Aiala Icaza Gonzalez says:Increasing human focus on our SEO strategies through human behaviour and cognitive biases is not as complicated as it sounds.
What kind of cognitive biases might an SEO have?
Most of these things we already know, we just don't think about them most of the time. Obviously, there are dozens of different behaviours and biases we should be learning from but there are a couple that are super-important. They're key when it comes to SEO - and paid campaigns in general. The first one to highlight, and one of the most important, is the availability heuristic. This is a mental shortcut that makes things easier to remember and helps us to make a decision. This doesn't mean that what we remember is the right thing. What we recall is based on repetition and recency. It's based on how long ago we heard and saw that information. For example, you could have seen that robberies in your neighbourhood have increased. Your response could be, 'Where I live isn't safe anymore'. This is not actually true, perhaps it's just a group has been stealing things lately. We tend to think in such ways because we've seen the same information repeating a lot recently.
You're recommending that SEOs help make a brand more memorable, so when someone's ready to buy, they'll go to that brand instead of someone else?
Yes, it's making the content easy to remember through providing memorable nuggets. With the ongoing rise of mobile and social media, we need to understand that people need to have all the information and grasp the concept quickly. If I'm on Instagram, and I see your ads, I don't want to see numbers or lots of text. I want to see an image showing me precisely what you're selling me. For instance, if you're selling leggings for the gym, don't tell me that your leggings are made from 50% of a specific fabric. Show me what it looks like in a video or picture. It's the same for content. Show me that content, not 2,000 words. Provide the relevant information in a short way and demonstrate how this is working and how it's beneficial for me.
So, this means giving someone 10 seconds to view a webpage, then cover it up and ask the person, what's that web page and content about, and why is it relevant for you?
Yes, exactly - and making that emotional connection. You could use visuals or just highlight some of the text. You need to work with your UX team to make that content come alive, so it makes a connection with the user. Also, you need to understand where the user is in the purchase funnel so you can connect on a deeper level. For example, identifying that they're looking for something, they're already in the consideration phase, they're thinking about me, and you're the one for them. There's a lot to work there, and it means a lot of synergies with other teams. Obviously, the more we improve the content so that it relates to the user and drives emotional connection, the higher chances we have for that conversion.
How does this impact content style? Is it important to always have snappy paragraphs, or is this dumbing down the effort it takes to understand your message?
I guess it would depend on where they are in the purchase funnel. If they're in the awareness phase, you need to consider that they might not know much about the product. They just know they have a need, and they want help. For instance, they need leggings, which they usually buy in Zara or H&M. But now they know they need something better, yet don't know much more than that. They will start by looking at the best leggings and come to you in the awareness phase. Then they'll move into the consideration phase, followed by the 'ready to buy' phase. You need to understand and build your site based on these phases. You need to create content that is related to each stage of the funnel. In the end, this all comes from the keywords, and keyword research will tell you their intent. Agencies struggle with this because all the different channels tend to work in silos. This is not just an SEO thing - all the different channels need to work together to make sure we're sending the right people to the right page. For instance, if PPC is having an awareness campaign, don't send them directly to the product page. Instead, send them to an awareness page, such as a blog post or a category page. You need everyone to work together and not in silos. This ensures your strategy is fully integrated and works perfectly.
How do you measure the success of doing this from an SEO perspective? Does targeting human behaviours mean people will spend longer on your web pages and go further down your purchase funnel? Or are there better ways of measuring it?
That's one of the biggest ways to measure it, but you need to understand what engagement is to you. What does engagement mean to you on your page? If it's an awareness page, you want them to spend more time and visit more pages. If it's a product page, you don't want them to spend that much time - you want them to go straight to the conversion. It should be on a case-by-case basis. You need to consider which different engagement metrics are important for you. Ultimately, you're looking to increase conversions because that is why you're doing this.
How do you ensure your page's content is optimised for different personas with different needs, from an SEO perspective?
That's an interesting one. We actually have a client who is receiving people in totally different life stages to the same page, so we're offering the same service for them. We need to try different things and A/B test everything. We need to learn if one page works for everyone, or if we have to create different landing pages. Here we're working with the UX team really closely and carrying out A/B testing to understand what is working and what isn't. How can we focus this page? Should it be with more visuals and less text, or more text and less visuals? With all these things, there is a synergy with the UX and CR teams, depending on how you're structured. Then it comes down to A/B testing because, in the end, every audience - like every human - is different. A lot will depend on your sector as well. Some sectors might be more niche, and audiences might need different landing pages for the same product because they have different ways of using it.
How do you define your different audiences? Do you take data from your pay-per-click and paid search campaigns, and then use that as a way to feed your SEO success to dissect your visitors into different audiences?
Yes, it could be paid information as well as analytics. If you have enough analytics data, you could also make personas out of it. Then, obviously, there's research on the country or the market. There are different ways to get the information you need. I'm lucky that in my company, we have a team that works on personas, and they know all the resources and sources.
What are your thoughts on how search engines detect changes in human behaviour and deliver different content according to who they think the user is and what they want?
I think they're getting better. We can see this happening, and they look at what you're doing and what you're looking at. Yes, they might still be slow, but they're machines, not humans, and don't understand trends as fast as we do. I recently saw that Facebook is allowing Google to crawl their pages. I think Google might be able to understand and adapt faster to trends, and discover what users are looking at and how their behaviour is changing, more quickly.
Does this analysis - on different types of audiences to ensure your content immediately resonates - need to be done once every six months, or is it ongoing?
Ideally, it would be ongoing because you're always creating content, and you always have campaigns going on. You continually need to make sure you're delivering the right message at the right time. This takes you back to recency and everything else we've discussed. However, I understand that agencies might not have the time to do that but try for as often as possible. It is true what I said earlier - if your organic and non-organic channels don't work together, it might not work. Ultimately, the paid teams and the social teams will bring you the fastest traffic. It's through them that you're going to be able to test if this is working or not as soon as possible, because we know organic takes a little bit of time.
Have you seen organic results being improved by surprising actions? For instance, driving traffic from email, and demonstrating that the piece of content is very popular, so Google decides to rank it higher?
I can't say that for sure, and there is nothing specific I can put my finger on. That's because, generally, the clients I have been working with are quite big. There's always something going on, such as emails, paid, and social. I can't definitively say that something specific happened because of a specific action. I have seen organic increasing because of an overall paid campaign. On the other hand, it was about a launch of a famous makeup brand. I can't be 100% sure that it was because of paid
There was a specific reason I asked that question. A few years ago, I interviewed Rand Fishkin, and he'd decided that the click-through from his Moz email newsletter was potentially impacting SERP rankings for a short period of time. With the increase in traffic, perhaps Google was testing whether it was appropriate to slightly increase that particular listing. It's challenging to tie different channels together, while normal theory suggests the algorithm looks at organic actions and doesn't take into account other sources of traffic. But you never know?
You never know if it does or if it doesn't. What we need to think about is that ultimately it does not matter, because what the paid teams are doing is actually bringing awareness. It's putting our name out there, so we're in the user's subconscious all the time. Thanks to the paid teams, when users need something, they'll remember what this brand was telling me, so they will come to us organically. This is why it is so important to work together because we should not be a silo. Whatever they do, and whatever I do, we're going to impact each other - we're an orchestra!
What do you suggest a busy SEO should stop doing to spend more time understanding and focusing on humans?
You can find Aiala Icaza Gonzalez over at ReflectDigital.co.uk.
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