The Psychology of Content

by on December 1, 2010

The Psychology of Content

Click behavior, click triggers, logical impulses, common sense… it’s all part of the psychology of content. The amazing thing is how much actually goes into this psychology.

Words have more than just a dictionary meaning… They create imagery, emotion and most of all a connection. This is one of the lessons I intend to pound into you today (figuratively speaking, of course).

Words mean things. When you say, “guarantee”, for example, you’d better be prepared to back it up. For example, have you ever wondered why an online clothing outfit would have a disclaimer that “product colors may vary slightly from those shown online”? You can bet someone saw the word “orange” for a color and complained because they received a shirt that didn’t look orange to them.

Consider calls to action:

“Act” doesn’t offer the same feeling as “Act Now”. Simply by adding “now”, you give your call to action a sense of urgency. “Buy Now” isn’t as forceful either. It just doesn’t carry the same umph, the same power.

“Fill out this contact form below to get a free quote”… okay, it tells you what to do, but what about “Request a Quote Today!” with an arrow?

I can think of several examples, as I’m sure you can. Maybe they seem repetitive. Maybe you’re a creative individual and think you can do better than “Act Now”, and maybe you’re right. Before you go being creative, though, consider why words like these are used repeatedly by any number of companies. The simple answer is – because they work.

Why is Content Crafted, Not Written?

Copywriters like to use the word “crafted” when talking about content: “Well-crafted content”. Why can’t we simply say “well-written”?

Craft Your Content

Writing content is a craft. Part linguistics, part psychology, part marketing… a whole bunch of parts go into a single piece of content. The writer has to take all those parts and “craft” a clean, easy-to-read marketing tool. Of course, it could also have something to do with the fact that “crafted” sounds stronger than “wrote”…

In marketing, we study things such as click behavior; why do visitors click on Meta tag A instead of B or C? Why is it easier to find the shopping cart if it’s in the upper left hand corner than if it’s… well, any place else? What elements of a page can be considered “click-triggers”?

Millions of people use the Web. We search through links, scan headlines, jump from intriguing snippet to intriguing snippet, and find the best pricing on our every need. With the tons of choices out there, how do we decide which site to land on?

  • Sticky content
  • Attention grabbing, well-written headlines
  • Finely-crafted copy
  • Pleasant user experience

These sites manage to hit a sequence for the natural, logical buying impulse. We have a desire; these sites make fulfillment and conversion a natural progression rather than a forced, manipulated sale. We stay relaxed because our defenses (raised by feeling pushed) are never triggered; in turn, we stay longer, become more engaged and, eventually, convert or gather brand recognition.

Never Mind the Man Behind the Curtain

Never Mind the Man Behind the Curtain

Like the little man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, we often believe our visitors are impossible to pin down. How visitors navigate websites is the stuff of magic, smoke and mirrors or slight of hand. Because it very much looks like you have to learn how to read your visitors’ minds, many just shrug and guestimate… which is similar to ignoring the facts about visitors and using guesswork instead.

Strip back the curtain, people. Don’t ignore the visitor. You can learn how to write to your target market, reach out to them and lead them down your golden pathway to conversion. You have a singular moment unlike any other moment in your relationship with a potential customer. You’re at that one moment in time when you can persuade your visitor to convert using research, common sense and logical buying impulses.

Reinforce the concept you’re trying to get across with a visual aid. Share information they really want to know. Entertain them. Tailor your presentation; turn your website into a fitted Armani for your target audience; always, always, stick to the K.I.S.S. principle

The simpler you keep the information, the lower the chances of people surfing away. Likewise, with research, a wee bit of foresight, a sprinkling of continuity and a dollop of follow through, you’ll have a strong grasp on your target market’s psychology.

Finally, remember – your market may not think the same way another’s market thinks. Certainly, pay attention to how other successful websites have built their content, but never make the mistake of “copying” another site’s style. Learn, absorb and then apply your knowledge to that most fantastic of all markets – yours.



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jos June 16, 2013 at 12:06 am

Interesting… Using psychology in yours written txt you can manipulate the behavior of readers… Its the dream of publicist and marketing people!

I think its very important what you say about meeting your readers a learnig about their interests and what they are looking for… This is the secret of the successful writers.

Reply

Jennifer Graham July 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

Content, now more than ever, simply don’t just make a connection or create an image, it is also a vital way to drive traffic and establish a following–in cyberspace. The power of words now stimulates links and can create conversion–be it monetary or figuratively.

Reply

Cynthia Leighton June 20, 2011 at 8:30 am

Thank you! Glad to learn these points.

Reply

Luca Valente June 19, 2011 at 9:40 am

Great Post Gabrielala! You say: “words like these (Act Now, Request a Free Quote etc…) are used repeatedly by any number of companies… because they work.

Don’t you think that this is a limit to creativity? If you have to respect these rules you can’t ever change your copywriting…

Reply

Gabriella June 20, 2011 at 10:05 am

Ciao Luca, absolutely not. Creativity is the approach, based on the project. Words are just that – text. Sure, they invoke emotions and, at least in the US market, there’s een enough research on calls to action (CTAs) that I believe the results. That’s not to say you can’t come up with various CTAs, however. For example, if you’re discussing an event, you can use something like, “…let’s continue the conversation face-to-face” or “…are you coming to our workshop?” These can all be tied in nicely within your CTR (click through rate) benchmarks and analytics for tracking and testing… I hope that makes sense, e grazie Luca a presto

Reply

Paula June 17, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Love this! Few know that my marketing BS was followed by a minor in psychology. The term “heuristics” has been around a long time, yet it’s just coming into the bleeding edge of decision making. Guess what? It’s always been there. Thank you for writing on this under-appreciated element of marketing knowledge. General populus: There are plenty of us who really DO know what you will click, attend and buy. Just go wit it.
Ciao – Bella…PMG

Reply

Gabriella June 18, 2011 at 6:06 am

Ahh walking down memory lane, those learning years. I cannot tell you how many times I wish I paid better attention in class LOL. But you’re right, it’s the fundamentals of marketing 101. It may look different since the language is different in so far as the media we are choosing, the platforms have changed with social networks including the way we deliver the message. But at the end of the day, psychology and human intent are going to be your emotional soft spots!

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