I Confess, My Search Marketing Strategy Uses Psychology

As search marketers, we constantly try to identify what makes people tick at various stages of the customer lifecycle. We consider their motivations and thoughts from awareness to knowledge to consideration and to the final selection of a particular product or service.

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Our public relations coordinator, Brad Fitzgerald, recently wrote a compelling article on how Hooter’s took a stand against sexual harassment by publically banning San Diego Mayor Bob Filner. For a long time, Hooters has faced ridicule for exploiting women, but Brad’s post is a great example of how brands can change consumer perceptions using a brand belief system. Notice the word “believe” in the below image.

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Of course, there are many things that can change consumer perceptions, and search marketing is one of the best ways to do it. Below are some examples of how search marketing and SEO can influence consumers using the power of persuasion.

Create Killer Content & Give It Away

I’m not even going to utter the cliché words that have taken the digital marketing landscape by storm. Nor will I say the metaphor using the now popular word – context. But I will threaten you. That’s right, if your company is not creating awesome, unique, sharable, interesting content in 2013, then your days of selling are numbered.

What is Google’s goal? It’s to deliver the most relevant, accurate information for a given query. What does this mean for your company? You have to start writing, shooting video, taking pictures and sharing all of this on your website, blog and social channels. You can even push the envelope further, offering your customers valuable resources like how-to guides, checklists, infographics or white papers. The kicker: create all this great stuff as lead generation tools and give it away – for free.

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So, you create this wonderful piece of content and give it away. How does this tie to psychology?

In this instance, it’s social psychology’s reciprocity that’s the difference maker. Reciprocity happens when people respond to a positive action (like you giving away your piece of content for free) in exchange for an equal or larger return action. This creates a powerful sense of obligation to a favor that your customers has received.

For example, an HVAC company may create a how-to guide, offering customers a step-by-step process for cleaning and checking their furnaces for winter. For this act of kindness, customers feel obligated to return the favor (by purchasing or repurchasing) and continuing their relationship with the company.

Let the People and Content Work for You

Elasticity founded a Triangulation-based approach to marketing. It’s made up of three powerful components including social media marketing, public relations, and search marketing. Our experienced team gives us the power to develop SEO strategies that achieve more visibility, traffic and sales for your brand.

Without this combination, we wouldn’t be able to leverage two more powerful factors of influence: social proof and likeability.

Social proof can be seen in several places including the grocery store, the car dealership and social media communities. It’s when people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. For example, you’re at the grocery store when you see a flock of people surrounding a floor display. Their feverish grabs for what appears to be a new flavor of chips has you interested, and you decide to get in the mix too, adding several bags to your shopping cart.

The same goes for sharing your content on your website, blog and social media channels. Promoting this content will encourage its spread throughout your community and beyond. Social proof is even more powerful when those who are particularly knowledgeable about a subject publish a piece of content.

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[Source: Bit Rebels and NowSourcing.com]

It’s also proven that people tend to agree with others who are likable. Here are some specific instances where this holds true:

  • People tend to like others who are most like them. By creating relevant, valuable content for your customers, they are more likely to identify with your brand.
  • People who are forced to cooperate with others to achieve a common goal are more likely to trust and like that group of people. By helping those in your community, you are helping both yourself and your customers achieve a common goal.
  • People enjoy laughter. Creating engaging, humorous content like cartoons or funny videos will help your customers understand that you have a human element to your brand.

Authorship Gives You Authority

In case you missed it, our September 4th post on Google Authorship talked about how you can benefit from linking your company’s content to your authors’ Google+ profiles. You’ve probably seen authorship in Google’s search engine results pages. Here’s one from Elasticity:

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Authorship not only gives you more real estate in search engines, it makes you an authority on the subject – Google ranks websites higher when they’re authoritative. Authority is also an important factor of influence.

The Milgram experiment is one of the most well known studies on how authority affects perception. Yale researchers observed a group of participants to see how well they could obey the orders of an authority figure who told them to do things that interfered with their personal conscience. The results of the study determined that there is a significant  impact on the actions of individuals instructed to take action by an authority figure. Adults will go to extreme lengths on the command of authority, and in some cases will be destructive just to avoid resistance with the authority figure.

Beyond authorship, authority is also used to rank websites in search results. We can only speculate that there are probably multiple authority signals. Some include:

  • The authority of your website: Do people bounce quickly when they arrive on a certain page for a specified search query? Do you get a lot of visitors to that page?
  • The types of links your site receives, specifically from what “neighborhood” they come from:  For instance, a link coming from NYTimes.com is much more authoritative than one from GothamGazette.com.
  • The types of people that are sharing your content on social networking sites
  • Author Rank, or whether or not a lot of people have you in their circles on Google+

Thinking Beyond the Factors of Influence Mentioned Above

Reciprocity, social proof, liking and authority are just some of the ways psychology plays a role in search and digital marketing strategy. Here are two other ways to leverage psychology in your marketing efforts:

  • Commitment and Consistency. If people commit to something, either orally or in writing, they’re more likely to be consistent with that commitment. This is a great chance to use customer satisfaction surveys in your post-sale marketing efforts. When customers are answering survey questions, they are committing to a positive or negative idea of your business. Positive responses mean that it’s more unlikely for them to change their opinion of your product in the future.
  • Scarcity. People tend to want things that are rare or in short supply, hence why the retail industry often uses “limited supply only.” When marketing unique content, consider positioning as something that’s “in limited supply” or something that “is something [your customer] has never seen before.”


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I Confess, My Search Marketing Strategy Uses Psychology
As search marketers, we constantly try to identify what makes