Thursday, July 28, 2016

Like Attracts Like: SEO and the Power of Emotions

Like attracts like. This is the mantra of the Law of Attraction, a theory that equates thoughts and feelings with real world results. According to the Law of Attraction, positive thoughts engender positive results and negative results engender negative results.

Or in the words of Henry Ford, "Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way you are right."

If you Google "Law of Attraction," you will discover, beyond the Wikipedia pages, The Law of Attraction, which promotes tools and affirmations to help you "start living and thinking in a more optimistic way that is specifically designed to attract even more positive events and experiences."

You will also discover a wikiHow, "How to Use the Law of Attraction: 7 Steps (with Pictures)", which promotes the idea with watery pictures and simple instructions like "relax your mind" and "ask the universe for it."

Just below the wikiHow result, Oprah offers "The Law of Attraction - Real Life Stories," with reference to Louise Hay, the author, speaker, and soulful healer who offers optimistic quips like "It smooths your mind so the universe can work out the answer."

The way The Law of Attraction is presented--online and elsewhere; i.e. the film and book, The Secret--is bound to draw pessimism from science-minded folk.

The Wikipedia page offers a popular criticism: "Critics have asserted that the evidence provided is usually anecdotal and that, because of the self-selecting nature of the positive reports, as well as the subjective nature of any results, these reports are susceptible to confirmation bias and selection bias."

On the other hand, adherents suggest that the Law of Attraction can be explained with reference to quantum physics.

Whatever your view of The Law of Attraction, the real world effects of thinking, positive or negative, cannot be disputed. (Here's what The Mayo Clinic has to say about positive thinking). And we all know quite clearly from experience and science: emotion compels attraction.

"There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
- Shakespeare, Hamlet [Photo Source]
"Like attracts like" is also a good definition for organic SEO, which aims to attract a specific audience with specialized content aimed to ignite emotions.

This definition is contrary to the popular technocentric view of SEO, which too often regulates the practice to the realm of coding. Just yesterday, for example, Search Engine Watch published a post asking "How well do you know these 25 SEO abbreviations?"

"SEO, SEM, PPC, CTR, HTML, HTTP, IP… even for the most seasoned digital marketing professionals, the world of SEO can be a daunting, jargon-filled place," Christopher Ratcliff writes. "But all you need is a little time, some practice, a small amount of revising, and before you know it you’ll be firing off terms like CSS, SSL and CPC with absolute confidence."

Of course, an understanding of SEO terminology is invaluable for navigating the community and learning the best of what the community can offer. Yet for an online marketer understanding the jargon, and the practices behind the jargon, is secondary to the work of creating emotional connections to human beings.

Writing for The Harvard Business Review, Kelsey Libert and Kristin Tynski reviewed 30 of the top 100 images from "to understand the best emotional drivers" of viral content:

  1. Negative emotions were less commonly found in highly viral content than positive emotions, but viral success was still possible when negative emotion also evoked anticipation and surprise.
  2. Certain specific emotions were extremely common in highly viral content: curiosity, amazement, interest, astonishment, uncertainty
  3. The emotion of admiration was very commonly found in highly shared content.
When thinking about your brand's SEO, then, follow the advice of Libert and Tynski: "Think carefully about how your company, product or service is related to a topic or topics that taps into deep-seated human emotions within your target demographic."

Ask yourself: Who am I trying to attract? What sort of emotion do I want my customers to feel when thinking about my brand? Likely, your answer will be, simply, "a positive emotion," though you could also shoot for curiosity, amazement, interest, or astonishment. The key is to make sure that your content embodies those emotions.

Make your target audience feel good--or amazed; or whatever--and your target audience will return the favor.

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