Reason Based SEO: The Way to Future-Proof Your Online Growth

I’m sure you’ll agree, SEO can be hard. 

With the constant algorithm changes, technical requirements and changes to the SERP structure, SEO seems like a battle people can’t win.

But what if there was another way to do SEO? 

One that not only maximised all of your marketing techniques.

But also made the cost of acquiring new visitors far less. 

Well, there is. It’s called Reason Based SEO. And in this article you’ll discover:

  • What Reason Based SEO is, and why it matters;

  • The 4-step framework to RB SEO success; and

  • Six examples of websites currently using Reason Based SEO.

Let’s dive in.

Why Current SEO Methodology is Not Fit For Purpose

The current SEO methodology used by most is simply to acquire new visitors.

And while we might spice this up with words such as ‘targeted traffic’ or ‘business relevant visitor’. That’s all they are. 

People who had a question that they entered into Google and up popped your site with the answer.

It’s during this visit that a few things happen. 

Firstly, we hope that they see your great content and start to search further within the site. Maybe they purchase there and then, or maybe they sign up to your email list or follow you on social media.

And that’s pretty much it.

If they go and haven’t taken any of our desired actions, we’ve probably lost them. Unless we show up when they search again.

Google refers to this as the ‘Messy Middle’.

This is the process that happens in search today.

It looks like this.

  1. Trigger: Something triggers you to search online. 

  2. Exploration: This is where you search to learn more about something.

  3. Evaluation: The process of comparing your potential choices with each other.

  4. Purchase: The point where you decide to buy based on the above.

In a world with an abundance of information, this search is messy.

For example, let’s say you want to go on holiday.

First, you search for holidays in Jamaica.

You’ll find prices, flight destinations, etc., and then you’ll probably go searching for ‘things to do in Jamaica’, ‘Is Jamaica a great place for kids’, ‘Is Jamaica safe’ and so on.

And finally, if you’re happy you might then look for the best hotels, the best locations to stay and more.

All of this happens prior to purchase.

And if you’re not happy or change your mind about going to Jamaica, the loop starts all over again. 

The problem for any business is that you’re spending a fortune to acquire these visitors via SEO and then retargeting them across the internet (and now TV ads)  in the hope that they come back and buy from you.

It’s a messy, expensive and, of course, leaky process.

This is where Reason Based SEO comes in.

What Is Reason Based SEO?

Reason Based SEO is all about giving people a reason to come back to your site.

This is hardly a huge breakthrough in thinking, but surprisingly it’s not considered by many sites.

Reason Based SEO revolves around BIG Idea marketing.

Having a BIG idea with your marketing is nothing new, and many companies have a big idea around their brand.

But their website rarely reflects this. And it can’t. 

If your big idea is to create an edgy sports brand for female footballers. You can create a website that matches the brand identity and ethos, you can create content and get ranked for keywords that allow your site to be discovered (standard SEO).

But how do you get them to come back of their own accord?

How do you get them to search for you and not find you through search queries?

This ethos is at the heart of Reason Based SEO.

You must find your big SEO Reason.

The reason that keeps them coming back to your site, without you spending money to make them.

And the reasons to return must always be larger and more compelling than why they searched for you in the first place.

Let me explain.

Someone might search online for “Garden Pond Ideas”.

They’ll expect to find a list of ideas for their garden pond, and yes, that’s what Google will serve up.

But why would they come back?

And this is the simple question you must answer.

“Our visitors will come back because…?”

And no, you can’t use stalking them online as an answer.

This is Reason Based SEO.

It’s your big SEO idea that will compel people to return without the need for money.

In essence, we want them to be obsessed with your site.

So how do you create a big SEO idea that will lie at the centre of your Reason Based SEO strategy?

Let’s see.

How To Get People Hooked To Your Website

Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked and advisor to countless companies on creating habit-forming products and services, has a process (the ‘hooked’ process) for ensuring people build habits.

It’s a 4-stage process:

First, there is a trigger, be that an external one such as an email or notification, or an internal one such as to relieve boredom you might open up a social media app.

Next comes the action. But this must be easy to do.

Then comes what is known as a variable reward. It is an unpredictable reward where people don’t know what is coming. It’s unexpected.

And finally comes the investment stage. 

This is where they have to put a bit of work in, such as uploading photos or even physical work. The more work they put in, the more invested they are.

When it comes to building a habit-forming website, we need to use the same approach but look at the process of acquiring customers in a different way.

The Four Core Aspects of Reason Based SEO

In Reason Based SEO, we have four core aspects that must be considered.

1 Customer-Focused Keywords

The first is that we acquire visitors through customer-focused keywords. If they want ideas for their garden, this is what we need to serve them up.

2 High-Quality User Experience

You need the site to load fast, be free of clutter and make it easy to navigate.

3. Conversion Optimisation


You must make the buying or subscribing process easy, efficient and free from friction.

4. Variable Reward Content


This is the part that almost all sites engaged in SEO forget. To create unexpected content. Something that will keep the visitor returning.

Variable Reward Content: What It Is and Why You Need It

When people undertake an SEO contract as an agency, all they usually care about is being found online.

More rankings for more keywords.

The problem is, this often leads to a very flat content experience.

Currently, there are websites that I never read anymore that I used to be obsessed with.

These are blogs that have great content that is well written. But simply put, it’s content that is written to acquire customers via search engines.

And as we said earlier it’s content created for the messy middle. The exploration and the evaluation stage of search.

And that’s fine.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that Google wants this. They (possibly) want your user to click the back button, to search again where they might click on an advert.

And so, you need to give them that reason to come back of their own accord.

The solution is to offer variable reward content.

So what is it?

It’s unexpected content.

Let me explain.

Here’s the list of the latest posts by the Ahrefs blog.

I’m a customer of Ahrefs, I love their product, but it’s not content for me. Its content is designed to rank in search engines and to expose its product to new people.

This is expected content. I would find this content with a Google search.

Whereas this is Rand Fishkin’s latest post on his SparkToro blog.

Do you see the difference?

One is educational. While the other is insightful, intriguing and unexpected.

Ahrefs probably don’t need me to come back to their blog anymore. I’ve been a paying customer for years.

Whereas I’m not a paying customer for SparkToro...yet.

However, I am enrolled and I actually search for his blog.

Rand doesn’t have to pay a penny more to acquire me, I’m acquired. I know about his product, I just haven’t had a client-based use for it yet. I have tried it and tested it. And when I need it for my own use or for clients, I’ll buy it.

And until then I’ll keep reading the Spark Toro blog.

That’s the power of unexpected content. 

But in case we aren’t clear, here’s how powerful it is:

  • It attracts new readers with intellectually stimulating content.

  • It reactivates old customers.

  • It provides a way to be searched for, rather than found by search.

  • It costs little to produce.

  • It gets people to come back for more.

So how do you provide unexpected content that provides a variable reward?

Here are a few options.



Can you provide a weekly digest of the best money-saving deals in your niche?

Can you curate a list of the top Instagram posts in your niche every week?

Insight and Opinion


People like insight and opinions from specialists. Do you want to share yours via a weekly newsletter?



Can you give people a list of ideas for their home, their health, their garden, things to do with their kids each week?

There are lots of ways to create variable content that people would come back for.

But let’s look at some real-world examples.

Some Great Examples of Variable Reward Content 

1. Exploding Topics

Every Tuesday I get an email from Exploding Topics. It’s called Exploding Topics Tuesday. It's a curated list of the new trends that are bursting onto the scene.

The email serves as a trigger for me to go to the site, but I’ll be honest I look forward to the emails and open up the majority of them. Not that it matters, because I actually go to the site of my own accord.

They don’t need to pay for me.

2. Starter Story

I’m a customer of Starter Story now, but that’s because they are using a Reason Based SEO model.

First I found them through a search query, and then I subscribed to their newsletter because of this one line.

They promised to send me an email packed with valuable tips and lessons from successful founders each week.

It wasn’t long before I became a subscriber.

Again, at no ad cost.

3. Inside BE

Full disclosure, I write for Inside BE, but I am still a paying customer.

I go to their site each weekend because I pay (I am invested) and they provide me with new content all the time.

This is variable reward content.

I never know what I’ll find and learn. 

4. James Clear

James Clear has built an email newsletter list of over 1 million people within a few years.

I signed up because he told me he would send me variable content. 3 short ideas from him, 2 quotes from others and 1 question for me to ponder. As a result, I become invested in the content because it gets my brain working.

5. Farnham Street

Farnham Street shares timeless insights and ideas you can use at work and home every Sunday. The decision to sign up was easy, because I love having these sent to me.

And I also go to the site myself to read all of the past content.

6. Marketing Examples

Harry Dry built a huge email list in a short time by providing a weekly round-up of the best marketing ideas on the planet.

As you can see, it’s variable content that is getting people to come back for more.

Creating Your Reason Based SEO Approach

So you're probably thinking ‘great, but how do I do this?’

You must commit to two types of content creation.

Search based content (where you’ll be found online)


Variable reward content (which gets people coming back for more).

When you start to do this, you can build your big SEO idea.

Our visitors will come back because…

“We provide content that answers their questions and also provides them with inspiration”.

“We will help them to succeed with their goals through insider tips”

“We will provide a weekly list of discounted flights that help them travel across the planet at the cheapest rates”

The list of reasons why they will come back is endless. You just need to give them a compelling reason. 


Too often as SEO’s, we worry about simply gaining visitors, but we need a content strategy that ensures they keep coming back.

By adding a reason that will keep the visitors hooked on your website, you’ll likely reduce your customer acquisition costs, grow your subscribers and have people searching directly for you.

In short, create content that people don’t expect, and not only because the keyword tools tell you that it’s what your audience searches for.

The key to building a habit-forming website is to create content that your audience couldn’t search for.

And then they’ll search for you.

Andrew Holland

posted September 14, 2021

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