How To Devise A Psychology Based SEO Strategy

SEO consultants like me usually get called in at an advanced stage of website development. Design elements are already in place, graphics created, page structure determined, even selling and lead generation processes finalized before the owner or manager invites us over to “slap SEO on” to their creation!

Is that because to many of our prospective clients, SEO is a purely technical issue unconnected to marketing?

Personally, I don’t think that’s correct. At all. True, there is a technological side to any SEO plan.

But the strategy setting and business analysis components that draw upon a foundation in a Maslow-ian hierarchy of human needs isn’t “purely technical”.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Let’s take a home repair analogy. You could find a good roofing contractor to lay the shingles you’ve already ordered in the neatest, most efficient manner. But if a shingle roof itself is not the best choice for your building, you’ll only enjoy a sub-optimal result.

Ditto for any website’s SEO initiative. When SEO consulting is grounded in psychology and strategy, the entire method has more punch when it reaches the stage of coding and content structuring. It can harness synergies with marketing ventures like social media, press releases, public relations and more.

Indeed, as David Meerman Scott explains in his book about the new rules of marketing, to unthinkingly slap on ‘technical SEO’ to a Web structure wastes so much potential impact (and money) of a synergistic marketing plan.

Do you (like me) believe that, as an SEO Strategy Expert, you should always be engaged and deeply involved in the very heart of a business you consult for?

My hardest task whenever I’m called in for SEO consulting has been to convince business owners that, by adopting a strategic SEO approach, they will:

  1. Increase sales
  2. Reduce costs (saved on other marketing channels)
  3. Improve resource efficiency
  4. Create synergies (that often last for years)

My positioning efforts rely upon painting a stark contrast between a low-priced SEO firm that relies purely on keyword-stuffing and basic link building which leaves a lot of money on the table from missed opportunities. As Google evangelist Avinash Kaushik puts it, “Your keyword strategy shouldn’t be a fishing expedition!”

Many Internet marketers understand the importance of beginning with keyword research. Sadly, too many end right there. Keywords certainly matter. Done well, they will help you understand exactly what your market wants, in specific numbers, and suggest methods of optimization that best meet those interests.

But look at deeper intent and these keywords reveal a lot more about your prospective buyers that helps boost conversions. A keyword that’s a specific expensive food supplement suggests an affluent, health conscious prospect who seeks out quality products, and is willing to pay for the best.

This psycho-graphic profile assembled from keyword research is key to crafting landing pages that compel and convert at unbelievable levels.

Businesses need to look at every page as a ‘landing page’.  And they need to ask themselves these questions:

  1. What are visitors arriving at this page looking for?
  2. What problem are they facing and how can we help them?
  3. How can we deliver an experience they’ve been looking for everywhere else?

When any business stops looking at a website as a brochure to display all that’s happening inside their business and shifts perspective to view things from their prospects’ standpoint, dramatic changes happen.

Every time a visitor upon arriving at the business website, says to herself, “This is exactly what I need! Why didn’t I buy this before?” a significant battle for mind share has been won.

The optimized webpage has earned a new fan and evangelist for the business. This shifts the focus away from price and into the realm of value, of having an amazing product or service in their lives.

This is exactly how effective SEO consulting should work. It isn’t complex or confusing, even a child can do it!

SEO isn’t mythical or mysterious. At its core, SEO is merely applied psychology that integrates with other elements like economics, search engine function, Web analytics and website architecture.

What Does Intelligent, Effective, Psychology-driven SEO Look Like?

  • SEO is less about technology and more about human behavior. How and why do people use specific keywords? What concerns, worries and pain underlies them? How do you develop a content strategy that delivers solutions and value?
  • SEO is less about you, and more about your clients. Boasting and bragging about accomplishments can be counter-productive for businesses. The more relevant questions to ask about your content are “Who will +1 this on Google?” and “Is this ‘Likeable’ on Facebook?”
  • SEO is less  about ‘clicks’ and more about ‘sales’. If 9 in 10 visitors to your site leave without converting into buyers (or subscribers), then the #1 ranking on Google you worked hard for becomes less valuable. What can you do to better understand (and fulfill) a prospect’s needs?
  • SEO is less about ‘persona’ and more about ‘keywords’. Many businesses strive hard to develop an SEO strategy around a persona. But ‘persona’ is immaterial. Keywords your prospects use matter a lot more. How can your keyword strategy avoid becoming a “fishing expedition”?
  • SEO is less  about monitoring irrelevant metrics, and more about being smart. Set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Don’t let an obsession with page views, clicks and rankings detract from more important measures. How will your SEO boost sales, conversions and profits?
  • SEO is less  about cost-cutting, and more about treating your website like a precious and valued salesperson. After all, doesn’t your Web presence tirelessly act as a sales rep, pulling in prospects day and night? Why not treat it with respect and appreciation? Even spend a little more on it?

If parts of this post sound provocative, or even rude, I apologize. That isn’t my intention at all. I just had to let off steam about how SEO is widely perceived in the competitive world of online business.

I’ve worked as an SEO consultant and strategist in Norway for over 10 years, and one of my biggest grouses over this period is how an SEO expert is sidelined, usually being the last person to be consulted about a web development project. This leads to that most frustrating question every SEO specialist asks himself or herself from time to time: “Knowing how important SEO is to the success or failure of any online enterprise, am I getting enough respect and attention?”

My recommendations, therefore, are typically resented because they involve major restructuring and content rewriting – things which could be easily averted by getting an SEO consultant involved earlier in the process.

Speaking as an SEO consultant, I suggest that my fellow professionals also express an eager willingness to truly understand the business you’re consulting with. Get involved in understanding the heart of your client’s business. Know exactly what’s happening inside it and know its customers really well. Yes, it can be expensive in time and money. But then, it is an investment that pays rich dividends by creating a cost effective and successful online presence for that business.

Maybe I’m unconventional, but research and analysis play a major role in my SEO consulting and I believe it should in every SEO professional’s work too. Do you agree? Or not? Feel free to convince me… by sharing your thoughts in a comment!

Image credits: (Brain), Wikipedia (Maslow’s hierarchy of needs)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Beginner | Channel: SEO | How To | How To: SEO


About The Author: is Head Of SEO at MediaCom Norway. He has over 10 years of experience specializing in digital strategy, e-commerce and SEO. Trond is the author of the books "Importance of SEO for Your Online Business" and "Power Social Media Marketing". He can be found on Twitter @TrondLyngbo.

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  • luispaez

    Excellent article Trond! Too few teams start with SEO when they begin a website development project. Yet, it really should determine the architecture of the site, and eventually the content. The hard part is to combine popularly used search phrases into a cohesive whole. Requires some raw creativity that we all need to get better at.

  • Brian Johnson

    I definitely agree on most of your points, SEO is not a “tack this on” process once the site is built and online presence planned. It should come at the beginning, be well thought out, and integrated with your entire online presence. And research comes into play with the entire process if you want to do it well.

  • Dan Wood

    Great post, Trond. One of the biggest challenges that I face as an SEO is getting people past the fear of spam and the smoke and mirrors ideas they’ve been told about how search works, and get down to a real conversation about marketing ROI and business goals. This is where SEO properly belongs.

  • Ann

    It is like the chicken and egg. There is an abundance of information (right, wrong and self proclaimed experts) that companies are offered when they start down this path. The first question companies tend to ask is how much will this cost?
    “Get involved in understanding the heart of your client’s business”. Companies need to be educated as to why they need to pay for this service before they go ahead and build a website.

    Troy I totally agree with your article. Prospects call and say I need a quote for a website.
    Our answer: Before we can even have a conversation we need to meet with you and ask many questions. The interesting part is many companies large and small may have a budget based on what others have told them a website will cost.. No blueprint to lay the foundation or structure and they wonder why it is doomed for failure.

  • Dr M Ambler-Shattock

    Superb article on truly effective SEO. This is the best article on the matter I have read in years and is a must read for any online business.

  • David McGarry

    Great article. As an Internet Marketing specialist, I try to remind my clients that ranking #1 is not really the goal. It is to find highly relevant traffic (good prospects) and then work really hard to convert them into customers.

    In the SEO world, too many “specialists” try to game their clients by using keyword ranking as the measuring stick. What if those keywords have little traffic, what happens if the traffic is not good for the customer and so on.

    Again, thanks for pushing out this message. Hopefully, more and more people will listen and start to realize how SEO can really help drive their business success.

  • Brennan Deitsch

    Brilliant article. Especially these days, SEO is so much more than keywords this and link building. Individuals have to be creative these days to maximize their internet marketing efforts. One of the first questions that a business should ask themselves is ” What are my internet marketing goals”? Lots of traffic or targeted traffic. What are your consumers looking for…. Etc. Creativity is even more important in competitive fields. May have to think outside the box to get high rankings for keywords your competitor missed.

  • Trond Lyngbø

    Thank you so much for your kind words and for taking the time to share your feedback. Welcome to the world of SEOnomics! :-)

  • Shari Thurow

    Hi Trond-

    Oh no…as a fellow Viking, I believe you are incorrect about “SEO is less about ‘persona’ and more about ‘keywords’. Unbelievably wrong.

    People who fit a persona or profile will type in keywords that others do not type in. For example, health-care providers use a different vocabulary to describe the same thing as a patient/consumer. Keywords should be mapped to personas/profiles.

    Do not dismiss personas. I understand that maybe you are trying to communicate that usage-centered data is more important than user-centered data, but in doing so? I think you gave bad advice.

    My 2 cents.

  • Michael

    Great thoughts Trond, and eloquently presented. Seems like the concept of starting with SEO should be a no-brainer by this point in time, but I guess the fact that SEO as a marketing strategy is much younger than online marketing as a whole contributes to this mindset. Another problem is the misconception of what SEO actually involves, and you have painted a nice picture of many of the elements. Thanks for sharing!



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