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May 22, 2019 BY Patrick Wicker, former Mighty Citizen UX Design & Content, Marketing

Wearing Your Heart on Your Search: How Emotions Drive Keywords

Quick! Match the search phrase to the emotion of the searcher:

“Cutest small dogs”Mad
“How to stop the patriarchy”Glad
“Identifying black mold”Sad
“Anthony Bourdain death”Afraid

The best salespeople know that emotions drive sales—and they can also drive how and what people search for on the internet.

Emotions Drive Action

Emotions are powerful stuff. As humans, we feel first and think second. After all, “the emotional section of the brain process[es] information in one-fifth of the time the cognitive section requires.”*

Google’s top searches for 2018 show us that people search for what they love, what they fear, and what they fear they’ve lost.


  1. World Cup
  2. Hurricane Florence
  3. Mac Miller
  4. Kate Spade
  5. Anthony Bourdain

While the search terms themselves are dry, they reflect the excitement, fear, and sadness that the searchers felt.

Anticipating what your audience might be feeling can help you predict likely search areas, so you can meet their needs with targeted content.

Focus on what your audience loves.

Most searchers for “pizza restaurants near me” probably like pizza, and most searchers for “Coldplay albums” probably like Coldplay, but it can be difficult to detect enjoyment and other positive emotions in search. That said, don’t be afraid to go for the joy your organization brings. A pizza restaurant known for their anchovy pie might create a whole page devoted to it to attract local pizza fans who have heard of it. A retirement home for seniors that wants to show off the ways they create a better experience for their residents might create a page about the ways that people have decorated their mobility devices.

Focus on what your audience fears.

An identity theft protection company might want to capture searchers who have been victims of identity theft. They could create a page titled “What To Do If Your Identity Is Stolen” to provide steps one could take after identity theft and also promote the company’s services to prevent future incidents.

Anticipating what your audience might be feeling can help you predict likely search areas, so you can meet their needs with targeted content.

Focus on what your audience is angry about.

An advocacy organization for people with disabilities could create a page talking about what they do for “Disability Rights.” They may also want to create a page about “Disability Discrimination” since these searchers could be more emotionally invested to influence change. This page could share examples of discrimination and steps to take if discrimination occurs, and include ways the organization is working to stop discrimination.

Focus on what your audience wants to change.

A nonprofit in Dallas that works to find housing for the homeless might create action-oriented, aspirational pages such as “How to End Homelessness in Dallas.” Even though, pragmatically, they know that their nonprofit might not be able to accomplish this alone, the page could attract searchers who want to invest in a vision.

For the same reason, a muscular dystrophy foundation could create a page about “Finding a Cure For Muscular Dystrophy.”

Using Search to Connect on Difficult Topics

There are instances when you might not want to include a particular topic on your main website because it could confuse typical visitors or disrupt your desired user flow. If you still want to reach people searching on these topics, you can create orphan landing pages that aren’t visible through the main website navigation. You can then use targeted Google Ads search advertising to drive traffic to these pages.

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In these cases, you only pay Google when someone in your targeted geographic area searches for your targeted keywords, clicks on your ad, and is directed to your landing page. Since you have a financial investment in this website traffic, make sure these kinds of pages have measurable calls-to-action in place.

Focus on what you can’t talk about on your public website.

Orphan pages are a great way to reach people searching on controversial or delicate topics. A research foundation for cystic fibrosis might not want to talk about “Cystic Fibrosis Life Expectancy” on their main site to prevent family members from making health decisions based on these figures. If they still want to reach people searching on this topic, ads targeting related keywords could be directed to an orphan landing page about this subject. Since people rarely donate immediately when they land on pages like these, the organization might consider including a newsletter signup form as the primary call-to-action so they can build an ongoing relationship.

Focus on what you DON’T want people to do.

You can also use orphan pages to redirect searchers and encourage them to take a different action. For example, a professional association for real estate agents might want the public to understand the value of using an agent. They could create pages about “How to Buy a Home Without a Realtor” and “How to Sell a Home Without a Realtor” to educate readers about the risks of going it alone. The call-to-action could then encourage readers to find a realtor in their area.

In the same way, a government agency responsible for child support could create a page about “How to Stop Child Support Payments” to educate and encourage parents to continue making child support payments. The call-to-action could simply be click-throughs to other pages that help parents stay up-to-date with child support payments.

Relevant Content Leads to Increased Engagement

Google has many pages to choose from when determining what to show for specific searches, so it’s critical to include plenty of relevant content on any new targeted pages you create if you want to rise in the rankings. And include clear calls-to-action on your targeted content pages—increased traffic doesn’t mean much if you don’t engage users once they get to your site.

Finally, free to call on our team here at Mighty Citizen if you need keyword research or content creation advice for your organization. We’ve got ideas, and we’re always here to help.

* Source: From the book How Cool Brands Stay Hot


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