Organic vs. Paid Search: The Psychology of How to Make Your Advertising More Effective

Organic vs. Paid Search: The Psychology of How to Make Your Advertising More Effective

Last updated on by Twila Liggitt in AdWords Advertising, Marketing Agency Tips


Consumers have always been a fickle bunch. From the crowded marketplaces of centuries past to the crowded digital landscape of today, catching a prospect’s eye has long been the holy grail for advertisers. Although the nature of the environment has changed over the years, the aim for advertisers and businesses remains the same: to catch the attention of the customer, engage them, and convert to sales.

Given the endless digital channels, limited budgets, and wary consumers that are inundated from all directions by online ads, finding the most efficient and effective way to deliver a convertible message might seem daunting. As infuriating as it might be at times, effective advertising in the digital world is anything but impossible as long as the message engages and remains consistent and familiar throughout delivery.

A peek into the psychology of the typical consumer provides insight and, more importantly, hope to a digital advertiser that might be feeling overwhelmed. Hope is on the way.

The psychology of consumers

The most effective advertising leverages emotion, curiosity, anticipation, and familiarity within the consumer. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brick-and-mortar shopper or an online browser, consumers are drawn to advertising that strikes a chord within them. When you look at the results of the key effectiveness of the 2017 Super Bowl Ads, the likability is one of the top reasons:

organic vs paid search superbowl

Distinct voices rise above

In the online space, given the prevalence of banner, display, and search ads, an advertiser must distinguish their message and give it a voice to let it rise above the cacophony of the digital ad world. By infusing their ads with emotion and curiosity, the message can resonate with the audience, whether they’re conscious of the connection formed or not.

The unconscious connection can be the most powerful motivator for a potential customer to click on an ad. Human beings are products of their individual, personal histories, and experiences. As focused and accurate as organic search results might be, consumers will often still click an ad if some semblance of a connection was formed.

Interestingly enough, there are differences in how different messaging resonates depending on where the audience is. According to one Nielsen study, leveraging humor will likely resonate better with a Western audience whereas ads focused on health resonate more strongly in Latin America:
organic vs paid search geography

Taking into account the regional differences between the audience you are targeting is necessary to resonate with them emotionally and efficiently.

The science of emotion

The physiological explanation behind this unconscious connection is straightforward. When an ad strikes an emotion or memory within a consumer, an incredibly small amount of dopamine is released within the limbic systems of the brain. Since dopamine is the neurotransmitter that stimulates this pleasure center of the mind (the pink area of the brain below), a simple banner, display or search ad that speaks to the user will create an actual physical response.

The click.
organic vs paid search pleasure center

Since search results inherently lack the emotional, even visceral response of a compelling ad, that physiological response within consumers can lead them to favor the banner, display, or search ad if a connection is formed.

Of course, the difference in the ways a consumer responds to an ad compared to organic search results explains the specific psychology behind the concept of intent versus action.

A user likely has specific intent when they search online for a particular item or information. Although the organic search results are likely to be very close to what that user seeks, the power of emotional response and personal connection found in a neighboring ad, no matter how small, often trumps those focused search results.

organic vs paid search emotional response

The hot-hand fallacy and converting to sales

Building on the idea of a physical response to online ads, a single connection formed with a consumer can make it much easier to garner additional clicks from that consumer in the future. A concept called the hot-hand fallacy is chiefly responsible for this advertising-friendly behavior.

Similar to a gambler continuing to play a game after winning a single hand, despite knowing that the odds of winning again are very slim, consumers are also more likely to click ads in the future if they derived positive results just once before.

While a solitary, diminutive shot of dopamine might explain this fallacy, advertisers should take note that the connections formed within a consumer can endure over time. Furthermore, those relationships can be leveraged for additional clicks and higher ROI if that connection is carried further into the process.

Turning psychology into ROI

For advertisers, using ad spend to create clickable ads is the first crucial step. Whether it’s a banner, display, or search ad, the message should relay a story and form a connection of some sort. Bland, courier-face fonts against a mauve backdrop do little to foster that emotional response needed to engage meaningfully.

Speak to the heart of the target audience in an authentic manner to establish emotional connections that will garner the clicks, no matter how informative the organic results might be on the very same screen. If a picture says a thousand words, then a search ad can certainly do the same.

Once that initial hurdle is crossed, advertisers need to continue to foster the connection and emotional response throughout the sales funnel. If the same effort and diligence that was invested in establishing that first click is carried throughout the process, they are more likely to find the sales conversions and a higher ROI they crave.

Landing pages breed familiarity

Obviously, consumers are far more likely to click on an ad if they feel some connection with the message. For advertisers, however, migrating that sense of comfort and familiarity to a dedicated landing page is the next crucial step toward higher conversion rates.

If an ad links to a generic page that doesn’t extend the feeling that prompted the click in the first place, it is unlikely that click will result in a sale. The ad and the page it links to need to work in conjunction with each other to maximize results. If message match is nonexistent, all of those dopamine surges are all wasted. Message match is even stronger when you have a professionally designed landing page that continues the positive impression from the ad.

For more researched backed ways to boost your conversion rates, read this ebook.

landing page psychology ebook
Show Me the Marketing Psychology Guide