5 Psychology Discoveries That Will Revolutionize How You Blog
With so many blogs out there, millions of people writing about every topic under the sun, how can you make yours stand out from the crowd?
Whether you’ve been blogging for years or just uploaded your first post yesterday, you’ve probably already noticed that the game is harder than it looks.
Too many bloggers with great ideas and interesting content end up treading water because they don’t know how to set themselves apart.
It all comes down to your relationship with your readers.
Your blog is a dialogue.
Unlike a book, for example, every blog post is an interaction with other people, and for it to be a success you have to understand how they think.
Insights from modern psychology can help you do this. The following discoveries can translate directly into improvements in your blog’s performance. All you have to do is apply them.
Why do people read your blog?
Barbara Kaye, a professor at the University of Tennessee, published a study in 2010 that identified nine reasons why people read blogs. If you want people to come to your blog and keep coming back, you have to understand why they’re on your page, to begin with.
Kaye identified the most important reasons as:
- Convenient information seeking: looking for the best, most up-to-date information
- Anti-traditional media sentiment: blogs represent the alternative media, based on individuals and independent from mainstream sources
- Expression/affiliation: being part of a community, such as people with the same interests or political opinions
- Guidance/opinion seeking: bloggers can offer expert opinions and explanations to support
- Blog ambiance: a welcoming environment that’s easy to navigate
- Personal fulfillment: enjoyment and entertainment
- Political debate: people often read blogs that support their own political niche or that offer views that are not usually presented in mainstream media
- Variety of opinions: there is huge diversity in blog writers, much more than can be found in the editorial pages of any newspaper, for example
- Specific inquiry: looking for an expert opinion or a fact that isn’t on Wikipedia)
How to use it
So… what brings people to your blog?
Many bloggers only aim for the last item on the list, neglecting most of what makes top blogs successful. Before you publish your next post, take a look at your blog as a whole and see what niche it fills best, and where it might come up lacking.
How’s the ambiance? Do your pages look good, and does the visual presentation match the tone of your posts? Are people engaging with each other through your blog, or is there a way you can encourage discussion? What do you offer that your readers can’t find anywhere else?
Familiarity breeds positivity
Does this sound familiar? You’re in the car, belting along to the latest pop hit. Suddenly you remember how just a few weeks ago you hated this song and complained about how it was on the radio all the time. What happened here?
This is actually a documented phenomenon called the mere-exposure effect or familiarity effect. People like things that are familiar and repeated exposure makes us like them more. In the ’80s, Robert Zajonc showed study participants Chinese characters that were supposed to represent adjectives and asked them to guess how positive or negative each one was.
Every character was shown from 1-25 times. Not only did the participants rate the ones that were shown more as more positive, but they also reported feeling in a better mood after they saw those symbols!
How to use it
Don’t be afraid to retread old ground in your blog. You might feel driven to push new content on your page, always going for the next trending topic. That can also get you a long way. However, sometimes it pays to go back to subjects you’ve already covered and given them a fresh look.
Not only can you develop your ideas in more depth, but you can also foster a sense of integrity and continuity throughout your blog. This is also a great opportunity to link back to older related posts.
If you’re savvy in taking advantage of the mere-exposure effect, you can lead your readers to more positive feelings about your opinions, and to feel good every time they look at your blog.
The amazing shrinking attention span
If it seems like no one can focus on anything these days, you’re not imagining it. According to a recent study conducted by Microsoft, the Digital Age has taken a serious toll on the human attention span. Just 10 years ago, the average attention span was 12 seconds, but now we’re down to 8. That’s only 8 seconds to get readers interested in your blog!
What’s more, the study showed that 44% of people need to really work to stay focused on a single subject and 45% get sidetracked easily. With millions of other options just a click away, you need to put in extra effort to continuously engage your readers.
How to use it
Get their attention right away. After the title (which you already know has to be super catchy, right?), the first paragraph is by far the most important part of every post. Your first paragraph needs to pack a punch and explain what the rest of the post is all about.
Your writing overall should be clear and concise. Read it out loud before you post – that will help you find any points where you ramble or go too far off topic.
Finally, use lots of visual media. If your viewers (like many people) scroll from picture to picture and read the text around them, this will keep them moving through the whole page.
What we remember and what we forget
A Harvard study in 2011 showed that the internet has changed how we remember things too. Call it the Google effect if you want: if the information is easy to find online, people tend to forget it.
In this study, participants were asked a set of questions, half of which they were allowed to look up. Afterward, the participants remembered the questions they weren’t allowed to research much more than the ones they could plug into a search engine.
It’s basically a way to outsource brain power. Instead of remembering complicated information, we just have to remember how to find it.
How to use it
Hook your readers with unique facts and perspectives they won’t find with a quick Google search.
You should also keep the verbatim effect in mind. People will usually remember the gist of what you write, not the details. This overall picture shapes their opinion. Since information is so easily accessible, don’t clutter your posts with unnecessary facts. Instead, present just enough to get them involved. They’ll do the research themselves. Plus, they’ll remember your blog as a gateway to a new and interesting subject.
Clustering is also an important principle. When long lists of information are clustered into related groups, they stick more in people’s minds. Keep similar topics together and make this clear in the layout of your content. Numbered bullet points and sub-headers work well for this.
Going with the crowd
Peer pressure doesn’t go away when we graduate high school.
Research shows that “social proof” has a huge influence on how people make decisions.
If someone gave you this image and asked you which line was the same length as the first one, you’d say Line A, right?
However, if everyone else says it’s B or C, chances are you’ll agree with them. That’s what Solomon Asch discovered in 1951. Participants in his social conformity studies consistently went against the evidence of their senses if enough other people (actors in this case) picked the wrong line first.
How you can use it
The power of social proof can attract people to your blog and even make them like you more. Make sure your blog includes evidence that you are well connected and other people are interested in your work.
Get your comments section rolling if it isn’t already. Post content that is interactive and encourages your readers to share their opinions.
One easy trick is to use social sharing and follow buttons that display how many times your content has been shared or how many people are following.
The Bottom Line
Your blog’s success is all about your readers. Be in their heads while you write and engage with them as much as possible. When in doubt, spend some time as a reader yourself. Surf the web for a while, noticing what gets your attention and how you go from site to site.
Psychology offers many insights into how people read, retain and interact with information online. If you don’t understand your readers’ minds, even the most informative and well-researched article will fall flat. But if you do, your blog can become an instant hit.
Do you use psychological principles in your blog? Share in the comments below.