This article is written assuming you are already creating fantastically optimized content.
(If you need some help with that, there are a plethora of articles you can read. I’d suggest starting with “How to create captivating, compelling and optimized content.”)
Here, I will take you through my top five tips on bringing a behavioral marketing approach to your content, thus making it more engaging.
1. Identify the audience and where your content fits within their journey
With search engine algorithms today, optimizing content for your audience is synonymous with optimizing for search engines.
Ensure you have absolute clarity on:
- Who your audience is.
- What motivates them.
- Why they would be interested in your content.
- What they are trying to do.
Considering the content’s place in the customer journey helps you tailor it more intentionally by understanding what came before and the next actions.
This can surface questions about content relevance and audience segmentation. It’s a valuable discussion since it signifies a commitment to personalized visitor experiences.
While some SEOs may worry about potential cannibalization, when done correctly and aligned with the audience’s needs, you can work around such issues.
For instance, I worked with a technical software business a while back. They had a super savvy tech audience that needed to assess their products but also a much more business-minded C-suite audience that would also be browsing.
We had a simple button that moved the content between “I’d like to get more technical” to “I’d like to get less technical.”
This content was all fully indexable on the same URL and served their two main audiences, ensuring they had the right content to answer their requirements.
The lesson? Think behaviorally about the customer’s journey. If you use the “Think, Feel, Do” methodology to put yourself in the customer’s shoes:
- The “think” will tell you what they are thinking and give you insight into the message you need to convey.
- The “feel” unearths how they are feeling and gives a window into the emotions you may want to convey.
- The “do” tells you what they are trying to do, giving you a vision of what they need to do next and therefore helps you to optimize on onward experience, also telling you what you need to track to measure the success of the content.
Dig deeper: Content creation: A psychological approach
2. Understand the power of language and storytelling
Whatever industry you are in, we must remember that human beings are not “thinking creatures that feel, but we are actually feeling creatures that think,” as pointed out by Jill Bolte Taylor in her book “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey.”
We’ve been telling stories since 30,000 BC by first painting murals on the walls of caves. Storytelling is integral to how we communicate. With every piece of content you create, the story or narrative must be at the foundations.
To craft a story, you need to have a beginning and an end, and when we think about how this plays into the customer journey, the beginning could be before the user has even landed on your content, and the end could be somewhere in the future.
Storytelling is a skill, and one of the key parts of that skill is the ability to use language. Language evokes emotions that play into the feeling part of our being.
A 1996 psychological study best demonstrates this phenomenon and has become synonymous with a behavioral technique known as “priming.”
At New York University, students were grouped into two and taken to different rooms. In the rooms, they had pieces of paper with words written on them that they had to organize into sentences. Once complete, they had to walk down the hall to another room, sign out, and they were done.
What was unknown to the students was that out of the two rooms, one had totally random words, and the other had words associated with the elderly.
Psychologist John Bargh found that the group primed to think about the elderly walked down the corridor more slowly than the group with random word prompts, demonstrating a clear change in behavior.
This study is one of the most notable studies on priming and shows how powerful the words we choose can be.
If you write an article in a bad mood and that mood slips into your storytelling, you will likely leave the reader feeling a bit deflated.
If your storytelling is boosted with energy because of your passion and excitement for a topic, you will likely transfer this feeling onto the reader.
The lesson here is all about making a conscious decision to use language within your content that will resonate with your audience and match the feeling you want to impart to them.
Language must be intentional, not a lazy attempt to convey a message.
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3. Build a relationship with your audience, be memorable
Every interaction your brand has with a user is a significant opportunity to build on that relationship.
We live in a world where the relationship individuals have with brands is critical to the decision-making process of where to buy from. With every interaction, you want to ensure you are building your brand positively in that user’s memory.
There are many studies on memory, but the attribute I always see as a common thread is, unsurprisingly, around feelings. If you make people feel something, they will be much more likely to remember it.
This links back to the previous two points, as if you know where the customer is in the journey and you can make the content resonate with them, priming them with the mindset that suits their onward journey. Then, you are likely to make them feel something.
The other linked gem here is that storytelling allows people to see themselves in the story. When we attach meaning to something or visualize ourselves as part of something, this again intensifies the opportunity to remember it.
4. Put the user in the driving seat
There are two ways I like to look at businesses:
- Those that are “inside out.”
- Those that are “outside in.”
The “inside-out” businesses make decisions internally, without attempting to reach their audience to understand their needs and requirements. These businesses think they know best.
An “outside-in” business is the complete opposite. They take time to listen to their customers, their potential customers and the needs of their audience, and they use this to power the direction of their business.
For some research I did a few years back, we built a tool that assessed how much content was written about the business (selfish) rather than the customer (selfless).
For the 100+ leisure and entertainment sites the tool assessed, we found 50% of the content to be business-first (selfish). And of the 650+ B2B sites we looked at, we found 40% of the content to be business-first (selfish).
These staggering statistics show how much content exists out there just broadcasting their views to the world, instead of reframing what they want to convey to put the user into the story.
When you take a customer-first approach, your content suddenly becomes much more relevant and resonates better with the audience.
5. Consider the relevant thinking style for your audience and the content
Think about whether your content should be static or dynamic. There isn’t a right or wrong here other than just ensuring you consider what is right in the context of the customer journey.
Static content tends to be written in the present and can be good at evoking clarity. This suits the “what” and “why” thinkers (i.e., detail-orientated users), so this is often relevant to product descriptions.
Dynamic content tends to be more future-focused and sparks more imagination. This suits the “how” and “so what” thinkers looking for more inspiration and fits service or experience-led content.
You can also create balanced content, answering the why, what, how and so what, to resonate from all angles.
The danger here is that the content can end up really long, and might lose someone mid-way through if they haven’t found the bit that really resonates with them.
To counteract this, think about how you break the content up, use anchor links and aim to direct the user through the content, ensuring they can reach what is most relevant to them as quickly as possible.
Drive audience engagement with compelling content
Content is our number one tool as marketers to build relationships with our audience online. This could be anything from long-form articles, product descriptions, videos, helpful guides, etc.
Content is also one of the easiest ways to turn a user off. We’ve all been there – you Google something, click on the listing that seems to answer your query, but then quickly retreat, as the website was masquerading as something it is not.
Our audience is time-poor, so every moment their attention is on your content is a chance to build a relationship. To engage effectively, understand what they seek and how your brand can assist.
Serve relevant content at the right journey stage, creating a lasting impact and guiding them forward. This strategy not only captures their attention but also fosters future brand loyalty. Remember, being helpful and generous with content pays off in the long run.
Dig deeper: How to leverage neuromarketing for SEO
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.