You know what grokking is, right? Grok is a term that Robert A. Heinlein used in his sci-fi classic, "Stranger in a Strange Land." For you non-sci-fi types, it means to really understand something so well that it becomes part of you, or vice versa. Here’s what Heinlein wrote:
“Grok means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes a part of the observed — to merge, blend, intermarry, lose identity in group experience.”
- Robert A. Heinlein via Wikipedia/Grok
An example would be driving. After you’ve done it for a long time, you don’t think about every little move you make to control the car consciously so much as the car has become part of you. You really GET it.
So, let’s talk about grokking human emotion and how it can help not only your marketing, but also your SEO. It’s very important to really GET what this deep understanding can do, hence my use of the word "grok."
If you want to succeed, you need to feel what your audience feels and know how to emotionally control them — to persuade them to take the actions you want them to take. Isn’t that what marketing is about?
We’re Not Robots
Emotions make us human. Without them, we’d be nothing but a bunch of organic robots walking around.
Think Data from "Star Trek the Next Generation," who wanted to experience emotion so badly that he had a special chip created to allow him to feel. Before the chip, Data wasn’t human. Nothing made him laugh. Nothing surprised him. After the chip, he was a pale specter of a human being, but he was closer to being human (which was his #1 desire) than ever before.
Emotions relate to our souls.
Wait… You said, Emotion can boost our SEO. Stop with the philosophy! OK, I’m getting to that. Right now you may be experiencing anticipation, which means it’s all good.
How Emotion Works for SEO
So, emotions ‘R Us, and though SEO is about search engine behaviors and how we can best present ourselves, our sites, and our content to get the best placement and the most traffic from search, content is once again the cornerstone of SEO. Actually, it always was, but many SEOs were busy trying to game the system and left creating quality, sharable content for another time. This is that “other” time, and understanding how emotion works is the path back to glory.
And because content is again at the vanguard of SEO, you should always consider the emotions your readers will feel when they read or watch your stuff. Will they experience joy, fear, sadness, etc.? Will they be inspired because they learn something new and feel optimism in knowing how to do something better? Or, will they be outraged and experience deep anger? What words are you using to elicit the responses you desire?
According to Robert Plutchik's "Wheel of Emotions," he opined that there are basic emotions — joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and anticipation — and that each of those has a degree of intensity.
For example, fear is intensified as terror. (Notice the darker green), and diminished as apprehension, which is less intense than fear. (Notice the lighter green.) Notice, too, how these emotions relate to one another (for example, sadness is the opposite of joy). We experience emotions at varying levels, making us a big ball of human mess.
Again, you ask: “How does this all relate to marketing and SEO?”
Here’s a perfect example:
What makes a bit of content go viral? How do people decide that the image, video, slideshow or article/blog post is something they want to share? If we better understand emotion, we’re better equipped to prepare content to elicit emotion, and when something is well-received by the online public, guess what? It helps with your overall SEO.
You’re not only accepted, but people are eager to pass your wisdom around! If other people are telling their friends and the friends are telling their friends and so on, it will boost your authority and your standing with search engines pretty quickly, too. You prove that you have content of worth and therefore anything you do online must have value.
How to Create Viral Content
Not every piece of content you put out there will go viral, that’s for certain. But how can you create every piece of content with your reader in mind so that it might? How can you make folks so excited that they are downright eager to share what you create?
First, think about what makes you share the things you do. Everyone likes funny, so injecting humor is always good. Still, that’s really difficult for most of us. If you’re going to use humor, make sure what you create really is funny. Show it to a few people and judge their reactions. If you get a smile, you’re in the ballpark. If you get a total laugh, you’re probably good to go. Happiness is the #1 reason why we decide to share.
Another good sharing emotion is surprise. If you’re watching a video wherein small children are dancing so well, they’re better than most adults, the surprise is share-worthy. That kind of surprise is linked to joy.
But you can also use surprise to elicit empathy, disgust or even horror, right? Check out this video by Graffiti Kings to see what I mean (Trigger warning: the subject matter deals with sexual assault).
That video had 117,481 likes and 391,246 shares at the time of this writing, and the man in the video doesn’t even say a single word. Everything is done on written cards, but it’s the story and his situation that really pulls on your heart strings.
Other emotions that can make content viral are curiosity, amazement, astonishment or uncertainty. In every one of those, there has to be an important question.
Will the free running folks fall off a building? We hope not, but why do you think we watch that stuff? In the back of your mind, you’re thinking, “Wow! That’s really awesome, I hope they don’t fall off.”
Am I right?
Amazement fits when you see a 5-year-old singing the "Star Spangled Banner" like a boss or a magician pull off a crazy move. And it’s also uncertainty — will he or won’t he? Goes back to the free running stuff, too, eh?
Try to remember these things when creating content that you want people to share. Judge how what you’ve done makes you feel, and if you can’t be objective, get other people involved. That’s usually a good idea. None of us is a proper judge when it comes to our own stuff.
The Bottom Line
If you want to create content that people share, you have to study human emotion. How should they feel when they read, watch, or study your stuff? Have you accomplished that with your work? If not, what changes can be made that will elicit the proper response?
The best thing to do is make people laugh. We know that. In lieu of that, amaze them, shock them or just make them smile at something adorable. Your content can be simple, like an image with or without a caption or something complex that you’ve crafted to make an impact. Either way, getting social approval (which also provides social proof) is smart.
Improve your online authority… Make your content bring out emotion in the folks that see/read/hear it and you will. Search engines notice. Authorship might have gone away, but Author Rank probably hasn’t. The days of spewing out the same old stuff have passed.
Create worthwhile content, content that people want to share. Not only will you build your online reputation, but you’ll do much better in search, too.
Image credit: Wikipedia Commons