Skip to content

Psychology: Another Important Factor for SEO

psychology another important factor for seo

In my recent post, “What the fuck is SEO, anyway?” I talked about how SEO is technical and psychological. Today I’d like to take a closer look at the psychology of SEO, and why it’s important for companies to keep in mind.

To successfully improve the SEO of any site, you have to analyze whether you’re offering a good or bad user experience, and be able to make changes if it’s the latter. The page design itself needs to appeal to how humans think, and be easy to understand. If a user arrives at your site and it’s not easy to understand, they will go away. Fast. Once you get users to your site, you need them to stick around long enough to buy something, or at least learn enough to enter the marketing funnel.

Here are four things to keep in mind when considering the psychology of SEO:

Website Page Speed

I decided to start with speed because it’s very important. If your website is too slow, people will leave before they even see your content. There are some interesting numbers to back this up: if a website takes more than three seconds to load, users get frustrated and go find another website. The optimal loading time for any website is 1.5 seconds, particularly on mobile devices when user intent is more immediate. On desktop you have a little more wiggle room and 2 seconds is OK. But never, ever more than 3 seconds, or else you risk missing the opportunity for that customer! The most common issue that slows down page speed is images that are not compressed or sized correctly. JavaScript server issues are also common. I recommend using Google PageSpeed Insights to check how fast (or slow) your site is working.

Understanding The User’s Intent / Psychology

Misleading a user can have disastrous effects for your sites page rankings. Let’s say, for example, that a user searches for “best things to do in California” and clicks on a page called “Top 10 things to do in California,” but the page turns out to just be advertising hotels. The user will leave immediately because they weren’t looking for hotels. That’s what we call a bounce; Google will recognize that and it will negatively impact a site’s search ranking. We can avoid this by understanding what the user wants and needs, and then making sure your site’s content delivers information that is actually useful.

Navigation: Making it Easy!

The Internet is mature enough now that people expect to be able to use sites in specific ways. On any website people expect to find three, maybe four links:

  1. Home
  2. About
  3. Contact
  4. Blog

In order to satisfy users and help meet their needs, you want to have those basic buttons, and make them easy to find. Recently, I advised a client with a niche travel service to move their blog button from the bottom of the page to the main navigation toolbar at the top. If you are selling something that people want to learn about before they buy, having your blog button in an easy-to-find location will prevent frustration of the user and keep them on your site longer.

Sometimes you’ll find the navigation bar at the left or right side of the site, and psychology impacts this, too: typically you’ll win more clicks or conversions if you have the navigation on the right side. This is because most people are right-handed, and read left-to-right. This causes the eyes to gravitate towards the right.

Color & Size

Traffic Light Colors Representing Psychology

Understanding the psychology of Internet use can have big results in surprisingly simple ways. For example, if you see a button that says “click here to get …” the color and size of the button can influence whether or not you click it. With buttons, bigger is better and color can actually play a strong role if you want a user to take an action. After all, green means “go” and red means “stop.” A lot of people think that red is the way to go because that color really pops off the screen, but if you look at the psychology of color, green, yellow and orange are all more likely to elicit clicks.

Salesforce, the leading CRM platform, has performed some experiments with button sizes and found interesting results. The bigger the button, the more response it gets, whatever the call to action is. I recommend that clients let me do experiments on different sizes, colors and fonts texts to see what gets the best response from users.

To me, one of the most interesting things about SEO is that it’s psychological and technical. I specialize in the technical side of SEO, but I still embrace the psychological elements listed above – it’s very important for building a strong site and securing a strong page ranking. If you’d like to learn more about how I approach improving a client’s site, check out my post on “4 Key Things I Do for Companies”, or, better yet, drop me a line at