The Psychology of Search Engine Optimisation: 9 Things You Need to Know

SEO has far more to do with psychology than with keywords, coding and site architecture

Despite what you may be told, search engine optimization has far more to do with psychology than with keywords, coding and site architecture.

The reason why people search for things in the first place is what matters. Understanding the psychology behind why people behave the way they do plays a crucial role in establishing an effective online marketing strategy. That applies to SEO just as much as it does to any other digital marketing channel. All of the answers you need are available to you through effective market research and a carefully developed SEO strategy.

Here are 9 things you need to know about the psychology of Search Engine Optimisation.

1. Know your customers

Without knowing what makes your customers tick, any marketing technique you employ is sure to fail. As a business owner, you need to understand the people who need or who will benefit from your products and services.

Develop detailed personas for the different types of people who are likely to use your products or services. Start by speaking extensively with your existing customers. What attracted them to your company? What are their pain points? Engage in market research to identify other types of people who may be viable prospects.

You will start to see patterns and similarities in people’s backgrounds and motivations. Sort different types of customers into different personas. With fully developed personas, you can paint a vivid picture of what your ideal customer looks like. This understanding will allow you to gear your content and optimization toward guiding them through to conversion.

2. Identify customer intent

Today’s search engine algorithms are incredibly sophisticated. They can assess user intent with incredible accuracy. By understanding the intent of your ideal customer, you can make major strides while engaging in SEO.

Most website visitors are in one of four phases of the four stage buying funnel: awareness, research, decision or purchase. Their search queries will reflect that intent.

How are you supposed to know the intent of your customers? The answers lie in the personas you’ve developed. Everyone loves options. Each persona may have a different intent, which is why it’s important to produce specific types of content for specific personas. Once you figure out what your customers are after, give it to them with engaging, informative content, optimized to attract their attention.

3. Address specific pain points

To be effective, your content must be useful to actual people. Useful content concisely and effectively addresses customers’ pain points, and those pain points may vary from one type of customer to the next.

During the course of your market research and through communications with existing customers, you will learn a lot about the problems your ideal customers face. Using this information to inform your content and SEO strategy will put you ahead of the game.

Therefore, the psychology of SEO demands that different types of content must be developed to address different pain points. Giving customers the information they need to solve their problems increases the odds of their conversion.

4. Use search engine queries

Much of the psychology of SEO is reflected in the way in which people query search engines. Now that algorithms consider the semantic and thematic meaning and intent of users, the way in which users query search engines has evolved. People are more conversational with their queries—they ask actual questions much of the time. Increasingly, they might actually ask the question out loud by querying Siri or another mobile app.

When developing your SEO strategy, consider how people will ask Google to find the products and services you provide. Gear your content toward answering those questions.

When it makes sense to do so, include long-tail keywords and key phrases that mirror how people query the search engines. Using longtail keywords in your search strategy is the only way you can gain more organic traffic and they are, by far, the most commonly-used search method. Ultimately, though, if your content is truly useful, informative, and relevant to your users, it will naturally pose and answer the proper questions.

5. Get media-rich with images and videos

An important thing to remember about user psychology is that humans are highly visual. To really connect and resonate with your audience, your SEO strategy should incorporate images and videos whenever it makes sense. According to studies, people process information presented in images around 60,000 times faster than text. To connect with customers quickly, it pays to include relevant images and videos.

Not just any videos or images will do – include images and videos of actual customers or employees. Images and videos make your SEO more effective and your content more relatable and approachable. Thanks to today’s technology, they’re also easy to produce.

6. User experience

In the world of SEO, a lot of attention is paid to site architecture and the way in which it affects the user experience. The two have a lot of overlap.

From an SEO standpoint, using appropriate title tags and the like and organizing content so that it flows logically helps a great deal. By designing the layout of your site according to the psychology of your personas, you will increase the odds of converting them into actual customers. The goal here is to ensure that the right content gets in front of the right persona at the right time. Understanding your customers’ motivations and backgrounds will make it much easier to lay out your content appropriately.

Well-optimized landing pages help guide the on-site user experience. A good landing page should target specific personas, which you can then guide according to their pain points and desires.

7. Keep the conversation flowing

An effective SEO strategy also considers how and why conversions happen. But conversations are necessary as research shows that it takes 7 interactions to have average website visitors to get to know you enough to purchase from you. It can mean opting in for a free report or participating in a quick survey. You need to offer them something of value to entice them to opt in to initiate this conversation but you have to make it easy by asking only for a name and email. Opting in and down-loading a valuable free report followed by 3-4 explanatory emails will usually encourage them to purchase from you. How many people do you know who married after the first date? It takes time.

What compels someone to switch from a passive website visitor to an actual customer? Educate yourself about conversion psychology to boost the overall effectiveness of your SEO efforts and conversion optimization. To understand the psychology behind conversion, having a clear understanding of the sales funnel is an absolute must. You should have content matching every stage of the funnel as well as every persona type. This means you need a lot of content and that content must be of the highest quality. Content Marketing is great at giving readers the information they need to purchase from you. Content marketing helps in both brand optimisation and increasing web visitors, engagement, shares and sales.

8. Calls to Action

To motivate visitors to your site to do what you want, you must guide them. Calls to action and hyperlinks are great ways of guiding visitors through your site.

Beyond that, it helps to consider the path your ideal customer may follow through to conversion. For example, someone who freshly arrives on your site may be doing very initial research. Content that provides a clear but effective overview works well here. At the end of the content, there should be additional resources to help them progress to the next stage. Every step of the way, use action words to guide users along.

9. Value versus cost

Humans are mostly concerned with two things when considering a solution. They ask themselves – what’s in it for me? and how much will it cost?

You must provide content that will solve their pain which is what your audience truly needs. Most of the content on your page will be free for the taking and readily accessible.


Before developing a new SEO strategy, you need to get inside your customers’ heads. Remember that the content you create shouldn’t just be geared to appeal to search engine algorithms; it should be geared toward actual humans—paying customers who want what you have to offer.

None of the above tips will get you anywhere until you invest considerable amounts of time and effort into understanding what makes your ideal customer click.

This blog is based on a post by Quick Sprout.

How much customer research has gone into your website and digital marketing? Do you keep the conversations going with an email opt-in and sequences? Do you use Content Marketing to spread your message and attract new website users?

Patterson Digital Marketing can help you re-design your website based on your customer research (our group does over 2,000 websites annually costing between $1,400 and $1 million), we use our proven monthly Content Marketing to grow website visitors and we write email opt-in sequences for our clients to maximise conversion to a customer.

If you want to grow your website visitors by up to 400%, double your sales and boost your profit, CALL US on (09) 449 1005 or (027) 489 5009 or email and we’ll get you on the road to growth.

Chris Kirkham

Categories: SEO