Even though the field of online search has changed significantly in the last decade, the task of a digital marketer remains essentially the same: build relationships with customers. Google may change content guidelines and requirements a hundred times per year, but the ability to build those positive relationships will be the most important factor deciding the success of content marketing campaigns.

Obviously, to be able to create positive relationships with customers online, one has to understand psychology. Yes, this may come as a surprise for some, since dealing with Google and SEO seems more like a technical task. However, one should also understand that the main goal of Google’s strategy is to provide users with quality information.

In fact, here’s an excerpt from Google’s own guide to a “Google-friendly site.”




Clearly, to create “high-quality” and “useful” content, one needs to know customer intent, interests, issues, and preferences very well.

And that’s where cognitive psychology comes in. By understanding the relationship between search engine content optimization and psychology, you’ll also have a much better understanding of “the why” behind customer behavior.

Below, we’re going to review four factors that you need know to build an SEO strategy based on cognitive psychology.

  1. Understand Your Target Audience

Underestimating the research of target audiences is a sure-fire way to fail in online business. Gone are the days when you could win with a hard-sell, product-focused advertising; today, to attract the attention of your prospective customers, you need to know their interests, pain points, needs, goals, and issues. Especially the ones that you could help with.

Let’s suppose that we want to create content that has the potential to go viral to drive traffic to our website. To achieve this, it would be totally unreasonable for us to go and create content based on our subjective assumptions about what makes the content interesting, thus, worth sharing. Instead, we’re going to take a smarter path and research what our audiences want.

A recent OkDork survey on viral content is a helpful one for this. For example, it identified the emotions triggered by viral content pieces so we can identify the emotions to drive our content creation.



Now we know what we should do to increase the chance of our content being shared (create content that invokes the most popular emotions: awe, laughter, and amusement). Obviously, this is just a basic demonstration of audience research it shows how useful it would be to understand what makes your audience tick and press that “share” button.

  1. Address Specific Issues

A cognitive psychology-driven SEO strategy wouldn’t be complete without empathy (SEO is not more about human behavior and not technology, remember?). Creating content that invokes laughter and awe won’t work for every business, however, trying to target specific pain points that an audience has certainly will.

After all, most of us turn to businesses to buy a product or solution that can help us with solving a certain problem or issue, right?

That’s why I strongly recommend for content producers to study empathy (understanding others), research the issues their audiences might be dealing with, and create content that addresses them.

According to Psychology Today, empathy is important because it:

  • Reduces the distance between people
  • Facilitates social coherence and connectedness
  • Fosters emotional bonding.

So the main takeaway here for you is to study what your prospective customers are struggling with, and answer their questions with your content; this could be informative how-to posts, infographics, product videos, reviews, etc.

  1. Pay Attention to Cognitive Fluency

People prefer simplistic content because it’s easier for them to understand and consume it. Often, this means including visuals instead of text (by the way, most people on Earth are visual learners). This is cognitive fluency.

That’s why infographics receive the most shares by content type, according to the abovementioned OkDork survey.



This claim is also supported by the fact that Facebook articles and Twitter messages with images generate much more engagement than articles and tweets without visuals.



And that’s why video has been gaining importance as a marketing tool in recent years; in the recent State of Video Marketing survey, 83 percent of the surveyed digital marketers said that video gave them “a good ROI.”

Apparently, people don’t like to consume content they perceived to be complex. For you, it means that your psychology-driven SEO strategy should consider using a lot of visuals, such as images, videos, and infographics. In terms of written content, this means that your content shouldn’t contain any fluff, which is something that can get help with by using online writing editing tools as TrustMyPaper and Hemingway Editor.

Regardless of the content type that you’re going to produce, remember, the easier it is to understand, the more effective it will be at engaging your audience.

  1. Work on Providing Proof

Promotion of the creation of user-generated content – the content that is produced by consumers voluntarily – is quickly becoming one of the most important goals for digital marketers. The reason is that customers perceive it to be the most trusted form of promotion; after all, why would one go and praise a business for nothing, right?

That’s why 81 percent of online shoppers begin product research with Google, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. You see, many people rely on the opinions and experiences of others, which is called a concept of social proof. Accordingly, we are more likely to act (buy a product) if we see that other people have done the same.

This means that you can use social proof as a technique for optimization and conversion by simply easing the minds of customers who are hesitating whether to buy from you. While at it, you can also boost your SEO.

Here are the ways in which you can use social proof.

  • Encourage your happy customers to leave reviews on industry-relevant platforms, social media, or your website.
  • Write case studies and describe how your products helped customers to succeed
  • Consider collaborating with authentic influencers who promote products via social media
  • Produce video customer testimonials if possible.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, SEO is not always about keywords. The latest content recommendations from Google make it clear that high-quality, useful, and relevant information is the best way to rank high, which certainly can be achieved without investing millions.

Psychology can be helpful to advance your SEO effort by guiding your research of target audiences and identifying the most important things to focus on, such as being empathetic and providing social proof to encourage your customers to act.

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