September 22, 2023
What is SEO Psychology

Consumer Behaviour: Top 10 SEO Psychology Tips

From SEO Psychology to On-Page Conversions

What are the top 10 methods of psychology based SEO? Find out in this article.

Firstly, what does SEO psychology mean? – most SEO Experts research and digest the psychology behind sales in order to increase the efficiency of their Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Don’t leave this to chance… think like a consumer! Now we will explore the main 10 principles of adapting your SEO strategy from a psychological POV. These include:

SEO Psychology of your Customers Journey.



A contextual cue facilitating an automatic associated response. Brennan, 2015, provided evidence for the moderating effect of cognitive ability, by demonstrating the priming effects on creativity, when exposure to a creative brand. Automatic behaviour can be further encouraged by means of classical conditioning, whereby individuals are automatic associations are promoted.

  • Help website visitors remember key information about your brand.
  • Presentation of influential factors early on, influences response to stimulus later on.
  • Business link; automatic associations to client’s product
  • Opportunity; Iconography, both detailed and specific.
  • Platforms; Social Media



Reciprocity suggests if someone does something for you, you automatically want to do something for them also. It is suggested that reciprocity leads to personal well-being (Pervan, Bove & Johnson, 2009) Linking to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, specifically Self Actualisation. Reciprocity is a strategic act designed to promote exchange of mutual gain. Highlighting benefits from both parties involved. Providing of small gift, no matter the benefit to the customer, will result in establishment of reciprocity. Additionally, people are compelled to reciprocate due to prevention of social disruption (Gouldner, 1960).

  • Long term can do more harm than good, giving away too much.
  • If done without asking for anything in return, rewards are reaped eventually.
  • Business link; Free ‘thing’ first provides opportunity for positive brand establishment/loyalty as well as potential sale increase due to increase chance following through with request.
  • Opportunity; eBook free. Game free virtual money tokens before buy them. Free Software, paid for templates.
  • Platform; Games.


Social Proof and Peer Comparison

Positive influence on an action created by observation of others doing it. Link to conformity, if others have bought the product, you should too.

  • Business link; Free ‘thing’ first provides opportunity for positive brand establishment/loyalty as well as potential sale increase due to increase chance following through with request.
  • 6 main sources of social proof; Customers, Experts, Celebrities, Crowds, Friends, Certifications.
  • Opportunity; Social Shares. E.g. Twitter favourite and Facebook likes.

“Positive Social Proof is More Influential than Saving Money”


Decoy Effect

Describes one price point intentionally included to promote the most expensive option. The third expensive option seems reasonable compared to the decoy choice. Group of MIT students, majority of student’s chose Online and Print subscription for $125 rather than print for $125 and Online for $59. However, when decoy ($125 for Print) students opted for cheaper $59.

  • Middle option usually chosen by consumers therefore locating the decoy price as smallest/largest = smart.
  • Business link; Third option beneficial. Provided more choice closely linked.
  • Take Away; Decoy option provides motivation for more expensive option
  • Opportunity; Popcorn S $3, M $6.50, L $7. Website £400 (4), £800 (8),£1,000 (14).



Supply and demand, the rarer the opportunity the more valuable it becomes. Emphasize ‘WAS’ loads, now there’s few. Humans place larger value on scarce objects. (Want something can’t have). Limited availability rouses interest in a product (Wright et al, 2012). Being subject to scarcity reduces cognitive capacity, e.g. irritability and impossibility (Spencer, 2013).

  • “Hurry whilst stocks last”. “Exclusivity” – seasonal.
  • Business link; Rare opportunity, production of many products, advertisement of a few.
  • Take Away; Provides motivation for more option, due to rarity
  • Opportunity; Ticket Sales (E-tickets?) reminding few left? Any ‘object’ e.g. clothes, travel tickets. Timer countdown until it’s lost, volumes (stock),  price. (limited edition/exclusive range). Decoy.
  • Platform; E-Media, purchasing websites.



Numbers Numbers Numbers! First price received aids decision base and how much it’s worth. $50 anchor, $30 seems like a bargain, but if others had anchored $20 then not as impressive. Showing competitors prices, anchor on the most expensive. ‘Cheap’ and ‘Expensive’ all relative. Provide LOTS more features for slight increase in price, similar to decoy. Price model affects willingness to pay (Park, MacLachlan & Love, 2011)

  • Random higher numbers e.g. queue number in store like Argos, lead individuals to be willing to pay more.
  • Business link; Provide different versions of core prices.
  • Take Away; Motivation for purchase due to comparison with ‘Anchor’
  • Opportunity; Sales. Displaying original price/competitors prices
  • Platform; E-Media, purchasing websites.


The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

Encounter something for the first time then see it everywhere. (Frequency Illusion), unconscious selective attention. Then increased frequency relates to mere exposure (Zajonc, 00). It’s a ‘cognitive bias’, supposed ‘coincidence’ actually increase in selective attention for word, object or principle

  • Business link; Provide multiple exposure to product, to provide opportunity for frequency illusion, needs to be readily advertised to provide opportunity.
  • Take Away; Frequency crucial.
  • Opportunity; sell story. Engaging, enticing, pleasing.


Loss Aversion

Don’t like to lose something we already have. Only trade for something better. ‘Losses are twice being powerful, psychologically, as gains’ (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). Offer expired causes cognitive dissonance. Links to Maslow’s Heirarchy ‘Esteem’ due to loss

  • “Premium Listing”. Large amount of risk aversive behaviour. Gains Vs Losses.
  • Price comparison, up selling and gaining something from buying e.g. Quidco.
  • Business Link; Only improve, if start small.
  • Take Away; Frequency crucial.
  • Opportunity; Start with small trial, if period expires then will get full version as don’t want to lose. Product in online basket – Timer countdown until it’s lost. Reputation.
  • Platform; Apps, Software.


Foot-in-the-Door Technique

Asking for a small task/yes then subsequently asking for a larger favour more likely to do it. Instead of asking to buy product immediately, set up 15 min call. Relates to successive approximation – series of positive reinforcements (rewards) lead to desired end goal (sale). Idea of starting small, asking for a small favour first, reaping benefit of larger task later.

  • Business Link; Only improve, if start small.
  • Take Away; Frequency crucial.
  • Opportunity; e.g. when shopping demo make up, can I try this? Already enticed. Free online competitor’s information to solicitors, then sell media opportunities ultimately.


Environment Effect

Purchasing behaviour and decisions influences by subtle environmental cues. Buying in environment would be using in. Warmer temperatures activate positive emotions

  • Business Link; Create environment in which product would be used in. Buy office stationary etc when at work?
  • Opportunity; buying sofas in comfy settings, TV/Coffee Table. Day timing. Virtual reality.


Expected Vs Surprise rewards

Expected rewards decrease motivation (to buy products), whereas surprise rewards increase motivation by 15-20% (Lepper & Greene, 2015). The brain’s pleasure centers (nucleus accumbens) react more strongly to unexpected pleasure surprise versus expected ones. Surprise gifts also increase positive reviews, increasing brand reputation. ‘Surprise and Delight’. 67% of customers found surprise gifts to be very important to brand loyalty, found digital agency ‘Citrus’ in 2013.

  • Business Link; Engagement with consumers, whilst over delivering
  • Opportunity; Provide coupons randomly, unexpected perks? Over delivering advertising campaigns/services/products/after sales. Free upscale demo’s. Surprise bulb with lamp. Servicing voucher 3 months after buying car.
  • Platform; Print through letters/emails



Limited short term memory capacity, therefore crucial information e.g. headlines need to be catchy. Group things into categories, then can remember more about products? Business? Cluster/Group is more similar. Goal = increase memory retention

  • Business Link; usefulness of market segmentation and categorization.
  • Take Away; calibrating marketing mix to target consumer group (categorization)
  • Opportunity; Lay out website in clusters/categories. E.g. clothes shopping websites into male and female. Then garment type.
  • Platform; web


Verbatim Effect

Remembering gist over verbatim. Article titles and banners need to be perfected. Most likely to remember first/last information presented, therefore opening and closing statements crucial. Content headline > Content itself. To-the-point text to be associated with the brand.

Bigger picture Vs detail whilst using “Relevant headlines”.

  • Take Away; Headlines are crucial, need to be specific/direct, in order to keep/attract target audience. Memorable.
  • Opportunity; slogan/tag line memorable/unique.
  • Platform; Any webpage/brand site or social media.



Wright, S., Costa Hernandez, J. M., Dinsmore, J., Sundar,, A., & Kardes,, F. (2012). Effects of Set Size, Scarcity, Packaging, and Taste on the Marketing Placebo Effect. Advances in Consumer Research,40(91), 9th ser.


Pervan, S. J., Bove, L. L., & Johnson, L. W. (2009). Reciprocity as a key stabilizing norm of interpersonal marketing relationships: Scale development and validation. Industrial Marketing Management,38(1), 60-70. doi:10.1016/j.indmarman.2007.11.001

Gouldner, A. W. 1960. “The Norm of Reciprocity: A Preliminary Statement.” American Sociological Review 25 (2): 161–178.

Spencer, N. (2013). When scarcity strikes: How it affects the rich and the poor. Retrieved December 14, 2016, from

Park, J. H., Maclachlan, D. L., & Love, E. (2011). New product pricing strategy under customer asymmetric anchoring. International Journal of Research in Marketing,28(4), 309-318. doi:10.1016/j.ijresmar.2011.04.003

Zajonc, R. (2001). Mere Exposure: A Gateway to the Subliminal. Current Directions in Psychological Science,10(6), 224-228. doi:10.1111/1467-8721.00154

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk. Econometrica,47(2), 263. doi:10.2307/1914185

The Hidden Costs of Reward New Perspectives on the Psychology of Human Motivation. (2015). Psychology Pr.

Francesca Pavis

Francesca is a dedicated and hardworking digital marketing expert, with strong interpersonal skills and an exemplary record, both academically and professionally. Currently, as a digital marketing, she co-ordinates, implements and delivers a range of digital marketing activity whilst writing on a freelance basis for Technical Writers.

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