Optimizing your PPC advertising campaigns takes a combination of getting people to click on your ads and getting them to convert once they reach your landing page.
However, there is a fundamental difference between step one and step two of the process. Essentially, the difference is who you are trying to impress.
Where the first depends on your ability to impress the search engines through technical PPC optimization tactics, the second is entirely dependent on your ability to impress the user.
Conversion, the second step of the process, poses a more interesting problem to online marketers for a few reasons:
For starters, we all know what the search engines are looking for (for the most part) and how to optimize each of those parameters. It’s just a matter of plugging in the right inputs to get the right outputs.
However, once you get the user onto your landing page, converting them is a whole different kit and caboodle. As much as we like to say that we do, online marketers just don’t know as much about our users as we do about search engines.
User behavior is a far more elaborate, fluid, and idiosyncratic collection of data. Tapping into the secrets behind how users “tick” is the secret to making sense of all that data, and turning traffic into conversions by pleasing your site visitors accordingly.
This is where Psychology comes into play. Tapping into the reasoning and emotions behind consumer behavior through psychological analysis can illuminate the “why or why not” of your site visitors.
Understanding why users make the decisions they do and knowing how to influence those decisions with the right features on your landing pages will help you convert all of that traffic you’re paying so much for into actual conversions that are making you money.
Getting the Right Data: What You Need To Be Looking For
Psychology is a branch of science. Just like any science, it begins with data and statistics. If you are trying to implement psychologically informed tactics into your campaigns, you need to have the right data to be supporting your decision.
Most campaigns build their data set around “demographics.” You need to go one step further, into the realm of “psychographics.”
Psychographics aren’t as scary as they sound. They are simply data points that are more specific to each user’s actual behavior than demographics, which focus primarily on describing the user. The comparison above makes the distinction pretty clear.
Identifying the psychographics of your clientele will make it easier to develop your content to their interests and values as well as help you format your pages to their personality and visual preferences.
These are harder data sets to come by, and often require some spitballing between you and your team to pan out what exact niche market you are trying to advertise to.
The scale in size usually goes from geographics, to demographics, then finally psychographics, in descending order with size but ascending order with specificity.
You also need to be asking the right questions to collect the right psychological data. This is a trick that many of the best SEO and PPC agencies use already: Asking the “why” instead of the “what.”
Looking at why users say “no” instead of what is making them say “yes” is a key insight to take away from Psychology. This targets the adjustments you make more towards user behavior instead of aspects of your site.
Remember: using Psychology requires you going one step further into your analysis.
Asking the “why” question in regards to user behavior on your site dips into the field of Heuristics. Now, heuristics is more than just a highfalutin sounding word that psychologists and philosophers like to throw around.
Heuristics – or a specific heuristic method – is any process by which an individual learns something or discovers something. It is the process by which we intake and apply information – the shortcuts we use to avoid being bogged down by the millions specific step by step instructions of daily life.
Knowing how a user intakes and applies information sure sounds like the ideal data to have when optimizing a landing page, doesn’t it?
Consider The Science: Examining The Neurology Of Consumer Behavior
So if we are going to be diving into the human mind in order to understand how he/she operates online, we’re going to be looking at how the actual human brain processes information.
But, come on, we aren’t neuroscientists here, we’re marketers. So let’s break this down into more easily digestible chunks, shall we?
Split Processing Brains
We all know the basic “left hemisphere” – “right hemisphere” brain diagram.
The left side of our brain handles rational thought like mathematics and logic, while the right side of our brain deals with emotional processing like guttural reactions, raw feels, and the fight/flight response.
The old division of rhetoric into Aristotle’s three “appeals” comes in handy when considering split processing brains. The three appeals are famously known as “ethos,” “pathos,” and “logos.” Ah – good old freshman English, am I right?
- Ethos can be considered an appeal to credibility or authority. We all already do this, implicitly or explicitly, by trying to develop the most relevant and expert content we can. But how we display and present that authoritative content falls into the other two appeals.
- The first is pathos, or appeal to emotion. This is you talking directly to the right side of the user’s brain to evoke an emotional response. Online marketers use color, funny images, and clever writing to appeal to this side of the brain.
- The second is logos, or appeal to logic. Here is where we online marketers love to fill the page with statistics and charts all documenting how we are the best company on the market. However, as important as evidence and data are for justifying any given PPC tactic, relying on that same appeal for the presentation of those tactics to users may not be your best bet.
Logos may be great for mapping out strategies in the office, but when you are interacting with an online user, more often than not, overloading them with data is just going to put them to sleep.
Finding the right recipe between logos and pathos, while always relying on ethos as your main source of appeal, is how to capitalize on both hemispheres of the user’s brain.
Dual Processing Brains
Believe it or not, there is actually another, more complicated way that scientists have come to categorize brain function. Without getting into the high-level psycho-philosophy of consciousness and its origins, all you need to know is that there is a System 1 and System 2 brain.
- The System 1 brain (limbic system) is essentially our animalistic brain – our instincts, survival tendencies, and the subconscious nature of our social behaviors.
- The System 2 brain (the frontal lobe) is our conscious brain – the narrator of the story that we call our “self.”
System 1 is WAY bigger and faster than System 2 (just consider evolution, “consciousness” is only the latest addition to the brain).
An incredibly large amount of psychological and philosophical research has gone into the distinction between these two brains. Ultimately resulting in one (philosophically pessimistic) hypothesis that can actually be quite helpful for your campaigns:
Basically, our decisions and choices happen in the subconscious System 1 brain, and after we subconsciously decide on something, then our System 2 brain kicks in to tell us “why” we made that decision (or, more accurately, tell us some manufactured story about “why”).
This is where you, the online marketer, can take advantage of our old, reptilian selves to really capitalize on conversions. Subconscious cues and subliminal suggestions in color and tone can have an enormous effect on the decision-making System 1 brain. Don’t worry so much about the System 2 brain, it’ll make up some story to tell itself after the make regardless of what actually happened.
Unilaterally Important: Trust Leaps
Regardless of what brain model you are employing to better understand your users on a psychological level, one thing is true throughout: trust is important.
In her TED talk titled “TRUST: The Currency of the New Economy,” Rachel Botsman speaks about how we as a society are growing to trust individual strangers more and more in our personal lives and online interactions (like Airbnb, Uber, and Tinder) while at the same time we are growing increasingly more distrusting of institutions like governments, banks, and large businesses.
Why Is This?
Botsam argues it is because the more successful instances of trust development have lowered the friction rate of their customer interactions through genuine accountability and transparency.
The digital market is one of “collaborative consumption” where shares are the lifeblood of our information network. Trust and sharing is rapidly evolving from the way we get information to the way we actually interact with the market itself.
Make sure you are coming off as trustworthy to every single type of brain that comes your way!
Lowering Friction: Eliminating Mental Roadblocks From Your Conversion Path
So how do you incorporate psychological tactics into a “collaborative consumption” online marketing campaign? By lowering the friction rate of your pages and CTAs. In her TED Talk about trust, Botsman identifies the development of what she calls a “trust leap” into multiple steps.
The necessary progression of trust that she identifies is as follows:
- Trusting the idea
- Trusting the platform
- And lastly trusting the person.
So how do we use psychology to break down these triple layered trust barriers? Well, read on.
Fear of the Unknown
It’s human nature to fear the unknown. Psychologists will tell you that we “catastrophize” the unknown because even a known tragedy is better than an unknown void. Our minds desperately fill empty spaces and discrepancies with the worst possible scenarios.
How do we fix this? Simple – if your users have a fear of the unknown – make everything known!
Transparency is one of the best ways to build trust and lower friction when a user comes to your landing page. Make sure that you have links to info pages on your employees and teams with descriptive bios that tell the reader not only what the teammate does, but a little about who they are as a person as well.
Check out Directive Consulting’s careers page or services page – all the info you may need to know like what they are doing, how they are doing it, and who you will be working with is all readily available in just a few clicks after their landing page. High transparency equals low friction.
Don’t make the decision-making process too complex for your users. Providing a long list of “factors to consider” when deciding whether or not to partner with your company may seem like a strong and informative move, but it may just be added stress to your reader.
This is where providing options instead of factors is the clear winning tactic. Providing options in pricing or service gives a personalization quality to the experience instead of an overwhelming one.
Consider giving multiple pre-established price points for your landing page instead of a “price calculator” or “estimate” button so that your readers don’t get caught up over-thinking whether they can afford your service or not.
Urgent When Guided, Not When Not
Urgency is another big buzzword that online marketers love to rely on. But, again, this is a bit of a misguided tactic that can be fine-tuned when you apply some basic psychology to it. Landing pages often try to rely on a sense of urgency or immediacy with “buy now” or “limited time offer” CTAs. They think that ramping up the emotional charge of their CTA is going to increase their conversion rate.
Well, it might, but only if you know how users actually reply to a sense of urgency. People actually aren’t that susceptible to a sense of urgency when it’s conveyed by someone else.
Moz has a great piece that discusses different psychological studies that you can employ in your CRO which discusses this very topic.
What the urgency study showed was that people were often quick to write off the urgency of a message or threat by rationalizing it away if they weren’t provided with clear guidance on how to solve the problem. If they were given an urgent message, but no guidance on where to go or who to talk to, they decided it wasn’t their problem.
On the other hand, people who were given an urgent message with guidelines on how to respond to the situation were far more likely to act. So what does this tell us?
Keep your CTAs specific and too the point, don’t be pushing a vague sense of imposed urgency!
Choices Kill Conversions
You know how everybody likes to say how they want more freedom? The more choices we are free to make we tend to think the happier we will be. Turns out that couldn’t be more wrong.
The truth is that if you want to make a human being go crazy, give him all the freedom in the world. Too many choices will make a reader go insane with possibilities and risk evaluation. The volume of options along is enough to drown a reader in a sea of the unknown.
A great rule to remember is: “with too many options, the exit becomes the only clear choice.” Don’t scare away your visitors by trying to appeal to each and every possibility.
User-Centric CRO: Delighting The User Into Conversion
So we’ve looked at the things that can scare site visitors away. Now let’s look at what can make them smile once they decide to stay. These are small changes you can make to your CTAs and landing page content that will make the user feel far more engaged and satisfied with their experience on your site – which will delight them into converting.
Remember, we are looking at the “why’s” here, not the “what’s.”
Personalization Makes For A Satisfied Customer
Personalization is becoming the cornerstone of the post-digital marketing world. Allowing your visitors to customize their experience in even the slightest way can influence your conversions in a real positive way.
We can look at countless apps and social media platforms to see the success that personalization has had. Allowing the customer’s personality to bleed into their market interactions not only leaves them feeling more engaged and satisfied, but also provides you with more details psychographics as well. Sneaky, right?
Let The Users “Decide”
You may think that comparing your company’s cheaper prices side by side with your overpriced competitor may be a good idea. Or you might think that bragging about your awesome ranking and huge infrastructure makes you seem authoritative. While neither of these are intrinsically bad tactics, they might just be a double edged sword that could be costing you conversions.
By comparing your services or prices to other companies you are unintentionally but implicitly suggesting your competitors as other options. Not that you’re advertising for them, but you can’t be sure if your bragging is making the other company look more user-centric, or that you advertising your low prices doesn’t make the other pricey agency look more authoritative and legit.
Instead, provide the statistics for your own company, and if you absolutely have to provide a comparison, don’t explicitly name the company. Strongly suggest where you have a leg up on the competition, but let the user decide on their own that you are the superior service.
Speak In Time, Not Money
Keep in mind that your readers are, more often than not, NOT a paid expert in your field. They don’t speak in CRO, ROI, ROAS, and money. Most likely they are reading your post to try to find some time-saving tips for their own DIY campaigns. So speak in time, not money.
Use actionable tips in your content and reference the actual amount of time it can save your users to show them exactly how your advice is worth using. Referencing how implementing your suggestions may increase their ROI at the end of the month isn’t nearly as evocative as showing them how much time you can save them today.
Optimizing With Psychology: Scientific Tricks & Tips For Your Landing Pages
Applying psychology to your online marketing campaigns can help your content development from the top of the road mapping process all the way to your landing page design.
Neuromarketing research attempts to correlate your landing page design with actual neurological reactions in the brains of site visitors. These studies look at factors like color, font, text size, image location, etc. Instead of examining what the users “think” of the content, they are looking at how they initially react on a physiological level.
First Impressions Matter
Your Landing page is essentially the first impression your visitor has of your company. Make it count. Keeping your pages clean, uncluttered and with above the fold CTAs are all great initial steps to optimize your landing pages. But keep in mind that impressing the user with content is not your only job. This is where good old-fashioned A/B testing comes into play.
Developing and testing out your landing pages to better wow your first-time viewers is the only real way to see what’s working for your clientele and what isn’t. Depending on what market or niche you are targeting, you’re going to have to put in some time and sweat to earn the right psychographics to optimize your landing pages.
Confirmation and Persuasive Biases
Knowing how the brain prioritizes and makes decisions will also help you decide what format to use with you best pieces of content. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, maybe you should make your advertisement for your best product a visual instead of a text-based ad.
Visuals are known to disrupt regular thought patterns and can lead to quick decisions that your text sometimes might not be able to. As a rule “people pay attention to motion first, graphics second, and text third.”
If you are promoting a piece of content that seems to be dealing with a bit too much friction, consider altering the format to include more images, or turn the entire thing into an infographic or gifographic. People respond more positively to images than they do long paragraphs.
Self Identifying “Groups”
Despite the fact that we have built cities and drive cars and live in small nuclear families, human beings still organize themselves into “tribes.” It is the nature of the caveman. Even if we as modern individuals don’t like to admit it, we as homo sapiens love being placed into link minded groups. It provides security, comfort, and consistency, all of which were at one time necessary to our survival.
So keep targeting those psychographics and don’t be afraid to use a little bit of peer pressure in the ethos of your content. “Join the ranks” play off this exact point.
So What? What To Take Away From Neurobehavioral Online Marketing
In the end, PPC management comes down to knowing your user as well as you know your search engines. Once you get your user to click on your ad and reach your landing page, it’s up to you to convert them.
Remember that conversion isn’t about the purchase, but about pleasing the customer so much that they feel the natural desire to purchase on their own. The causal chain is important, don’t forget that psychology requires diving one step further into the reasoning behind user behavior.
If you are looking at the right data, and really asking the “whys” of your users behavior instead of the easier “what” questions, then sooner or later you’ll be stepping into your users’ shoes and trying to optimize your pages for their experience instead of your money.
And THAT is when applying psychology to your campaigns will really start to spike your CRO!