17 Facts about Search Psychology You Should Know

People are predictable.

They have a set of observable behaviors that can be analyzed and assessed in a scientific manner.

And when you get right down to it, marketing is all about psychology.

Understanding what makes consumers tick and what compels them to buy is your ticket to maximizing your ROI.

And it’s no different with SEM.

Get inside the heads of search users, and you can mount an effective strategy that can not only bring in leads but also get a sizable portion of them to convert.

In this post, I’d like to go over 17 specific facts about search psychology that will shape your campaign.

1. Search queries reflect user intent

Okay, so this may not be exactly a groundbreaking statement.

Of course, search queries reflect a person’s intent.

But allow me to elaborate.

The majority of consumers are in one of the four phases of the buying funnel: awareness, research, decision, and purchase.

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Basing your keywords and content around one of these four phases should enable you to be more effective and hit your mark.

2. People have inherently selfish motives

Let’s be totally honest.

We’re all selfish to at least some extent.

Now, I’m not suggesting all search engine users are terrible people, but at the end of the day, they want to know what’s in it for them.

The only reason they’ll click on and explore your content is if it provides genuine value and gives them what they need.

Make sure you don’t make it about your brand but, rather, about your audience.

Having this mindset will help guide you when deciding what type of content to create and your overall approach.

3. Long-tail is the most common search method

Using long-tail keywords is one of the older SEO strategies.

Arguably, it’s one of the few practices still relevant today.

I’m sure you’ve heard that long-tail keywords account for roughly 70% of all searches.

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It’s true.

But why am I telling you something you probably already know?

It’s because most people perform natural-sounding, longer search queries rather than shorter, disjointed ones.

Not only does this strategy decrease your competition level for keywords, you can better satisfy search engine users.

This brings us to our next point.

4. Most people use conversational search queries

Remember Google’s Hummingbird update a few years ago?

Its main emphasis was to tweak Google’s algorithm to make search results better match user intent.

This was the first solid piece of evidence that Google was evolving and becoming more “intent-centric,” attempting to understand the underlying meaning behind keywords.

This, combined with an increase in mobile voice searches (20% of mobile queries were voice searches in 2016), means one thing.

More and more search users are using a conversational tone.

And this trend is only going to continue with digital assistants becoming more and more popular.

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Here’s an example.

Rather than searching for “oil change Portland,” a person would be more likely to search for “where can I find an oil change in Portland.”

This is an important thing to keep in mind when structuring your keywords.

Using long-tail, conversational keywords “scratches the itch” of many search users.

5. Readers love “sociolinguistics”

Sociolinguistics is defined as

the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations and context, on the way language is used, and the effects of languages use on society.

In layman’s terms, this simply means writing while using words and phrases you would use in everyday life.

It’s a technique I’ve based most of my blog writing on.

I approach it as if I’m having a conversation rather than being a journalist.

And it’s totally worked.

Using sociolinguistics is a proven way to establish trust and get people to like you.

This keeps readers happy, which keeps search engines happy, creating a virtuous cycle.

6. Visitors want every page to be a landing page

There’s an article from Search Engine Land I really like.

It’s about devising a psychology-based SEO strategy.

There’s one section in particular that really resonated with me. Here’s a screenshot:

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I think this is an interesting way to look at it.

We typically reserve a single section of our website as a designated landing page.

But part of sound search psychology is addressing visitors’ pain points at nearly every stage of the buying journey.

This means the content you create should always be highly relevant to what the anticipated pain points would be for a particular keyword.

Answering the three questions posed by Search Engine Land will help guide your content creation and ensure you’re consistently hitting your target.

7. Screw clicks—focus on sales

Traffic is great.

Of course, you want to reach the highest possible ranking and crush it.

But the results are going to be only marginal if you’re getting clicks but barely any sales.

Here’s a screenshot of another quote from that same Search Engine Land article:

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Many marketers get so wrapped up in getting a massive amount of traffic that they fail to see the big picture: getting actual sales.

That’s why I suggest putting a lot of emphasis on conversion optimization rather than strictly focusing on increasing the rankings.

8. More content is generally viewed as better content

If you’ve read my posts on either Quick Sprout or NeilPatel.com, you’ve noticed I like to stick with the long-form format.

But why?

Well, for starters, there’s an undeniable correlation between a higher word count and higher ranking.

In fact, a recent article from Backlinko found that “the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”

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And longer content also gets more shares.

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I think there’s a general perception that longer, more robust, and image-centric content is of higher quality.

And here’s the deal.

I doubt many of you read my posts word for word.

If I think about it too long, that makes me sad. Ha-ha!

But I’m not offended. Most readers simply scan. It’s just how people read on the web.

With longer content that requires people to scroll down, the readers’ brains subconsciously think, “Wow, this must be great content.”

This translates into more shares, more backlinks, and ultimately improved SEO.

You don’t necessarily need to be the biggest expert or even the most original, but as long as you can go more in-depth, you can usually create the perception of quality.

That’s why I’m such a fan of the skyscraper technique.

9. Most people value fresh content (and so does Google)

Let me ask you a question.

If you’re a content marketer searching for content marketing statistics, would you be more likely to click on an article that was written in 2017 or 2005?

Odds are it would be the former.

I certainly give preference to more recent content.

And in the Internet world, five years ago might as well be 25 years ago.

Of course, there’s a place for evergreen content, but what I’m trying to say is that freshness is definitely a factor in SEO.

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Consistently creating high-quality, engaging content plays a huge role in getting website visitors, inbound links, leads, and indexed pages.

Here’s a specific stat from Brightseed that shows the power of consistently creating fresh content:

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10. Headlines heavily impact buying decisions

I think we can all agree headlines are important.

How important?

According to direct response copywriter Ted Nicholas, “73% of the buying decision is made at the point of the headline.”

If you can nail the headline, you’ll bring in leads.

11. People tend to prefer headlines with odd numbers

I found this phenomenon pretty interesting.

You might think most people prefer headlines with nice even numbers like “The Top 10…”

But this isn’t the case.

According to Backlinko,

a study of 150,000 headlines revealed that odd-numbered headlines have a 20 percent better CTR than headlines with even numbers.

That’s substantial.

If you noticed, the headline for this post is “17 Facts about Search Psychology You Should Know.”

Not “10 Facts.”

The simple little hack can help your content stand out and perform better in search engines.

12. People prefer short URLs

I’m sure you already know about the importance of optimizing your URLs for SEO.

You’re always better off using a descriptive URL, like yoursite.com/epic-article instead of yoursite.com/39403043034993234.

But here’s an interesting stat:

Marketing Sherpa found that short URLs are 2.5x more likely to attract a click.

I myself tend to gravitate to short, succinct URLs rather than longer, uglier ones.

Try to condense your URLs as much as possible so that they capture the essence of your content in the fewest words possible for more clicks.

13. People share content that supports a cause

Getting readers to share your content drives more traffic to your site and can directly impact how your content ranks in search engines.

But what motivates readers to share?

Are they more inclined to share certain types of content over others?

Well, a survey from The New York Times Customer Insight Group found the following:

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As you can see, the number one reason why people share content is because it supports a cause.

While this may not be necessarily relevant to your brand, this data gives us a good idea of the types of content that people value, and it can help guide your efforts.

14. Images make it easier to process information

Okay, so we had to touch on the topic of visuals at some point.

So, here we go.

I’m not going to blab on about the importance of incorporating visuals into your content.

Instead, let me provide you with some key stats from The Next Web:

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The bottom line is that using images makes it much easier for readers to process information and helps your content resonate with them.

Visuals also make it easier to explain the benefits of your product or service, which can be a factor in building stronger rapport with your audience.

This can ultimately translate into more shares and better rankings.

15. Pro images get more shares than semi-professional images

Allow me to piggyback on my last point.

Images are important.

But you don’t want to use just any type of images.

According to a study from Marketing Sherpa,

pro images received 45% more Facebook shares than semi-professional photos.

In other words, using those cheesy stock photos probably isn’t a good idea and is going to negate the impact of your posts.

Although the study from Marketing Sherpa analyzed Facebook shares, I think it’s safe to say that this phenomenon can be applied across the board.

That’s why I try to maintain fairly rigorous quality standards with the images I use in my content.

16. Search users crave a great UX

An article from Vizual Archive states that today, an overlap between design/usability and SEO is much bigger than it was in the 90s and early 2000s.

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I believe this to be true.

By following correct SEO fundamentals, like including rich meta descriptions and title tags and organizing content in a logical manner, you’re improving the UX and SEO at the same time.

17. Personalized CTAs outperform generic ones

Last but not least, let’s talk about CTAs.

Let’s say someone landed on one of your blog posts through Google, read through your content, and now has some level of interest in your product.

According to some fairly exhaustive research from HubSpot, personalized CTAs convert 42% better than generic CTAs.

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Rather than saying something like “click here” or “share this post,” aim for a more specific, targeted CTA like “share these content marketing tips.”

Conclusion

Crushing it at search is largely about putting yourself in the shoes of your audience.

Understanding their behaviors and patterns is the key to creating content that resonates with users while satisfying search algorithms.

This should make it easier to build trust and rapport with human readers, which should translate into a ton of good things like more shares, backlinks, etc. that will improve your SEO.

Can you think of any other psychological concepts that affect SEO?

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Comments

  1. J.Ustpassing :

    Shhhhh – you’re going to give away all the good bits 😀

    It’s awesome to see a piece focusing on the Psych – it’s a side that many utterly miss,
    yet is so prevalent throughout marketing and sales.

    Hmmmm … what can be added?

    Reinforcement:
    Viewing/hearing the same thing several times increases the chances of it soaking in. Things like tag/hang lines are there for a reason – they worm their way into our minds, and we associate what ever they say with the company/brand.
    Look at things like sales offers/letters – they often use almost identical phrasing at least 3 times throughout.
    When writing out your content – think about the key message you are wanting to impart (doesn’t always have to be a sales pitch!). Then look and see where it will naturally fit.
    Normally you can conclude with it, and often you can incorporate it near the very start. If the piece is lengthy, consider injecting it (or a variant) within the main body as well.
    The see how the page performs for conversions.

    Lazy people:
    Not only are we selfish (to a certain degree), we tend to be lazy and resent needless effort.
    How annoying is it when you have to move the mouse to either side to click on things?
    When viewing the site and pages, examine the location of CTAs, Major links and Primary buttons. In an ideal world, all should be vertically aligned, and on the same side (consistency).
    It may seem like something minor – but the more work they have to do, the less inclined they will be to keep clicking.

    Repetition:
    Blending the above, we get repetition. This is when we repeat a block, element or function.
    Consider things like the add-to-cart button. How many times does it appear on your product page? Where?
    Most of you will respond it’s in the top-part, just by the image/short description.
    Can you see how it would naturally fit somewhere else as well?
    Beneath the longer description/specs etc.
    Same goes for things like Pagination links, Sort, Filters etc. – make the users life a little easier, and you should see an increase in retention and page hits (more time on site, more chance of increasing basket value etc.).

    damn … that makes an even-number … one more?
    Let’s go with an oldy, but a goody;

    Justification:
    We tend to have our own motivations for doing things – most of them are personal and/or emotionally based.
    We then justify those desires. Get the most from people by helping them justify.
    That’s not just Benefits and Features.
    Consider Comparisons between your’s and your competitors.
    Consider providing at least 2 items for the same task (and make sure that 1 is obviously more suitable and justifiable!).
    Consider handing “objections” in your content to reduce purchase friction.
    Why do you think car companies produce so many variants? Or push certain points to different markets? They are giving you the right reasons to select the model you want, even if it means they have a rubbish model on offer that no one really wants.

    There, 21 😀

  2. Shakoat Hossain @wideHow :

    Hey Neil Patel,

    Great stuffs indeed! You’re the one man army for SEO and Influence marketing. 😉

    Why we do let to start thinking before you published?

    Last night, I was checking your tweets and get it from the bottom line anyway. 🙂

    You did the mentioned really impressive with some big facts.

    Yes, I appreciate you by the following correct SEO fundamentals, like including rich meta descriptions and title tags and organizing content in a logical manner but how we improve the UX and SEO at the same time.

    Did you use additional supervisor to imbalance the content strategy?

    Anyway, I found it very interesting but not at all about search psychology. I need to read it again carefully to understand those facts.

    Love the way you work, Dude. Keep it up!

    Thanks,
    Shakoat

  3. Hi, i am searching always this types blogs , and your are full fill my desire.

  4. sand margin :

    hi, i really enjoyed and great information for seo .

  5. Phil Jackson :

    I found it very interesting but not at all about search psychology. I need to read it again carefully to understand those facts.

  6. Shubham Patodi :

    Hi Neil,
    It s always good to read your articles. and yes, user behavior matters a-lot. Here I have a query, that may be not related to the article directly, but I still I would like to know. Is it possible that google crawler start indexing old content of a page even after updating on regular basis. We are not even using any kind of server side caching system anymore. But still search engine is indexing only the previous contents, instead of latest updated. Hope you got my point and any assistance from your side is highly appreciable. Thanks..

    • It will depend on how the site is being crawled and the sitemap I expect.

    • J.Ustpassing :

      Crawling and Indexing are two different things.
      Are G trying to crawl old URLs,
      or are G indexing (showing in the SERPs) old content?

      Have you tested the URLs and ensured that G is seeing the same thing you are?
      Do you have server caching, CDN caching etc.?
      Have you made sure that old content is gone, and new content is found – on the same URL?
      Have you ensured that you do not have incorrect Canonical elements pointing to different URLs, or Redirects in place that are dependent on things like UAs?
      Or, as Neil suggests, incorrect Sitemaps can tell G to look at the wrong URLs.

      If you have a Google Search Console account, you can use their tools to see
      a) if there are errors
      b) what they see when they visit a specific URL

  7. kuldeep singh :

    hello sir,
    I cannot agree on the “People tend to prefer headlines with odd number” fact. I, as a reader want accurate information in simple language. I don’t think that headline with odd or even number makes any difference. I find this fact illogical (please accept my apology for using the word ‘illogical’).

  8. kuldeep singh :

    I have no knowledge of SEO but when I search something, I want information in simple language.

  9. naveen kumar :

    very nice article I found it very interesting

  10. This is nice article. In this article give good information that helps people. And also in this post give good explanation in deeply and that helps many people. It’s wonderful information. This article helpful for me. I like this article.

  11. kuldeep singh :

    Hello sir,
    I was reading some other posts by you. I came across “12 Content-Writing Secrects of Professional Writers”, “12 Essential Tips to Picking a Website Color Scheme”, “12 Risky SEO Tactics That Might Work”, “How to Get 128 New Email Subscribers Per Day”, “6 Tools That Will Help You Perfectly Optimize Your Site for Mobile Search”, “10 Fatal Mobile SEO Mistakes Standing Between You and Your First 1000 Visitors”, “8 Traffic-Boosting Blog Secrets that Almost Feel Like Cheating” and there are many more. All these titles are not odd-numbered titles because complete information is delivered in even number points. If information can be delivered in 10 points then the writer should write 10 points only, not 9 or 11. If the writer is writing 9 points, he is giving incomplete information to his readers. And, if he is writing 11 points, the 11th point will contain no information for the reader. It will waste the valuable time of the reader.
    Thanks.

  12. photo-retouching Services :

    Dear Sir,

    I was reading your blog post for say in 17 fact about in is very use full tips information in everysearch use to many website to create.

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