High traffic, loyal readers, niche expertise, and high page rankings are just a few of the many goals of serious bloggers. But there are millions of blogs out there vying for attention. Most have better web designs and higher page rankings than yours. So obviously, if there was a way for you to stand out and be heard, you’d want to know about it.
Blogging may not be as precise of a science as writing landing pages and other forms of sales copy, but you may apply a few copywriting principles to the way you blog. Reading this post will help you understand why learning how to deliberately yet discreetly use psychological tactics can improve reader retention and convince people to read more of your blog posts and share them generously.
Although I’d love to take credit for what you’re about to read, most of these wonderful tips were inspired by the book, Web Copy that Sells by Maria Veloso, who I consider the Meryl Streep of copywriting. Practice using these psychological motivators wisely because they can give you a crucial advantage in this crowded blogosphere.
"Reason Why" Device
You’ve probably read about the "copy machine" experiment conducted by Ellen Langer, a Harvard social psychologist. A person asked people who were waiting their turn to use a copy machine if she could use it first. Here’s how it went:
"Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?" Response: 60% complied
"Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I’m in a rush?" Response: 94% complied
"Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have to make some copies?" Response: 93% complied
Note that a higher number of people complied whenever the word "because" pops up. The idea is that all you need is to give a reason, even if the reason doesn’t make sense at all. Why else would you be queueing up for a copy machine? Everyone is there to make copies!
How to use it:
Use "because" (or simply give your readers a reason) because it’ll help get their attention.
“Practice using these psychological motivators wisely because they can give you a crucial advantage in this crowded blogosphere."
Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP)
Veloso defines NLP as "the science of how the brain codes learning and experience." This approach takes advantage of the power of syntax to influence people’s thinking and behavior. Here are 3 NLP devices you can practice using in your blog posts:
1. Embedded commands
Embedded commands are designed to urge people to do something. At first glance, they look pretty bland, like:
"Blogging may not be as precise of an art as writing landing pages and other forms of sales copy, but you may apply copywriting principles to the way you blog."
How to use it:
Create a simple command, something you want your blog readers to do while or after they read your post. Embed the command in a sentence or within your call to action at the end of your blog post.
Presuppositions take advantage of the fact that our brains usually can’t handle too many tasks or information at once. When it receives too much, it copes by presupposing, that is, accepting suggestions as facts. Take this as an example:
"So obviously, if there was a simple way for you to stand out and be heard, you’d want to know about it."
Using the presuppositional word, "obviously," the sentence was met with less resistance and you easily accept the suggestion that "if there was a simple way for you to stand out and be heard, you’d want to know about it."
How to use it:
You can use phrases like "Everybody understands," "All people know that," or other similarly structured phrases to begin your sentences. While presuppositional words are pretty effective, most ) are adverbs (e.g. clearly, readily, easily, so use them sparingly and strategically.
3. Linguistic binds
Linguistic binds help convince your readers that what they’re reading is true. It uses embedded commands to make your message more powerful. Take a look at
"Reading this post thoroughly will help you understand why learning how to deliberately yet discreetly use psychological tactics can improve reader retention and convince people to read more of your blog posts and share them generously."
“Reading this post" is a fact followed by the embedded command "understand why learning how to deliberately yet discreetly use psychological tactics’¦"
The pattern appears logical because the fact at the beginning softens up people to agree with the statement that follows.
How to use it:
Linguistic Bind = FACT (what the reader is actually doing or have done) + COMMAND (what you want your reader to do next or to take away from what you wrote)
3. Zeigarnik Effect
The Zeigarnik effect was named after Bluma Zeigarnik, who theorized that people are more likely to think about uncompleted or interrupted tasks than completed ones. You can take advantage of this device in 2 ways:
- Get rid of any unnecessary links, buttons, and banners on your blog so that your blog visitors can focus on reading your posts. These distractions can become "tasks" that your readers need to complete even before they start reading any of your blog posts. Choose a simple, minimalistic design and use a lot of white space.
- Write list posts wisely.
The Buffer blog’s interesting article on to-do lists highlights how people can’t resist the urge to make lists (and cross items off them). This could be the very reason why list posts are so popular: readers have to finish the list!
A Word of Caution
Not all copywriting principles are applicable to blogging. In fact, many of them could work against the goals of blogging. But the Zeigarnik effect, neurolinguistic programming, and the "reason why" device are three psychological motivators that can help you weave a more convincing blog post. These methods are so powerful that using them requires great responsibility.
So keep the following in mind when you’re using these tactics:
- Be responsible and only use them to strengthen what you have to say.
- You need practice to get it right.
- These devices will only be effective when you give value, not false promises.
- Your writing voice is essential. Relying simply on psychological motivators but not working proactively on honing your writing voice will not help you grow.
Do you use any psychological devices in your blog posts? Can you spot other psychological motivators littered throughout this post? Share them when you comment below.