywords inspired by the actual phrases they are using online. These keywords might include questions, and they could be up to five words long. It’s likely your audience turns to search engines to ask those who, what, when, where, why questions. So, why not include this type of language in your content? One benefit of using long-tail keywords is in their descriptiveness—which helps search engines direct longer queries, including voice queries, to the appropriate content pages.
Sure, SEO strategy can be technical and complex. But, it’s important to remember that it’s about more than coding, keywords, and data. It’s about understanding and connecting with people in such a way that they continuously engage with your content.