Exploring the Link Between Marketing and Psychology

What do marketing and psychology have to do with one another? A great deal more than you might expect. In many ways, they’re two sides of the same coin.

Ask anyone who works in marketing why they decided to pursue that particular career path, and you’ll receive a multitude of answers. 

Some people will maintain that they enjoy the opportunity to flex their creativity; they enjoy the fact that they essentially are paid to create art. Others enjoy the mercurial nature of the profession, the fact that no two days are exactly the same. Still, more love how fast-paced the industry tends to be and that it allows them to blaze from one deadline to the next (often procrastinating until the last minute all the while). 

But one of the most common answers is that marketing involves people. 

Figuring out how an audience thinks and what they want. Determining the best way to build a relationship between a brand and its customers. Crafting compelling messaging that fascinates people enough to convert. 

In other words, getting inside each consumer’s mind and figuring out how they think, how they feel, what they’re interested in, and ultimately, what makes them tick. There’s something exciting about that. And something is satisfying about finishing a project and watching as it successfully creates engagement. 

The connection between marketing and psychology is about more than satisfaction, though. Learning more about how people think goes a long way towards being better at your job. The deeper your understanding of the human mind, the more effective your marketing will become. 

As it stands, there are already multiple psychological principles underlying the profession — you probably even encounter several of them in your day-to-day without realizing it: 

  • Priming. Exposure to one stimulus influences how you react to another. This comes into play with everything from a brand’s language to the colors/layout of its website. 
  • Social proof. The idea is that people make decisions based on the actions of others. Social shares, reviews, and word-of-mouth marketing are all examples of social proof in play. 
  • Reciprocity. When someone gives you a gift or does a good deed, you feel compelled to return the favor.  Most commonly comes into play with free gifts/offers. 
  • Loss aversion. Simply put, when given a choice between loss and gain, people will choose to gain. In marketing, this might involve selling subscription services or free trials. 
  • Anchoring bias. The first piece of information someone sees will influence how they evaluate further information. This is why most stores display the original price of a product next to the sale price. 
  • Verbatim effect. People are likely to remember the gist of what they’ve been told rather than the exact wording. 
  • Scarcity. People are likely to make a snap decision on a purchase if what they’re buying is of limited quantity. They’re also likely to rank a scarcer product more highly. 
  • Decoy effect. When a customer is choosing between two options, the introduction of a third, less compelling option will make them likelier to choose a more expensive option. 
  • Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Essentially, this refers to selective attention. When you see or hear about a particular product, you’re likely to start noticing it in advertisements and the like.
  • Clustering. The tendency of people to group similar words and concepts together in their short-term memory. 

What we’ve listed above is just a small sampling. There are other concepts at play, as well. But that should be enough to give you an idea of how much interplay there is between the two disciplines. And with that, we’ll leave off with a bit of advice on how you can amp up your knowledge of psychology to become a better marketing professional. Here’s the good news. Especially in the wake of COVID, there are a ton of free educational resources available online to help you learn more about the human mind — we recommend EdX in particular.

How Will Augmented Reality Influence The Future of Search Engine Optimization?

From a marketing standpoint, augmented reality is one of the most exciting technologies currently in development. And it’s going to change how we do SEO.

No one expected the runaway success of Pokemon Go. How for a few brief, glorious months, fans both young and old took to the parks and streets, exploring their towns and cities in an effort to catch them all. A few savvy businesses were able to tap into the craze, but for the most part, the marketing potential of the game went largely unfulfilled. 

Believe it or not, Pokemon Go is still going strong today, even during the pandemic. A few competitors have even popped up in the interim. But these are all simply a sign of things to come.

Augmented reality has potential that goes well beyond mobile games. Imagine the following: 

  • Using your phone to visualize how furniture might look in your home or to see how you might look in a new outfit. 
  • Scanning a piece of computer hardware with your camera to see a list of specs along with recommended components to pair it. 
  • Viewing the calorie count and ingredients of what you’re eating simply by snapping a photo. 
  • Being able to immediately pull up reviews, social chatter, business listings, and other information on a business simply by pointing a device at the storefront. 

These are all within the realm of possibility. Google and its competitors in the artificial intelligence space have been making significant strides in object recognition. And the technology to introduce AR to our lives beyond smartphone apps already exists.

Remember Google Glass? On paper, it was an incredibly promising piece of tech. That it failed can very likely be chalked up to it being slightly ahead of its time — a product introduced to its audience before they were ready to consider its potential. 

At this point, it seems likely that in the very near future, we will see similar technologies to Google Glass, and this time, they won’t fall flat for a few reasons: 

As you may have already guessed, AR will have the most significant impact on local SEO. Businesses will have a wealth of new ways to engage with their audience, an entirely new marketing channel through which they can bring in prospects. And Google, for its part, will be a driving force behind this evolution, just as it’s steered the future of search up to this point.

Has Facebook Become Too Volatile Even for Marketers?

Facebook has effectively become the poster child for everything wrong with social media. But does that mean it’s no longer a suitable marketing tool?

The past few years haven’t exactly been great for Facebook. The social media organization has seen itself rocked by multiple scandals, including, per NPR, being called out by its own oversight board for the sorry state of its decision making. And that’s to say nothing of the fear, uncertainty, anger, and misinformation currently running riot through the social network. 

While Facebook certainly made a good show of accepting feedback and addressing how it deals with community standards violations, it remains to be seen if those efforts have borne any fruit. Just last year, 40% of respondents to a Canadian Internet Authority survey indicated that Facebook is the most toxic social network on the Internet, with 63% indicating they do not feel safe from harassment. And per BBC, false information is still on the social network, despite the company’s stated commitment to curbing its spread. 

It’s clear at this point that something about the social network is fundamentally broken — and there’s no singular cause. 

One might point to the fact that Facebook relies too much on artificial intelligence to enforce its rules. Time and again, Facebook’s community standards AI has completely failed at its stated purpose. It allows homophobia, transphobia, and racism to skirt under the radar — case in point, Snopes reports that QAnon still thrives on the social network more than a year after Facebook publicly announced it would remove such content.

Worse still, when those posts are manually reported, the response, contradictorily, is that they do not violate community standards. Meanwhile, the algorithm, absent human guidance and incapable of understanding context, comes down like a hammer on people of color discussing their experiences with racism (USA Today).  Two months ago, an anti-trans post on Instagram, one of Facebook’s subsidiaries, led to open violence, according to The Guardian

Not that Facebook’s human moderators are any better. According to The Verge, content moderators for the social network are underpaid, overworked, and lack access to even basic mental health services. All this while moderating some of the most troubling, traumatizing content Facebook has to offer. 

One might also point to the fact that if you encounter any serious issues with Facebook and require any help, you’re out of luck. Facebook still does not employ customer support staff — making it perhaps the only major tech company to take such a hands-off approach. It’s bad enough that, as reported by Techdirt, hacked Facebook users had to buy a $300 VR headset just to talk to a human being

The truth is that Facebook’s current state is a perfect storm of all the above factors forcibly colliding with the myriad stressors of the pandemic. And the result? From a marketing standpoint, it’s one of the most volatile channels on the Internet. 

Consider last year, when per Input, multiple major brands abandoned the platform due to its inaction over hate speech. Or there’s a December 2020 piece from Bloomberg which saw testimony from multiple advertisers harmed by arbitrary punishments, nonsensical ad rejections, and unjustified lockouts. Or Adweek’s report earlier this month that Facebook is flagging lingerie ads as nudity.  

As if having to contend with the inconsistent algorithm isn’t bad enough, there’s a good chance that, at this point, your marketing might not even reach a receptive audience. In a poll published last August, analyst Pew Research found that 55% of U.S. social media users felt ‘worn out’ by political posts. Brandwatch’s 2020 Consumer Tech Report, meanwhile, saw a 41% increase in mentions of social media fatigue over just ten months.

So, to summarize: 

  • Facebook’s community has grown increasingly volatile, marked by frequent arguments and heated political debates. 
  • Facebook’s inconsistent community standards algorithm appears to apply arbitrary judgments without regard for context, impacting regular users and marketers. 
  • People on Facebook are frustrated and exhausted, and therefore much less amenable to marketing messages. 

In short, Facebook is no longer the fun, community-driven network it used to be. It’s become something else — something ugly. While there’s arguably still value to be had by establishing a presence there, before long, the drawbacks of Facebook marketing may outweigh the rewards.

At this point, it might just be time to turn your attention to Tik Tok. 

The Critical Link Between User Experience and SEO

A positive user experience impacts more than your conversion rate. It’s actually a ranking factor, and one you need to pay attention to.

User experience has always been crucial, both on the web and off. It influences everything about how users interact with your brand, from conversion rate to brand loyalty. And if your site is not designed with the end user in mind — if visiting is not a positive experience for your audience — then nothing else matters. 

In light of that, it should not come as any great surprise that it’s a ranking factor. Google has long been tweaking its algorithm with the user in mind. Everything from relevance to context to intent boils down to user experience. 

More recently, that culminated in Google’s Page Experience Update. 

What Is The Google Page Experience Update?

Currently, in the process of being rolled out and due to be completed at the end of this month, the page experience updates spins several new metrics into Google’s ranking algorithm, known as Core Web Vitals. These vitals are then measured alongside several other signals, which together are used to assign a page experience score, viewable through the Google Search Console. 

The factors measured as part of the page experience score are as follows: 

  • Core Web Vitals
    • Largest contentful paint. Essentially, this is a measurement of load time. The fast a page loads, the better, but ideally, this should occur within 2.5 seconds, per Google.
    • First input delay. How long after loading a user can interact with a page. Google recommends this score be less than 100 milliseconds. 
    • Cumulative layout shift. This measures a site’s visual stability. 
  • Use of HTTPS (required) 
  • No obvious security issues
  • Usability on mobile devices
  • Lack of intrusive content such as popups
  • Page safety/security

How To Take a UX-Focused Approach to SEO

More than anything else, the Google Page Experience Update provides a benchmark for optimizing the user experience on your website. By following the framework outlined by Google, there’s the opportunity to do more than improve your PageRank — you can potentially improve conversions, as well. So, with that in mind, let’s wrap things up with a bit of advice on what you can do specifically to improve your page experience score. 

  • Prioritize Performance.  Where possible, avoid using any content that could potentially impact performance, such as JavaScript, CSS, and rich media. 
  • Streamline Your Interface. Keep your site simple and easy to navigate, without any unnecessary visual elements. 
  • Make Sure Your Site is Mobile-Friendly. Self-explanatory. A mobile-friendly site is non-negotiable in 2021. 
  • Police your ad network. Or simply don’t use an ad network at all. 
  • Make sure you’re using HTTPS. Again, self-explanatory. Security, like mobile usability, is non-negotiable. 

User experience is crucial. It always has been. Just remember that while it’s essential to have a good page experience score, that’s still no substitute for quality content. 

How to Improve Page Speed for SEO

Even before page speed was a ranking factor, it was crucial. A slow website contributes to lost conversions and abandonment. Here’s how you can improve yours.

Page speed has been used as a ranking factor by Google for quite some time now. It’s not difficult to understand why, either. In recent years, every change made to the algorithm has been deployed with one goal in mind — a better user experience. A website that takes too long to load makes for a negative experience. 

These days, our time is at a premium. Our attention is being pulled in a thousand different directions at once. As a result, we’re hyper-sensitive to anything that we feel wastes our time.

And a slow-loading website does precisely that. Although common knowledge technically places the ideal load time at anywhere from two to five seconds, the truth is that faster is always better. As reported by Marketing Dive, even one extra second is enough to make more than half of mobile users abandon a site.  

Suffice it to say; you don’t want that to happen — so with that said, here’s some advice for improving your website’s performance and speed. 

Choose the Right Backend

First and foremost, you’ll want to make sure you choose a web host that provides you with enough bandwidth to host your site and the capacity to scale as necessary during periods of high demand. You may also want to use a content delivery network, which uses distributed proxy servers to ensure your visitors are always connected to a server that’s geographically nearby. Finally, if you’re using a platform like WordPress, only install plugins you absolutely need. 

The more unnecessary plugins you bog down your backend with, the greater the chance you’ll end up negatively impacting your site’s performance. 

Keep Things Light

Javascript and rich media have one thing in common. They both have the capacity to exponentially increase your load times if they’re used inexpertly. Avoid using them whenever possible, and stick to static content. 

For situations where you absolutely must use JavaScript or CSS, leverage asynchronous loading, which will allow the page to load and render side-by-side with the code. 

As for media content, tone down on animation-heavy interfaces, and compress all images and files. This is especially important for mobile users, who are often on devices and connections with less processing power than many desktop browsers. Finally, do not, under any circumstances, use autoplay video.

Seriously, just don’t do it.

Reuse Page Elements

The more HTTP requests each page on your website requires, the longer it takes for that page to load. As such, especially in the early design phase for your site, you should constantly look for opportunities to streamline things. This may include loading an interface as a single image, using a static background that persists across your website, or even serving the site as a single page. 

Ensure You’re Using Browser Caching

Browser caching is particularly important for repeat visitors to your site. How it works is simple. Previously-loaded static elements are stored in the user’s browser when they visit. When they return to the site, it queries their browser to load those elements near-instantaneously. 

As you might expect, this has a huge (and hugely positive) impact on performance, and significantly improves page response time, particularly if you’re reusing static elements across your site, as we recommended in our previous point. 

Test With Google PageSpeed Insights

Finally, once you’re confident you’ve incorporated all the performance enhancements you can, test your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. This will analyze your website’s overall performance, identify any potential bottlenecks, and provide you with suggestions for things you might improve. This is your bread and butter for performance optimization — expect to visit and revisit this page a lot. 

The faster your website loads, the better. Follow the tips outlined here, and keep looking for opportunities to improve. Optimization, after all, is a process — there’s always some new improvement to be made. 

What Makes a Keyword Effective?

Choosing the right keyword can be difficult, but it’s a lot easier if you understand how keywords work and the difference between an effective keyword and an ineffective one.

What’s in a keyword? 

A whole lot more than you might expect. Although quality and relevance are far more important than exact-match keywords, targeting the wrong one can still considerably undercut your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. With that in mind, let’s go over the three core qualities that determine whether a keyword is a winner or a dud. 

Relevance

The best keywords are chosen with their target audience in mind. They account for how that audience talks and thinks and are tailored to the audience’s specific search intent. For instance, let’s say your business sells home repair supplies, and your blog primarily consists of how-to’s. 

Someone who comes to your site looking for information on repairing a pocket door doesn’t want to be hammered with your sales pitch. Instead, they want a simple, step-by-step tutorial. Your keyword choice should account for that, as should your copy. 

As you may have surmised, choosing a relevant keyword means you’ll also need a clear notion of your niche. Again, make sure you’re as specific as possible. The better you define your niche, the more effectively you can target your content. 

Difficulty & Traffic

One of the most common mistakes we see made by novice SEOs is that they choose keywords without much thought about how the search engine results page (SERP) looks for each. Ideally, when selecting a keyword, you want one that isn’t too competitive. However, if you choose one that’s in extremely high demand, you’re going to end up competing with larger, much more established brands, many of which might not even be in your industry. 

The key is to strike a balance — not too competitive, but with enough traffic that targeting it is still worthwhile. The exception, of course, is if your business works in an extremely specific field. Your keywords might still bring traffic to your site, but your SEO tools might consequently not have much to offer in terms of traffic data. 

Long-Tail

Back in the early days of SEO, short-tail keywords were all the rage. The industry has evolved, as has the way your audience uses search engines. Between conversational search and Google’s ever-increasing focus on semantics and intent, long-tail keywords are the way to go. 

The idea here is that you want to think about the kinds of questions your audience might be asking, or the sort of thing they might type into search, and optimize to target that. 

Choose Your Words Carefully

In light of how Google has changed its algorithm in recent years, it would be easy to simply assume that keywords no longer matter. To treat keyword selection as an afterthought to be sacrificed on the altar of content marketing. Doing so would be a mistake, however. 

Keywords might not hold the same sway they did back in the Internet’s infancy, but they’re still a crucial component of an effective SEO strategy and one that you ignore only at your peril. 

Are SEO Certifications Actually Worth It?

There’s no shortage of search engine optimization certifications online. But are any of them actually worth pursuing?

As with any field that requires some level of expertise, the search engine optimization (SEO) space is filled with self-proclaimed experts looking to profit from their knowledge — and not from applying it. As a result, you can learn everything you need to know about SEO for a nominal fee and come out of it with a shiny certificate that lets you show off your knowledge. It sounds like a pretty good deal, right? 

Wrong. 

If you’re a marketing professional, SEO certifications aren’t going to win you any clients. They care about what you can do, not about whether you have a piece of paper that says you do keywords well. And if you’re looking to learn SEO on your own, there are better ways than paying out the nose for a course that offers nothing beyond what can be found in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO

“I run an online education company that has taught SEO to over 3,000 students around the world,” writes SEO expert Brian Dean. “Despite the fact that we offer several different SEO programs, we don’t offer SEO certifications…An SEO training course is a great way to learn, [but] most programs don’t allow you to put your knowledge into practice.” 

In other words, a certification or training program can be helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed and have no idea where to begin teaching yourself SEO. By working within a structured learning environment, you can learn at your own pace and with the help of someone who verifiably knows what they’re doing. There’s less risk of being led astray by a snake oil salesperson or following bad advice. 

Specific advanced certification programs can also be quite helpful, as they break down complex concepts and ideas into something that’s more easily digestible. Take Schema Markup, for instance. And some of the certifications offered by Google, such as Analytics Academy, Google Marketing Platform, and Search can be a great way to brush up on your skills. 

Better yet, Google’s certifications have a characteristic the other programs don’t. They’re free. So long as you have a valid Google account, you don’t need to pay a cent — all you need to do is complete an assessment on Skillshop, and you can start learning. 

It seems like that’s a bit more valuable than shelling out to a third-party vendor, no? 

SEO certifications and training programs aren’t without merit. They can be an excellent way to learn as a beginner, provide a good refresher if you’re feeling shaky on certain things, and help you understand advanced concepts. Ultimately, though? 

Most certification programs are quite simply a waste of money. They don’t teach you anything that isn’t already freely available online. And unless they feature guided instruction from an educator, they don’t provide a better experience, either.

Save yourself the time, money, and effort — practice your SEO in the wild instead. 

3 Ways to Find Out What Questions Your Audience is Asking

Keywords still have their place in SEO. But it’s far more valuable to know what your audience wants to see. Here are a few ways you can determine that.

Do you know what sort of content your audience wants to see? 

Many old-school search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing advice maintains that you should start with keyword research. The trouble is, that’s no longer relevant. Instead, you need to find the right topics to write on, then build your keywords out from there. 

As for how to find those topics? If your goal is to establish yourself as an expert or thought leader, your best bet is to do a bit of research into the sorts of questions they’re asking. Figure out what they want to know, and from there, it’s only a short jump to some great content.

Here are a few places you can look.

Take Your Research to Social Media

Social networks are good for more than just relationship-building. Pay attention to what prospective customers talk about, and keep a particularly close eye on the sorts of questions they address to your competitors. Reddit is the holy grail in this regard — if you can find a subreddit related to any of your products or services, then there’s a good chance you’ll find plenty of potential topic ideas, too. 

Check Online Discussion Boards

Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook aren’t the only communities you can seek out online. Communities like Quora tend to be a goldmine, too. But, of course, if Quora is too general, you can also seek out industry-specific sites for a bit of inspiration, as well — Github, for instance, tends to attract a lot of tech geeks, making it an ideal community to check if that’s your primary demographic. 

Use a Q&A Tool

If you’d rather not spend time trawling Reddit or poring over Quora, you can simply use a tool like AlsoAsked. There are also plenty of AI-driven content creation and research tools, such as Market Muse, that generate a list of possible questions based on content. And even keyword research tools may occasionally have questions mixed into their results as long-tail keywords. 

It’s All About Answering the Right Questions

When it comes to devising a content creation strategy, knowing your audience is a crucial starting point. By understanding what they know, what they’re asking, and ultimately, what they want to know, you can gear yourself up to create more compelling, engaging content. Finding those questions need not be difficult, either.

At the end of the day, you simply need to know where to look.

The Crucial Role of SEO in Fighting Fake News

Fake News may be a phrase coined by a former presidential administration, but misinformation has run rampant for years. SEO has a vital role in fighting it.

“Fake News” is more than a buzzword invented by Donald Trump. For all that it’s a powerful tool for research, communication, and collaboration, the Internet is also a pervasive source of misinformation. The problem is that one can publish whatever they want online, and aside from sites like Snopes, there’s really no way to hold people to any real standard of truthfulness or factuality.

For most of the Internet’s history, reasonable people have been able to ignore the lunatic fringe handily. It’s not as if they were hurting everyone. As long as their conspiracy theories and sensationalist rhetoric weren’t actively hurting everyone, they’re free to believe what they want, right?

The onset of the coronavirus last year demonstrated the problem with that line of thinking. Fearmongering, sensationalism, and lies have run rampant throughout the pandemic, from anti-mask rhetoric to the controversy surrounding the recent presidential election. In stark and disturbing detail, we saw exactly how much damage a single false story can cause. 

It should come as no surprise, then, that as reported by CNet, even Google is making an effort to curb the spread of harmful misinformation with a new feature called About This Result. Unveiled in a keynote at the company’s I/O Developer’s Conference near the end of May, About This Result is a snippet that contains the following information: 

  • What a site says about itself.
  • What others say about the site
  • Details such as website security, when Google first indexed the site, etc. 

It’s easy to forget that in many ways, Google is the arbiter of what many of us see online. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is simply the mechanism by which it categorizes and classifies content. About This Site is an important step in the right direction for the search engine.

But it’s not enough.

The biggest issue with Google from the perspective of curbing fake news is that SEO doesn’t care about whether or not something is true. While the argument could certainly be made that authenticity is a cornerstone of website quality, Google’s algorithms ultimately focus on providing people with what they want to see. And if that happens to be a website filled with conspiracy theories about masks, vaccines, and the election? 

Well, who’s Google to judge? The algorithms are simply doing what they were designed to do, disclaimers notwithstanding.

To address the spread of misinformation and ensure we don’t see events like the Capitol riots or anti-mask movement, Google needs to do more than throw up a few disclaimers. We need some metric by which we can measure accuracy. Perhaps more importantly, that metric needs to be treated as a ranking factor.

Because otherwise, fake news will only continue to spread, and Google will be helping.

Are You Properly Contextualizing Your SEO Metrics?

No metric exists in a vacuum. It’s one of the first things to understand about SEO. It’s not enough to contextualize, though. You need the right context.

It’s one of the most frequent mistakes we see from search engine optimization (SEO) novices. Rather than taking the how and why into consideration, they simply view individual metrics in isolation from one another. They don’t analyze or contextualize.

They simply passively observe. 

To be blunt, taking such an approach to optimizing your website ultimately amounts to a waste of time and effort. Without considering context and connections, you don’t see the bigger picture. And if you don’t see the bigger picture, you have no idea what works in your approach (and what doesn’t). 

As an example, let’s say a site owner notices that his traffic numbers are up. At first glance, that seems pretty exciting, right? More people are visiting his website, which means his SEO efforts must be paying off.

Or are they?  If he just looks at traffic, the owner has no real way of knowing the actual reason for the surge. Maybe it’s not something he did at all, but one of his competitors messed up and dropped on the search engine results page (SERP). 

Or maybe it has nothing to do with SEO at all, and he was simply lucky enough to have one of his blog posts go viral. Beyond the reason for the increase in traffic, our theoretical owner should also be considering the result. Namely, what are visitors doing

  • Are they simply reading one page and leaving?
  • Are they bouncing immediately, without even interacting with any content?
  • Is there a particular page or segment on the website that new visitors reach before leaving? 
  • Does their visit to the site ultimately conclude with the desired outcome? (i.e., purchasing a particular product, signing up for a mailing list, etc.) 
  • Is the audience interacting with the brand outside the site, such as through social media? 

As you can see from the above, an individual metric like traffic numbers presents an extremely narrow vision of what’s actually going on. Unless you consider the context of each metric you work with, you do not see the whole picture. With that in mind, for each metric you measure, you need to answer the following questions: 

  • How does this relate to my core SEO objective? 
  • What external factors might be influencing this metric, and why?
  • What other metrics should I use that are connected to this one? 
  • What story does this metric tell as part of a whole?

Basically, you need to consider what you want to achieve with SEO and figure out what key performance indicators (KPIs) can be used to measure your progress towards that goal. From there, it’s a simple matter of understanding that, where search engine optimization is concerned, everything is connected. No metric is entirely irrelevant, and every piece of data could provide an insight you might otherwise have missed.