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Squeeze More Out of Your No. 1 Results Rank

Many SEOs focus all their efforts on getting a No. 1 ranking, and then, having achieved that coveted position, they move on to other keywords. Little do they realize that they’re leaving potential traffic on the table — even with the top rank — if they don’t optimize their listing for higher click-throughs.

There’s a technique I like to call fascination-based SEO. It’s all about how certain messaging affects people’s emotions and desires. The stronger your messaging affects these fascinating triggers, the more likely it is that people will act. The triggers are lust, trust, alarm, mystique, vice, prestige and power.

How the Triggers Are — Or Aren’t — Being Used

Lust – The allure of sensory fulfillment. Great restaurants do a great job of triggering lust with their menu. You never see just “chicken.” It’s always, “farm-fresh, free-range rotisserie chicken marinated in a sweet BBQ glaze.”

Here is a great example of Toshiba adding lust to their listing:

You might think the phase “Excite your senses” is the lust trigger, but look again at the meta description: “Close your eyes and picture your dream machine…”

Toshiba is asking you to imagine the excitement and stimulation of seeing your fantasy computer. Maybe that doesn’t do much for you, but if you are gamer nerd who gets sweaty palms thinking about video cards and motherboards, you will click on that link.

Let’s see how Apple fares with their product listing….

Apple makes some of the most lusted-after products in the world, yet they hit us with “Apple – Mac”? Obviously Apple’s marketing department doesn’t consider the results page to be important enough to bother with an actual marketing message. Shame on them.

Trust – Assurance that a promise will be kept. Anytime you see a satisfaction guarantee or third-party validation, such as the Better Business Bureau, that is trust at work.

Let’s see how the trust trigger is used in banking.

Of course we would expect banks to focus on trust. What I especially like about Skagit State Bank’s listing is the word, “Secure” in the title, along with the reinforcing “safely and securely.” To make it even stronger, they combine trust with “control” by emphasizing “Bank at your convenience….” Add to that “freedom” with “Access your personal account….” Nice job, Skagit State Bank.

How does Skagit State Bank ladder up to the leader in online banking?

While Bank of America has the No. 1 listing for online banking they’ve missed some big opportunities for higher click-throughs.

There is a call to action: “Enroll Today,” but there isn’t enough of a consequence to trigger “alarm” (more on alarm in a moment). In the description, they go push control with “Freedom to manage your account from anywhere,” which is fine, but they could have made an even more compelling message had they combined the notion of control with the trust trigger.

Vice – The excitement of doing something that others would disapprove of if they found out. The quintessential example is the tale of the Garden of Eden. Free to eat from any tree in the garden but one, Eve desired most to eat the forbidden fruit.

Let’s look at vice at work.

OK, the title tag has some heavy optimization going on, but ignore that for a second and look at the description. “…long nights doing those things you should only do in…” and “If someone ends up in jail, don’t tell the wives or girlfriends.” If that isn’t vice, I’m not sure what is.

And on the losing side:

Can you believe that doesn’t know how to use vice in marketing? Weird, right?

Alarm – When an alarm goes off, you don’t have time to ask questions, you just act. It works because there are consequences when you don’t respond fast. In marketing, we use expiration dates and quantity limits to manufacture urgency.

Check out this listing:

I can guarantee that the targeted women who viewed this listing March 31 had their credit card in hand before the page finished loading. It probably doesn’t matter what shoes are on sale. The fact that there is a sale on shoes, and it’s one day only, well, that is all they need to know.

Prestige – Exclusivity and a feeling of superiority. Check out how the U.S. Air Force uses prestige in results to bolster recruitment.

The Air Force does a nice job of honing the desire to be special, elite, superior and to have things that others covet, like the beret. It reminds me of the U.S. Marine Corp slogan, “The Few. The Proud. The Marines.” What a great job working the prestige trigger.

What about the U.S. Army?

I’m not even going to touch the, “Army.” It’s confusing on several levels. Anyway, yes there is value in “excellent training for exciting jobs,” but it’s not evoking an emotional response, which means there isn’t much of an urge to click. A much better listing would read, “The Strongest. The Best. The U.S. Army.” Of course I have left plenty of room for keywords, but the idea is to make people want to join the army because others will think higher of them if they do.

Power – The ability to dominate, influence or deal out a reward or punishment.

Anything catch your attention? I think “Be Your Own Boss!” is pretty strong. The power trigger is all about enabling visitors to take control of themselves and their environment.

Mystique – A strong curiosity that begs for an answer.

Look at how Dave Naylor nails mystique with this title tag:

You read that question in the title and think, “No, that can’t be right … can it?” Then all of a sudden you need to know if Matt is condoning paid links. The curiosity will get you every time. Why do you think top-10 lists work so well?

How can you test Fascination-based SEO?

I thought I would put test fascination-based SEO to the test. To figure out what trigger I should use for this post’s headline, I wrote a quick post on my personal blog explaining that I was running an A/B headline test. I crafted two headlines:

Headline A: “SEO Test Results Prove You Can Indeed FORCE People to Click on Your Listing”

Headline B: “As an SEO with 9 yrs of experience – Here is my most effective CTR Trick”

Headline A is using a combination of trust and power. The power is giving search marketers the ability to force people to act. Trust is hinted at with “Test Results Prove….”

Headline B uses both trust and vice. Trust is played up when I talk about “9 years of SEO experience” and vice comes into play with the “trick” at the end.

Now, I could have said, tip, but trick sounded sneakier, and I know that we search marketers have a little gray hat in us.

I wrote two tweets using the headlines and sent them back to back to my twitter following. Using links, I tracked the performance of both.

The Results:

The two headlines were retweeted a total of 15 times. Headline A received 30 clicks (, headline B received 58 (

I know the sample data is too small to pass for scientific research, but I feel pretty confident that if I used headline B for this blog post, it would get plenty more action than would A.

I’m also confident that a No. 1 listing for headline B would drive significantly more traffic than a No. 1 listing for headline A, and that is really what we are trying to do – optimize click-through rates for No. 1 listings using fascination triggers.

I hope you enjoyed the post.

Category SEO
Daniel Cristo Catalyst

Dan Cristo is the director of SEO Innovation at Catalyst Search Marketing, a thought leader in the organic, paid and ...

Squeeze More Out of Your No. 1 Results Rank

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